An Invitation

How many of us grew up with a “grumpy God” syndrome. I’m thinking mainly of those among us who have a rigorous religious heritage. So that the child’s Christmas question of “who’s been naughty or nice” is a year-round preoccupation. And God is the great moral inspector in the sky.

If that’s you, consider having a rethink.

As a starter, who’s more surprised by our sins: God or us? Have we startled him? Or is he allowing us to be surprised by how messy sin can be? I promise you, if you’ll do a quick Bible read-through you’ll come away with a sense of God’s deep disappointment over sin—his grief is real and heartfelt—but he’s not surprised by anything we do.

There’s certainly an argument to be made that Adam and Eve—and the serpent before them—amazed God. There was no good reason for turning away from faith in God to a self-centered faith. Spiritual independence breaks our proper bond as creatures-to-the-Creator. He made us for himself, so it makes as much sense as trying to breath water in place of air … and please, don’t try it!

But amazement doesn’t require surprise: we don’t finding the Bible supporting any notion of God’s ignorance. Grief over sin—yes. But surprise? No. Paul’s declaration in Romans 3:10 that “None is righteous, no, not one” is a citation of two Old Testament Psalms, 14 & 53. His point is that no one in human history, with the sole exception of Jesus, is sinless and therefore righteous in God’s eyes. We all are in this mess together.

This is important. The Bible engages the reality of human sin from start to finish, and we find that even before the creation God anticipated Adam’s fall. That, in turn, makes sense of Ephesians 1:4 where God “chose” people for salvation from “before the foundation of the world.” In other words, God in his wisdom had all our sins and the salvation of many in mind even before we were born.

The sole surprise, then, is that we keep thinking we can make sin work. We try falling into the swimming pool of unbelief to practice breathing water rather than air. And each time we try it we have to be dragged out of the water for desperate resuscitation efforts by our believing friends.

So with this swimming pool analogy in mind, is the Triune God looking down from heaven, glowering over our particular sin-of-the-day that once again has us gasping and retching at the moral poolside of life?

Certainly not! Jesus gives us the true picture. He feels compassion for us, like a shepherd going into harm’s way to protect his threatened sheep. Or, as with the Jews in Jerusalem: “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:41-42). Or, once again, as in the parable of the prodigal son, he is the father who welcomes us home with wide-open arms.

Just where does the grumpy God caricature come from?

From Satan, the spirit nicknamed “the accuser.” In the massive irony of evil he both stirs us to sin—as a deceiving spirit—and then charges us with guilt for doing what he manipulates us to do!

Rather than accusing us, God’s true character is displayed in John 3:16 as the-one-who-loves-at-ultimate-cost. He sent his Son to die our death for us. And he then invites us to be his children, and to become the collective bride of the Son. He wants to give us every blessing in the heavenly realms.

So whenever we feel guilty for trying, once again, to breath underwater, just give it up! Whatever the particular sins might be that we’re treating as a legitimate form of spiritual breathing let’s pause and consider the bigger problem.

If, for instance, we find ourselves coming back to our spiritual senses as our pastor is doing chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing on us, pause to consider this: the problem of our particular sinning is that we’ve refused the invitation to come to the Son.

That’s the ultimate Sin from which all lesser sins emerge. It reveals our proud self-love as we keep trying to make the delusion of being “like God” work. But it never will. Only the true God can fill the role of being God.

In the meantime, don’t go near any swimming pools. The one who is accusing you is also the one who keeps pushing you into the pool. Instead start spending time in the Scriptures and with faithful believers. And once you’ve tasted God’s goodness you can toss out all the naughty and nice stuff and start to respond to his unending invitation to know his immeasurable love.

You’re sure to love it!


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