Friday, February 5, 2016
Exalt the Lord our God! Bow low before his feet, for he is holy! Moses and Aaron were among his priests; Samuel also called on his name. They cried to the Lord for help, and he answered them. He spoke to Israel from the pillar of cloud, and they followed the laws and decrees he gave them. O Lord our God, you answered them. You were a forgiving God to them, but you punished them when they went wrong. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain in Jerusalem, for the Lord our God is holy! Psalm 99:5-9(NLT)
There is a common statement I have heard over the years by people who are largely ignorant of what God’s Word declares:
I just find it hard to believe that a loving God would reject people and send them to Hell.
The premise in that statement is that “love” never includes “punishment” but is always a soft place to land. And if God is one who does send people to a devil’s hell who are simply victims of some unfortunate lifestyle choices – well, we don’t need that kind of God. We want a God who has a soft pillow for us to land on.
The Psalmist points-out rather clearly that God is not anything like that kind of God. In rehearsing Israel’s cycle of being oppressed, crying out to God, being forgiven, and then ignoring the God who saved them, the writer shows the cycle of sinful impunity with which we humans treat holy God. We want his love, forgiveness and deliverance, but we scoff at the idea that we will be punished for disobedience.
Universalism (which is belief that there is no hell or punishment, and everyone will experience God’s forgiveness, and ultimately live for eternity in heaven) is categorically-rejected by orthodox Christianity.
The main problem with universalism being a natural result of the unconditional love of God is that the two are mutually exclusive. Unconditional love, expressed by the grace of God in Christ being crucified for our sins clearly destroys the notion that everybody goes to heaven; rather it sets-up a conditional response or rejection of God’s grace-gift.
Ephesians 2:8 declares this:
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
When you believed is the phrase which is the conditional part of unconditional love. Universalism skips over the requirement of receiving the gift of grace; rather it just credits the grace of God as something that our Creator will bestow upon us no matter how we act.
That is like a child imagining his behavior is entirely his choice – he can be self-absorbed and dismiss any responsibility for his actions. And, with free will it is like that; you really do have the right to be a nitwit – but you end up a nitwit. In that sense, universalism denies the end result of choices.
In the Church these days, there are those who make sinful lifestyle choices, and those who are steeped in sinful practices, who are looking for legitimization; they want to be accepted. They want their sin baptized, sanctified, ordained and even lauded as holy.
They want a soft pillow for their unbelief.
It may happen for a while on earth; it will never be accepted in heaven.
When you try to bend the Scripture to say what you wish it would, you do not so much “break” the commandments; but you will break yourself on them.