The Positives in the Negatives

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 ESV

Sin. The blood of Jesus. The wrath of God. Judgement. Aren’t these just negative, primitive, obscene and off-putting terms? Isn’t what we need in our modern world a much more palatable, positive type of religion which avoids these ideas and instead focuses on affirmation?

Imagine for a moment that you are standing on a busy street with a friend, and that friend says to you: “Let me show you how much I love you,” and then throws themselves in front of an oncoming bus, and dies.

You would probably think: “What in the world did he do that for?! What a tragic and pointless waste of a life!”

But now imagine that that bus was headed straight for you, but your friend acted to save you from certain death at the risk, no – at the cost of their own life. You would say: “Truly, that person loved me.”

Unless you understand the depth of the problem, you will never understand the extent of God’s love for you. That is why we can’t do away with terms and concepts like blood, judgment, wrath and sin.

Blood, for example, has both very negative and a very positive connotations – and both are important for understanding the central message of Christianity.

On the one hand, blood speaks of brokenness and guilt. If you have blood spurting out of your body, then something is broken, perhaps even mortally so. We use phrases like “blood on your hands” and “blood on your head” to refer to guilt.

And yet, blood also has positive connotations: “Life is in the blood” the Bible says. If you don’t have blood in you, you don’t have life. Every baby who is born comes into the world with the shedding of blood. Blood which is shed voluntarily for the sake of another is a heroic act of self-giving. It is through the shedding of Jesus’ blood that he causes us to be born again to new life.

I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. (Galatians 2:21 NKJV)

What the verse above is saying is that if it were possible for a person to earn salvation by being good enough, then we could save ourselves, and if we can save ourselves, then Jesus Christ died in vain.

If we could save ourselves, Christ’s death was pointless, meaningless and tragic – like a person who throws themselves in front of a bus for no reason. But if we understand the depth of the problem from which Jesus saved us, then Christ’s death will mean everything to us, it will be an overwhelmingly positive act which affirms God’s love for us. It will change the way we think about God and ourselves, and it will change the way we live from that day forward and how we relate to others. Understanding what God saved us from fills us with 1) humility, so we don’t consider ourselves better than anyone or look down on anyone, and 2) confidence, that God truly loves me and is for me.

It is within these “negative” concepts that we find the overwhelmingly positive message of the gospel – a message which is infinitely more positive than any mere patronizing platitudes. If it is positivity and affirmation you desire, then it isn’t a circumvention of sin, wrath, judgement and blood that you need, but a b-line to the cross of Calvary, where these were in full force and God’s love was displayed in giving Himself to save all who would receive His gift by faith.

God is Not Mad at You…unless He is.

I took my son to the store on Sunday night to buy some trading cards for a game he plays. As we were walking around the store, a book caught my eye.


The title: “God is Not Mad at You.” To be fair, I haven’t read this book, however, I did take the time to go and read some reviews of it online to see if my initial assumptions about the message of this book would turn out to be mistaken. It would seem from these reviews that they were not.

Here’s the thing: the author is correct, God is not mad at you…that is unless, of course, He is.

What do I mean?  What I mean is that God is mad at some people – and rightly so! The Bible makes it very clear that God “opposes” some people, and that God considers some people “enemies.”  In fact, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18) and the objects of His wrath are in fact people (Ephesians 2:1-3)!

After all, isn’t it only right that God should be mad about some things AND at some people?  The Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, makes it explicitly clear that there are things which God abhors, and which we should also abhor, for example: injustice, deceit, abuse. God is mad about these things, and more than that: God is mad at the people who do these things. God is mad at the person who exploits another or takes advantage of them from a position of power. God is mad when children are abused, when women are raped, when racial injustice occurs, and God is mad at the people who do these things.

Here’s the thing: it’s easy for us to say, “Well, yeah, okay, I get what you’re saying: God is mad at the bad guys who do bad things. That makes sense… But aside from those guys, who need to know that what they are doing is wrong and that divine justice is promised, the rest of us need to be comforted and encouraged that God isn’t mad at us – after all, most of us aren’t that bad.” 

The question is: who defines “bad”? And how bad do you have to be to be “bad.”  The Bible says this: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10) Furthermore, Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount and the Bible says elsewhere that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that “there is none who is good, no not one.”

What this all means that you and I are more sinful than we even realize, and therefore more deserving of God’s wrath than we even know.

But here’s the message of the Gospel: it’s not that you are a good person and therefore God isn’t mad at you – it’s that God LOVES you in spite of your sins and failures and shortcomings so much that He sent Jesus, the Divine Son, to die in your place, and absorb the wrath which you deserved.

What that means is that if you are in Christ, then indeed God is not mad at you – because Jesus became the “propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2), which means that he absorbed not only the legal judgment for our sins, but the righteous anger of God toward our sin.

If you are in Christ, then indeed: the message of the Gospel is that God is not mad at you

However, if you are not in Christ, then the Bible says that you are still in your sins. Jesus himself said this: “Unless you believe that I am He (the Messiah, the Savior), you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24). And if you are still in your sins, then the wrath of God remains on you!  Again, Jesus himself said this very thing: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. – JESUS (John 3:36)

Here’s the point: God is not mad at you IF you are in Christ, because God’s wrath was poured out on Him in place of you – the undeserving in place of the deserving.  Apart from Jesus, however, there is no such promise and no such hope.

The reason I take issue with this book is because it declares something to all people as a blanket statement, a broad generalization, which does indeed apply to some, but only some! To others, therefore, it gives a false sense of comfort and security, which actually does them a disservice.

The false prophets in the day of Jeremiah did the same thing. God had called Jeremiah to call the people of Judah to radical repentance, to turn away from sin and wickedness and turn with their whole hearts to God, and if they did that they would experience blessing. Jeremiah preached this message, which turned out to be radically unpopular, despite the fact that it was from God.  At the same time, another group of prophets came with a message which was wildly popular, despite the fact that it wasn’t from God! Their message? “Don’t worry; be happy. God’s not mad at you. God just wants you to be happy, so just do your thing and don’t bother yourself with feelings of guilt or needing to repent.” About these false prophets, God said:  “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)

The message of the Gospel is that Jesus died on the cross, so that God could end sin without ending us.

No matter who you are or what you’ve done, that is how much God loves you. If you are in Christ, if you have put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, as your righteousness, as the propitiation for your sins and as your Redeemer – then indeed, take comfort: God is not mad at you!