A Word of Warning & Promise
So we’ve learned that God’s story, the Good News, really has four deeply interrelated aspects. We learned that (1) God is the One who created us, cares for us, and the One to whom we’re accountable, (2) something about ourselves, namely, that all our problems, issues, and struggles – as painful, sad, and debilitating as they are – stem from one fundamental and global reality: sin. Sin includes guilt before God, His just judgment against us, alienation from His presence, and bondage or helplessness. Sin is a task-master; we are restless, never satisfied, and unable to free ourselves. Though He is not obligated in any way, if things are to change, we need God to intervene, (3) God has intervened to deal with all aspects of sin – its penalty, power, and presence – through the person and work of Jesus, that is, through His death, resurrection, ascension, and present reign. Sin, guilt, alienation, and eternal condemnation have been rendered powerless against those who trust Christ; sin is a curse that has been replaced by grace leading to eternal pardon, reconciliation to God, spiritual renewal, and hope.
The first three aspects lead to the fourth aspect, an aspect which is often neglected in today’s communication of God’s story. The fourth aspect is this: God now summons us to return to Him and He does so with a warning and a promise. It’s very important that we listen to what Jesus and the apostles are teaching us in this regard. They’re telling us that God’s story is Good News, if we respond in faith. But, the Good News contains within it a warning of peril if we decide to continue in our rebellion against God. We need to be very careful in how we listen to Jesus. We ought not put off turning to Him.
A Warning and A Promise
In Acts 17, Luke narrates the ministry of Paul in Athens and his sermon to the Athenian philosophers. In verse 31, Paul warns his listeners to be careful how they hear what he is communicating. He tells them that a day is coming in which God will judge the world in righteousness through the One Man He has appointed”, i.e., through Jesus. Paul continues that God has given us proof of this by raising Jesus from the dead.
So, it’s very important that we understand that there is a judgment coming in which we will give an accounting of our lives to God. In that accounting, it is crucial that we are found in Christ, having repented from our sins and having turned to God in faith. We will not be rescued or forgiven or shown mercy because of our works; our works will reveal exactly where our trust was during our lives. Paul issues God’s warning to us so that we’re clear on this matter.
When Christ exercises His just, wise and omniscient judgment toward us, He will judge in keeping with our works. Insofar as our lives were lived trusting Him – as demonstrated in the good works produced by genuine faith – we will be received into glory and honor (on the grounds of His cross). Insofar as our works reveal that we have persisted in our rebellious autonomy, we will be judged for our rebellion and justly condemned to an existence eternally separated from Him.
But, there’s a promise here that we don’t want to eclipse or in any way minimize. Indeed, we want to stress God’s promise to us. God absolutely promises to receive anyone who repents and trusts in Christ alone for forgiveness and reconciliation. He will never cast them out. Remember John 3:16: “This is the way God loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish” – will not experience that judgment, but actually will inherit eternal life.”
So it’s very important that you ask yourself today where you’re at with the Lord. Have you confessed your sins and turned from them? Have you sensed the Spirit of God working in you to create sorrow for that sin? Do we sense our guilt with it and have we turned to the Lord for forgiveness? It’s not enough to feel sorry for our sins; that’s not the point. The point is this: the Spirit of God brings about sorrow in our hearts so that we’ll turn to God and find His mercy through Christ, through Jesus’ blood, shed for us on the cross.
So the final aspect of the gospel is that there is a warning that judgment is coming and we don’t want to be found outside of Christ. We want to give our lives wholeheartedly and unreservedly to the One who loved us and gave himself for us (Gal 2:20), so that we might be found in Christ having His righteousness, completely forgiven for our sin and prepared to meet the Lord. So God bless you as you think about the gospel, God’s story. For your life now and the life to come, take the time to consider God’s warning and promise to you so that you might see the wisdom of intentionally placing your trust in Christ today. God bless you as you think about and pray about these realities.