Is God angry at you, personally? This may seem like a strange question, but if you’re not sure of the answer, chances are, He might be.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” (Romans 1:18 NIV)
Apart from Christ, the Bible tells us, all are under God’s wrath. God’s holiness demands the complete absence of sin, yet since The Fall, we are all infected with sin. It is an impossible situation, and one only Christ could fix. Because He paid the punishment for our sins on the cross, we can be forgiven and have a new life in Him, finally at peace with God. Yet most people today don’t care; why do you suppose this is?
Did you know that the prophets in the Old Testament approached evangelism quite differently than we do today? Instead of telling people that there was a loving God who cared about them and had a plan for their lives, their message was typically, “you’re sinning; stop it (repent, i.e., turn away from it), or God will judge you.” They were, needless to say, not usually well received because, really, who wants to hear that? Yet, they were only God’s mouthpieces, “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)
These days the message seems to have changed. We go on about how Christ died for our sins and that we should receive Him as our Lord and Savior and be saved, mostly to deaf ears. People are too busy with their smartphones, computers, game systems and everything else they fill their lives with to pay attention. And why should they, honestly? The solution–forgiveness because of Christ–only makes sense when a problem–God’s wrath on us because of our sins–is recognized, and most people have no idea the problem exists.
The truth is that God’s method of evangelism is best. The message most people still need to hear is, “You’re sinning; stop it (repent, i.e., turn away from it), or God will judge you.” It is what John the Baptist preached (“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2). It is also what Jesus preached (“The time has come,” he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news [that there is forgiveness because of Christ]!'” Mark 1:15 NIV). Furthermore, it is what the disciples continued to preach after the resurrection (“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out…” Acts 3:19 NIV). Perhaps it is a significant message?
Notice the role of repentance in coming to God. You can’t come to God disagreeing with Him about your sinful condition, or unwilling to leave your rebellious life behind. A heart submitted to Him is required.
Jesus explained the relationship between sin and forgiveness in His discourse with Nicodemus:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:16-21)
The evangelical world has latched onto the “believes in Him” part, yet many fail to grasp its meaning within the context of the entire passage. The belief that gives everlasting life is a belief that forsakes evil deeds and comes to the light; it is genuine repentance. Jesus came to save us from our sins, not to take away God’s punishment while we keep doing them. This is the full message of the Gospel: there is forgiveness in Christ, but it involves repentance.
But what if you have repented of your sins and turned away from a sinful life to faith in and obedience to Christ? Is God still angry at you? The answer is that He clearly is not. Paul teaches in the book of Romans that, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) John tells us, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin…These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 1:6, 7, 5:13)
Finally, we must realize how grave sin is and take great pains that we not return to it. The second half of today’s verse tells us that the truth is suppressed by wickedness. What does this mean?
Sin obscures God’s righteousness from shining through us to others. You may have lived a life of faithful obedience, but if you turn to sin you can be certain that it will be that which others will notice and remember, not your previous obedience. Recall the example of fallen evangelists and how their sin obscures their years of service. It is not only important that we repent of our sins, but also that we make sure not to fall back into them–and we can, with God’s help, for “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Help us repent and turn to You, that our sins may be wiped out; help us not suppress the truth by our wickedness. Amen.