Growing up, I didn’t hear much about Jesus, except for the commands he gave (many of which were taken out of context). The teachings I heard in ATI/IBLP, and from other legalistic speakers, seem to mostly focus on God as He is revealed in the Old Testament. They point out His holiness, His perfection, His hatred and judgment of sin. They remind us of the stories where He killed sinners with plagues, hailstorms, snakes, and earthquakes. They focus on the law that God gave the Israelites, and the thunder, smoke, darkness, and trembling mountain that came with it. God seems unapproachable, harsh, and frightening. God becomes this Deity to be served and obeyed out of fear. The requirements of the law are shoved down our throat as God’s demands.
What they seemed to miss is that God also showed His love, mercy, and salvation at the same time: for instance, when He saved Noah and his family from the flood, rescued Lot from the town of Sodom, and protected the Israelites by making a way through the Red Sea. The Old Testament is full of stories like these, full of verses that show God’s love, and that talk about His patience and forgiveness. These are just a few examples!
The Bible claims to be the very word of God. It reveals the person, nature, and character of God to us. It tells the story of humankind and our relationship with the One who created us. God doesn’t change. He really is huge and powerful. He really is perfect and holy. He really does hate sin. He really does punish sinners. And, He really does love the people He created. The whole Old Testament is the story of God pursuing the people He created. The people ignore Him, forget Him, reject Him, disobey Him, and He just doesn’t give up! From the very beginning, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey their Creator, God promised redemption; He promised a Savior. He continues to remind people of this promise all the way through the history books, the poetry books, and the prophecy books of the Old Testament.
Without an understanding of the huge, scary, holy, just God we see in the Old Testament, we cannot fully appreciate what happens in the New Testament. Because, God turns the full force of His hatred of sin, His judgment and punishment of sin, on His own Son, Jesus Christ. That’s how much He loves us!
Jesus Christ, fully human and yet fully God, comes and spends 33 years on earth. He loves, He Heals, He teaches; He rejects the legalistic “righteous” Pharisees and hangs out with the people who know they are sinners. But, people hate him, humanity hates their creator, and so they kill him. In His death, Jesus Christ, the only person who doesn’t deserve to die, takes the total and absolute punishment of the sins of the world upon himself. He is tortured and dies one of the most agonizing deaths ever invented.
God, the same terrifying, earth shaking, law giving, God of the Old Testament murdered His Son…for you and for me. Because He wanted us. And this was the only way. He never gave up on us. He did everything that needed to be done. That’s how much He loves us!
When Jesus died, one of the things that happened was that the veil in the temple, the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (where the very Presence of God dwelt) was torn in two from top to bottom. This was a serious curtain! They believe that it was 60 feet tall, 30 feet wide, and 4 inches thick! It showed the separation between God and humankind, separation because of His holiness and our sin. But when Jesus died, God tore the veil! There is nothing, absolutely nothing standing in-between us and God anymore, nothing stopping us from having a relationship with Him, from experiencing His love and acceptance. Jesus did it all, and all we have to do is accept His gift.
This is the story of the real God; we can find it in the real Bible. This is the real good news, the real gospel, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners so that they can know Him and enjoy Him forever. Maybe like me, you were lied to and truth was twisted and taken out of context. Maybe Someone was missing from the “Christianity” you experienced. Here’s my suggestion: throw all the garbage away, but don’t throw away Jesus, instead look for the real one!
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because He has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16, 18
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“‘You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you’, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:13-14