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One evangelical cliché has it that God hates the sin but loves the sinner.
There is a small element of truth in these words: God has nothing but hate for the sin, but this cannot be said with respect to how God sees the sinner.
Nevertheless the cliché is false on the face of it, and should be abandoned. Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms alone, the psalmists state that God hates the sinner, that His wrath is on the liar, and so forth. In the Bible the wrath of God rests on both the sin (Rom. 1:18–23) and the sinner (1:24–32; 2:5; John 3:36).
Our problem in part is that in human experience wrath and love normally abide in mutually exclusive compartments. Love drives wrath out, or wrath drives love out. We come closest to bringing them together, perhaps, in our responses to a wayward act by one of our children, but normally we do not think that a wrathful person is loving.
But this is not the way it is with God. God’s wrath is not an implacable blind rage. However emotional it may be, it is an entirely reasonable and willed response to offenses against His holiness. At the same time His love wells up amidst His perfections and is not generated by the loveliness of the loved. Thus there is nothing intrinsically impossible about wrath and love being directed toward the same individual or people at once. God in His perfections must be wrathful against His rebel image-bearers, for they have offended Him; God in His perfections must be loving toward His rebel image-bearers, for He is that kind of God. . . .
The reality is that the Old Testament displays the grace and love of God in experience and types, and these realities become all the clearer in the New Testament. Similarly, the Old Testament displays the righteous wrath of God in experience and types, and these realities become all the clearer in the New Testament. In other words both God’s love and God’s wrath are ratcheted up in the move from the Old Testament to the New. These themes barrel along through redemptive history, unresolved, until they come to a resounding climax in the Cross.
Do you wish to see God’s love? Look at the Cross.
Do you wish to see God’s wrath? Look at the Cross.
—From D.A. Carson, “God’s Love and God’s Wrath,” Bibliotheca Sacra 156 (1999): 388–390.
HT: Justin Taylor
“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
Brothers and sisters in Christ, at the heart of all our praying must be a biblical vision. That vision embraces who God is, what he has done, who we are, where we are going, what we must value and cherish. That vision drives us toward increasing conformity with Jesus, toward lives lived in the light of eternity, toward hearty echoing of the church’es ongoing cry, “even so, come, Lord Jesus!” That vision must shape our prayers, so that they things that most concern us in prayer are those that concern the heart of God. Then we will persevere in our praying, until we reach the goal God himself has set for us.
~D. A. Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation, p.62
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
To put the matter at its most basic, Paul’s prayer is the product of his passion for people. His unaffected fervency in prayer is not whipped-up emotionalism but the overflow of his love for brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
That means that if we are to improve our praying, we must strengthen our loving. As we grow in disciplined, self-sacrificing love, so we will grow in intercessory prayer. Superficially fervent prayers devoid of such love are finally phony, hollow, shallow.
~D. A. Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation, p.85
And sometimes when I look at my own children, I wonder if, should the Lord give us another thirty years, they will remember their father as a man of prayer, or think of him as someone distant who was away from home rather a lot and who wrote a number of obscure books. That quiet reflection often helps me to order my days.
~D. A. Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation, p.26
I must ask the question of myself, am I known for prayer? I don’t have any children of my own, but the question is still relevant, what what attributes are defining me? Am I so busy doing things I deem important that I am missing the most important thing? I can tell you, I need to work more on my priorities.
“If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent a economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have send us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.”
~D. A. Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation, p.109
Some more good answers to tough questions by D. A. Carson.
How Can God Allow Suffering?
How Can God Be Loving and Send People to Hell?
HT: Tim Challies