Over thirty years later, the image of my teenaged self pains me.
I wasn’t okay. I longed to connect with people but whenever they came near, insecurities buzzed in my brain. My attempts to comport myself became social spasms.
I remember near panic at the thought of an evening alone. I remember the utter dread of social rejection.
I look back on my teenaged self with pity and shame.
Then, I found the friend and mentor I needed.
A penniless, itinerant rabbi strutted out of the wilderness and into my consciousness. I was rapt by his way and his words. He seemed unapproachably perfect, but I knew he wanted me near him…always. I gave in to the desire of my Desire.
The need to be with other people vanished. It’s absence surprised me. For the first time, I was okay by myself. To this day, I can tell whether my faith is healthy by my ability to be okay alone. The need for other people and dependence on God can’t inhabit the same heart. This present world system knows nothing but the former. The kingdom of God is built on the latter.
Since the way of the world is bondage to other people, believers in Christ must assert their freedom by getting alone on a regular basis. Nobody is strong enough spiritually to constantly be surrounded by other people. Even Jesus went to great lengths to get alone with God. We must do the same or else we’ll find ourselves entangled and overcome.
As we’ve been studying through Romans, the topic of God’s wrath has come up time and again. According to Paul, everyone (both Jew and Gentile) was under God’s wrath because they had in their own way discounted his glory. This coming Sunday, I’ll share from chapter 3:21-31 about how the death of Jesus atoned for human ungodliness .
To our “enlightened” modern minds, the idea of a wrathful God that needs to be appeased through blood sacrifice sounds pretty archaic doesn’t it? And yet, what is the alternative? Let me share a scenario:
If God isn’t wrathful, then maybe my disregard of him isn’t such a big deal. If my disregard of him isn’t such a big deal, maybe he isn’t ultimate, transcendent, glorious, the ground of all being. If he’s not those things, maybe he’s just a celestial warlord. If he’s just a celestial warlord, maybe I can avoid him, argue with him or bargain with him to avoid his judgment or gain his favor. If I can do any of that, he’s corrupt and I’m a pagan.
Any God who presides over a sinful world is either righteously wrathful or complicit in sin.
But God is wrathful – so wrathful that only the brutal, bloody death of Christ on the cross could quench his burning anger. And yet it wasn’t just Christ who rescued us from the wrath of God. It was that same wrathful God that graciously offered up his beloved and faithful Son for our sakes.
The cross of Christ serves as Exhibit A against humanity’s disdain for their creator and as a monument to his persistent love for them. Only at the cross can we receive absolution from the absolutely righteous God of the universe.
Anyone offering forgiveness another way is peddling lesser gods.
Here is message #5 in From Faith to Faith on Romans 2:12-29. It was originally introduced with a clip from Seinfeld which depicts religious differences between Elaine and her boyfriend, David Puddy. “Puddy” as he’s known in the show, is religious and believes that Elaine is going to hell. That causes problems until a priest informs them that because of the nature of their relation (sexually active, but not married) they’re both going to hell.
Here is the screen cast of the message. It didn’t record the video, so please drag the slider to 2:53 to start the actual message.