Sometimes it seems if it weren’t for billboards I wouldn’t have any topics for this blog. Poor theology can be found anywhere, but especially on the roadside. I think this is the case because good theology cannot be condensed enough to fit on roadside signs that are read while you are driving 60 to 70 miles per hour. A good summary of the gospel would result in print too small and too much to read in the few seconds the billboard is readable before you pass it up. This is similar to Twitter. You can tweet a short statement that is true, but you can’t say all there is to say about a particular topic in 140 characters.
As you have probably guessed, I saw another billboard that deserves some comment. This billboard said
God Is Not Mad At You
(No Matter What You Have Done)
I was appalled when I read the billboard. This is not just poor, unbiblical theology, but a gross distortion of the gospel. Maybe I misunderstood what I read so in order to better understand the message of the billboard, I went to the website listed on the sign. What do those who put up this sign believe about sin and forgiveness? First, God is mad about sin. Second, Jesus died for everyone’s sin so all of God’s anger was satisfied in the death of Jesus. Therefore, God is not angry with anyone. It is the goodness of God that draws people to him so you do not need to be afraid to come to God.
Apart from God being angry about sin, there are many problems with the message that is presented. However, there is one question that must be answered. If God is not mad at me then why should I be concerned with God at all? Why do I need a savior? I must be OK. If God is not mad at me then there is no way I am under his wrath. Evidently, now that Jesus has died, God is only love. That pesky holiness has been taken care of. Unfortunately, when you eliminate the importance of God’s holiness, which drives his wrath against sin, you destroy the gospel. The fact that God hates sin and the unrepentant sinner is vital to the gospel. As Jesus said in Matthew 9:12, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Few seem to take seriously Psalm 5:4-6.
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalm 5:4-6 ESV)
God does not delight in wickedness; evil may not dwell with him. The boastful cannot be in his gaze, and he hates everyone who does evil. He destroys the liar, and he abhors those who kill and deceive. Note that King David is not just referring to sin, but also to sinners.
Psalm 11:4-7 gives us a similar message.
The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The LORD tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face. (Psalm 11:4-7 ESV)
In this psalm David points out the Lord is in his holy temple. God is not simply in his heavenly temple; he is in his holy heavenly temple. His soul hates the wicked. David calls for the Lord to destroy the evildoer. Why? Because the Lord is righteous.
At this point, though, I can hear the protests. Don’t you know we live after the sacrifice of Christ on the cross? We live in New Testament times. Don’t be quoting Old Testament passages about God’s wrath towards sin and sinners. Well, we do live in a different time, but God has not changed. All apart from Christ are under his wrath. Consider John 3:36.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36 ESV)
Did you notice that last phrase, “the wrath of God remains on him?” We are born under God’s wrath and we stay there until God grants us new life in Christ. Romans 1:18 says God is currently revealing his wrath.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18 ESV)
As the verses following verse 18 show, this wrath is not just against ungodliness in general, but against ungodly people. In Revelation chapter 6 when the fifth seal is opened, we see those who were killed for their faith calling out for judgment.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10 ESV)
Revelation 19:11-15 shows the one who lovingly lay down his life on the cross coming in judgment against the unrighteous.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16 ESV)
Not only does the sign mislead people about our true status before God apart from Christ, nobody really believes the message of this sign. Many people do believe God is not mad at them because they are decent citizens and good neighbors. However, there are very few who would hold to the parenthetical message, the “no matter what you have done” part. Everyone has some sense of justice, and, even though our sense of right and wrong can be subjective, everyone believes that some actions are worse than other actions. Certainly God, if he exists, was angry with Hitler and Osama Bin Laden. Surely God is angry with murderers. Even if God does not exist karma will ensure justice because what goes around comes around. Some cosmic person or thing somewhere is angry with somebody.
So what do we do about this sign on the side of the road? Nothing actually. I have no control over what is displayed on any billboard anywhere. What I can do, and what you can do, is proclaim truth in a world full of lies. We must proclaim the truth of God’s holiness that results in his wrath against sin and sinners. But we must not stop there. We must also proclaim the truth of God’s love that led to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Jesus suffered God’s wrath for all who repent and place their faith in him. God is mad at you and me because of who we are and what we have done, but there is hope, and this hope is found in a person named Jesus.