Is God For Us, Or Is He Against Us? Yes!
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
Maintaining balance in life is not easy; being a Christian doesn’t make it any easier! I’ve found that in life and theology I tend to lean way too far in one direction, which inevitably creates problems. Take God’s grace and mercy for example - yes, I can claim the promises from Romans 8: nothing can separate me from the love of God, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, everything works together for good for those who are in Christ Jesus. All absolutely true - BUT - at the same time, I can overlook the truth that God disciplines those he loves, and that discipline can at times be painful. I can choose to violate God’s laws, and that doesn’t invalidate anything in Romans 8, but Romans 8 doesn’t get me out of Hebrews 12:6!
Randy Alcorn dives into this subject in his recent blog entry “Is God For Us, Or Is He Against Us?,” using the concise analysis of pastor Ray Ortlund to frame the discussion. Alcorn states:
“The New Testament repeatedly affirms God’s love, through Christ, to His people. …Yet Scripture also reminds us that God cares as much that we share in His holiness as in His love: “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.... Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:10, 14).
True, God’s discipline toward His children may not feel loving. Part of our problem is that we think to “love” means to “do no harm,” when it really means “to be willing to do short-term harm for a redemptive purpose.” For those who are in Christ, God’s discipline is an act of love.
Alcorn then quotes Ray Ortlund, who says:
So here is my assurance. I can sin my way out of my marriage, I can sin my way out of the ministry, I can sin my way out of physical health, and a lot more. But I cannot sin my way out of Christ, and neither can you, because the cross of Christ paid the damning penalty for our sins.
Great news, right? BUT - we can’t forget the flip side, which Ortlund reminds us of when he states:
God might also be against us at times. Not that he de-justifies us, but he might discipline us (Hebrews 12:5-6). He might oppose us (James 4:6). He might send out wrath against us (2 Chronicles 19:2; 32:25). Not condemning wrath, but purifying wrath, correcting wrath, for a time. Even his disciplines and oppositions are gifts of love. How could it be otherwise? The smile of God is not an all-approving grin. What kind of Father would that be?
Ultimately though, the “bad news” isn’t really bad news at all, because God’s discipline is done out of love, just like those of us who truly love our kids discipline them too. Our kids might feel otherwise (i know I sure did when I was younger!), but we know despite how hard it can be that correction is a critical way we help our kids grow and develop into healthy adults. Ortlund reminds us, “Even when God is against us, still, he is for us. His love is burning away whatever keeps us from pressing more deeply into his mighty heart.”
Is God for us or against us? The answer is - YES - and that’s a very good thing!