I love the women on our blog. I love the way you search the Scriptures and ask probing questions, causing the sparks to fly, like iron sharpening iron. Two weeks ago I asked:
2. What comfort does it give you personally that God is a just God and will repay?
Several of you struggled with that question and said so articulately, compassionately, and winsomely. It caused me to reflect. Some of the excellent points that were made were that Scripture warns not to rejoice when our enemy falls. Another was that Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. Another is that we must judge our own hearts and not the hearts of others.
Tim Keller, in his devotional on the psalms, writes:
In Psalm 69:22-28 the psalmist prays his betrayers be damned. How are we to read this? This startles us into feeling some of the desperation that produced it…but we stand …on the other side of the cross. Stephen looked to Jesus for vindication, not retribution, and prayed for his enemies as they killed him.
Several of you voiced similar thoughts. I noted that our “mercies” were particularly upset and I found myself reflecting on how our spiritual gifts may impact how we regard judgment. The following are my reflections, and I’m not sure I can support them scripturally, but I think it may lead to some good discussion!
My spiritual rating on the gift of mercy is low. My rating on prophecy (not foretelling but forthtelling God’s Word) is high. Every gift has a strength but also a weakness. I think the weakness of the prophetic gift is that we may be judgmental and harsh. I think the weakness of mercies is that they may err on the side of enabling, shrinking from holding boundaries. That may be, in part, why God told us we need the body.
I found myself wondering if mercies have an easier time forgiving than do prophets. I know I am personally helped in forgiving someone who has hurt a loved one or me when I know that God will deal with the transgressor. Though I know that holding a grudge against my transgressor hurts me far more than him, it still helps me to release it when I know God will deal with him fairly. I grieve over the holocaust happening right now in the Middle East. Children are being tortured in front of their parents in an attempt to get the parents to deny Christ. If I were one of those parents, I would only be able to deal with that because I know God will be just. If those who have committed those brutalities repent, then Christ has drunk the cup of God’s wrath for them, just as He has for me. But if they refuse, then they will drink the cup of God’s wrath. This helps me — but is it because of the weakness of my prophetic gift? I’d love your thoughts!
What is the main point of Habakkuk? I think it is to prepare us as troubles in our world increase. Will we question God? I think the political scene in America looks very bleak and that we are going to see increasing immorality, injustice, and war. So here we all must trust God. After all the coming woes have been prophesied, Habakkuk pronounces:
The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silent before him.
This is so like the end of the book of Job. After God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind, Job realized his foolishness in questioning the ways of God.
This very good discussion has also caused me to reflect on the difficulty of the doctrine of hell, and how, as believers, we are to respond. Five years ago I experienced the presence of God in a corporate setting like I have seldom experienced in my life, and I wrote about it on this blog. It was at the annual Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago and it happened in a seminar including Piper, Carson, and Keller — all responding to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins that rejected the doctrine of hell. I am going to excerpt part of that this week and also consider, with the help of Justin Taylor, where Rob Bell is five years later. I personally know of several believers who have been profoundly influenced by Bell and it frightens me to see the path they have taken, daring to disagree with God. And so, this week, with the help of Habakkuk and the body of Christ, this is where we are going. As the blog writer, I obviously have the floor, but I’m counting on you for your prayerful, thoughtful, and helpful balance — you, my sisters in the body of Christ.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Do you think our spiritual giftings impact this discussion or not?
Continuing our in-depth look at Habakkuk 2, beginning with verse 15.
3. Read Habakkuk 2:15-17
A. For what purpose have the Chaldeans gotten their neighbors drunk?
B. What are they demonstrating according to verse 16a?
C. Compare “the cup” of verse 16b to Isaiah 51:17. What does it mean?
D. What will happen to them and even to their beasts according to verse 17? Thoughts?
E. Who took the cup of God’s wrath for you? Some believe God should forgive us without having Jesus go to the cross. What would you say to that?
He drained the cup of God’s wrath bone dry,
leaving not a drop for us to drink.
Richard Allen Bodey
4. Read Habakkuk 2:18-19
A. What is the root sin of the Chaldeans?
B. How have you grown in identifying and replacing a heart idol with Jesus?
5. Read Habakkuk 2:20 and explain what it teaches concerning the ways of God.
6. There is a parallel in Revelation, when like Habakkuk, there is a cry, but this time from “the souls 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?” (Rev. 6:10) The wrath of God falls, and as in Habakkuk, there is silence. See Revelation 8:1. Share your thoughts.
THURSDAY-FRIDAY: THE DOCTRINE OF HELL
Rob Bell recoiled at the doctrine of hell and re-interpreted the Scripture to embrace universalism. The following is excerpted from a blog of five years ago. You may listen to Carson and Keller if you choose. I would also like you to read the short article from Justin Taylor on where Rob Bell is today. I so value your comments and also want to protect any of you who might be tempted to follow this false shepherd or those like him. Here is the excerpt from our blog 5 years ago.
At the Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago in June of 2011, an emergency panel discussion was scheduled in response to Rob Bell’s book: Love Wins. Rob had been a charter member of the Coalition, so this was the concern. He was a popular young pastor of a Grand Rapids megachurch of 7,000. (I had liked Rob Bell in the past, and had used clips from his well done Nooma series at my conferences – particularly liking the one on grief called Rain. Zondervan published those videos and many other of Rob’s books – but refused to publish Love Wins.) But his departure shows he was never with us.
Honestly, I want to confess that I have struggled with the doctrine of hell, even though I do believe it because I believe Jesus. But there’s a part of me, in thinking of those I love who may not embrace Christ, that has pleaded with God: “But torment forever? O Lord – really? What if that person comes to his senses in hell? Lord, is there really no hope ever for him?”
The special session not only helped me with those questions, but stirred a revival in my heart. It put me in awe again of a holy God, a just God, and yet a merciful God. I wept, as did many, feeling ashamed for questioning God, and my mouth was stopped. Martin Lloyd Jones defines a Christian as one whose mouth is stopped, quoting Job. Remember when Job was questioning God about His justice? When God answered him, Job said, “I put my hand over my mouth.” There may be things yet to be revealed, but for now, “Let all the earth keep silent” before what a holy God has revealed, and He has revealed hell.
You can hear D. A. Carson’s opening remarks to this session in which he explains the two main kinds of universalism and why they are not true:
Carson makes many strong points, but he closed with the truth that hell is not filled with people wanting to repent, but rather people who still want to be their own gods. (Consider the story Jesus told in Luke 16 of the rich man and Lazarus – though he wants to warn his family, he also is not repenting.)
After Carson spoke, four men, including Keller, responded. Each had so much to offer. I want you to listen, because it is so good, but I will share a few of the points that convicted me.
There must be a penalty for sin. If you lessen the penalty, you lessen the sin. People seem to know this in their hearts — that’s why the uproar this last week about the Stanford swimmer getting off so lightly for raping a girl. Even the world was disgusted when the father said, “That’s a severe penalty for 20 minutes of action.”
Christ’s death shows us how bad our sin is — and hell as well, for those who reject what He did. D. A. Carson says Habakkuk 2:11 (the stone will cry out) implies that the sin of the Chaldeans was less than the sin of the people who rejected praising Christ, the Lamb of God.
Keller made some fascinating remarks about C. S. Lewis’ view of hell, for some misunderstood him, thinking he didn’t believe in it, and also Bell’s book. He said he felt Bell ridiculed those who had a different view, and that he has learned that it is far better to treat people with respect – to phrase what they believe in the clearest and most honoring way, so that when you dismantle their argument, they know they have been heard. (I have seen Keller do this with the atheists on his video The Reason for God. He treats them with respect, he understands we have honest reasons for doubt, and they listen.) This is not the way of our culture today, or of our political front-runners, but it is the way for those who are in Christ.
Stephen Um (Pastor from Korea)
He said that love without justice is something western people embrace. People from his area of the world who have seen atrocities done to those they love, have trouble with a God who is all love and does not punish wickedness. Bell’s treatise is not what makes sense, but what makes sense to western people. Bell’s message subverts the Gospel in which we see both love and justice together.
Um said that universalism not only rejects a holy God, but hurts sinners who need to be justified.
“Let us not a la carte the attributes of God.” He is the one who quoted Martin Lloyd Jones: “At the very heart of human behavior is our desire to be in control of God.” Those in hell still want to be in control.
He urged us to take our questions to the Word of God. Jesus spoke more about hell than did anyone else in Scripture.
8. Comments and thoughts on any of the above?
9. Read the short article above and comment.
10. What is your take-a-way and why?