“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire.” —Jonathan Edwards
This quote, from Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, is one of the most well-known in American history and is emblematic of the Puritan emphasis on the holiness and justice of God, and the peril that sinners face in His presence. It graphically describes the danger of remaining in sin without repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. Sadly, in our modern American Evangelical landscape, we seem to have forgotten this profound truth about God.
In an era where moral ambiguity runs rampant and nuance is the prevailing school of thought, many Evangelical churches are bending over backward to make Christianity more palatable to a world that is growing increasingly hostile to God. Whether it be a softened tone on sexuality and gender, the approval of endless child sacrifice, or the glossing over of any other sin, these churches believe they’re doing people a favor—keeping them in the pew, offering a toned-down Jesus who poses no threat to the life they’re living. But let’s be clear: this does nobody any favors—it only keeps them attracted to a counterfeit Jesus and deludes them into thinking they’re on safe ground when they’re actually on an extremely perilous path.
God, as revealed in Scripture, is not a deity to be trifled with. He is holy, just, and righteous—attributes that are not merely aspects of His character but are the essence of who He is. God’s holiness is so pure, so unblemished, that it sets Him entirely apart from creation. Isaiah was so undone in the presence of God’s holiness that his only utterance was one of utter despair—”Woe is me!” God’s justice is equally unfathomable. He is the ultimate judge who will by no means clear the guilty. His righteousness demands that sin be punished, it is non-negotiable. So, to present a God who winks at sin or accommodates it in any form is not just an innocent mishap or a benign deviation from the truth, it’s a blasphemous misrepresentation of who God is.
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There is no running from God, no corner of the universe where His presence does not permeate—after all, He is omnipresent. If the very angels veil their faces before Him, what makes us think that someday, either now or in eternity, we as unrepentant sinners can stand in His holy presence? The stark reality is this—God’s presence is the most dangerous place for an unrepentant sinner to be. God’s nature, His holiness and justice, stand in direct opposition to sin, and His righteousness requires that sin be dealt with decisively. The wages of sin is death—spiritual, eternal separation from God. That’s not a popular message, but it’s the truth, and sugarcoating it helps no one.
This brings us to the life-or-death role of the Church. The Church should be the pillar and ground of the truth—a place where the unchanging immutable character of God is proclaimed without compromise. Churches should be places where God’s holiness is preached, where His justice is declared, and where the call to repentance is sounded loud and clear. The truth is that the Church, by accommodating sin, is putting souls in peril. By presenting a diluted repentance-free Gospel that leaves out the demanding requirements of God’s holiness, they’re not offering a way of salvation—they’re offering a road to damnation.
If we’re serious about the Gospel, then the time has come for churches to quit pandering to the world’s sensibilities. It’s not love to withhold the truth—it’s the most unloving thing we could do. Real love calls sinners out of the darkness of this world and into the marvelous light of Christ. It declares boldly that there is a way to stand justified before a holy God, not by works of righteousness we have done, but by His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. God’s grace is sure, His mercy is abundant, but they can only be received through repentance and faith.
Remember, it was Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He didn’t say, “I am one of many ways, pick what suits you.” He declared Himself to be the only way. To proclaim anything else is to be unfaithful to the Gospel and the God we claim to serve. Why are we so insistent upon pandering to worldly desires? Do we fear men more than we fear God? We should be proclaiming the unchanging, demanding, but infinitely glorious truths about God. In doing so, we offer the only thing that can truly save sinners—the authentic, life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything less is a tragic distortion that kills souls eternally.