“…this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
God is holy (Lev. 19:2; Ps. 99:5; Isa. 8:13; Hab. 1:12-13; 1 Peter 1:14-19). We are sinful (Ps. 53:3; Isa. 53:6; 64:6; Rom. 3:23; 1 John 1:18.)
The problem is that God does not take any delight in sin (Ps. 5:4), hates and detests sin (Prov. 6:16; Zech. 8:17), and hides His face from sinful people (Isa. 59:2; 64:7). God is so profoundly troubled by sin that He feels both sorrow (Gen. 6:5-6; Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30) and anger over sin (Ex. 4:14; 15:7; Lev. 26:27-33; Num. 11:1; 12:9; 22:22; 25:3; Deut. 3:17; 29:24-29; Josh. 7:1; Judg. 2:14; 2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Kings 14:15; 15:30; 16:2; 25:53; 2 Kings 13:3; 17:11; 23:19; 1 Chron. 13:10; 2 Chron. 28:25; Ps. 7:11; 11:4-7; Heb. 10:27; ). Jesus is also angry at sin (Mark 3:5). Fortunately, God’s anger is perfect, always merited, is aroused slowly (Ex. 34:6-8), sometimes turned away (Deut.13:17), and often delayed (Isa. 48:9) or even held back (Ps. 78:38).
However, God’s anger at sinners is so severe that the Bible says He hates them (Ps. 5:5; Hos. 9:15; Amos 5:21; Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13; Rev. 2:6). Additionally, God’s wrath is mentioned nearly 600 times in the Old Testament by some 20 different words and these concepts are also found in the New Testament, though less frequently (e.g., John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 5:9; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10). Jesus is also said to have wrath (Rev. 6:16-17). Some people greatly struggle to accept the truth that God’s anger is personal, while hypocritically having no reservation in accepting the personal love of God. Still others will say that a loving God could not get angry, but a loving God is by definition required to be angry at sinners who destroy that which He loves, such as widows and orphans (Ex. 22:22-24), faithful spouses (Ezek. 23:20-25), and innocent people (Ezek. 16:38). Indeed, the Bible speaks of God’s anger, wrath, and fury more than His love, grace, and mercy.
God’s wrath begins in this life as He simply allows us to live out of our sin nature without stopping us (Rom. 1:18, 24, 26). God’s wrath continues to burn against us, forever (Deut. 32:21-22; John 3:36; Eph. 5:6; Rev. 14:9-11). The place of God’s unending active wrath is hell, which Jesus spoke of more than anyone in the Bible as an eternal place (Matt. 25:46) of painful torment (Matt. 8:11-12), like taking a beating (Luke 12:46-48), getting butchered (Matt. 24:50-51), and burned (Matt. 8:29; 13:49-50; 18:8-9; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:19-31) by Jesus (Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Rev. 14:10). Because God’s angry wrath is just, God is not obligated to lovingly forgive anyone, as is the case with fallen angels who have no possibility of salvation (2 Peter 2:4).
But, because God is loving, merciful, and kind, He has chosen to save some people. Furthermore, salvation is defined as deliverance by God from God and His wrath (Rom. 5:9-10). To both demonstrate His hatred of sin and love for sinners, Jesus averted the wrath of God by dying on the cross as a substitute for sinners. This fact is explained by the word “propitiation,” which appears four times in the New Testament and is poorly translated by some modern translations as “sacrifice of atonement” in the NIV and NRSV, and “expiation” in the RSV and NEB. The English Standard Version correctly translates the four verses as follows:
Lastly, John 3:36 simply says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him."
This church started about nine years ago as a Bible study in a rental house that my wife and I had. And since that time, obviously God’s been good to us, things are going great, and we continue growing at a very, very, very rapid rate, and so we’re trying to figure out how could we best serve you as a church, and serve the city to which God has called us. And to be honest with you it’s wonderful, but it’s complicated. Part of the complication is just keeping up with the pace of the growth – 70 percent a year, every year. Grew by 800 last month – it’s just kind of rapid. Part of the thing that makes it unusual is the least-churched city in the United States of America; less than eight percent of all people are Christians. So this is highly unusual, what God is doing, and we’re blessed to be a part of it. Just trying to figure out how to take good care of everybody and accommodate everybody.
Where we’re at right now, we’re so packed out at all of our services that there are people who are actually driving away because they can’t get in because – you know, there’s no parking. Those of you who parked in another zip code, you understand what I’m talking about. (Laughter) You know, seats are hard to come by, and so we’re trying to figure out how we can best accommodate future growth. Some people say, “Well, is it all about the numbers?” Yeah, it is, actually, because numbers are people and we want to help as many people as we can, and we want to help serve as many people as we can. So yeah, numbers do matter, not just for numbers’ sake, but for people’s sake.
So here are the things I would give you for prayer and just to be interceding for and giving toward. One is we cannot find anything in the city that is big enough to rent to house us. Nothing of large size will give us a long-term rental guaranteed every Sunday because they use those facilities for other things as well. So we can’t rent anything, like Key Arena, though we’ve tried – true story.
So we’ve looked at building. But the problem is to accommodate the parking and the church we would need in the city, to have between 3,000 and 5,000 seats and parking, we would need about $60 million. So if you’ve got that, call the office. We’ll talk to you. But we don’t have $60 million. And also, the city zoning-wise won’t let us build anything that large. They basically outlawed – zoned out – large churches. Now, we could fix that by suing the city and getting into three to five years of intense litigation with those people we’re trying to share the love of Jesus with, and that is a mixed message. (Laughter) So, you know, it’s like your neighbor: you want to lead them to Jesus, sue them after you close the deal. Don’t before, because it just sort of sends a mixed message. So we don’t want to sue the city that we love and were called to serve; it kind of sends the wrong message.
So some say, “Well, then, leave the city.” Well, we don’t want to leave the city because we believe God has called us to the city and we love and we want to serve this city, so we don’t want to leave. So where this leaves us now is a series of things that we are doing to expand. And to be honest with you, it’s the biggest risk we’ve taken in the history of the church. We’re kind of putting everything on the line and we’re gonna see what God does.
The first is we will add a fifth service here in January, so we’ll have 8:30, 10:30, 12:30, 5:00, and 7:00. That’s obviously all the services we could do in this building on a Sunday, unless, like 10:00 p.m. or something. You know – I mean – you know, God bless you, I won’t be here. (Laughter) But, you know, just know there’s no other times to do a Sunday service, so we’re gonna expand to five to accommodate more people.
We’re also renovating a building that we purchased a block away that will seat an additional 1,000. We need to raise $3 million to furnish it and retrofit it and get all of that done, so we’re $1.8 million short. We still – we’ve raised $1.2 million, so we need you to give toward that to help us get that open.
As well, beginning January 15th up in Shoreline we will launch Mars Hill Shoreline at the Campus of Christa Ministries. We had an informational meeting on about a week’s notice last Friday, and a few hundred great people showed up. And here is what’s going to happen. I need you just to deal with this and accept it, that we’re gonna be going to video preaching; that’s just the way it is. We’ve looked at all of our options. We can’t rent anything. We can’t build anything. We haven’t got the cloning thing figured out. And I’m not omnipresent, so I can only be in one place at one time, and right now I leave the house at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, I get home at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night. And there’s really no other times in there to do church.
Some have said, “Well, why don’t we do Saturday night?” I won’t say that we’ll never do Saturday night, but I’m very reticent and I don’t want to do that because this year over half of the paid staff is going to have a baby, okay? Everybody’s pregnant, my wife included. So if you look at it, what we’ve got is the staff works Monday through Friday – kids are in school Monday through Friday. And then Sundays we’re here all day – it’s a very long day. Their only day to be with their families and their children is Saturdays. My fear is if we work them all day Saturday and Sunday, they never get a day together as a family where the kids aren’t in school or mom or dad aren’t working. And I do want to love and serve the city, and I do want to grow the church, but I don’t want to kill the families and be one of those big churches where, yeah, the church is doing great and the families are all jacked up. (Applause) So as my kids question – my eight year old daughter’s smart – she says, “Daddy, are you gonna start doing church on Sunday, and do we not get to do dinner and family movie night?” “No, honey. You are important.” And everybody matters, but even the kids of the leaders matter, too, and we’ve gotta factor them into this. So I’m reticent – we’re reticent to do Saturdays.
Some say, “Well, can’t you do it every night of the week?” I guess we could and maybe we will have to, but at some point we just gotta accept the fact that God is forcing us to scatter and distribute because we can’t all get into one place.
So that leads me to the video portion, that beginning of January some of these services are gonna be video. We’re gonna video the first service and then there’ll be some videos throughout the day. You know, there is coming a point where, to be honest with you, I’m gonna break down and be in the hospital. And we’ve added one service, you know, each of the last three years. Well, I’m 35. Let’s say we do that for 40 years. At what point do we say, “Well, 45 services – that’s a lot.” You know? I mean, at some point you do the math, you just run out of opportunities.
So what video allows us to do – everything will be live: worship, children’s, music, pastors – and we’re gonna distribute this. Some will be video and live here, some will be video and live at the new building in fall of ’06. There will be video up in Shoreline. If that gets traction then there will be video everywhere. We’ve got people coming from literally way north of Everett. We’ve got some people that come basically from Bellingham every week, all the way down to Olympia, people coming from way out on the Issaquah Plateau. Our thought is, let’s just go where they’re at. Let’s spread it out. Let’s distribute the church as far as we can. It won’t cost $60 million to do that. And so we’re undertaking the biggest experiment we have ever undertaken.
If it doesn’t work, I don’t know what we’re gonna do. I mean, God’s God, and he’ll let us know, “This is what we’re doing.”
So what I need is from you – I need a lot of prayer. James 1:5 says, “If you lack wisdom, ask for it.” Just be praying with us for wisdom, how to pull this all off. It’s a big undertaking. Also pray for the ability to get that other facility open to at least free up 1,000 more seats and kids space. To do that, pray for $1.8 million and do your part to contribute to that. And pray for this distributed multi-site concept of Mars Hill, that Mars Hill would be a church that meets across the whole region, not just in one location.
The one thing that has been, to be honest with you, a little discouraging in all this is that as we are growing people aren’t financially contributing. One out of three people who come to this church actually financially give to it. If you’re not a Christian, don’t give. If you’re visiting for the first time, don’t give. If you’re a pastor here for refreshment – and I know there are many – don’t give. You’re our guest. But if this is your home and you’re a Christian, just go ahead and do your part, and you can do that in the offering basket at Communion, the weird triangles in the foyer in your way in or out. You can mail it into the church office. You can give through debit or credit card, get some frequent flyer miles. We can do an automatic deduction, if you call or e-mail us, through ACH, or a donation of stock. Just saying do your part.
Right now we’re undertaking the biggest experiment, risk, and expense in the history of the church. And part of it is we’re at that place to where we could say, “We are now the biggest church in the state of Washington. We’ve gotten there more quickly than any church in the state. We’re one of the fastest-growing churches in America. We’re one of the most influential churches in America,” and show you all the stats and reports. We’re at the place we could say, “Great. We’re there. We’re done. We’ve done our bit.” What we want to say is, “No, there’s still a lot of people that don’t know Jesus, and there’s still a lot of people that we could love and help and serve. And so we’re never going to be that church who just finishes their work before Jesus gets back. When he gets back, that’s when the work is done. Until then, we just keep going.
And to say this, too, is to say that we don’t believe that this will continue forever. We’re not naïve. I don’t think that we have 70 percent growth every year for 100 years, otherwise you have the earth, and that’s a lot of people. So at some point things level off and things slow down. But we’re just not there yet so we’re gonna roll as long, as hard, as fast as we possibly can.
So I love you guys. That’s where we’re at. Be in prayer for your church. Do your part.
And today we’re continuing our sermon series On the Cross of Jesus Christ – Christ on the Cross. You’ve got your Loop notes with you that will give you the verses and the gist of where we’re going, because it is a topical, thematic series. I’m gonna go ahead and pray, and we will launch right in, and we will just get right to work on today’s great doctrine, which is propitiation – big word. I’ll explain to you what it means as we go along.
So Father God, thank you for an opportunity to gather as Mars Hill Church, to study your Word, to have this great place to meet in this great city that we love. God, as we study today I pray that you would guard my attitude, that I would be working out of truthfulness and love and concern. I pray, God, that I wouldn’t get in the way of the hard truths that are to be said today. God, I pray as well that as we study we would look at the totality of Scripture, that we wouldn’t just gravitate towards those verses or themes or doctrines or images that we prefer, but we would allow you to speak in totality to us. And it’s our prayer, God, that when all is said and done, that you would be big and that we would be small, that you would be good and we would be bad. But that ultimately we would realize that we have been loved, and that is a wonderful thing, and that we would find our security in you. And so as we study we ask for wisdom, we ask for the Holy Spirit, and we ask to see the work of the Lord Jesus. In his good name we pray, amen.
In today’s sermon – I’ll just set it up for you honestly – it’s gonna be super hard. I’m gonna push you probably as far as I’ve ever pushed you. I’m going to strain the Scriptures. I’m going to push them as far as I can. Many of you will be frustrated. Some of you will leave. Some of you, like last week, will send text messages when I’m only 15 minutes in on how bad the sermon was, and the sermon’s not even over. I want you to hang in there with me and hear me through, and what I’m going to begin with is this assumption: You have been lied to. You have been lied to about who God is. You have been told that God is loving, gracious, merciful, kind, compassionate, wonderful, and good sky fairy who runs in a daycare in the sky and has a bucket of suckers for everyone because we’re all good people.
That is just – that is a lie. That is not true.
Now, if we just went off of sheer tonnage of versus in Scripture and I made a mountain out of all the verses that refer to God’s love, mercy, kindness, and I made another mountain of verses about God’s wrath, God’s anger, and God’s hatred, that mountain of verses would be bigger than the verses of love, grace, and mercy because god is more commonly referred to as being angry, as being hateful, and as being wrathful. Now we ignore that, and Romans 1 says we suppress the truth and the unrighteousness of our deeds. We don’t like them. So what we have done is we have accommodated our desires to reinterpret God how we wish God was. And what we’ve essentially come up with is a God that’s just like us. He’s not that good, not that dependable, not that holy, not that trustworthy, not that helpful. He’s like us, just bigger.
And what I want to do today is I want to set aside initially that pile of verses that you all know and love. And even if you’re not a Christian, those are the verses you do know. “Jesus loves me, this I know” – they never told you the story, “Jesus hates me, it is so.” They never told you that one, but that’s in the book, too. I want you to set aside all the love, mercy, grace verses, and we’re just gonna look at the other mountain for a little bit. We’re gonna look at this more terrifying and frightening and concerning side of God, because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
And so I’ll start off by telling you that the primary attribute of God that is listed throughout Scripture more than any other is not the love of God, it is the holiness of God. It is mentioned most frequently. I’ll give you one example. Leviticus 19:2, God says, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” The holiness of God – sinless, perfect, separated, other, and good.
Now the problem is we are unholy. The Bible uses the word “sin” to denote our condition. Paul says in Romans 3:23 we’ve all sinned. Isaiah 53 says, “We’ve all sinned and gone our way.” And 1 John 1, he says that if we say we’re not sinners, we’re liars because God says we’re sinners, and he’s right.
Now the result of this is that a holy God and an unholy people do not make for a warm relationship, and God is a God of relationship. He wants relationship with us. This leads to many problems in God having a relationship with us. Now, we don’t see them as problems because we’re the sinners, but we don’t see ourselves as God sees us. It’s not a problem for us – we would love to hang out with God – it’s a problem for God. God is not wanting to hang out with us.
I’ll give you three verses. The first is in Genesis 6, in regards to the relational problems that sin causes between us and God. It says in Genesis 6:5-6: “The Lord saw how great man’s or mankind’s or humankind’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thought of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved” – and that’s how God feels about us – “grieved that he made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” God made us – we’re only a few chapters into human history – God looks down and he is grieved that we exist and his heart is filled with pain.
Now, for you and I, we say, “Well, I thought I was a good person, nice person, that God was delighted with me.” No. In the same way that God is a Father and we are like children, as a father if I had a child and that child grew up to be just an evildoer and just mean and nasty and foul and horrendous, that would grieve me. And that would cause me deep pain and sorrow. That’s how God feels about us. You need to understand that. You need to understand that when God looks at us and he sees us, individually and corporately, it is grief and it is remorse and it is heartbreak. He is not filled with joy and gladness.
The second reason why sin causes complication and difficulty in God having a relationship with us is spoken of in Isaiah 52:9, that “your iniquities have separated from God and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.” I’ll give you an example. The example here is that God can’t even look at us, he’s so disgusted by us. And he doesn’t even listen to us because what we have to say is just so altogether wrong.
I was at dinner on Friday night with my wife and friends. We were out to dinner, enjoying one another’s company and visiting, and to our left was a table. And it was interesting because a couple walked in, and they just had sort of a peculiar body language about the two of them. She walked in front, he was very far behind. They didn’t seem to be very warm or intimate. They were wearing wedding rings, they seemed to be married. She sat down on one side of the table, he didn’t sit next to her. He sat way around on the other side of the table. And it was interesting, because as soon as he got his menu he turned his back on her – physically turned his back on her. Throughout the course of the evening he never made eye contact with her. He was always looking somewhere else. She talked the whole time. He never said a word to her. He was absolutely silent – back to her, didn’t say a word, and never made eye contact.
What Isaiah says is that what we have gone in sinning against God is so altogether horrendous that it is that kind of relationship. Now I don’t know what happened with this couple. I’m assuming something catastrophic happened, or there’s deep bitterness, or there’s some problem in there. But between us and God, we want God to sit down at the table and be our friend, but God’s so horrified by us that he turns his back on us. And God is so sick of listening to us that he’s not hearing a word we say. And like Habakkuk says, he’s so good that he can’t even look on us because we’re evil, and he looks away. This is the problem in our relationship with God.
The third is from Psalm 5:4: “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with the wicked you cannot dwell.” What the psalmist is saying is that God doesn’t pick for his friends evildoers and sinners, and neither do you, right? When you go to pick a friend, you don’t pick the worst person you can find. When you want to have somebody be your roommate, you don’t go find the biggest evildoer. When you want somebody to come over to dinner for your house and be your buddy and get matching sweatshirts and live happily ever after, you don’t get the worst person you can locate. You pick someone that is enjoyable to be with. That’s what the psalmist is saying, that God doesn’t enjoy being with us because he is good and we are bad. And he is holy, and we are unholy. And we’re not fit for his company. And we don’t make for good friends.
So first, out of the chute, I need you to see that God is grieved by you, and me, and us, that God’s heart is filled with pain, that God can’t stand looking at us. God can’t stand listening to us. God can’t even be with us.
Now I’m gonna push you further, and at every layer of this sermon I’m gonna shove you deeper into the most terrifying aspect of God.
The second thing, then, is that God is not only aware of our sin and grieved by it and heartbroken by it and repulsed by it, he’s angry at it. Some of you have a hard time believing that God can be angry. God is angry through Scripture. It is clearly one of his attributes. He floods the earth. He sends down fire out of heaven. He even kills Christians in the New Testament church while they’re taking Communion. This is a God who does get angry.
Now some of you will say, “How could God be angry if God is a loving God?” My answer is, very simply, this: “How could a loving God not be angry?” If you love someone, you hate when evil is done to them, and you get angry at sin. If you love something that is beautiful and good, you get angry at that which defiles and destroys it. I had a friend – walked in on his wife having sex with another man. I said, “How did you feel?” He said, “Angry.” “Good, that means you love her.” The man who says, “Eh, doesn’t bother me,” he has no love at all. He’s not horrified. He’s not angry. He’s not upset because he has no love. It is God who looks down on our lives and says, “That angers me because I love you, and I made you for more. And I want a relationship. And when you cheat on me like that with sin and folly and rebellion and false religion and morality, that angers me.”
See, God wants a relationship. And the language that he uses is like a father with his kids, or like a husband with his wife. I’ll tell you what, if I come home and my wife is there with another man, anger is the natural response. If I come home and my children have voted for another father, and there’s some other man they’re calling Dad, anger will be the response, right? And God’s a Father. And when his kids run off with false gods and false religion, he gets angry. God’s like a husband, and when we go whoring around with other religions and spiritualities and moralities, God’s angered by that.
God’s anger and God’s love are not separated. They go in unison. How many of you are married and have realized you can love someone that you’re angry at, right? That’s the essence of marriage. (Laughter) I’m not angry, I love you. No, I’m angry because I love you. Anger and love can coincide, and in fact, when sin is present, they must. Say, “I’m angry, but I still love you – but I’m really angry.”
God is angry at sin. God is angry at sin. I’ll give you some verses. Leviticus 26:27-30: “‘If in spite of this, you still do not listen to me,’” God says – God says, “I keep talking to you and you’re just not paying any attention.” “‘But continue to be hostile toward me,’” – doing whatever you want – “‘then in my anger’” – there’s the word – “‘I will be hostile toward you. I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your high places, your false religions, cut down your incense altars, and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols. And I will abhor you.” God gets angry. God looks down and says, “Look, you know who I am. I have loved you. And you’d better stop worshiping false gods. And you’d better stop having false religions. And you’d better stop doing whatever the hell you want. Otherwise there will be consequence. I get angry at this.”
And some of us get shocked, and we say, “Oh, that’s so wrong of God.” We do it all the time. We do it – we get angry all the time, and we think we’re justified in our anger. We don’t give God that same capacity to be angry when he is sinned against. I tell you what, unless you really are able to be angry, you really don’t understand sin.
I was watching the news this week. Guy broke into a house, raped the mother and the daughters. You’re supposed to be angry about that, not say, “Well, you know, different people have different perspectives.” That’s insanity. I got a call this week. “Pray for so-and-so” – you don’t know her, but, “Pray for so-and-so.” Why? “Her son’s getting out of jail and she’s scared.” Why is she scared? “because he was in jail for raping her.” His mother. Yeah, I’ll pray for her. See, we’re supposed to be angry about that. Walk in on a pedophile molesting a child – you’re supposed to be angry. Your spouse – walk in on your spouse intimate with someone else – you’re supposed to be angry.
And God gets angry because he loves us. God gets angry because of our sin. And it angers him because he is good.
Furthermore, it says in Numbers 11:1, “Now the people complained about their hardships” – now, that’s what some of you are doing now. You’re already, you know, in your head going, “Oh, this stinks. I thought it was a megachurch and I was gonna get a water bottle and – this stinks.” (Laughter) You’re complaining. We don’t have any water bottles, you know? “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. The fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some on the outskirts of the camp.” So people are complaining, “God, we’re not happy. We don’t feel like you’ve met our needs. You don’t feel like you’ve let us be all we can be. We feel disappointed.” God sends fire out of heaven and burns them up – that’s anger. That’s God who got angry.
Deuteronomy 29:24: “All the nations will ask, ‘Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why is there desolation and destruction? Why this fierce, burning anger?’” God’s anger is, throughout Scripture, often referred to as burning, smoldering, right? Any of you seen a fire that was big? And even though it’s many, many hours later there’s still great heat and there’s smoldering – still burning. God’s anger is like that. “And the answer will be: ‘It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. They went off and worshiped other gods, bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. In furious anger and great wrath, the Lord uprooted them.’” He’s talking about people who maybe were like some of you. They were raised Christian, they know a little Bible, they know about Jesus, but now they’re kind of Buddhist, now they’re kind of sexually perverted, now they’re checking out other religions, now they’re into karma. God says, “Burning, furious anger,” just like a dad who goes to see his kid, and his kid says, “I picked another dad.” Burning anger. Just like the guy who comes home from work, looks at his wife, and she says, “I’ve picked another husband. He’s gonna be wearing your clothes and driving your car and sleeping in your bed.” Burning anger.
Now some of you will say, “Okay, but that’s all Old Testament.” And we do this little game – some of us do – in our mind, where we have the God of the Old Testament and Jesus. And the God of the Old Testament’s just mean and angry all the time, and Jesus is the super nice guy. And that the Old Testament is like God’s junior high years – he was all emotional (Laughter), he was just completely out of control. And then by the time Jesus shows up, he’s really matured. He’s really hit his groove.
Does Jesus ever get angry? Oh, yeah, he does. One of the reasons they murder him is he gets angry and he says very inflammatory things to people. “You’re twice the” – you know, you convert one person, “They’re twice the son of hell that you are.” “Your father is the devil.” He walks into the temple, throws over the money-changers tables because people are getting ripped off in God’s name. In Mark 3:5 it says, “Jesus looked at them in anger and was deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.” Jesus got angry.
You need to have an understanding of Jesus that is accurate. He doesn’t just come to the world with long, feathered hair, wearing a robe like some fairy. He’s not just walking around like some, you know, limp-wristed hippie, just giving out pithy statement and loving everybody and singing songs and leading a parade. That’s not Jesus. Jesus didn’t even have long hair. That’s all a myth. He had short hair. He was a construction worker. When have you seen a construction working with long, feathered hair, you know? (Laughter) Jesus was fully God – yeah – fully man – yeah. Yeah, and he got angry.
Now, when we think of anger we think of somebody’s who’s hotheaded, explosive – honestly, like I was before my relationship with Jesus began, and I still am a guy with a short fuse. I’ve gotta keep an eye on my anger and my temper because I go quick. God’s not like that. Jesus isn’t like that. Anger? Yes, but it’s a perfect anger and it’s a just anger.
The Scripture speaks of it in Exodus 34, that God is slow to anger. He’s not just a total hothead. Also, it says in Deuteronomy 13:17 that sometimes God turns away from his anger. He doesn’t just lose it every time. It says in Isaiah 48:9 that sometimes God’s anger is delayed. He doesn’t just rush. See, we rush to judgment and violence, and God’s not like that. He’s patient. It says as well in Psalm 78:38 that sometimes God’s anger is held back. You need to understand that God does get angry at sin, but his anger is perfect. It’s not like ours. God gets grieved. God is distressed. It ruins our relationship with God, the fact of sin. God also gets angry at sin. He’s not just troubled by it, he is angry at it.
Let me push you even further. Not only is God angry about sin, he hates it. He hates sin. See, we’re supposed to hate sin, too. That’s the problem. Everybody says, “Love yourself.” Well, hate your sin. “Well, you need to accept me for who I am.” Well, who you are needs to change. “Well, this is the way I am.” This is the way you are apart from God. I can’t accept that. This is the way I am apart from God. We can’t accept that.
We need to hate sin, and here’s the hypocrisy. We hate sin in others, but not in ourselves. We excuse our own sin and we give them the finger and hit the horn for cutting us off in traffic. We say evil and vile things about coworkers, family, and friends, and we hate all their sin. It’s very obvious to us and we’re very good about point it out. But about ourselves, we say, “Well, nobody’s perfect. I’m in process. I’m doing the best I can. This is the way I am. It’s my personality. It’s not my fault. I’m a genetic defect” – you know, we have all of these reasonings.
God hates sin. We’re supposed to hate it, too. Give you a couple verses. Proverbs 6 lists a whole bunch of sins God hates. Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things the Lord hates” – some of you can go home to your Greek work, your Hebrew work. What does hate mean? Hate. That’s what it means. “Here are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes” – first thing? High self esteem. Pride. First thing God hates? Self-esteem, the very thing you were told would fix all your problems is the one thing that will make you an enemy of God. It’s the same thing that got Satan kicked out of heaven. Pride. Self-righteousness. Self-esteem.
Here’s what God hates: self-esteem, “a lying tongue.” Well, there’s a lot of people telling you to have self-esteem so these things seem to be working together, don’t you? “You’re a good person. You need to love yourself more.” Is that true? No, that’s a lie. God hates them both.
“Hands that shed innocent blood” – murder. “A heart that devises wicked schemes” – always thinking of another evil thing to do. “Feet that are quick to rush into evil” – the person who is first to go do the wrong. “A false witness who pours out lies” – somebody who doesn’t tell the truth. “And a man who stirs up dissension among his brothers” – somebody comes into a church and just starts nitpicking and griping and complaining and gossiping and back-biting and creating all kinds of havoc. God hates all of that. He hates that.
Says as well in Zechariah 8:17, “‘Do not plot evil against your neighbor and do not swear falsely. I hate all this,’ declares the Lord.’” God says, “I hate it when you have plans to do evil, and I hate it when you lie about it and try to cover your own tracks, and blame somebody else.” Emotionally God’s grieved. God’s disturbed. God is saddened by what we do and who we are.
God is angry at our sin. God hates our sin – but now some of you would say, “Yes, but I know the verse, Mark, where God hates the sin and he loves the sinner.” Well, it’s not a verse, because God hates the sinner. Say, “No, no, no. God loves me.” Okay, and he hates you.
You need to let this sink in. You have been told your whole life, “You’re adorable. You are enjoyable. You are something special. You have a lot of potential. You are fantastic. We are so blessed to have you on the earth.” God says, “I hate you, and everybody else has been lying.”
See, we do this thing where we say, “Well, my sin’s over there and I’m over here. And God’s got two eyes, and he looks at me, and he looks at my sin, and he says, ‘Well, I hate the sin, but I love them.’” The problem is the sin is not over there and we’re not over here. The problem is the sin is in us. “Out of your heart comes your life,” Proverbs and Jesus teach repeatedly. We sin because that’s our nature. We’re sinners. And if God’s gonna hate sin and it’s in us, God hates us.
See, some of you do this. You say, “I’m a really good person. Sometimes I just do bad things. God hates those bad things, but he really loves me because I’m a really good person.” That is folly, nonsense, logically inconsistent. You don’t say, “I love pedophiles. I just hate pedophilia. I love rapists – I really love rapists. Rapists are wonderful. I just hate rape.” You say, “No, I’m angry at you because you’re the one that’s doing it. And it’s not this force separated from you out here, it’s you.” That’s why we – we hate people. Now, I’m not saying all of our hatred is right like God’s, but there’s people you hate.
I’ve give you more verses. Psalm 5:5: “You hate all who do wrong.” Who does wrong? Everybody. Me, too. Who does God hate? Everybody. Me, too. If God hates all who do wrong, and all do wrong, God hates everybody. So I thought he loves us! He does love us – and he hates us.
I’ll keep going. Psalm 11:4-5: “He observes the sons of men” – God looks down – “his eyes examine them.” He’s looking at their whole life. “The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence, his soul” – this is deep – “hates.”
Some people say, “You know what, Christianity’s a made-up religion.” Nobody makes this up. Every other religion tells you that God’s not that good, you’re not that bad. The truth is that God is great and you are horrible. That’s the truth. You either have a high view of God and a low view of yourself, or a high view of yourself and a low view of God. Every religion but Christianity inverts the truth: We are high, God is low. The reason that we know this is not manmade? No man makes up the doctrine that God hates him.
Hosea 9:15: “‘Because of their wickedness at Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds I will drive them out of my house and I will no longer love them.’” Well, there’s relational language. You’re living with God. You’re so evil that he hates you and kicks you out.
Say, “Well, that’s the Old Testament.” Okay, I’ll give you two New Testament. Romans 9:13: “Just as it is written” – he quotes Malachi 1. “‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” These are two brothers, one God loved, one God hated. Some say, “No, no, no. It doesn’t refer to the individuals. It refers to the nations that came from them. God doesn’t hate the man Esau, he hates the Edomites. Well, great. God hates one guy, God hates a bunch of guys. Either way, God hates. It doesn’t matter.
Last one. You say, “Not Jesus, right? because Jesus loves everybody. Jesus is the big sky fairy with the feathered hair and the open-toed sandals who’s got a daisy in his hand, and he’s just all about the hug, right? Not Jesus!” Jesus. Jesus is a God who hates. He says in Revelation 2:3 – there’s this church that’s having some real problems, but he commends them for one thing. Revelation 2:6, Jesus says, “You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, I also hate them.” Jesus says, “That whole group of people? I hate them! They’re evil. They sin. They’ve got false religion, false worship. I hate them.”
See, there is one God – he’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. The God of the Old Testament gets angry; his name’s Jesus. The God of the Old Testament hates people; his name is Jesus.
Let me keep pushing. Let me keep pushing. God not only hates people that he’s angry at, he has wrath on them individually. Theologians argue this point. They say, “God’s love is personal, but his wrath isn’t.” Are we crazy? We’re saying that half of God’s attributes personally apply to me and half don’t? That God really loves me personally, but his wrath – well, that’s not personal. No, God’s wrath is as personal as his love, and God’s wrath is God actively executing his anger at you, his hatred of you.
I’ll show you in Scripture. Now some of you at this point are like, “Where is this guy going? Why does he tell us this?” I’ll tell you why I’m telling you this. I want you to know the real God. I want you to hate your sin and I want you to love the real God. And when you hear things like, “You’re saved,” I want you to know what you’re saved from. What are you saved from? God. It’s a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God – that’s what the Bible says. You’re saved from a lot of things, mainly God and the wrath of God. You’re saved by God, from God, to God, for God. This is about you and God, and God’s wrath is on those of you who are here today and don’t know Jesus.
I’ll get into this further. Some of you came in here today, you’re not Christians. God hates you. He is not happy with you. His anger is smoldering and burning like a fire. You just ignore him and do whatever you want. You think that he would be delighted to have you. That is not true. His wrath is real. His hatred and his anger aren’t indifferent, they’re active and they come upon people.
In the Old Testament, there are some 20 words that refer to the wrath of God. It appears nearly 600 times. We’re not talking about an obscure thing. We’re talking about a mega-theme of Scripture. Again, you take this against love in the Old Testament, you’ll see that God is a God of wrath. 20 words, nearly 600 times – I’ll give you a few.
The first, maybe the clearest, is Psalm 7:11: “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath everyday.” God’s saddened by sin, angry at sin, hates sin, hates sinners, and then pours out his wrath on them everyday.
I’ll be equal opportunity – I’ll give you a verse for men that God hates and has wrath on, and a verse for women that God hates and has wrath on. First we’ll do the men. Exodus 22:22-24, he declares, “Do not” – talking to you dudes – “take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused and I will kill you with a sword. Your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” God says, “Here’s a group of guys I hate and I take wrath on: guys who take advantage of single mothers.” Now I know the most popular talk radio show host for men in America tells you that if you want to have sex with a woman, the best thing to do is pick a single mother because she’s vulnerable, she’s needy, and if you pretend to love her and care about her child, she will give herself to you because she’s desperate. God looks down and says, “I hate those guys, and I gotta sword with their name on it. Those are the kind of guys I like to butcher.” See, you guys that are trying to take advantage of single mothers, you guys that are taking advantage of women who have children to raise, those kind of guys are the most evil. And God hates them and he pours out wrath on them because God is a God who loves the widows and the orphans, the wife whose husband dies and she’s in great need. Or the gal who got pregnant when she shouldn’t have been having sex, and the guy bolted, and then she’s left to raise the child as a single mother. Those are easy pickin’s for evil men, and God steps in it and says, “I defend them and I hate you. And if you don’t repent I’ll run you through with a sword.
Same thing for certain women – Ezekiel 16:38, God says, “I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit adultery and who shed blood. I will bring upon you the blood vengeance of my wrath and my jealous anger.” What God says is this: “I also hate women who go whoring around on their husbands, and I pull out my wrath on them.” I tell you what, in this church women whoring around is a bigger problem than men. In marriage, almost all of our counseling in this church, the wife is the one who has been whoring around. God says, “I hate those women and I’ll pour out my wrath on them.” Some of you gals say, “Well, I’m not married. I’m just sleeping with my boyfriend.” Well, someday you’ll be married and right now you’re whoring around on your husband. Just because you haven’t met him yet doesn’t mean you’re not whoring around. His body belongs to you. Your body belongs to him. All bodies belong to God. We look down and we say, “But we’re consenting adults.” God doesn’t consent – not to that kind of conduct, not to that kind of conduct.
God’s wrath is poured out. Again, some of you will say, “Well, that’s Old Testament.” I will give you New Testament. Ephesians 5:6: “Let no one deceive you with empty words.” There’s a lot of teaching contrary to what I’m telling you. I’m asking you this – you will say, “But I don’t know if I like that.” I am asking you to ask this question: “But is it true?” Whether or not we like the angry, hateful, wrathful God of Scripture, is that true? Is that true? “Let no one deceive you with empty words for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” God’s wrath is guaranteed to come on all who are disobedient – contrary to whatever the teachers and the pundits and the counselors and the therapists would declare otherwise.
Colossians 3:6: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality” – “We’re consenting adults, no one got hurt.” “It’s just porno, it’s not a real person.” “They wanted it.” Put it to death. “Impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” One of the great warnings throughout the New Testament for God’s people is that the wrath of God is coming, so the hatred and repentance of sin is of urgent priority.
Now some of you, again, will be here today saying, “This doesn’t make sense. If God is holy and I’m unholy, and God is grieved by men, God is angry at my sin, God is angry with me, God hates me, and God pours out his wrath on me, why is my life going so good?” Some of you have degrees. Some of you are having a good sex life though you’re not married. Some of you are making money. Some of you are cutting corners in all kinds of areas of your life and you’re saying, “It doesn’t look like God’s mad at me. It looks like God’s perfectly happy. My life is pretty good. I’m not depressed. I’m not broke. I don’t have a disease. I’m doing fine.”
Let me warn you that God’s wrath appears in two ways: a passive form and an active form – this is what Scripture teaches. Romans 1 speaks of the passive wrath of God. It says in Romans 1:18 that the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness. In verse 24 it says, “How?” “And God gave them over.” It says again in verse 26, “And God gave them over.” What that means is this: When God lets you do whatever the hell you want, you’re in serious trouble because God has given up on you. He is not trying to stop you. He is not trying to save you. He is not trying to fix you. He is not trying to convict you. He has let you go so that you can sin, and then at the end he can pour out his wrath for every sin that you have committed.
God is keeping score. God does know your deeds and your misdeeds. Those of you right now who are living under God’s passive wrath, and as some fairy tale you have contrived that as blessing and God’s approval, let me rob you of all your illusions. It is the father who disciplines his child, it is the father who grabs his child, it is the father who works with his child that still has hope. It is the father who looks at the child and says, “You’re gonna do it anyways. I give up.” That is the child who is in the greatest position of trouble and pending disaster and self-destruction. And God knows our hearts and he knows our minds, and like a good Father he keeps disciplining us, keeps giving us consequences, keeps dealing with us, and then in his wrath he just lets us go. And he lets us go do whatever the hell we want – and don’t send me an e-mail, I use the word intentionally. When you do what you want, you do what hell wants. When we do what God wants, that’s not evil. When we do what we want, that’s hellish. See, God saves us from ourselves – and we all think we’re smart. We all think we’re good. We all think that we’re doing wonderfully – that’s the problem! That’s the problem.
Some of you – your sex life is great. You’re rolling in money. You’re doing wonderfully well. Everyone would look at you and say, “It looks like they are totally blessed. Their life is going good.” If you don’t love Jesus, let me say this: That is the wrath of God, allowing you to keep sinning and stacking up all of the reasons why God is going to destroy you, justly accounting for everything that you have done that is contrary to him. That is the passive wrath of God.
There is also the active wrath of God, where sometimes God does strike somebody dead. God does strike somebody with illness. I’m not saying that everyone who dies or gets sick is experiencing the active wrath of God – I’m not saying that. I’m not God. I’m not sure why certain things happen to certain people. I don’t know all that. But I promise you this: that hell is that place of conscious, eternal, unending torment and wrath.
And I know I’m not supposed to talk about hell. I’m supposed to talk about good things, and nice things, and encouraging things, and we will get there. Hell is incredibly real. The person who speaks of hell more than anyone else in your Bible is Jesus. The reason he does so is he is Lord of hell. Jesus rules over heaven and hell. That’s why it says in Philippians, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess both on the earth and under the earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The truth is this: John 5:22, Jesus says, “I am the one who judges people – that’s my job.” The truth is you and I will all stand before Jesus. We will all stand before Jesus, and Jesus will judge us. And if we do not belong to him, if we have not had that relationship that God wants with us, God’s hatred, God’s anger, God’s wrath will be poured out forever on us, because God is an eternal God. A sin against an eternal God requires an eternal punishment. Jesus, our eternal God, pays it or we pay it eternally. That’s how it goes.
Jesus rules and reigns in hell, and he metes out justice and wrath according to exactly what people deserve. I’ll read it to you – Revelation 14. I could read you many, many verses on hell. I’ll just give you this one. Revelation 14 says that “he, too – the sinner – will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath” – there’s our word. “He will be tormented.” Hell is conscious, eternal torment, not reincarnation, not annihilation, where you cease to exist, not a bit of time and then you get released – torment. “With burning sulfur, hot road tar, and the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb” – in the presence of Jesus, not for salvation, but damnation. Not for love, but for wrath. Not for grace, but for justice.
You need to accept the totality of the nature of God, and you need to accept the totality of the nature of Jesus Christ, because he is the image of the invisible God. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. He gets angry. He judges people. He talks about hell. He will rule in hell. And he will mete out fair, just wrath in hell on unrepentant sinners, period.
And it says, “And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever.” That means that that torment and that pain and that suffering and that anguish – that it never ceases. And see, we live in this very shortsighted culture. We eat as gluttons, and we don’t think about the health complications. We drink as drunkards, and we don’t think about the life implications. We get high and do drugs, and we don’t think about the results that will come upon us. We go into debt and spend all of our money, not thinking about what will happen to us when we have no means to make good on our debts. And we live our lives not thinking that at the end there will be a judgment and an accounting. And we live shortsightedly. And we don’t think about the eternal. And then we die and we stand before God and Jesus judges us. He’s disappointed in us. He’s angry at us. He hates us. And he condemns us and he pours out his wrath on us forever.
And so many of you, that’s just where you’re living. And even as I say that, some of you will protest and say, “This is not the God I know.” Well, then, you don’t know the God of the Bible. Some of you will say, “Well, I thought God was loving and merciful and patient and kind.” My point is simply this: He is, but we have no reason to declare that that is deserved. God doesn’t need to love me. God doesn’t need to love any of us.
What 2 Peter 2 says is that when the angels sinned against God as we did, and they became demons as we have become evildoers, that God didn’t provide for them a means of salvation. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for unclean spirits, just for unclean people. Demons, now, can’t repent. They can’t repent. They can’t be forgiven. They can’t have their sins taken away. They can’t have a reconciled relationship with God – just justice, just doom, just destruction is upon them. Now with us, that would be absolutely right, just, clean, and fair. If God say, “You sin. I’m holy. You’re unholy. I don’t want to hang out with you. You go to hell and you’re gonna suffer.” Fair. Clean. Simple. Easy. It makes perfect sense. No one in this room is protesting for demons to get a second chance, but you’re all protesting for human beings to be given love and grace and mercy by God. That’s the essence of our hypocrisy.
God does not need to love anybody – but he does. See, this is where Christianity is different than every other religion. Every other religion will tell you that God loves us because we have done something to make ourselves worthy of his love. Christianity will tell you that God has loved us, not because of who we are, but because – in spite of who we are. That’s how God works.
God’s wrath is on sinners that he hates and is angry at, but it is diverted through Jesus. Jesus Christ is God who became a man, lived without sin in my place, died in my place, experienced the wrath of God in my place, went into the grave in my place, three days later rose in my place. And now that the wrath of God is smoldering and ready to be poured out on me, because of Jesus and his life, death, burial, resurrection, it is diverted and the wrath of God passes me over. And it is given to Jesus, and I am loved and forgiven with grace and mercy.
Romans 5:9 says it this way: “Since we have been justified by his blood” – we dealt with that last week – “how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him” – that’s Jesus. You want to be saved from God’s wrath? You need Jesus. If you don’t have Jesus you are not spared from God’s wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 says it this say: “You turned from idols” – talking to new Christians – “to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead; Jesus who rescues us from the coming wrath.” You want to be rescued from the coming wrath, the Day of Judgment? Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath.
Romans says through his death, Thessalonians say through his resurrection. They are both parts of the same truth: that he died to forgive our sin and he rose to conquer them. And now we can actually have a relationship with God through Jesus.
The theological word for all of this is the word “propitiation” – big, huge word. Older translations use the word. Newer translations use a word like “expiation,” which means that God cleans up our sin. It’s not so hostile and harsh. It’s also not all that accurate. God does do that, but these verses I’m gonna share with you, that’s not what they say. They say “propitiation.” Some newer translations, like the New International Version that I usually teach from and I am today, use the word “atoning sacrifice.” It’s a very nebulous word. Nobody’s sure what that means. It doesn’t denote the wrath of God being poured out on Jesus, and him diverting our wrath and loving us in his place. Probably the best modern-day translation as far as the literalness goes is a translation called the English Standard Version. I like it. I’m gonna share with you the four times in the New Testament that the word “propitiation” occurs in the English Standard Version of the Bible. And they get it right. They translate the word rightly. We’ll leave the word as it is, and this is the diversion of the wrath of God from me to Jesus so that he is punished and I am saved.
First is in Romans 3. First Paul lays out the problem: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Okay? Everyone in this room has a real problem with God, and that is that they are a sinner, that God has a real problem with you. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift.” Not that we earn, merit, deserve it – we dealt with this last week. Justification by grace through faith because of Jesus Christ alone – this is a gift that God gives us. Again, God looks down and says, “I hate you. You are my enemy and I will crush you.” And we say, “That is deserved, right, and just.” And then God says, “Because of Jesus, I will love you and forgive you. This is a miracle. You didn’t earn this. This is just from me.” That’s grace.
See, it’s one thing to love people that are decent. It’s another to love your enemies. God loves us, who are his enemies. We’re justified “by grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation” – there’s our word – “by his blood.” Jesus died for my sins. When he cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” the Father poured out his wrath on the Son. And Jesus shed his blood and died as the propitiation for my sins. That’s what I deserve. To be received by faith, all I need to do is trust Jesus.
“This was to show God’s righteousness.” God couldn’t look down on the earth and say, “Rape, war, murder, lie, theft, injustice, thievery – that’s no a problem for me.” Because God is a good God and a just God, God had to declare it as it was – evil. And he had to deal with it as it was – evil. He has to declare us and deal with us as we are – evil. And he has to propitiate – the sin must be dealt with for him to maintain his justice and his righteousness and his holiness and his goodness.
See, the whole equation of salvation, what we tend to just think about is, “Well, where’s my gift?” Never thinking from God’s perspective, “How can I pull this off and still be a decent God?”
Now, what I don’t want you to do with this doctrine of propitiation is see the Father as the good guy and Jesus as the bad guy. A lot of bad theologians do this. The Father was angry and Jesus took our place. And the Father crushed the Son and beat up the Son. And Jesus is the good guy and the Father is the bad guy. That’s not what we’re talking about. There is one God – Father, Son, and Spirit. They work together in concert, in tandem, in harmony. And this isn’t one part of God against the other part of God. This is God pouring out his wrath on himself so that love could be given and justice could be maintained.
The second verse: Hebrews 2:17. “Therefore he” – that is Jesus – “had to be made like his brothers.” God became a man just like you and I. He’s eternal God, but he became a person “in every respect so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service to God to make” – there’s our word – “propitiation for the sins of the people.” Propitiation.
See, in Israel, there was God in heaven, there was people on earth, and sin was between people and God so there was no relationship. The high priest was the one who was chosen to be the mediator between God and people. And he would be the sins of people to God. And he would bring the truth of God to people, and he was the mediator. All of that was foreshadowing Jesus, who is our high priest and our mediator. And he is God and man, able to mediate between human beings and God. And he is the propitiation for our sins. He dies for our sins. He substitutes our condemnation and wrath that we deserve for our his death and resurrection – that’s what he does. And he says, “You know what? There’s nobody like Jesus.”
And this is the truth, friends. Some will tell you great lies. They will say, “All religions are basically the same.” No, they’re not. We believe that sin is the problem, and that propitiation is the solution, and that Jesus alone propitiates sin. Nobody else believes that. Nobody else believes it. They believe you propitiate your own sin. You be a good person. You go to Mecca. You give money. You go to purgatory. You confess your sins to the priest. You reincarnate and you try again. Some say you’re just saved by death – all you gotta do is die and then you’re saved. We say stupid things when somebody dies. We say, “Well, we know they’re in a good place now.” Perhaps not. Right now they may be under the wrath of God. Let’s not delude ourselves. Let’s live in reality. As Christians we know that the only way to have sin propitiated is through Jesus’ shed blood, his death for our sins.
I’ll go on – the last two. Jesus’ best friend – 1 John 2:2: “He” – that is Jesus – “is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also the sins of the whole world.” Now some of you who are into theology, you say, “Oh, does that mean everybody’s sins are forgiven, and they all get to be Christians, and we all go to heaven? And – or are you Calvinist or Armenian, limited, unlimited atonement?” That’s next week. If you come back – some of you won’t. If you come back, we’ll deal with that next week. That’s a whole other sermon.
Let me camp on the first part of the verse. Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. Here’s the good news – I want you to receive this as good news. There is propitiation for sin. All right, people in our culture get sin; they don’t get propitiation, right? The kid who’s depressed sits in the room and cuts themselves to shed blood because somehow sin requires the shedding of blood. They get – they get sin, and they get suffering, and they get bloodshed, but they don’t get propitiation. The person who’s totally depressed, living under condemnation, knows that they’re guilty and can’t shake that feeling. They get condemnation; they don’t get propitiation. It’s the person who is just mortified at their own life – suicidal. They know they’re a person that’s a wreck and needs massive help. That person gets sin and condemnation, but they don’t get propitiation. The person who goes to the therapist, and takes the pills, and has the nervous breakdown, and keeps reinventing themselves, and changing their look, and changing their job, and changing their friends, and changing their family – trying to figure out how to get changed. They all get the sin piece. They don’t get the propitiation piece.
The good news is there is propitiation for sin through Jesus. See, that’s why we love Jesus. That’s why we’re into Jesus. At Mars Hill, we’re not real big on religion. We’re not real big on morality. We’re really big on Jesus, because the problem is sin and the answer is Jesus. And he is the propitiation for our sin.
You want a relationship with God? You better get connected to Jesus, because that’s the only way to have a relationship with God.
Last verse, 1 John 4:10: “This is love” – now, again, I started off saying, “Let’s put the whole stack of love, mercy, grace verses off to the side.” Now we’ll pick on up, okay? Now I want you to see, when God says, “I love you,” that is shocking. That is amazing. That is unexpected and definitely undeserved. “This is love” – so now we’re gonna look at what love is, okay? The problem is when we think of love, we think of our understanding of love and we project that on to God. We say, “God can’t do that; that wasn’t loving.” We don’t know jack about love because God is love. Love is not God. We don’t start with a definition of something and then project that on God. We start with God and then we define whatever attribute of God we’re dealing with in terms of God. “This is love.” What he’s inferring is there’s a lot of things that aren’t love that go into the name of love. For example, boyfriend tells girlfriend, “I love you.” That means get naked. That’s not love. That’s lust – whole other word! That’s fornication. That’s a whole other word.
The verse when he says, “I love the Mariners.” “I love Krispy Kreme doughnuts.” “I love my puppy.” Something else. I like them, but not love – not love in the sense that God is talking about love. Not in the sense that God is love. See, because our understanding of love, quite frankly, is pathetic, and worthless, and weak, and anemic, and doesn’t do jack. That’s the problem with love. Because when we say love, we mean sentimental, romantic – you know, heart-palpitating, greeting care, REO Speedwagon – that’s what we mean. (Laughter) Blah – nothing! And when we say love, what we mean is, “I feel something.” What we never mean is, “I do something.” That’s the problem with sentimental love. “I feel this, and I feel that.” Well, you gotta do something to have a biblical love. Biblical love does things. I can’t go home to my wife and kids and say, “I really love you, and I’ll see you next year.” Love works. Love pays the rent. Love puts food on the table. Love comes home and wrestles with the kids. Love comes home and sits on the couch with the wife. Love is what you do – as a result of what you feel, but it is what you do.
We have sentimental love. People love all kinds of things, and they don’t do jack. God’s love is not just sentimental, it’s efficacious. It compels him to do something. That’s propitiation. We know that God loves us, because he did something. He didn’t just say, “I really feel warmly.” (Laughter) He did something. Here’s what it says: “This is love: not that we love God” – we love pizza. You know, we love our college football team. We love our new car. We love ourselves. We love our nails, right? We don’t love God. We love spirituality and morality. We don’t love God. “Not that we love God” – see, the relationship with God doesn’t deal – doesn’t begin with us welling up emotion and then running toward God, but God being loving, running toward his enemies, to embrace them as his friends.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” There’s the good news. You’re not a good person, but you’re loved. That’s better. Okay, so what did God do? “Sent his son to be a propitiation for our sins.” Some of you look at the cross and you say, “That’s horror. That’s bloodshed. That’s death. That’s violence. That’s anger. That’s hatred. That’s wrath. Where’s the love of God?” There it is – propitiating, doing something! There is God loving you, dying for your sin! That’s love! Love does something!
Love saves us by diverting the wrath so that God’s justice can be met, and his holiness can be met, and his love can be met, and his grace can be met. And God can be God, and still have a relationship with us without becoming as bad as we are to relate to us, but enabling us to become more like him by grace, so that finally there can be an enjoyable relationship.
This is what the Bible says, that the cross of Jesus Christ is the place of the demonstration of the love of God. Next time you wonder, “God, do you love me?” think of Jesus Christ getting murdered on a cross in your place, and remember this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him need not perish, but receive eternal life.” Romans 5:8 – “God demonstrates” – God shows his love. “God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were sinners Jesus Christ died for us.” The cross is the place of the demonstration of the efficacious love of God that compels him to do something to make us lovely, to take away our sin, to divert his wrath – propitiate it through Jesus Christ.
Now, some of you are here today and I know you will question my motives. “He just yells at us. He seems very frustrated. What is his point?” Here’s my point. I don’t want to stand before God and be a false teacher. I really worry about that, to be honest with you. I’m scared of God, right? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” – I get that. I get that. I get that I don’t want to mess with God. And I don’t want to tell lies about God. And I don’t want to lie to this many people and have all your blood on my hands. Hebrews 13 says I gotta stand before Jesus and give an account for every one of you. Think about that.
And I don’t want to stand before Jesus and have him say, “Did you tell them the whole truth?” “No, I told them the good part. I told them the part they really liked and they would tithe toward so we’d get the new building, and they would applaud because they think I’m funny. I skipped all that dark stuff about wrath and hatred and sin and justice and hell, and I didn’t get to that.” He’d say, “Well, then, depart from me. I never knew you.”
I really want to tell you the truth. The average pastor is four years in his church. The average youth pastor is nine months. The average pastor learns, “I don’t really know them. They don’t really know me. I don’t really love them. They don’t really love me. They’re gonna screw up their life, but I’m not gonna be here to deal with it. I’ll preach four years of happiness and then move on to the next gig.”
Here’s what I’m doing, okay? This church started nine years ago as a Bible study in my living room. The first three years, I didn’t get paid. People say, “Are you in it for the money?” No, there was no money. We have no grown to be the largest church in the state. God has blessed us in every way. I’m gonna give you my life – I’ll be here ‘til I’m 75, 85 – I plan on preaching my own funeral then climbing into the box, shutting the lid, and dying. (Laughter) And between now and then I really want you to know that you are saved from God – that you really are an enemy of God, that God really is good and you really are bad, and that Jesus is your only hope.
And I want you to acknowledge the fullness of the God of the Bible and let the totality of Scripture speak, not turning a blind eye, ignoring those section of Scripture that you find most displeasing, even if they are the majority. But I want you to know who God fully is. And I want you to know what God has fully done. And I want that to transform the totality of your life and your eternity.
It’s real simple. John 3:36 says it this way: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” You with Jesus? You love Jesus? You trust Jesus? You give your sins to Jesus? You believe in Jesus? Eternal life. “Whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” It’s that simple. Today you are under Jesus for the propitiation of your sins and the diversion of the wrath of God. Or you are under Jesus stacking up condemnation and the wrath of God for a final day of eternal judgment. I now leave it to you. I now leave it to you.
If you want to become a Christian today – very simple. It’s you and Jesus. You tell him your sin. You ask him to forgive you. We’ll partake of communion remember the propitiating death of Jesus’ body and blood for our sin. We’ll give our tithes and offerings. We’ll sing and celebrate. Because as much as the wrath and the hatred and the anger of God is real, the love, the grace, the mercy of God is real.
Jesus, thanks for a chance to study your Word as your people and your Church on this day. Jesus, I pray against all the delusions and illusions, the propensity we have to transform you into the God that is a lot more like us, and a lot less like you. Jesus, I pray that this church wouldn’t just be big, but that it would be healthy because there would be a love of you and a hatred of sin. Jesus, I pray that nobody would take this sermon and that they would think that they get to run around having wrath on people. That’s your job in the end – not our job. I pray that we wouldn’t run around hating people. You know our hearts and our lives, and you’re in the right position to judge us and decide who is loved and hated. Jesus, may we love our enemies as you have loved us, as your enemies. May we do good to those who do evil to us. May we show them your love and in the end, Lord Jesus, we know that you’ll sort this all out. Amen.