Is God still “mad” at you?3
I couldn’t help but sit up and take note when I read that “popular Texas megachurch pastor and author Robert Morris preached before hundreds of inmates at the state's largest prison last week, assuring [them] that God is not ‘mad’ at them.”
According to the article on The Christian Post, “The H.H. Coffield Unit in Anderson County houses over 4,000 inmates in East Texas. Since the Southlake-based church opened up its Coffield Campus last November, hundreds of inmates have attended the service and over 1,000 have made decisions for Christ. At least 439 men gathered for the Gateway Coffield service held last Wednesday expecting to hear a sermon from the campus pastor, Stephen Wilson. However, they were excited when Morris appeared on stage. They greeted him with an ovation.”
Let me be clear about one thing. That Robert Morris and his church have reached out in this way to the inmates of this prison is wonderful. I can’t imagine anyone would object to this ministry. Would that other churches would follow suit.
But is it really the case that “God is not ‘mad’ at them”? One thing is certain. If they are born-again believers in Jesus Christ, Morris is right. God is not mad at them. The Apostle Paul couldn’t have stated it with greater clarity or force when he said in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The key here is that the reassurance of “no condemnation” is for those “who are in Christ Jesus.” Perhaps Morris made this point in his message. Perhaps he was careful to point out that this glorious truth applies only to those who have trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior. I don’t know what he said in the remainder of his message. Perhaps he told the crowd that God’s holy and righteous anger is directed only toward those who have refused the good news of the gospel. I hope that was the case.
But if not, it is potentially misleading to tell an entire crowd of men, whether prisoners or those who attend church on a Sunday morning, that God is not “mad” at them. Of course, the word “mad” is itself a poor way to express the anger that God has toward idolaters and unrepentant fornicators (only two among the many sins that provoke God’s anger). “Mad” suggests a petulant, short-tempered hot-head who flies off the handle whenever he is crossed. Perhaps we should speak of holy displeasure or righteous wrath.
That God is still angry and wrathful toward some, even many, is evident from numerous NT texts, such as John 3:36. Although we can’t be sure, it is most likely John the Baptist who said this:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).
God’s anger or wrath or holy displeasure “remains” or “abides” or “continues” to weigh upon the man or woman who in disobedience spurns the gospel of Jesus Christ. Elsewhere the apostle speaks of those who are still “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” as being “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). We are the objects of a wrath that remains on us so long as we remain outside of Jesus Christ.
The good news of the gospel is that this “wrath” has been poured out on Jesus in our place. Praise God that Jesus Christ willingly, voluntarily, and with joy submitted himself to serve as our penal substitute, satisfying the justice and wrath of God that we so richly deserved. For those who have embraced this truth as their only hope for forgiveness of sins and eternal life, it is gloriously true that God is not “mad” at them.
But can we know for certain that every man in that audience is a believer in Christ? That would seem unlikely. I’m sure that Pastor Morris knows this. And as I said, perhaps he made this clear to them in his message. And I applaud Morris for his desire to reassure the Christian men present that day that in spite of their criminal past, and in spite of their sinful present, God is no longer angry or mad at them, and that his wrath against them (and against us) has been forever removed, having been endured and extinguished in the body and soul of our substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ.
So what is it that we must be careful to communicate to any group of individuals, male or female, whether in a prison or those sitting in a pew on a Sunday morning? It is the incomparably majestic truth that God’s wrath has been forever removed from those who have repented of their sins and put their trust and confidence entirely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. But we must be diligent to declare, with no less urgency, that those who remain disobedient to the Son “shall not see life.” Indeed, the “wrath” of God “remains” on them.
I hope that every man seated at that service in that prison is “in Christ Jesus.” I hope that each would truly rejoice in hearing it said that God is not “mad” at them. But is God “mad” at those who persist in unrepentant sin and hard-hearted unbelief? Yes, he is.
My prayer is that we would all be diligent to make clear both sides of this biblical truth.