Appendix III: GOD’S JUDGMENTS
Years ago, some errand boys were whistling as they went about their work through the streets of London. An alert musician noticed the boys were whistling off-key. After investigating, he discovered the bells of Westminster Abbey were ringing slightly out of tune as well. The boys were just copying what they heard every day.
This is a picture of what is happening in this generation. Many of us are living off-key because of the erroneous perceptions we’ve picked up from the world and in some houses of worship.
God is most often depicted as a King or a Judge who is more than ready to cast us aside into a tormenting and unending punishment. We have learned to live with a perception of God that is something like the infamous literary character Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
As with the fictional character, God most often appears to have a split personality that can be very gracious at times and rather cruel at other times. We are generally taught that God is ready to cast us into everlasting punishment if we fail to respond to His love. We are often torn between a God that can both love and disdain us. What a distorted picture of our heavenly Father!
No wonder we treat each other as we do! We are under the impression that our love-hate reaction to each other is normal because this is the way God is with us. Our confusion about the nature of God inappropriately seems to give us license to reflect and resemble Him as an angry God who is ready to destroy those who disagree with Him.
Does God have any resemblance to a dark side? Scripture tells us that God is love and He is motivated only by the love that makes up His nature (see 1 John 4:7-8, 16). God does not even produce a shadow (see James 1:17). The only dark side of God is in our confused perception of Him.
If God really is Love, how should we view His judgments? Scripture reveals that God’s judgments are really like the fatherly disciplines that are meant to correct wayward children.
God deals with you as with sons…we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits…He disciplines us for our good (Hebrews 12:5-13). Read Psalms 19:7-11.
My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights (Proverbs 3:11-12).
Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty (Job 5:17).
The judgments of God are corrective actions. Each of His judgments are expressions of love that are meant to remove the sinful dross that infects us and stains us.
God’s love freely forgives. We just need to repent and receive it. When we do not accept His forgiving kindness, our heavenly Father may extend His grace and mercy in ways that can appear to be harsh judgment, lest we continue in our erroneous way of life. He really loves us!
Remember, God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden so they would not eat of the Tree of Life while they were unrepentant. Expulsion was God’s merciful action to bring them to repentance. We receive the life-restoring benefits of forgiveness when we are repentant, give up our destructive behavior, and submit to God and His way of life.
God hates sin but not the sinner. God’s wrath is only against our iniquity and sinful ways, not against us. Yes, Scripture even tells us that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24). The fire of God’s love is not meant to destroy us but to destroy the impurities in us. God wants to purge the dross from our lives and, as through a smelter’s fire, bring us forth as pure silver and gold (see Malachi 3:3).
Yes, at times, we can be hurt by accidents, error, and the ill intentions of others. Our suffering can also be the result of our stubborn ways. These are not necessarily God inspired. When we submit to God, we become recipients of His loving corrections.
So why are we taught to fear the Lord? A well-known verse used to support such is:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).
The Hebrew word translated fear in this verse means “reverence,” which is a deep respect mixed with awe and wonder. A few versions translate the word correctly, as reverence (The Living Bible, J.B. Phillips New Testament, Good News Translation, and Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible).
God does not want us to have a dreadful fear of Him. This verse is really saying, “The reverence and knowledge of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and understanding.” A reverence of God nurtures our trust and confidence in our heavenly Father’s love and good will toward each of us.
There is no dark side of God. Let’s toss away our Jekyll and Hyde perception. Can we accept His disciplines as the corrective hand of our loving heavenly Father?
3. Way of Forgiveness Restores Us
(All Scripture quotes are from the NASB version)
The Babemba tribe in southern Africa has learned something of the power of forgiveness to restore a tribal member from the error of his ways. When one of them violates the tribal code of conduct, they are placed unfettered in the center of the village. Life in the village comes to a halt as everyone—adults and children alike—gathers in a circle around the accused.
They do not pick up stones to cast at the offending tribal member. They do not speak a negative word against the guilty party; they do just the opposite! One by one, they take their turn sharing something good they can remember about the person. This is done loudly so everyone can hear. They recite the individual’s good qualities, good deeds, strengths, and all the kindnesses the culprit has ever done in their lifetime.
This can go on for days, but no one is allowed to exaggerate, fabricate, or mock. At the end of the well-saying, the circle breaks up and everyone participates in a joyful celebration, welcoming the newly affirmed member back into the tribe! Anti-social, delinquent, and criminal behavior is rare among them. Why? They are masters at restoring the guilty one from the trespass that ensnared them.
We all experience the Way of Life because we are born into it. As we choose to respond to God and walk in the Way of Salvation, we experience the culture of Christ and begin to be transformed into God’s intention. This saving process enables us to experience a more abundant life.
The Way of Forgiveness is an important foundational concept in the culture of Christ. Our proper function in this culture requires that we understand how God forgives so it becomes a primary basis for how we live.
In this chapter we focus on forgiveness from the standpoint of our heavenly Father, its originator. We will address such issues as: What motivates God to forgive? Who does God actually forgive? Are there limitations to His forgiveness? What is the real purpose of forgiveness?
As we examine scriptural examples of God’s forgiveness, we will discover a lot about His heart and nature. We will begin to see more clearly our heavenly Father’s character, attitude, and personality (CAP).
God Is Motivated
The words “forgive,” “forgiven,” and “forgiveness” appear in Scripture over one hundred times. The New Testament Greek word for “forgive,” aphiemi (pronounced af-ee’-ay-mee), means to send away, dismiss, remove from another, liberate from the guilt and power of error.
The word “forgiveness,” aphesis, means: remission, cause to stand away, release. This is an action that one exercises toward another, to accomplish a release in the recipient.