By Melissa McLaughlin
What do we do with a God who is both: loving and holy, Savior and Judge, One who comforts and convicts?
This is difficult to answer. A quick cliche just won’t do.
Interestingly, as I observe my own natural response to Biblical accounts of God’s character, I can’t help but notice my fervent and passionate underlining of Bible verses that communicate the Father’s gentle love, Christ’s all-encompassing forgiveness and the Spirit’s comforting whispers of grace.
But what am I do with all the OTHER Bible verses?
The verses that talk about God as being holy? 1 Peter 1:15-16 – But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
The verses that talk about Jesus as Judge and King? 1 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The verses that talk about the Spirit as convicting us of sin? John 16:7-11 – Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
What do we do with a God who is both: loving and holy, Savior and Judge, One who comforts and convicts?
From my earliest memories, I loved my parents deeply and still do. Dad and Mom exude parental virtues of kindness, encouragement, generosity and unending TLC. Throughout my childhood, I wanted to please them simply because they were so good to me.
Yet, no matter how noble a child’s efforts to obey, there are always times when a parent must correct and discipline a child. Not because the parent doesn’t love the child, but because the parent DOES!
One example of such correction comes quickly to mind. We lived out in the country and often rode our bikes for miles to enjoy activities or play with friends. One day, a friend from school, who lived several miles away, called and invited me to visit. As soon as I hung up the phone, I leaped on my bike and started pumping. It was a long and arduous ride, for we lived in the grand rolling hills of Pennsylvania. Her home in particular was located on a steep, treacherous hill so as I cycled, I imagined myself a professional mountain biker, packing all my strength into my pint-sized legs. I pedaled and pedaled and pushed and pushed and finally made it up the towering hill to her house. With my bike parked in her driveway, I stood panting deeply, face dripping, heart pounding, filled with a sense of triumphant accomplishment before scampering off to play.
In what seemed like no time at all, my friend’s mom shouted to us announcing the playdate was over. My parents were on their way to pick me up and I would have to go home. Apparently, in my jubilation at the opportunity for a playdate, I had forgotten to ask my parents for permission or even mention in passing where I was going before jumping on my bike.
At that time, there were no cell phones, so once my parents realized I was missing, they searched everywhere, shouting my name all through the house, then calling neighbor after neighbor after neighbor, trying to figure out where I was.
Needless to say, when they picked me up, I was corrected firmly by my parents. They stated in no uncertain terms, that I needed to ask permission and discuss with them where I was going. They needed to know that I was safe.
Though I was disappointed to let them down, the worst part was being corrected when I didn’t realize or think I had done something so terribly wrong. I wanted to be right. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to be in charge. But truth is…I wasn’t. And I’m not. Furthermore, now that I am a parent, I understand the heart-stopping, gut-wrenching panic that sets in when your child is missing. I can’t imagine anything worse.
When we consider God, our heavenly Father, we must pause and remember that our earthly parents are only a partial glimpse of who He is as our eternal and perfect Parent.
Much as when we gather red roses for their timeless beauty and sweet aroma, we must be on guard for their sharp thorns which can easily gauge and cut. The sacred rose is protected by its sharp thorns.
Likewise, when we think of our Triune God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, we see foundational, integral elements opposing, yet complementing. Therefore, it is critical to employ the whole counsel of scripture, meaning allow every part of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, to provide context and clarity and to define meaning for all other parts.
What do we do with a God who is both loving and holy, Savior and Judge, Comforter and Challenger?
Many people are offended by a God who holds them accountable in any way.
Yet, why call Him God otherwise? What do we really expect of a God who is Creator and Master, who sees all and knows all, a God who is holy, pure and just?
Many people are put off by a Savior who judges them.
Yet, why did He have to save us if we are already perfect? What do we expect of a Messiah who has done everything to save us, then allows us to choose Him or not? Will He not judge to determine who is with Him?
Many people flinch at the Spirit who convicts us of sin.
Yet, how else will we grow to reflect more of the image of Christ if we are not exposed, corrected and taught?
The problem with a God who is both loving and holy, Savior and Judge, Counselor and Change-agent, is that it requires humility. Something we are sorely lacking by very nature.
We prefer…to be in charge.
We prefer…to sit on the throne and make the decisions.
We prefer…to tell God what to do.
We prefer…to be God.
Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, when we confess Him as Savior and Lord, we are forgiven. We love to rest in the assurance of heaven. It is grace by which we are saved.
However, there are Bible verses that clearly state once we die we will be judged.
How do we reconcile these two opposing points?
I once heard a pastor explain it this way:
When we die, the Bible is clear, we will stand before God.
We can imagine God’s first question will be something like this, “What did you do with my Son? I sent Him to die for your sins. Did you accept Him or did you reject Him?”
Those who accept Jesus in this life will spend eternity with God. Those who reject Jesus will spend an eternity away from God. That is hell. We are granted our heavenly home by our faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. What amazing love! What amazing grace!
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Then God’s second question will be, “Every good gift you received in life was from Me. What did you do with all the gifts I gave you? I gave you time, a body, talents, shelter, food, a family, a church family, an education, a job, money, a car, technology, opportunities, etc. What did you do with the gifts I gave?”
God will bestow on us eternal rewards based on our cooperation with the Holy Spirit’s work in us, allowing Him to mold us into the image of Christ and use every gift for His glory and His kingdom while in this earthly life.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
So God will do both. He will forgive us of our sins and hold us accountable.
Many still find this offensive. They prefer a “forgive and forget” model. God forgives me, then I forget about Him. But God wants more than that. He wants our heart, our minds, our soul, our strength, our very lives. God wants it all. Not because He is selfish, but because a life closely connected to God is the sweetest life He can give.
A holy God who is just, righteous, perfect, true and good cannot allow sinful people to be in His presence. At the same time, He is also perfectly loving, merciful, forgiving and kind. So He sent His own Son to pay the penalty for our sins that we could not pay.
God is both. Loving and Holy.
Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” ~Matthew 5:27-30
This same Jesus later healed a blind man, a woman with an issue of blood and countless others. How could Jesus speak such harsh and unyielding words, then turn and lovingly, graciously heal people? These are two sides of the same Savior. Yet, ultimately our spiritual healing is more important to Jesus than our physical healing, for this life is temporary. Heaven is forever. Though we forget this truth, Jesus does not. When our brief lives are over we will stand before Him. He wants the best for us, for all eternity.
Jesus is both. Savior and Judge.
The Holy Spirit came to comfort and convict. He comforts us in our weakness, yet convicts us to expose any darkness to the Light of Christ, that we may grow in His likeness and reflect His loveliness.
The Holy Spirit is both. Comforter and Change-agent.
We have now come full circle. What do we do with a God who is both: loving and holy, Savior and Judge, One who comforts and convicts?
May we come before this mighty God and pray for humility, zeal and rest in greater and greater measures.
We pray for humility, that we may have a right perspective of the magnitude of God’s greatness and perfection, resulting in a sober perspective of our own sinfulness, utter dependency and undeniable need for His help. Only then do we really understand how much our Creator God is also the greatest Lover of our souls. The greater His holiness, the greater the love expended to reach us.
We pray for zeal, so that we desire to continue growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. We ask the Holy Spirit to convict us of secret sins and hidden faults that are hard for us to see and then ask Him to empower us to escape that sin and run toward Christ with all our strength, knowing that He holds out those nail-scarred hands for us always.
We pray for rest, that we may rest in His promises and His power to complete that which He began. We pray to rest completely in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He has done it all! He has won the victory! He has paid the price and suffered the punishment for us! May we rest in the true peace that comes through knowing that Jesus’ sacrifice alone reconciles us to our holy and loving God.
How do you come to terms with a God who is both holy and loving, Savior and Judge, Comforter and Exposer? Please share your thoughts and insights.
Please pray with me.
Dear Heavenly Father, we praise You for You are the sovereign God, Creator of all, Master and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth! You are holy, perfect, righteous, just and true. Though we are sinful and broken, we long for your perfect goodness. We thank you for sending Jesus, to carry our sins to the cross and let them be nailed right through Him there, that we would be rescued from hell, cleansed of our sin and made fit for heaven. Hallelujah! Thank You for this eternal blessing! We ask you to help us grow in humility that we would remember who You are and how much we need You. We ask You to stir up our zeal, that we would be always desiring to grow in the likeness of Christ, out of unending gratitude for what He has done. Holy Spirit, expose the sins of our hearts that lurk in the cracks and corners where we cannot see, that we may grow to be more like Jesus. We ask you to give us rest in You. Help us remember Your promises to the people who love You and call on Your name. Let us rest knowing we have the peace that comes from the unchanging power of Christ’s blood covering us that no one can ever take away. Help us love You, seek You and honor You in spirit and in truth. In Jesus’ name and for His sake we pray. Amen.