Ticking Time Bomb

You may remember the old television show M*A*S*H, the show about a group of doctors during the Korean War. One of my favorite episodes involves a bomb that falls into the camp and fails to detonate. As luck would have it, the bomb is an American bomb. The doctors take it on themselves to defuse the bomb, following instructions from a manual. Two doctors work on the bomb while their colonel reads the instructions from a safe distance. At one point the colonel reads, “Carefully cut the wires leading to the clockwork fuse at the head,” and the doctors do as instructed. The colonel continues reading: “But first remove the fuse,” and the doctors look at one another in shock, realizing that they have failed in their efforts to carefully follow the instructions. They quickly verify that the bomb has indeed been activated (don’t worry; it turned out to be a propaganda bomb and merely rained pamphlets on the compound).

Some people see God that way, don’t they? You can be trying to follow instructions, meticulously observing each detail, but you miss one item and KABOOM! Say the wrong words, make the wrong gesture, or fail to notice one small command and your salvation blows up in your face.

These people see God as a ticking bomb and the Scriptures are our manual for defusing that bomb. The Bible becomes “God’s little rule book” whose only purpose is to keep us from being blown up.

Is that our God? Is He a God who spends His time looking for reasons to punish or is He a God who looks for chances to save?

The overwhelming testimony of Scripture is that God is a gracious, forgiving God, slow to anger and quick to forgive (Exodus 34:6-7). He is a holy God in whose presence sin cannot enter. He is a just God, who will punish evil. But His overwhelming desire is that men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).

We should respect God’s holiness, but we should also trust in His love, His mercy and His grace. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

12 thoughts on “Ticking Time Bomb

  1. Janice Garrison

    If only we could see ourselves the way God sees us and if only we could see others through his eyes as well. Learning to love his way means putting away the rule book.

    Very good thoughts!

    BTW, I used to enjoy watching that show.

  2. Jennifer Alpers

    Love that you are addressing this. I sometimes think, “Am I the ONLY one who grew up in the church and at ____ years old am just now realizing that it’s about relationship?” My mother would always quote, “Work out your own salvation with FEAR and TREMBLING”. I’m sure that when she died, she hoped she was saved, that she had done enough. That verse now means so much more to me than what I grew up with. I’m thankful for that!

  3. nick gill

    Tim,

    I was actually hoping that you would discuss how the “no fear” passage in 1 John 4 relates to the “fear and trembling” passage in Php 2. So Jennifer’s remarks are very timely.

    I understand the phrase to be a Hebraism for “fear-of-the-Lord” that the experience of the disciples with Jesus redefines for us. Should their interactions with Jesus reshape what we think “fear and trembling” looks like?

  4. Tim Archer Post author

    Nick,

    I’ve written a bit on my view of what it means to fear the Lord in this post on fearing God in Ecclesiastes.

    Your allusion to the disciple’s experience is interesting. I’d want to study a bit more the times that they were afraid and what the Bible says about that.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  5. guy

    Tim,

    i can so relate to your post. i’ve met many Christians who acted as though it’s better to be lost than saved because maybe God will give the lost a pass on some things, but the saved are always teetering over the edge of hell. The Bible certainly doesn’t portray the comfort and confidence levels of Christians in this way. It is the lost who have no hope. i just don’t see in the NT where any early disciples went through the same psychological cycles of eternal insecurity that seem to be prevalent among those i’ve encountered. If we’re restorationists, it seems we’d want to try and “restore” in ourselves their attitude toward their security–their assurance and confidence.

    Unfortunately, i’ve also ran into many who use this very point as an excuse to not to try to do what God wants, but just to do what they like and expect God to get over it. And any time they’re pressed on it, they say something like “you’re expecting me to be perfect but God doesn’t.” –an excuse for sin, really.

    God is kind. And His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance.

    –guy

  6. Tim Archer Post author

    Unfortunately, i’ve also ran into many who use this very point as an excuse to not to try to do what God wants, but just to do what they like and expect God to get over it. And any time they’re pressed on it, they say something like “you’re expecting me to be perfect but God doesn’t.” –an excuse for sin, really.

    “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2)

    I dare say that problem has been around for a long time. Some would hear the message of grace as a license to sin.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  7. guy

    Tim,

    Ya know, i think even when we can see that kind of assurance we ought to have, it’s sometimes still very difficult to actually have that assurance. We can arrive at a more accurate view of God’s patience and kindness, and even a better criteria for apostacy (Jay Guin has done work on this that i find myself largely in agreement with), yet still experience doubt as we try to apply those views to ourselves.

    Suppose i have a criterion like only continually sinning willfully will get me in trouble–put my soul in danger or whatever. Sometimes i know myself too well, ya know? i know that i can lie to myself about how much i’m doing to improve or to stop doing something wrong. Sometimes i can sin and say a prayer after it all the while knowing i won’t expend much effort if any at trying to improve my ability to resist temptation the next time. Am i willfully sinning continually? Maybe. Maybe not. But i can still battle insecurity in these ways, don’t you think?

    –guy

  8. Lisa

    We have a tendency to think that the “Old Testament God” was stricter than the God who sent His Son in the New Testament, but I see examples of God’s mercy in the Old Testament as well and think that we sometimes overlook those, only focusing on all the very specific rules the Israelites were given. We think grace and mercy are only found in the NT, and have a hard time justifying why God would have changed, not remained consistent, if He really is God.

  9. heavenbound

    It sounds from some of the comments about fear, doubt, hope that some here question what God is doing in this age of grace. He is not calling out a remnant nor is he punishing people like in the old testament. The law established blessing and punishment. This age of grace grants us freedom. Freedom from the penalty of sin.
    Remember to have a repentative heart is to place him back on the cross. Love is the key God has given us for we are to love one another as he loved us…..Relax and enjoy the freedom the cross has given us Christians

  10. Tim Archer Post author

    Lisa,

    I guess you’ve heard the old story about the Sunday School teacher who was talking about God’s wrath in the Old Testament, and one little boy said, “But then He became a Christian.”

    That’s how some would view the God of the Old Testament, not seeing that the Old Testament is also a story of grace.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim

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