(This article originally appeared on gentleleading.com.)
I just have to laugh at the audacity of babies. They think they rule the universe. Recently I took my 12-month-old on an airplane. I held him up to the window, expecting him to be spellbound by the massive size of the airplane, the speed, the height…but he wasn’t. He slapped the window, gave a brazen squeal, and tried desperately to reach out and touch the wing. He would have lunged out of the window if he could have.
He has no idea of the dangers I deliver him from daily. That’s because babies fixate on what’s right in front of their faces. They fuss when we remove dangerous objects from their hands or deliver them from a harmful plunge down a flight of stairs.
I am often guilty of the same short-sightedness. Just like my son who wanted to lunge out of the airplane, I take deliverance for granted when I don’t stop to ponder what I’ve been delivered from. Deliverance means rescue. It means being removed from one path and placed on another. What path was I on? Why did I need rescuing? What dangers awaited me before God reached down and swooped me out of harm’s way? The answer is in 1 Thessalonians 1:10: “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us fromthe wrath to come.”
“Wrath” is not a word we like to think about – especially at Christmas time. But the most vivid display of God’s wrath began in a dusty manger. When the world looks into the manger they get a warm fuzzy feeling and a vague notion of world peace. But upon a closer look we see something totally different. We see the dreadful, holy wrath of God that required nothing less than the blood of his own Son to satisfy it. This baby shows us the gravity of what our sins deserve. He came to absorb every drop of wrath for his people so there would be no wrath left for us.
But what is wrath? From a human standpoint I might think of wrath as the feeling I get when I see my pile of clean laundry strewn across the backyard and used as a fort. But God’s wrath is not simply an angry reaction. It is an inseparable part of His character. It goes hand in hand with his holiness, love, and justice. We can’t give wrath a backseat simply because it is unpleasant. God’s attributes are so intertwined that we can’t diminish one without diminishing them all. Unlike my sinful human anger, God’s wrath is evidence of his holiness. Perfect holiness cannot tolerate sin. All sin must experience the wrath of God.
The most horrific thing any human being could experience is to stand before a holy God on the day of judgment and receive the full fury of his wrath for all of eternity. Our sin, even the smallest sinful thought, deserves nothing less. But the manger of wrath is also a manger of deliverance. For those who put their trust in Jesus, judgement day has already happened. God’s wrath came. It demanded justice and that’s exactly what it got. Jesus took it all. In Jesus I could no more face the wrath of God than Jesus could face it again for me. It’s over. Not because God got sentimental and decided to give me a free pass, but because the wrath I deserved was poured out on another.
I have to ask myself: What is there left to be afraid of?
Suddenly earthly cares loosen their ties on my heart. My messy house, my teething baby, and my quarreling toddlers are overshadowed by the peace of deliverance. I’ve been delivered from God by God. What else could possibly touch me? “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-29)
What is weighing your heart down this holiday season? Don’t settle for the warm fuzzy peace that lasts for a moment and then is gone. Eternal peace comes from knowing we are right with God. Look deep into the manger. See the baby who is a consuming fire – a fire that will punishfor all of eternity or protect for all of eternity. For God’s people, what started in the manger ended at the cross. And now our eternal deliverance from wrath is our daily deliverance from fear, doubt, and despair. It’s a peace that lasts long after the Christmas decorations come down. It’s a peace that lasts forever.
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