This series was first published in January 2019. -ed.
“He’s not mad at you, He’s mad about you.” That’s how one high-profile pastor of a leading seeker-sensitive church likes to describe God’s supposed disposition toward sinners.  https://pastorrick.com/if-you-want-to-change-start-with-your-thinking/.
But that short turn of phrase—clearly designed to soothe convicted consciences and diminish the offense of sin—is a woeful distortion of God’s holy character and the judgment our sin demands. Moreover, it belies Christ’s ongoing work of disciplining and purifying His church.
When the apostle John encountered the Lord while exiled on Patmos, “His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow” (Revelation 1:14). Christ’s head and hair weren’t just white—they gleamed in blazing, brilliant white, like the purest wool or snow. John’s word choice here is telling—he’s referencing Daniel 7:9, which describes the Ancient of Days seated on His throne, and “the hair of His head like pure wool.” The imagery here not only affirms Christ’s deity but also speaks to His purity. He is utterly unblemished and absolutely holy.
He expects His people to be holy as well. As Paul explained to the Ephesians, that was the Lord’s purpose in saving them in the first place. He says:
Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
He likewise exhorted the Colossians, reminding them that Christ “has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:22). Peter put it bluntly in his first epistle: “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15–16). In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ Himself declared, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Given everything Scripture tells us about the purity and holiness of the Lord, I cannot understand how professing believers live the kind of lives they live, or how so-called churches can operate the way they do—the repeated dalliances with sin, the unending attempts to curry favor with unrepentant sinners. Too many people in the church today live in blatant disregard for the apostle James’ stark warning: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). The constant affront to Christ’s holiness from those who should know better is heartbreaking. John must have felt that way with regard to the churches in Asia Minor.
And his vision illustrates that no matter what is going on in the church, the Lord Himself is fully aware of it. The apostle writes, “His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14). It’s a picture of Christ’s holy omniscience. Like penetrating lasers, the eyes of the Lord see everything. Nothing escapes His notice; no secret remains hidden. His piercing gaze sees right to the heart of His church, and into the heart of every believer.
Matthew 10:26 tells us, “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” The author of Hebrews explains the comprehensive nature of the Lord’s omniscience: “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). The Lord of the church will not fail to recognize sin in His church.
Nor will He fail to deal with it. John’s vision continues in Revelation 1:15: “His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace.” In the ancient world, kings and rulers sat on elevated thrones, so that those under their authority were kept under their feet. In that sense, a king’s feet symbolized his authority and judgment. But unlike human rulers made of flesh, our Lord has feet of burnished bronze—blazing, molten feet of judgment. John sees Christ moving in His church not just as its High Priest, but also as its King and Judge.
This is not the final judgment against sin, but of Christ’s pruning, purging work within His church. For the sake of the church’s purity, He will discipline His own. Christ spoke of this very thing in John’s gospel: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2).
The writer of Hebrews went into greater detail:
You have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. (Hebrews 12:5–10)
The Lord loves His church enough to discipline it, to bring the necessary chastisement to protect its purity. And through His Word, He instructs us how we are to guard its purity. Matthew 18 lays out the prescription for dealing with sin in the church—a pattern the church today largely ignores, to its own hurt. Scripture warns us of the dire consequences if we fail to protect the purity of God’s church. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead in the middle of a congregational meeting for lying to the Holy Spirit and the church. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul tells us that some in the Corinthian church were sick while others had died, because they carelessly celebrated the Lord’s Supper.
When you see a believer whose life is crushed because of sin, or a church leader who is forced out of ministry because secret corruption in his life has come to light, you’re seeing the Lord’s continued purifying work in His church. He intercedes to protect His own, but He also cleanses the church by disciplining His own.
(Adapted from Christ’s Call to Reform the Church)