The Apostle Paul painted two sides to God’s character in Romans 11:22, ‘Consider then the goodness and severity of God…’ We’re often familiar with the goodness of God – singing and reciting “God is good all the time.” But let’s also consider His sternness. If we want to truly know who God is, and not simply have a self-conceived image of Him, we need to consider both His goodness and severity, His mercy and judgment, His love and wrath.
It’s hard to relate to a God who’s angry, as anger is a human emotion and a mostly negative one. Divine anger is not the same as human anger. God is slow to anger (Exodus 34:6) and allows us the chance and time to change, as seen in Romans 2:4 – ‘Do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?’
Just as a child is afraid of his parents’ anger and punishment, a healthy Christian fears God’s chastening and discipline. The psalmist exclaims in Psalm 38:1, “LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.” The King James Version translates ‘wrath’ in this same verse as ‘hot displeasure’. God disciplines us because of His jealous love.
A deep and true fear of God will keep you from committing adultery, because of what it does to God, the Church, and the ones involved. To have a fear of God means that we’re afraid to commit murder, and any other sin.
When we see His displeasure and how He displays His anger, we ought to have a twofold response – first, thankfulness for His patience and mercy towards us, and second, be transformed and live under the gracious fear of God.
I learnt this at a very young age, when my mother would threaten to tell my dad whenever I was up to mischief. Knowing the painful consequence of spanking, I’d confess my ‘sin’ before being confronted by him. And his mercy always would triumph over judgement!
It’s an irony that the very thing God does to get our attention is the very thing that puts us off Him – the hiding of His face, our unanswered prayers, or the way He chooses to be absent when we feel He’s needed most. But this is His way of leading us to repentance.
The New Testament Church in the book of Acts experienced great power (Acts 4:33), great grace, great joy (Acts 8:8), and great harvest during the revival. But we often forget that these were accompanied with ‘great fear’.
When Ananias was struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit, ‘great fear came on all’ (Acts 5:5), as was the case shortly after, when the same thing happened to Sapphira and ‘great fear came upon all the church’ (vs 11).
How can we expect a greater glory with a lesser fear of God in the Last Day Church? I believe the revival that’s needed is on the way. Get ready for it – it’ll be a mirroring of the true God and will show what really is in the hearts of men and women.
At the height of The Great Awakening in America’s history, a famous sermon titled, ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’, was preached in 1741 by Jonathan Edwards. It was recorded that sinners repented by the thousands. Often people were so moved by conviction that they trembled and fell to the ground, moaning and begging God to forgive their sins.
Paraphrasing the words of R.T. Kendall, from his book ‘Is Your God Too Nice?’ – “Many will be unhappy with the God who will be manifested, but others will be converted. It’ll be a manifestation of the God of the Bible for which most people are not prepared.”