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Lowell Brueckner

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The Unknown God of the 21st Century


“And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus, and said, Ye men of Athens, in all things, I perceive that ye are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you.”  Acts 17:22-23

The account of Paul in Athens in Acts 17 mentions that “his spirit was provoked within Him as he beheld the city full of idols”. Why is he upset to this degree? The Greek word is well translated “provoked” here and could also be translated “exasperated”. There should be no question that Paul was motivated by a profound love and a fierce devotion to the God of the Bible, as he saw an important and influential city on the world scene, spiritually ignorant and idolatrous. Paul’s God had been excluded and insulted. Anyone in this age, who has the same love and devotion as the apostle, will understand this exasperation. The humanist and religious person will be totally perplexed by such a reaction.

Could it be possible after 20 centuries of Christianity that a large part of the evangelical world has fallen into the same ignorance and idolatry as was evident in Athens? With the Bible so handy and professing to believe that all of it is divinely inspired, we would think that a return to idolatrous paganism would be impossible. If it is possible, it would be due to a voluntary ignorance and an unwillingness to confront some aspects of the biblical revelation. There would be a gradual, yet general, distancing from Bible teaching in the evangelical world, finally falling into a mentality that is incompatible with the nature of God.

In the middle of the 20th century, A. W. Tozer felt that this was exactly what was occurring. “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us,” he wrote. Then he added, “The loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and the churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.”

Fifty or sixty years more have passed and from what can be observed at this moment in the church, there is nothing to indicate that the condition is any better. On the contrary, we, who have lived in both of these two generations, have become convinced that the church has fallen to a level that is considerably lower in every way.

Many years ago, I wrote a book, in which I considered, with fear and trembling, that possibly Christians not only had a “low view of God”, as Tozer expressed, but I posed this question: “Would it be going too far to question whether worship is actually idolatrous, directed towards another Christ – an alien spirit?” I knew that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For if someone comes and proclaims ANOTHER JESUS… you put up with it readily enough.” (2 Co.11:4). I remembered that Jesus prophesied of false christs, but I did not remember reading anything by any writer in my time, who had introduced the idea that Christians, in truth, were idolaters. Although I had read Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy, I had forgotten these words: “Let us beware lest we in our pride accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized peoples are therefore free from it. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.”

In no way do I have any intention of taking away from the wonderful attributes of God, in which I also rejoice and for which I am supremely grateful. I rejoice that God is love, that in Him there is fullness of joy, and that he sent His Son to the world to save and not to condemn. However, these truths are often twisted and humanistic thoughts are added to them, while at the same time biblical revelations of the character of God that are less pleasing to the human mind, but just as veritable, are almost totally ignored. For this reason, I am going to challenge some statements that are commonly believed and sometimes pronounced in evangelical circles and put them into biblical light to see if they are true or not.

1. God hates sin, but He loves the sinner. False! Paul Washer said, “God hates sin and he hates the sinner for committing sin!” The love of God towards the sinner consists in the fact that he has provided cleansing and an escape from sin, if the sinner will receive it; He offers a new nature, so that the sinner can stop practicing sin and in so doing, he is reconciled to God. However, if he refuses to be reconciled, he remains in a state of enmity against God. Psalms 5:5  “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.” Psalms 11:5  The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” David learned to hate in the same way (Ps.139:21-22): “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.” One day, those who love God will have to add their ‘amen’, when relatives and acquaintances are sentenced before God, the Judge, because they refused His salvation. Jesus foretold this, saying, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple”  (Lk.14:26)

2. God would never send anyone to hell. False! I was present when a friend asked a woman, suspected of believing in universal salvation, if she believed in hell. She answered, “My god would never send anyone to hell.” I have heard others say, “It is not God personally that sends to hell: it is a person’s sin and unbelief, so that he condemns himself.” But a word from Jesus himself ends any argument (Lk.12:5): “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”  Some would even say that the devil is the one who has this authority, but an assumption that claims that Jesus taught us to fear the devil is too ridiculous to receive any consideration.

3. God would never want someone to be deceived. False! In the Old Testament, God released a deceiving spirit to prophesy falsely in the mouth of 400 prophets, in order that King Ahab would be destroyed. In the same way in the New Testament, Paul warned about the coming of a lawless one “by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders… for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore, God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth…”  God wants people to receive the love of the truth, in order to be saved, but if they refuse to hear truth, God Himself will send them strong delusion, so that they will believe a lie. God loves truth, more than people. God also loves repentance and faith more than people and if someone refuses truth, refuses to repent and continues in unbelief, God will condemn him.

4. God is loving and patient in New Testament times; we should not preach about a God of wrath. False! Francis Chan said: “We must stop apologizing to society for preaching about the wrath of God and ask God’s forgiveness for not preaching it.” Yes, because God is angry with the sinner every day – Psalms 7:11. “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies” (Nahum 1:2). The same God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. He is a God who does not change and He acts according to His nature. Jesus “looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mk.3:5). “Making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables” (Jn.2:15). Jesus was angry with the religious leaders for their hardness of heart and with the businessmen in the temple, but He also was indignant with His own disciples, because He saw a mentality in them that was contrary to His: “They were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant…” (Mk.10:13,14). We can’t give space in order to mention how many times that the New Testament speaks of “children of wrath”, or similar language. It is a fact that Jesus spoke more of hell than about heaven. We will not take time to present arguments about the need for strong preaching to bring repentance, so that people might be able to believe the gospel. We will only notice that Paul spoke to Felix of self-control, righteousness and justice to the degree that Felix trembled. The book of Revelation warns of the “wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger,” adding that the sinner “will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” (14:10-11).

There are many in these times, who refuse to confront the subject of God’s wrath. Marcos Vidal is a singer and pastor in Spain, who has decided that an “expression of anger, wrath, or punishment from God to the human being… is contrary to the message of the gospel… To present a God of wrath before humanity has nothing to do with the Great Commission.” Phil Johnson is a preacher, who lets you know that to emphasize God’s wrath is as necessary in this age, as it was in Old Testament times. He states that there is no other book like the book of Revelation that speaks more of the wrath of God and of the Lamb. He also quotes Hebrews 10:26-30, where it proclaims “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” The inspired writer warns of a punishment more severe awaiting he, who “has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace”, than against those who violated the Law of Moses. He concludes this portion, declaring, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” These passages, says Johnson, are written with the intent to produce fear and, as the Bible teaches more than once, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Therefore, it is impossible to attend to the things of God with wisdom, if there is no fear in the first place.

We know people that do not want this theme emphasized among us and do not like that it be proclaimed from our circles to an unbelieving world. They are living the sweet dream of “unconditional love” They are ashamed of a God of wrath and apologize for Him. They don’t want the fame of being among those, who emphasize this good and necessary attribute of God. J. C. Ryle said, "A thief likes dogs that do not bark and watchmen, who do not raise their voice to alarm. The devil is a thief. If we are quiet and do not defend against false doctrine, we please him and displease God. To maintain the truth of Christ in the Church is even more important than maintaining peace.” If the devil finds a voice that warns of his plans, he will inspire whoever he can to launch an effort to quiet him. We must not give an inch to these efforts to stifle our voices and we must not stop writing.  We are correctly ministering things that people need to hear and read in these times. God will back us! 

We must awaken to the very evident reality that many evangelicals of our days are idolatrous, serving a god that they have fabricated in their minds. Some do it to maintain personal comfort in spite of their lifestyle, others because they don’t want the scorn that they will receive, if they preach the God, who possesses the attributes that we have mentioned in this article. There are still others who think that softening the message of the wrath of God is a sign of maturity and spirituality, badly misinterpreting the testimony and message of a Christian. Because of this idolatry, it is necessary to strongly proclaim an unknown God among the evangelicals of this 21st Century, who, although they have a Bible in their hand, they do not have the courage or sufficient love for God or for people that is needed in order to tell them the whole truth. We must warn the world powerfully in this generation of the coming wrath of God, motivated by the love of God, under the unction of His Spirit. It is an act of kindness to do so, that they might receive the conviction of sin and repent, fearing the anger of a good God, who wants to save. “The goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Ro.2:4).


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