The Bible is a book of bad news and good news.
First the bad news: Human beings are sinners. Our sin separates us from a holy and righteous God, provokes his wrath, and causes us to ultimately suffer death and eternal separation from Him. (Rom. 3:23, Rom.1:18, Col.3:6). More bad news: We are without excuse. As a result of our wickedness, we have suppressed the truth about God made known to us and are deserving of his righteous wrath. (Rom. 1:16-32)
That's a bitter pill to swallow, but it's not the end of the story. There is good news.
The good news: We don't have to pay the high price of our sin ourselves. Jesus paid it for us. Although he lived a sinless life, because of God's great love for us (John 3:16), he sacrificed his Son to atone for our sins. We can be redeemed from our sin by accepting the free gift of eternal life that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. And if that weren't enough, God even supplies the faith for us. "For by grace have you been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves-it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)
None of us likes bad news, and it's natural to avoid it. However, it's surprising to see a church edit the news as reported in the Bible and rewrite it so that it will be more palatable to its congregants. Case in point: The Committee on Congregational Song of The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recently voted to exclude the popular modern hymn "In Christ Alone" from their hymnal because it included the line "Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied." Apparently recognizing the popularity of the song, the Committee asked the hymn's authors for permission to change the end of that line to "the love of God was magnified" in order to be included in their hymnal. The authors refused to make the change. The Committee, it appears, couldn't abide the idea of God's wrath, so the song was left out of the hymnal.
It's disconcerting to see Christians devalue the great love of God in the name of a "loving god." There is no question that the good news of the Gospel centers on the love of God; but, to deny God's wrath eliminates the need for the good news. It also minimizes the culpability of sinners, denies the justice of God's punishment, and trivializes God's love for us. ("But God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Rom. 5:8) In the process, Jesus becomes just a nice man who suffered an unjust punishment… bummer. Of course, this dumbed-down take on Jesus comports nicely with the "helpful wingman" view of God.
Sadly, the basic concepts of sin and atonement are foreign in our time, even within certain strains of liberal Christianity. But they are Biblical. The Bible is unequivocal about the nature of man and the consequences of our sin. God's wrath, however, is not the end of the story.
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2: 4-7) (See also John 3:16, 1 John 1:9, Rom 5:8)
It's that simple. But, it's offensive to a lot of folks-even within the church.
Sin is not a popular notion in a therapeutic society. People don't like the idea that they are sinners. And the idea that we would suffer eternal damnation because we deserve it is even more offensive. We want to embrace God's love without taking into account his wrath and justice. We want the benefit of the good news without acknowledging the bad news.
We are naturally inclined to reject the God of the Bible, but this shouldn't come as a surprise-we're told as much in the Bible! We prefer to cherry pick the Bible and fashion a god that seems more palatable than the one the Bible presents. But a god of our creation is no god at all. He is simply a customized construct designed to make us feel better about ourselves.
Such a creature is not worthy of our worship. The God of the Bible is.