Our Greatest Danger
What is the greatest danger that any human being faces? Not physical pain or social ostracism or even death. The greatest danger we face is God. And he is a danger to us precisely because he is absolutely good. As C. S. Lewis reminds us:
Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger—according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.1
For sinners, God is the supreme terror, and when we rightly understand our situation, we are right to fear. As the Scriptures say, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Jesus himself makes this point in seeking to rightly order our fears:
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 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! (Luke 12:4–5)
We ought to fear certain things, and we ought not to fear other things.
And the fear of the holy God, who has authority to cast into hell, is a live issue for every human being. The Bible is replete with such warnings of our eternal danger. The wrath of God is coming “upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6). Indeed, it is even now being revealed “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18–19). For the moment, God’s wrath hands us over to “dishonorable passions” and “a debased mind” so that we practice and approve “all manner of unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:24–32). But there is a “day of wrath” coming when God will execute his judgment on human rebellion (Rom. 2:5). For the self-seeking and truth-suppressing, there will be wrath, fury, tribulation, and distress (Rom. 2:8–9).
And according to Romans 3, all of us are condemned.
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside [and] become worthless;
no one does good. . . .
There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Rom. 3:10–18)
We are all naturally “dead in . . . trespasses and sins . . . following the course of this world,” led around by evil powers, living in “the passions of our flesh,” carrying out the sinful desires of our bodies and our minds (Eph. 2:1–3).
The resurrection of Jesus gives us a living hope so that we are delivered from the fear of death.
In a word, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We are by nature children of wrath, and therefore we all lie before the greatest danger imaginable and ought to be overwhelmed by fear.
“But God!” These are perhaps the two greatest words in the Bible. But God, in the richness of his mercy and because of his great love, has not left us in sin and death and under his wrath. The good news is that God himself has sent Christ to rescue us from sin and death and wrath.
Jesus Christ, fully man and fully God, lived a perfect and holy life before the face of God. More than that, he died in our place, as a substitute, as a wrath-absorbing sacrifice. The biblical term for this is propitiation, and it deals with our ultimate eternal danger. Our debt is paid. God’s wrath is removed. Because of Christ’s death on the cross for sinners, we can gladly say, “It is finished.”
But not only did Christ die for us; he was also raised on our behalf, for our justification. He not only dealt with sin and wrath but, more than that, conquered death. Death has been decisively defeated. The resurrection of Jesus gives us a living hope so that we are delivered from the fear of death.
“It is finished.”
“He is risen.”
This is the good news, and when we receive this news by faith, God declares us righteous in his sight. He justifies the ungodly by faith in his Son. We receive Jesus, and he’s enough. All our sins forgiven. All his righteousness reckoned to us.
And being “justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). No more rebellion. No more enmity with God. No more threat of wrath or fear of being cast into hell. We are at peace with the living God, and it is no longer a fearful thing to fall into his hands.
This gospel is the fountain of Christian courage. It is the source of holy boldness and fortitude. And this gospel courage has two distinct movements—boldness before God and boldness before men.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 31.
This article is adapted from Courage: How the Gospel Creates Christian Fortitude by Joe Rigney.
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