Posted in theology

Our greatest need

By Elizabeth Prata

It’s troubling times. Our nation just went through a national convulsion from the pandemic, presidential election, and post-election transfer of power. We’ve been experiencing a year-long string of natural disasters, riots, and unexpected tragedies. It’s been tough.

Even the strongest Christian is wobbling from being buffeted back and forth. Pagans are in terror most of the time, whether they will admit it or not.

During troubling times, our natural instinct is to extend sympathy. To put a hand on a shoulder, to cry with those who are crying. We speak a soft word, we exude mercy and grace to those who are suffering, afraid, or scared. We tend toward the “kindness” qualities in our relationships. As we should.

During troubling times it’s also a natural inclination to swing the pendulum too far to the other side. We tend to exclude speaking of our greatest need. We feel it’s ‘not the right time’ to bring up what all humans need, especially to the unsaved.

What is our greatest need? Jesus.
Why? We need to be saved.
What do we need to be from? His wrath for our sin.

Wrath and sin are never popular. Ever. But they are the basis for the Gospel. If we want to speak of the mercy and grace of Jesus, we need to speak of why we need His grace and mercy. And why do we? Because He is angry. Our sin is an affront to a holy God. His righteous judgment will fall on each and every unconverted person who ever lived. If they had not repented by their bodily death, they will be cast into hell. Not laid gently with hands folded and flowers adorning, but cast, thrown, tossed.

My pastor had explained that the Gospel is like an airplane. A plane has two wings. One wing is grace, the other is law/judgment. If we focus solely on grace, the plane spirals, it is off balance. If we focus only on judgment, the plane is off-balance, it spirals. Of course during troubling times we speak kindly and gently, but we don’t avoid the hard subjects. John the Baptist opened his ministry “into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). He mentioned sin right away. He said to the crowds “who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7). He mentioned wrath right away. Those who are unsaved, the wrath already abides on him! (John 3:36).

Wrath in the NASB is mentioned 29 times. So much for the NT being the ‘kinder’ Testament, absent of wrath and focusing on only the “nice” Jesus. Romans 1 is all about God’s wrath against a sinful humanity.

Granted, it is not a pleasant subject, but compare the unpleasantness of a short conversation with someone about sin & wrath, against an ETERNITY for that person enduring not just unpleasantness, but torture and wrath for all time! Here is Jonathan Edwards in his famous Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon,

“The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ.—That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of, there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.”

“You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his band, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it. Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock.” –End Jonathan Edwards

It is the destiny of every person to be cast into eternal judgment if they do not repent. All the talk of mercy and grace will do no good to the person who was unaware that God was angry with them for their sins and that Jesus had His hand out to save them from it this whole time.

What is our greatest need? Jesus.
Why? We need to be saved.
What do we need to be from? His wrath for our sin.
What must we do to be saved?

And the jailer asked for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas; and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:29-30).

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what are we to do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-38).

Now, there’s grace. There’s mercy.

Author:

Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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