A brother writes that “the God of the Old Testament does fierce and horrible things to people, and this makes me pretty nervous. I know that perfect love casts out fear. But I understand that I show my love by my obedience and that leaves me scared again.”
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The New Testament also exhorts us to contemplate “the goodness and the severity of God” (Rom. 11:22), and it warns us that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God” (Heb. 10:31). However, from Genesis to Revelation, God reveals himself as indescribably gracious and generous to the person who is repentant in heart, who seeks his face, who lives with a spirit of creaturely reverence, dependence and submission (Psalm 32:1-2; 103:10-14). But the defiant, the haughty and the willfully rebellious had better watch out! There is a great difference between the way God deals with sinners in the first category and the way he treats sinners of the second sort.
Let us always remember that God’s love is not a response to our love, or to our obedience. We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4;10, 19). He loved us while we were still sinners, helpless, enemies — so much that he gave his Son for our sins (Rom. 5:6-9). And if he loved us that much then, how much more does he love us now that he has reconciled us, washed us, made us holy, and adopted us as his children (Rom. 5:10-11)?
Knowing that we come short, that we sometimes intentionally sin, that we never measure up to God’s perfect standard, we come again and again to the Cross, as it were, and say to God, “Thank you that Jesus died for sinners. I am one of them. Thank you for reconciling me to yourself in the person of my Savior, my Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ! Help me respond better to your great saving work. I cast myself on your mercy and love for sinners which I see demonstrated on that Cross, and I claim your forgiveness and acceptance which I see demonstrated by that Empty Tomb.”
And, saying that — and meaning it — we stand acquitted in God’s sight. By his holy pronouncement, were are “justified by faith.” Through our Lord Jesus Christ, we are at peace with God. And God is at peace with us (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:16-18; Col. 1:19-20).