Originally published August 24, 2017
From the sermon Love, justice, and the heavenly way
The gospel is offensive.
God is perfect and righteous. And the only way for imperfect and unrighteous people to be with him was for Jesus to pay the price of sin. To absorb the wrath of God. And for some reason, the world is so twisted that that idea is offensive. That the Lord paid the penalty for our sin so we could be with him. But that’s not good enough. Because that takes the control away from us.
And people hate that idea. We’re fine with the love of God but we are not ok that sin needed to be atoned for.
God is loving. And God is love. And that is important. It is fundamental to his nature. We should talk about that and celebrate that and rejoice in that.
But the sins I’ve heard people try to justify before God because God is loving…
But God is also just! And while God is loving, God doesn’t love sin. In fact, God hates sin. God has wrath towards sin. It’s not that God is uncontrolled and losing his temper. But it is a righteous disapproval and loathing of sin.
But the cross makes no sense without God also being just.
God is God. Couldn’t he just say we were forgiven?
That’s the wrong question.
The real question is, “how bad is sin that Jesus died to rescue from it?” How bad is sin that the cross was the cost of it? How much does God hate sin that His Son, Jesus Christ can to earth and died for it?
And again, we might want to thrash against that. “God made the rules Himself. He didn’t have to pay such a cost.”
Yes he did! Because that was what your sin cost. That was what admission into heaven cost.
To have simply wiped the slate clean would then be to take sin lightly. It would be to say it doesn’t really matter. And that goes against the nature and character of God. It would say that God was apathetic about sin.
Look to the cross. Look to the price that Jesus paid so we could be forgiven of our sin and that shows us just how seriously God takes it.
The theologian Louis Berkhof said, “The fact that God gave up His only begotten Son to bitter sufferings and to a shameful death cannot be explained on the principle of His love only.”
It’s love and justice.
Heaven is a perfect place.
It’s a place none of us deserves.
God is love and we should rejoice that he is love. It’s because God is love and that he is loving that He came into the world and bore our sins for us. Paid the price for us. Took our place for us.
But let us take joy that we have a God who is also just.
John Piper says, “We will never stand in awe of being loved by God until we reckon with the seriousness of our sin and the justice of his wrath against us.”
Maybe sin and wrath aren’t your favorite topics.
My point isn’t to ruin your day.
It is to point to the extreme joy that God wants us to take in his goodness for our forgiveness through the atonement of Jesus.
Our sin was great, but his love was greater.
So in the atonement we see the wrath of God endured by Christ on the cross for all who have faith in him. It is because Jesus endures the wrath of God that he is the only way. No one else was a worthy sacrifice because no one else was God. And no one else was perfect. It is Jesus alone.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.