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Have you ever heard someone say that they are a New Testament believer?
I have. And I think it stinks.
Here’s where I’m coming from: I have grown up in the church for my entire life. I know all of the lingo, the jargon, the catch phrases – i can spit out memory verses to shut down an arguement and so on…I’ve been around plenty of people, especially people from my generation, who think of themselves as NT believers, whether they call themselves that or not. This really sucks, mostly because when you try to tell someone who doesn’t know God how much God loves them you can’t build a very good argument. There is no ground to stand on.
So I was recently reading a history book and came across a quote by Martin Luther which I will paraphrase that was something along these lines: “The Old Testament validates the New Testament. If you don’t understand the wrath of God then the grace of God doesn’t mean much.” Again…I probably paraphrased the crap out of that, but that was the gist of it. That really struck me as super relevant for all that is being talked about in Christian circles these days. I think many believers are guilty of choosing a portion of God that they really like, namely the love and grace of God that is revealed in the NT, and write off the rest of what the Bible says about God.
So then it becomes a big mess when you try to tell someone about God’s love for them. Seriously, try telling someone about God’s love without referencing his wrath and see how that works out for you. Because in all honesty, God’s love is so meaningful because his wrath is so vengeful. God literally hates sin. A lot. If you were ever curious about how much he hates sin then go read the story of when he destroyed Sodom and Gommorah. He just lays ’em out flat – no mercy.
How can Christians be so naive as to think that God doesn’t take sin seriously? Yes, God loves us very much and showed that through the ultimate sacrifice, but seriously how can we say that sin is in any way acceptable? How can we tell people that God loves them without first telling them how much God hates their sin? To be a NT believer is essentially saying, “well God is love, and because God loves everybody equally, there is no way God would send someone to hell.” And if all your arguments come from the fact that you see God as merciful and graceful and loving without also seeing him as wrathful and just than you will lose everytime.
So here’s why this blog post means something: for a while now i’ve been trying to be a NT believer. And ya know what? It cheapens my experience of God’s grace. It really does. Martin Luther took the power of God’s wrath to an extreme for much of his life…he was so afraid that God would just smite him one day for an unconfessed sin that he spent hours every day trying to remember if he had sinned at all so he could confess it. But when he finally realized that it wasn’t through works that God’s grace applied to him it freed him and gave him a completely new life. God’s grace is transformative to the person who understands the weight of sin. But it is cheap when God’s grace means just that God loves you and doesn’t want bad things for you. When I experience cheap grace it doesn’t honestly make me want to change at all. It doesn’t really impact who I am or the way I live my life – but when I understand that grace carries the weight of my sin – it changes something inside of me and causes me to live gratefully and earnestly for the cause of Christ.