November 7, 2014

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God…How much more severely do you think a person deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?…It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26, 27, 29, 31

More vandalism in the parks—graffiti-like paintings have been found in eight western locations. Joshua Tree, Yosemite and Death Valley in California; Crater Lake in Oregon; Zion and Canyonlands in Utah; and Rocky Mountain in Colorado are all national parks that have been hit with huge, colorful pictures painted on rock outcroppings. Colorado National Monument also has been tagged. Park workers are trying to get rid of the “art” by sandblasting or using chemical strippers and even spatulas to scrap off the paint, trying to find the best methods to loosen the material without damaging the natural rock.

The woman suspected of defacing the parks posted photos of her work on Instagram and Tumblr, perhaps not anticipating the furor it would set off (she’s since disconnected her phone). People who love the national parks and other wilderness areas are livid over this defilement of nature, and justifiably so.

Investigators are interviewing her and collecting evidence for what could be felony charges.

But all this makes me wonder—why do we think these same rules don’t apply to our relationship with God? Why do we take our desecration of Him so lightly? Why do we imagine there are no consequences when we “trample the Son of God under foot?”

On his “Desiring God” blog, John Piper discusses this very subject, referring to the verses I quoted at the beginning:

“When it comes to God, all we want to hear is the sweet side—the tender side, the warm side…We believe that the only good motivation comes from hearing about grace, not judgment. And little by little we let that motivational conviction (as unbiblical as it is) creep into our view of God Himself, until we have no categories anymore to understand, let alone love, a God whose wrath is a fury of fire against sinners. But the writer of this book of Hebrews will not be silent about the wrath of God…

“Whatever your view of God, the Creator of the universe and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, if it does not include this, it is a distorted, unrealistic view. God is a God of vengeance, and to fall into His hands is a terrifying thing…

“Most people today do not tremble at the power and wrath and judgment of God. He is a good old boy. Or a coddling father. Or a doting friend. But rarely a raging fire of indignation and holy anger at sin.”

Just like the woman “artist” in the parks, we’ve all left a trail of graffiti—all the things we’ve said, done and thought that are fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23)—behind us, sometimes even boasting of our “work,” never considering that we justly merit the anger of our Creator, whose standards we have ignored or defiantly disobeyed.

And yet…like any loving parent, God desires not punishment but restoration. John Piper again: “God has made a provision for escaping His anger, namely, the sacrifice of His Son in the place of sinners. The love of God provides escape from the wrath of God by sacrificing the Son of God to vindicate the glory of God in forgiving sinners. That’s the gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ—the essence of Christianity—makes no sense at all apart from the wrath of God. If there is no wrath and no judgment to escape, then Christ was sacrificed in vain.

“But He did not die in vain. He died so that you and I and anyone who believes on Him might be saved from the wrath of God and have everlasting life in the love of God—in the peaceful eye of the hurricane of His holy wrath.”

Piper concludes with a warning: “Take heed to yourselves. You have received a knowledge of the truth. The Son of God has laid His life down for you to receive as your substitute…Do not trample the Son of God or make light of His blood or insult the Spirit of grace that is blowing over your soul even now.”

Let God gently and lovingly scrape away all that stands between you and Him. His Son is the right tool for the job. Even the most stubborn stains are no problem (Isaiah 1:18). Only He can restore you to the way in which you were meant to live.

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