Tuesday, September 19, 2006

God's love for His enemies

Jonathan Edwards is most notorious for his sermon, Sinners in the Hands on an Angry God, but there are other sermons that are even harder on sinners. Consider this passage from Men Naturally Are God's Enemies:
Some natural men are such “dogs” as to do things, if they had opportunity, which they do not imagine it is in their hearts to do. You object against your having a moral hatred against God; that you never felt any desire to dethrone him. But one reason has been, that it has always been conceived so impossible by you. But if the throne of God were within your reach, and you knew it, it would not be safe one hour. Who knows what thoughts would presently arise in your heart by such an opportunity, and what disposition would be raised up in your heart. Who would trust your heart, that there would not presently be such thoughts as these, though they are enough to make one tremble to mention them? “Now I have opportunity to set my self at liberty — that I need not be kept in continual slavery by the strict law of God. — Then I may take my liberty to walk in that way I like best, and need not be continually in such slavish fear of God’s displeasure. And God has not done well by me in many instances. He has done most unjustly by me, in holding me bound to destruction for unbelief, and other things which I cannot help. — He has shown mercy to others, and not to me. I have now an opportunity to deliver myself, and there can be no danger of my being hurt for it. There will be nothing for us to be terrified about, and so keep us in slavery.”

Who would trust your heart, that such thoughts would not arise? Or others much more horrid and too dreadful to be mentioned? And therefore I forbear. Those natural men are foolishly insensible of what is in their own hearts, who think there would be no danger of any such workings of heart, if they knew they had opportunity.
This is a stunning insight into my own heart. Oftentimes, my sinner's heart deceives me by keeping me in just the right amount guilt as to make me discouraged and yet think I can improve, but not so much as to be desperate for God's mercy and aware of my need of a Savior. But sermons like this strip away these sinful lies. In unveiling the human condition, however, Edwards' purpose is not simply to discourage us, but to present Christ and His precious, gracious salvation in the Gospel.
How wonderful is the love that is manifested in giving Christ to die for us. For this is love to enemies. “While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” How wonderful was the love of God the Father, in giving such a gift to those who not only could not be profitable to him, but were his enemies, and to so great a degree! They had great enmity against him; yet so did he love them, that he gave his own Son to lay down his life, in order to save their lives. Though they had enmity that sought to pull God down from his throne; yet he so loved them, that he sent down Christ from heaven, from his throne there, to be in the form of a servant; and instead of a throne of glory, gave him to be nailed to the cross, and to be laid in the grave, that so we might be brought to a throne of glory.

How wonderful was the love of Christ, in thus exercising dying love towards his enemies! He loved those that hated him, with hatred that sought to take away his life, so as voluntarily to lay down his life, that they might have life through him. “Herein is love; not that we loved him, but that he loved us, and laid down his life for us.”
Print out the sermon and read it when you get home tonight. It will humble you and encourage you.

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