Saturday, April 23, 2016

Characteristics of Godly Wrath

Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" should freak us out, but rest assured, the final Day of the Lord will be FAR worse for those not in Christ.

For the LORD is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.
Their slain shall be cast out,
and the stench of their corpses shall rise;
the mountains shall flow with their blood.
- The Prophet Isaiah (34:2-3)

Studying and preaching Isaiah makes the reality of God's wrath and judgment very apparent. Sometimes reading so much about God's wrath gets to me, even as a bible teacher and preacher. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for Christ enduring God's wrath in my place, but I am stricken with terror and sadness for those who have not rested upon Christ and are naked before God's wrath. That which awaits unrepentant sinners is almost to awful too contemplate. 

As I try to process the terrible anger God has toward human sin,emotions can twist my understanding and thinking. I am tempted to shy away from speaking of God's wrath because it's so dreadful and awful. I don't want to depict God as awful. Yet, as a minister of God's Word, I must preach what is in the holy text.  As A.W. Pink pointed out, there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. I never want to apologize for what God's Word plainly states. The truth must be proclaimed. The fact is, many come to Christ when they hear of God's wrath. Indeed, I remember being fearful of damnation when I turned to Christ to save me.  I didn't doubt that I deserved God's wrath, and that is the truth which drove me to Jesus. 

Still though, as I preach through Isaiah, more and more of God's judgment is expressed and forecasted.  I know many unbelievers scoff at what they see as a vengeful God.  A preacher can be tempted to preach only the "softer side" of God. Just talk about God loving people in Christ.  God is love.  Jesus is love.  God is Kind. Jesus is compassionate.  But what do God's love, kindness, and grace mean if we are not exposed to the whole truth about our sin, God's righteousness, and our future judgment apart from faith in the work of Christ to remove God's wrath? Only telling part of the truth is a lie, and in this case, a damning lie. 

I think it is hard for me to dwell on the wrath of God or the judgment of God because I struggle to comprehend wrath or anger apart from my sinful experience of these. But God's wrath is not like my wrath. His wrath is right and pure. In balance with the whole message of God's glorious gospel, people need to know the truth about God's just wrath and judgment. It will make yet unredeemed  (but elect) sinners run to Jesus and cause redeemed ones cry out to God with thanksgiving for their salvation through Christ. 

While studying another chapter about God's judgment this week (Isaiah 34) I came across a helpful post by Pastor Bob Deffinbaugh that helps me stay on Scriptural point.  

Characteristics of Godly Wrath

(1) Godly wrath is vastly different from the wrath of man (James 1:20).

(2) The wrath of God is always in accordance with the standards set down in Scripture for man’s conduct and the warnings God has given for disobedience (Deuteronomy 29:26-28; 30:15-20; 2 Samuel 12:9-10; 2 Kings 22:10-13; 24:2; 2 Chronicles 19:8-10; 34:18-28; 36:15-16; Jeremiah 22:11-12; 44:2-6).

(3) The wrath of God is in accordance with the deeds of men. God’s wrath is always in direct proportion to man’s sin (Psalm 28:4; Isaiah 59:18; Jeremiah 17:10; 21:14; 25:14; Ezekiel 20:44; 24:14; 36:19).

(4) God’s wrath is slow and controlled, not sudden and explosive (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18).

(5) God’s wrath comes after warning of judgment (see, for example, the warnings given to men in the days of Noah (Genesis 6-9), of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), and throughout the Old Testament by the prophets).

(6) God’s wrath is always provoked by man’s sin (Deuteronomy 4:25; 9:18; Jeremiah 25:6-7; 32:32).

(7) God wrath is not exercised in sin but in righteousness (Romans 2:5; James 1:19-20).

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

More cultural prophecy from Schaeffer

More prophetic utterances (not in the biblical sense) from Francis Schaeffer. He wrote this in the late 70's-

"On a humanistic base, people drift along from generation to generation, and the morally unthinkable becomes the thinkable as the years move on. By 'humanistic base' we mean the fundamental idea that men and women can begin from themselves and derive the standards by which to judge all matters. There are for such people no fixed standards of behaviour, no standards that cannot be eroded or replaced by what seems necessary, expedient, or even fashionable. … The thinkables of the eighties and nineties will certainly include things which most people today find unthinkable and immoral, even unimaginable and too extreme to suggest. Yet - since they do not have some overriding principle that takes them beyond relativistic thinking – when these become thinkable and acceptable in the eighties and nineties, most people will not even remember that they were unthinkable in the seventies. They will slide into each new thinkable without a jolt.’ 

 - Francis Schaeffer, 1979 in "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?"

It's hard to believe we live in a time when having a penis no longer means you are a man and public bathroom usage is based on how you feel about your gender.  Worse yet, if you think men shouldn't be allowed to use the same bathroom as women and girls, you are called a bigot. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Recurring themes in the Old Testament

We've been doing a lot of teaching and preaching through the Old Testament lately. I'm preaching through Isaiah and teaching through Genesis. Nathan has been preaching through 2 Samuel and teaching through the Psalms. In light of this, a parishioner sent a very thoughtful email asking what I thought the main themes were, so as to discuss these with his family as they listened to the various presentations from the OT. I fired off a quick response on those recurring themes that came to mind immediately:

Christ. The Savior promised who is completely sufficient.

God saves. Despite how much we rebel...he moves circumstances to cause repentance and faith.

God is sovereign over every detail of history. Even when you think it's bad, God is still working His plan.

God calls us to be faithful no matter what our nation is doing in general, or to us specifically.

We might have to suffer for knowing Christ. Actually, that's the majority experience for Christians over the centuries- perhaps the chief way God grows us personally, and the Church corporately. Christianity isn't dying, it's actually expanding the world over, but through lots of suffering.

It's never too late, while we have breath in our lungs, to confess our sins and ask for God's forgiveness and blessing- which are provided through Christ.

I am grateful for such notes from congregants. It focuses my own thoughts and serves to confirm the wonderful unity of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

There is no life for us in any tangible thing

Lots of trust was placed in horses and chariots during the days of ancient Israel. God warned against their trusting in these fading, physical things.  The Psalmist wrote- "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (20:7).

We look to so many things for happiness, joy, and fulfillment. We see earthly items and think they'll give us security and contentment, but they never do.  Raymond Ortlund addresses this very tendency in his sermon on Isaiah 31 and 32-

“The richness and fullness of life come from what is spiritual, not earthly. Money, for example, can buy a house, but it can’t make a home. Money can put food on the table, but it can’t put laughter and joy around that table. Money can fly you to Paris, but it can’t kindle romance there. What money can do is make you an attractive target for thieves and lawsuits. There is no security in money. There is no life for us in any tangible thing. What makes for life comes not from this world but from the grace of God. Therefore, a heart at one with God is the secret to life. To have God is to have all things. To trust him is to be saved.”