Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Misplaced fear. . .

When was the last time you heard a sermon on the wrath of God?  It has probably been a while.  Gone are the fire and brimstone preachers who left burn marks on your soul with the vivid descriptions of God's anger against sin and His punishment for those who do not repent.  In fact, we do not hear much from pulpits that might cause us to fear God.  But that does not mean we do not have fear preached to us.

Today the fear that is focused is the fear of those waiting to take away our rights or ruin our environment or impinge upon the freedom of people to define their gender or restrict our liberty to do what is right in our own eyes.  We do not fear consequences so much as today we fear those who might say "no" to our desires.  We do not fear God so much as we fear the narrow minded types who still believe in objective truth, clear moral distinctions, and Biblical narratives.

Our fears are misplaced.  We are not fearing the wrath of God that which should be feared and we are fearing things restraint of that which should be marked as sin and resisted.  It is a strange world around us.  Perhaps once we spoke a similar language (though never the same) but today the Church and the world speak unintelligibly to each other.  The world has long ago decided that sin is a bad word and that the desires and behaviors once defined as sin are good.  The Church (at least the orthodox voice, anyway) is addressing the world in categories that the world has taken over and redefined so that communication is rendered difficult if not impossible.

Liberal and progressive churches have confused the matter for the world by rejecting the Bible as myth and legend and by casting aside the old notions of sin, death, and God's wrath.  The Gospel has become less and less about Christ and Him crucified and more and more about a benign deity who can do little more than encourage us to be true to ourselves and to cast aside restraint and indulge ourselves in all our whims.  So the only Christianity the world hears is this accommodating version of Christianity in which the gospel becomes a mere principle of vague love designed to satisfy the self.  What was once the authentic voice of Christianity has become hate speech not to be tolerated in the public square and a good enough reason to deprive some churches (and their schools) of any benefits accorded religious institutions before the law.

It is Babel all over again.  In the midst of the cacophony of voices claiming to be true, to speak for God, and to reflect the Scriptures, people think they have an idea of what Christianity is but what they think is the fake image created by those who have chosen the moment over history and the faint echo of relevance over faithfulness.  In the confusion, what remains is that God is a God of wrath, that this wrath must be satisfied or you, the sinner before a righteous God, will suffer the full force of this wrath.  This is the necessity of Jesus and the shape of hope for those who know what to fear and why.  But to those who deny the wrath of God, there is no need for a Jesus except as a coach to cheer on those who do whatever they want and call it good.

Those who go to bed at night fearing that abortion will one day be made illegal or that transgender whims will be restrained or that climate change will swallow up the earth or children will over populate the world have misplaced fears.  The sinful self has repeated the devil's lies so often that they now believe only the lies.  What we ought to fear is the wrath of God and what we ought to rejoice in is Him who has satisfied that wrath, paid the price of our redemption, and suffered in our place the punishment for all of sin.  Daily repentance hears anew the voice of the Law and the grace of the Gospel -- it does not mature past that recitation of sin and death and forgiveness and life.

We are teaching our children to fear the wrong things.  It is no wonder that those who were not raised in the faith now scratch their heads and wonder what on earth the Church is talking about. 

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