READ: Psalm 139, Malachi 34Matthew 21, Hebrews 3
GREAT AND TERRIBLE JESUS
The Old Testament ends with a warning about being cursed and a reminder that the day of the Lord is both great and terrible (Mal. 4:5-6). The New Testament reminds us there really are only two options for humanity. Either we fall on Jesus and be broken or Jesus falls on us and grinds us to powder (Matt. 21:44).
The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one and the same. Covenants change; God’s character does not. The God who is love and mercy is also the God of wrath and judgment; to diminish any aspect of God is to distort His image. The prevalent picture of Jesus today is marred, for it does not do justice to His anger with sin, His hatred of the evildoer, His cursing of the disobedient and unfruitful. The gentle Jesus who scoops vulnerable children up into His arms is the same Jesus who will return to this earth with a robe dipped in blood, who will destroy wicked and disobedient men miserably (v. 41). Those who obey Jesus encounter His great love, mercy, and compassion; those that disobey Jesus inevitably face His terribleness. Unbelief is disobedience, disobedience is rebellion, and rebellion is rewarded with hell. God swears that those who do not obey will not enter His rest and links this disobedience to unbelief (Heb. 3:18). When we do not believe we disobey. Unbelief then is rebellion and sin and can only end one way: God’s punishment. Biblically, belief and obedience are inseparable and always end with God’s pleasure and blessing. In scripture, believing obedience is always immediate, costly, and radical.
Immediate Obedience. Matthew 21:28-32 tells the story of two sons, neither obeyed immediately. One son made no pretension; the other paid lip service but never acted. Immediate obedience is the biblical standard, not the biblical norm, and God in His great patience prefers deferred obedience to no obedience at all, else who of us could survive! Yet when God encounters believers who immediately obey, it is a constant delight to Him and He cannot resist lavishing Himself on them. And there is no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and immediately obey.
Costly Obedience. While obedience inevitably brings pleasure to the practitioner, it is usually a deferred joy, a joy set before us on the other side of suffering. The most rewarding obedience costs us something. Often obedience is its own joy. We don’t obey to be rewarded; we obey to please Jesus. When we please Him, something divine courses through our being and it gives us unexplainable life.
Radical Obedience. Obedience does not have to be rational and often isn’t. Tying sons to altars, building arks, the voluntary reduction of our own resources and strength, the denial of self, the forgiving of enemies, and a thousand other actions of “yes to the Lord” make no sense to the world. We prove our belief by our obedience. Obedient belief shields us from the wrath of God.