God’s not that strict.
Ever hear that? Me too. Dysfunctional preachers have taught people God is more of a granddad than a Father. They paint Him as a happy-go-lucky, tender-all-the-time, kinda guy. He thinks you are cute even when you purposely stick the cat’s tail in the fan.
The problem is many are convinced of God’s love, but not His wrath. They see Him as one who overlooks their “minor” faults and it is only the really “big” stuff that will get you in trouble. Don’t worry about going to church each week, let alone every service. There’s no problem with a little white lie now and then. He is not all that concerned how you worship or what church you go to so long as you believe in His Son.
The Bible indeed teaches God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). He loved the world enough to send His Son as a sacrifice (Jn. 3:16). His patience and longsuffering are beyond our comprehension. Time and again God extends mercy to us through His providence. We have to go around it to miss it. This truth is nearly universally agreed on.
What people see differently is whether or not God is a stickler for details and is truly willing to hold people accountable for their sins. Will He really punish people in eternal torment? My feelings and your feelings are beside the point. What matters is what the Bible says.
When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden He gave them only one rule; don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:15-17). The punishment was spelled out. Yet, they transgressed God’s command and ate of the fruit of the tree (Gen. 3:1-6). At that time Adam and Eve were separated from God; they no longer had fellowship with Him (cf. Isa. 59:1, 2; 1 Jn. 1:5-7). It is obvious this affected the couple as they tried to cover up and hide from God. It was futile. God knew exactly what they did and pronounced punishments on the three involved. Eve was to have pain in child bearing and Adam was to work by the sweat of his brown in unfavorable conditions. They were kicked out of the garden and thus cut off from the tree of life. Physical death began to work on their bodies.
Was God too cruel in meeting out the punishments to man and woman? Was He too strict by asking them not to eat of the tree and then punishing them when their simply satisfied their curiosity? We dare not accuse God of such!
When God gave them the command not to eat of the tree He meant it. He is not man who wavers on decisions when crunch time comes. God sticks to His word, and thankfully so. What hope would we have of His promised blessings if He did not keep His word on cursings?
Jesus gave a parable to teach a lesson on forgiveness (Matt. 18:21-35). In it, the wicked servant is punished for being unforgiving. Notice what the text says, “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him” (Matt. 18:34). Here is the picture: God is the master, we are the servants. If we do not forgive our fellow servants of the small things between us, God will not forgive us the massive debt we have. The consequence of us not being able to pay our debt is that we are “delivered…to the torturers” until all is paid. It will never be paid. We cannot pay it. Thus, all with an unforgiven debt will be tortured for all eternity.
If this is not a true picture of the judgment and God’s wrathful nature, then what is it? It ought to frighten every one of us. The torture Jesus refers to is not being locked in a dark room with blaring music. The torture is that of being cast into a lake of fire and brimstone with the devil and his angels (Rev. 20:14, 15; Matt. 25:41).
Why will men be cast into this torment? Revelation 21:8 says, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Liars includes “little white” liars. Idolaters includes those who are covetous (Col. 3:5). It also includes those who put golf, fishing, and anything else before service to God—think of those who skip worship and/or Bible class on Sunday for their own pleasure (Heb. 10:24, 25). The abominable includes those who disgrace and despise His Son’s blood by supporting and participating in churches not found in the Bible—denominations, man-made religions that claim to love Jesus but do not follow His word (Heb. 10:26-31; Matt. 15:7-14).
If God was willing to strike down Nadab and Abihu for using different fire and Uzzah for simply trying to steady the ark, then He will be no less strict with us when it comes to judgment (Lev. 10:1, 2; 2 Sam. 6:6-8; Matt. 7:13, 14). Moses was kept out of the Promised Land for striking the rock instead of speaking to it (Num. 20:7-13). Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for misrepresenting their gift (Acts 5:1-10). The rich young ruler lacked one thing (Mk. 10:21, 22).
Finally, Jesus said,
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. God therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…(Matt. 28:18-20).
Did He mean it? He has all authority and with it commanded the apostles to teach all disciples to keep all the commands. What man is foolish enough to say, “Don’t worry about it; God is not that strict”? Not me and I hope not you.
— Steven F. Deaton