Sunday, December 23, 2012

Speculation vs. Revelation

Psalm 103:19  affirms that the sovereignty of the living God rules over all.  Now, as it is that God is infinite, so His sovereignty is absolute, for, His attributes are but expressions of who He is in His essence.  Anything less, more, or different would not describe the one and only living God.  To portray Him in any terms or fashion that do not accurately reflect His biblical presentation is to be guilty of idolatry.  Indeed, one of the most basic purposes God had for breathing out His Word, providentially preserving it, and providing understanding of His truth by the regenerating work of His infallible Spirit, is to be worshiped as He truly is.  No, we are not to concoct our own concept(s) of who He is and what He requires/desires of us... we are not to base our lives on speculation, but revelation.  To the extent that we are ignorant of revelation (the Scriptures), is the extent to which we will use our sanctified imagination to speculate what seems right and accurate.
Major problems with speculation, however, are that (a) it lacks God's authority, (b) our hearts are more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick [Jeremiah 17:9], and (c) it is inevitably idolatrous, for He Himself declares, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than Your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts," [Isaiah 55:8, 9].
As for (a), speculation in the spiritual realm doesn't have God's assurances of power, as does His Word:  "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth;  It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it," [Isaiah 55:10,11].  "For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart," [Hebrews 4:12].  Such promises as these (and many more) are given by the unchanging (Malachi 3:6a) living God, who does not lie (Numbers 23:19), and is utterly faithful (James 1:17).  Our opinions are exactly that: opinions... oscillating as we take in new knowledge, and so cannot come close to the authority of the omniscient God of the Word.

Concerning (b), if one ignores or refuses the Word that God has inspired, preserved and revealed, he is left to depend upon his heart's imagination to answer such questions as "What is God like?" "What happens to me after death?" and "Is Jesus really the only way to heaven?"  Man lays great stock in his heart's ability to judge life correctly: As Shakespeare put it,"To thy own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."  Sounds reasonable... trouble is, it won't do.  Contrary to the unsaved person's insistence, the lost one is spiritually blind (II Corinthians 4:3,4) and unable to know his own heart, much less be true to it.  As Proverb 14:12 states, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."  Only through salvation (had only through the Lord Jesus Christ) does one have spiritual discernment.

Regarding (c), any way that we try to relate to the living God other than how He is presented in Scripture, is idolatry.  Indeed, what comes to mind when we think of God is a spiritual barometer, revealing whether or not He has the same attributes in our thoughts as He has in the Bible.  Operating apart from revelation, man's speculations are always skewed, dominated by emotion and logic.  Since "every man's way is right in his own eyes," (Proverb 21:2a), he/she will envision God through feelings and suppositions...many based in childhood experiences, as well as traditions assumed to be true (one such entrenched assumption is "God helps those who help themselves").  Many even believe this saying is found in Scripture, it is so pervasively accepted.  It isn't.  And it helps perpetuate the myth that our works are the means by which we gain God's aid & acceptance.  No, only by revelation do we learn the ways of grace.  

May God grant a deeper desire to learn Him as He is...and seek His face through the revealed Word He has given so graciously.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ephesians 4:15

"but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ."

Paul touches on three immeasurably important needs for every believer:  (1) what we're to speak, (2) how we're to speak, and (3) the goal of a well-rounded maturity in the Lord Jesus.

(1)  As those whose souls have been savingly changed by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, our lives are to be continually transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Our minds (hearts) are the focus here, because our mouths speak that which fills our hearts (Luke 6:45).  And it's important what we say, even every word we speak -- "And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned." (Matthew 12:36, 37).  Sobering words, these... especially since the Lord Jesus never exaggerated, never equivocated, never misspoke.  As our speech is a reflection of our heart's condition, what we say actually forms a basis for future judgment: believers before the bema seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10), and the unsaved before the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-13).  What then are we to speak?  The truth.  Sounds simple, but it isn't.  We can lie in so many more ways that stating a falsehood.  One of the most subtle ones is silence.  By our silence we can allow others to assume an untruth. And with our pride and fears and deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), silence isn't "golden", it's sinful.  Another pitfall comes in the form of exaggeration.  Overstating to impress easily slips into falsities that multiply and worsen, until we are inextricably caught in them, and our good name (as well as our witness) are compromised.  One other way we may mishandle the truth is to speak it as a weapon, with the intent to hurt. Incalculable damage has been done to the body of Christ, even to the destroying of fellowships, by some who declare, with cruelty, truth that tears down rather than builds up... which leads to the "how we are to speak."

(2)  Speaking the truth can be harsh, biting, and hurtful... particularly if it's told to the wrong person, behind another's back, with ulterior motives. Gossip can be malicious, even though the information may be true. And some seek to justify overly-confrontational truth by pleading the spiritual gift of prophecy.  Hence, Paul bids us balance truth-telling with love. The biblical portrayal of love is not a sugary sentimentality, based on feelings.  Paul's enduring all that he did (II Corinthians 11:23-27), was certainly not based on emotion or mood.  And the supreme example of love's sacrificial nature, despite feelings, is the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus... He definitely did not feel like being nailed to a cross... yet sacrificial love and submission to His Father kept Him there.  The point?  Speaking the truth doesn't always feel good, yet when spoken in loving obedience to the Lord and for the listener's sake, the Holy Spirit's smile will be upon it.  There is not a guarantee that the truth will be received gladly... yet the Lord will be pleased, and we will grow from it.

(3)  Spiritual maturity, leading to being conformed more and more to the image of Christ, is Paul's goal for the Ephesian believers in this verse... and by extension, all who have been changed by the Lord Jesus.  James' perspective agrees with Paul's: "For we all stumble in many ways.  If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well," (3:2).  "Perfect" could be taken literally, but more likely it indicates maturity...the spiritual maturity of those who have learned to minimize their tongues' misuse.  I say minimize rather than "completely control" because of James' statement in verse 8 of that third chapter: "But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison."  Thus, a sign of spiritual maturity is constant vigilance and yieldedness to the Holy Spirit's ministry, thereby taking captive to His obedience our every thought.  For, when our thoughts are pure, then our speech will be, as well. O that we would keep our focus upon the Lord Jesus, Author and Finisher of our faith, that by His Word both our contemplations and conversations would have His empowering grace.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Taste and See! (Psalm 34:8)

One of the most basic reasons people in general, and believers in particular, distrust God relates to His goodness.  Trusting God is at the very heart of man's purpose on the Earth: to glorify Him and enjoy Him, forever.  Yet, from the very outset, Satan managed to convince Eve, then Adam, that God could not be trusted.  At the heart of his temptation, and at the core of her falling, was the questioning of God's goodness.  The enemy insinuated that He was holding out on her, that His restriction was unfair, that He couldn't really be trusted to act in their best interest.  In short -- He isn't completely good.
The Accuser's tactics haven't changed a bit...  He does all he can to get us to focus on all that is terrible in this world, with the whispered thought, "See?  He allows this, and this, and that... He can't be trusted... how can He really be good?"  And,  since we tend to embrace as true only what our five senses experience, we believe his "half truths" (which is only another name for lies).  In so doing, at least two things occur:  (a) We impugn the character of the living God; and (b) we walk by sight, rather than by faith.

Psalm 119:68a reads, "You are good and do good."  Interestingly, the context in which David affirms the character of God as good is having experienced afflictions.  "It is good for me that I was afflicted," he declares in verse 71, which was used as a tool by the Lord to teach him His truth.  Indeed, David confesses that "before I was afflicted I went astray, " (v. 67).  What a contrast in perspective from that of the world!  The world views affliction as a sign that God isn't good after-all...that suffering's afflictions indicate His impotency or indifference.  When believers "buy the lie" of this perspective, it is a deplorable reflection on the goodness of the One who loves us beyond description, whose promises are thus slandered and whose faithfulness is discounted.
To the degree that we live lives that are not grounded upon His goodness, is the degree to which we walk by sight... giving the lie to II Corinthians 5:7.  And the degree to which we do this is the extent to which our lives  bear little difference from those who disdain our Lord.  For, it is a life of faith that distinguishes the Christian from lost folk.  In truth, the unseen realm is more real than the one that daily assaults our senses. For, "the world is passing away, and also its lusts...but the one who does the will of God abides forever."  Oh, that the truth of God's immutable goodness would permeate our every attitude, mark our every action, and be reflected in our every word!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The unpredictability of life.  The certainty of death.  The "foreverness" of eternity in either heaven or hell.  These three realities combine to make salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ an absolute necessity.  "I am the way, the truth, and the life-- no one comes to the Father but by Me," He said, without equivocation.  The claim is either true or it isn't.  His life validated it, His works supported it, His fulfillment of Old Testament predictions relating to Messiah further confirmed it.  His resurrection completed it. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die."  Though one dies physically, he'll never die, spiritually, if his life is in the Lord Jesus.Is this so?  The men who walked the countryside of Israel in the first century, called to leave their livelihoods and follow Jesus, found it to be so.  
After He had been taken into custody they went into hiding, fearful that they, too, would be arrested.  Following His death, for the three dismal days that He seemed completely defeated, they remained cloistered behind closed doors, utterly intimidated by the Jewish authorities. 
But then what a change!  Suddenly, Peter is standing before the crowd of several thousand on the Day of Pentecost, preaching with a boldness completely beyond him.  This fearful fisherman who had caved when confronted with being recognized by a servant girl, was now fearlessly facing the enemies of Christ, saying, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ --- this Jesus whom you crucified."  (Acts 2:36)  The old Peter would have had too much fear for his life to risk making such a declaration... but then, this isn't the same man.  Nor were the other disciples, the same, either.What could possibly have made such a change...?  What would so revolutionize that group of demoralized disciples, transforming them into individuals who would live the rest of their days in holy boldness to the point of martyrdom?  They saw the resurrected Christ, and His Spirit had taken residence within them!  Only this would adequately explain the lives they lived for their Lord.  

Has there been such a change in our lives?  Does there reside within us a settled certainty that death will usher us into the Lord Jesus' heavenly presence?  If not, look to Him and be saved!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Psalm 143:8, 10

"Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.  Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground."

 Little wonder the writer of this prayer is known as a man after God's own heart-- such humility, opening his soul to his LORD with a limitless willingness to be taught, with a fearless trust in his sovereign God, holding back nothing in his yearning to learn his Maker's ways.  

Notice, David does not put off meeting with the greatest Love of his life... it is the fresh stillness of the morning when best he can hear his Beloved speak.  "In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch," (Psalm 5:3).  Here is waiting without drudgery, waiting with undeterred delight, waiting with eagerness to listen, learn, and obey.

Why the morning?  Why the first thing of the day? For one thing, David couldn't help it!  His love wouldn't, couldn't wait to come into God's presence. What an indictment on our lukewarmness.  How often do we have such intensity & eagerness?

Too, very often there is spiritual warfare in the night...dreams come unbidden, flaming missiles of the evil one, turmoil of spirit that makes morning a welcome relief.  Nothing is more encouraging, more heartening, than to draw near to the throne of grace, with the cleansing work of the Savior's blood, and the filling of the Holy Spirit providing an almost tactile surge of joy in the inner man!

Also, the Lord Jesus, filled as His days were with ministries of healing, teaching, discipling and traveling, found the early morning most conducive to meeting with His Father (Mark 1:35).  If the Master knew it to be the best time for hearing the Father's lovingkindness, then we as life-long learners in His spiritual classroom should pay attention and emulate His modeling.  May He grant grace to humble ourselves and do so.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Laughing, Weeping, Blushing

"Therefore encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today', lest any one of you become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin..."

Recently, I heard a pastor on the radio make the assertion that humans are the only creatures on the earth who can laugh, who can weep, and who have the ability to blush. As it is that we are creatures and not animals, laughing, weeping, and blushing are reflections of our creature-hood.  For the Christian, these emotional responses should reflect the inner joy, compassion, and purity of the holy One who saved us.

First, our laughter... you can tell much about a person by what he/she thinks is funny.  One's sense of humor is a telling spiritual barometer of an individual's values.  When we laugh at sexually suggestive situation comedies, our soul's enemy is pleased, for he has an inroad of compromise established.  When we think it's funny for people to be hurt in "reality shows", we're well on the way to a calloused heart.  And, with Ephesians 5:4 in mind, we who name the Name of the Christ should never cause others to laugh at the coarse and crude by telling such kinds of stories ourselves.  Matthew 12:36,37 should produce shock & awe.

As for weeping..."Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15)  Men, in general, can find it more of a challenge to express emotion than women...yet our Savior, the perfect Man, is our Model in His weeping compassionately, manfully (John 11:35, 36).
Too, there are often tears which accompany grief over one's past (Luke 7:37,38).  Tearful repentance as a result of the Holy Spirit's work of brokenness has the winsomeness of godly sorrow that is precious in our Lord's sight. 

"Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?  No!  They were not ashamed;  Nor did they know how to blush.  Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;  At the time I punish them, They shall be cast down," says the LORD."  (Jeremiah 6:15  NKJV)  Loss of personal holiness, and with it the loss of shame and modesty, caused the people to fall into brazen rebellion and idolatry.  Mistaking the LORD's longsuffering for approval, they continued in their disobedience until His patience reached its limit.  Confronted with the depths of their depravity, they could no longer blush, so habitual was their practiced sin.

Such a needed word of warning!  Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Timing is Everything

"Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70)

And being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, "Surely not I, Lord?" (Matthew 26:22)

"Now he (Judas Iscariot) said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it."  (John 12:6)

Judas Iscariot has always been an enigma.  Had he infiltrated the group as a spy, whether representing himself or some group which wanted to betray and assassinate Jesus, that would be one thing... had he slipped into the inner circle by "conning" the Master, ingratiating himself with the Lord through feigned teachability, that perhaps we could deal with.  But no.  Judas moved freely among the twelve, and was eventually even entrusted with the money box of the group, solely on the same basis as the others: a personal summons by the Savior Himself. Neither the occasion nor the circumstances is given to us in Scripture, but there must have been a moment when the Lord sought Judas out, called him to follow, and he found acceptance with the group.  Such acceptance, in fact, that when the Master sadly declares that one among them will betray Him, each asks who it might be, rather than knowing instinctively, "Oh, it must be Judas Iscariot... who else would it be?"  Nothing in the Master's demeanor nor attitude toward Judas gave His disciples any hint as to the identity of the betrayor...
Was it the Father's will that Judas be included?  Yes.  Did the Lord Jesus know all along that Judas was a devil... that he would betray Him?  Yes, there has never been a moment in time or eternity when the Lord Jesus has been deceived.  So then, the Lord Jesus knew all along that Judas was pilfering the money box?  Of course.  Then why didn't He expose him instantly?  Timing is everything. 
He not only did what the Father had for Him to accomplish in the years He walked among men, but when He was to do each task, as well.  And restraint was every bit as much a part of His will as activity. 

Ever been betrayed?  Trusted someone with your friendship, your secret, or special information (having been given their assurance of confidentiality), only to have it revealed?  Depending on what's at stake, the damage can be devastating.  In the shock of those moments when we're deciding how to respond, may the Holy Spirit bring the Lord Jesus to mind... His yieldedness, His willingness to entrust Himself to the Father completely.   

Friday, September 21, 2012

Atheism Makes Perfect Sense

The belief that there was nothing
and nothing happened to nothing
and then nothing magically
exploded for no reason, creating
everything... and then a bunch
of everything magically re-arranged
itself for no reason whatsoever
into self-replicating bits, which then
turned into dinosaurs.

This isn't original with me, and I'm sure others have seen it on the internet, yet I had not come across it until recently. The evolutionary perspective is so pervasive, it has permeated the very pores of our public educational system... moving, for many, far beyond a theory, to an absolute fact. In truth, it is seldom even defended anymore, it is so assumed.  
Yet for the one who takes God seriously, whose life He has changed unmistakably, the above "explanation" for the universe is pitiful in its absurdity, and the sarcasm is well taken.  God has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.  As surely as He came the first time, the Lord Jesus is coming in great power a second time, His sovereign kingdom to establish, His reign to be seen, to vindicate the truth throughout the earth: God is not mocked.    

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Isaiah 41:10,13

" 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' 'For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.' "

In tones very similar to the encouragement He gave Joshua upon entering the promised land, the LORD here assures Israel of His presence, power, and help. Like Israel and Joshua, we too feel outnumbered and overwhelmed at times. Yet, His Holy Spirit within us promises sustained strength regardless of opposition.

The LORD God speaks here to two ongoing temptations (both in Israel's relationship to the nations around her, and to our interaction with the world and its system): fear and idolatry. Israel was not to be intimidated, nor was she to look to any of their idols for "help."
How needed a word is this for us as believers--- may the Lord strengthen our resolve to neither fear our world, nor be too fond of it, either.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Luke 4:16--30

"And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, 'THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE DOWNTRODDEN, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.' And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, 'Is this not Joseph's son?' And He said to them, 'No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your home town as well.' And He said, 'Truly I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.' And all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way."

As the young Rabbi stood to read from the Tanakh that day in the packed synagogue, word had already spread like wildfire, relating the healings and other signs He had performed in the surrounding towns. Even before He came through the gates, He had known what the reception would be (and the reasons why...): He had not attended the usual school(s) for rabbis...consequently, the Sadduccees and Pharisees among the people would not accept His teaching as authoritative; in a society that venerated age, He was but 30, and, for some that would be a stumblingblock; for others, the fact that they knew his family, were familiar with His upbringing, and had seen no miracles in Nazareth such as the ones they were hearing about being performed in Capernaum and elsewhere, caused them to doubt His messianic claims. Yet, underlying it all that day, He knew His Father's will to be done, even down to the exact portion of Scripture He should read. No more, no less.
Why were all eyes riveted upon Him? Why did He sit? For one thing, the passage pointedly predicts the ministry of the Messiah...and for another thing, being seated was the posture of authority for a teacher.
Thus, the astonishment became shock, then gradually anger at the nerve of such an upstart rogue of a Rabbi, who would dare declare that the passage had been fulfilled in their hearing (!)

Yet His audacity was not done. Not enough that He claims to be the Anointed One... now He cites an episode in the experience of each of Israel's most revered prophets, Elijah and Elisha, to demonstrate God's sovereignty, in general, and how He expressed it toward Gentiles, in particular.
Their response of rage is revealing: the world hates the truth that God is sovereign, for it is a humbling acknowledgement that pride refuses. Pride, too, was at the core of their hatred of the Gentiles...and the thought that God could possibly open the way of salvation to any other than the Jews was simply beyond them.
As they rushed upon the Lord Jesus, it was miraculous that He simply walked away from the precipice of the cliff, through the incensed mob, and on His way. Displayed in the power of the Spirit, His sovereignty was clearly demonstrated, and the crowd dispersed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Gospel Message

I came across an intriguing emphasis in the following simple statement of the Gospel message by John Samson, that seemed worth pondering... "The message of the Gospel is this: All who place their trust in Christ as Savior and Lord are therefore saved by God, from God, for God."

At the outset he wisely acknowledges that the Good News of salvation involves faith in Jesus as Lord as well as Savior. The Master said, "You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am." (John 13:13) With the authority of lordship He declared, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27, 28). Only God can give eternal life. Only as sovereign Lord could Jesus do so.
As Jonah 2:9 says, "Salvation is from the LORD." In eternity past, the LORD God the Father set His heart upon a multitude no man can number, from every tribe and nation, according to His good pleasure, for whom His Son would lay down His life as an atonement. It is these whom the Lord Jesus terms His sheep in the John 10 passage previously quoted. In verse 30 of that passage, the Lord Jesus stated, "I and the Father are one." Although some have tried to use it as a text for disproving the doctrine of the Trinity, that simply won't do. Rather, the Lord Jesus is emphasizing the united purpose and action between Himself and His Father in protecting and preserving the "sheep." All for whom the Lord Jesus died will be saved in the end. It is a certainty, for it was divinely-ordained from all eternity, divinely accomplished on the cross and by the resurrection, and divinely applied individually by the blessed Holy Spirit in His sovereign timing. Thus, every believer's salvation is initiated by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Spirit.

    Notice, too, that the one who is saved through trust in the Lord Jesus Christ is not only saved by God, but from God. The popular assumption of the world, encouraged by the "God- loves-you-and-has-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life" teaching, is that God accepts and loves everyone on the planet equally, regardless.  It plays well with the presumption that humanity is basically good (even if flawed) and deserving of heaven...and God is love, after all.  

Trouble is, "There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, Together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one." (Romans 3:10--12)  The Bible plainly teaches that it is a terrible thing to experience the wrath of the living God... for, "those who do not know God and...who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus...will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (II Thessalonians 1:8,9).  Their final destination is described in Revelation 20:14,15  "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone's name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."  There, the weeping, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth never cease, nor do the thirsting, the regrets, the remorse, and the tormented memories, forever and ever.  Thus, regardless of public opinion, political correctness, or wishful thinking, life is short, hell is real, and eternity is forever.

Finally, the Gospel message speaks of the salvation in the Lord Jesus being for God.  Here, as in so many other ways, the plan of man's redemption is far-too-often presented as a sales pitch..."here's what's in it for YOU!!"  Promises of peace, prosperity, pie-in-the-sky-bye-n'-bye, overshadow the Lord Jesus' call to discipleship-for-life, self-denial, and cross-bearing (Luke 9:23).  Some protest: "Oh, but that kind of thing is for later...get 'em saved first...then share the "deeper" stuff like lordship truth."  Yet, observe the Master in His calling of men to Himself, and there is continual presenting His lordship in no uncertain terms.  

So, too, should our sharing of His Gospel message be unashamedly centered upon His sovereign Lordship, as well as saving grace, so that God may be glorified as He alone is worthy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do." (John 17:4)

As it is that the Lord Jesus never wasted a thing, whether time, words, energy, or movement, there is a precision in the atonement as well. It was the magnum opus, the great work, which the Father had given Him to do... coming to this sin-cursed earth to reveal the only living and true God (v.3), and die in the place of those whom the Father had given Him (vss. 2, 9) in eternity past.  This two-pronged purpose was why He came, why He preached, why He taught, why He performed His attesting signs, and why He submitted to the terrible tortures of crucifixion.  And His agony was, of course, much more than physical. What He suffered spiritually, as the God-Man, was an exact equivalent of what His people would have suffered in an eternity in hell.

How can we possibly begin to thank You, blessed Savior, beloved Lord, for Your willingness to leave the triune bliss of heaven and come to walk among sinful humanity...?  We cannot fathom such perfect submission, such humble obedience, that You would lay down Your sinless life for the likes of us... actually becoming sin Who had never known the slightest hint of sin... all done that we might become the righteousness of God in You.  
Take such thoughts, blessed Holy Spirit, and use them to deepen our love for the Master, that we would walk in a manner worthy of His calling.  We, too, at the end, want to be able to say, "I accomplished the work You gave me to do."  In the Lord Jesus' Name, Amen.
"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing." Psalm 37:7a, 8b

Thank You for this reminder, Father... in the urgency of decisions, and the impatience of my flesh, fretting sets in and peace vanishes. Worse, Your blessed Spirit is grieved and quenched...grieved that I aquiesced to the enemy, and quenched that I said "no" to Your Spirit... resulting in loss of fellowship, and a defiled conscience.

Teach me afresh that fretting is sin, that worry slanders Your promises, and staring at circumstances invites a spirit of fear. Rivet my gaze again upon the One Who is the Author and Finisher of my faith, determined to trust and rest in His sufficiency. Through the use of Your Truth to my wearied spirit, may I feed on Your faithfulness, encouraged to faith You for the future.
Thank You for Isaiah 41:10 " 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' "
Thank You, gracious Father, for Your precious and magnificent promises, through and by which Your Spirit does His work of restoration.
In the Lord Jesus' name,

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

II Timothy 3:12 I Peter 4:12,13 John 15:19

"And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation."

"If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you."

There is something shocking about being hated without cause. To be disdained for doing something worthy of such a response, that's one thing... but to be dispised only for being who you are.... that's hard to take.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I John 2:17a

"The world is passing away, and also its lusts;"

Despite all its posturing and protests, all its attempts to mask the effects of decay and demise, there is little use in denying that the world system is, indeed, passing away. The entire medical field, as well as health and cosmetic industries, subsist on the ongoing efforts of aging people to delay the onset of death for as long as humanly possible.
This is understandable for those for whom this world is all there is... whose lives are bound up in this world system and its priorities (lusts).
But how saddened must be the heart of the Father when He sees His own children live only for this world and its values. Hear His poignant appeal: "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live,"
(Isaiah 55:2,3a).
A key means to keeping this world and its lusts in perspective is to continually listen to our Lord. The more mindful we are to His revealed will through His Word, to the inner promptings of His Holy Spirit, and with sensitivity to circumstances as He uses them, the clearer we will see His movement through our days. Sensing His activity boosts our confidence in His promises, increases our appetite for His Word, and transforms prayer into vital two-way conversations.

"Father, You know how we grow far too comfortable here, lapsing into becoming friends with the world system. Remind us again that this is not our home... that we are only passing through... that we are aliens and strangers on this sin-cursed earth, bound for that place the Lord Jesus has gone ahead to prepare for us..
Sensitize our hearing, Father, and deepen our desire to obey You when Your Spirit speaks. Stiffen our resolve to listen, that we may live. Forgive our selective hearing. Stretch our willingness to act upon that which You quietly, insistently require in prayer. Grant discernment to see where sin has taken root and unbelief is the fruit. Deal with it as You see fit, Father.
In the Lord Jesus' Name, Amen."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

II Corinthians 10:3--5

The more complicated life becomes, the more we need to simplify our focus.  So many of the urgings competing for my attention, (some random, some logical, all seemingly urgent), are bogus, sent by the enemy to distract and confuse, keeping my thoughts noisy so that I miss His still, small voice.  My untiring foe knows that his defeat is found in my listening, heeding, and obeying that calming Word to my hearing heart.  Thus, his strategy never wavers: (1) shorten our prayer time, until it is no more;  (2) when we do pray, focus completely on our talking, mainly upon our needs-- no listening for God's response; (3) pray generally, not specifically... that way we will be continually unsure if we've been answered, will grow discouraged, and will go back to (1).  
Why does the enemy oppose it so ferociously?  Why do we find it so difficult to incorporate its discipline into our lives with ongoing perseverance?  Because prayer touches God.  The enemy knows better than we how strongly the Father's heart is moved, how powerfully He acts on behalf of the child who comes to Him, how intensely He longs for His child to call upon His Name.  Why else would he focus so much potency to keep us from the Father's throne?  
May we learn from the one who hates our soul:  pray. Pray on.  Never cease. Never.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Romans 9:14--18

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, 'I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.' So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharoah, 'FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.' So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires."

What a delicate whisp of a thing is trust... developed at an early age in most, sooner or later trust becomes guarded, if not imprisoned, within walls of suspicion, abused by fallible folk. For some, it is so mistreated as to disappear altogether, a means of self-protection against the pain of betrayal's repeated rejection. It is a truism, then, that trust comes more easily for some than others... and that on a human level, with beings who can been seen, touched, physically heard, and responded to... little surprise, then, that trusting One Who does not have these attributes proves to be too much for the majority of mankind.  And were invisibility not enough, this One to Whom all mankind is ultimately accountable is absolute in His sovereign rule, reign, and authority... 

These truths (God's ubiquitous, unseen presence, and His absolute right to do as He wishes with any of His creation, including mankind) provoke lost humanity to cry, "It is unjust!," (that anyone should have such power and control over us).  And such a response is understandable, stemming from deceived hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), that are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), 
and haters of God (Romans 1:30). 

Yet what is especially troubling is to encounter the same spirit of impugning God's character from some of His own children (!)  Apparently the apostle Paul anticipated such a questioning of the Almighty's motives ("There is no injustice with God, is there?"), and answered with an appalled reply, "May it never be!" 
The feeling is, "Away with the thought!", or "How could the thought even be insinuated?!"   Paul is incredulous that any among the Roman believers could entertain such unworthy thoughts of the Father, as to think Him unjust in anything, but particularly in the matter of salvation. 

Still, the same man-glorifying spirit that was at work among the believers in Paul's day is no less active today.  Now, as then, is needed the God-centered truth that salvation does not depend on man's will, or activity, but His mercy.  For, to attribute to man a part of the salvation event is to give God's glory to another, which cannot be honoring to Him.  Rather, the Father is pleased when His children unreservedly proclaim His unlimited sovereignty:  "The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all," (Psalm 103:19).  

And what is true of sovereign mercy, is equally true of sovereign reprobation.  For some He shows compassion, Paul affirms, and also, He "hardens whom He desires."  In this does God sin?  No.  Nor is He unjust.  For, the "righteous Judge of all the earth" (Genesis 18:25) always does right.  So, the issue comes back to trust... is He trustworthy in His sovereignty?  The world says, "No."  Sadly, even some of His own children agree...  yet, there are those who, like the Psalmist, have come to "know Your Name... [and these] will put their trust in You, " (Psalm 9:10a), embracing the sovereignty of the living God in the salvation of His own.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

ACTS 13:44--48

"And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, 'It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 'For thus the Lord has commanded us,


And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."

In accord with the order set forth by the Lord Jesus Himself, (Acts 1:8), Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel to the Jews first, as was Paul's consistent practice (Romans 1:16). Yet, as so often happened even during the Lord Jesus' ministry, so in this scenario as well, the Jews rejected the Lord Jesus, His claims as Messiah, and especially the thought that Gentiles might have any hope of salvation in Him. Bad enough that they refused to believe for themselves, but to openly contradict Paul & Barnabas' preaching (!), and go so far as to blaspheme... a clear evidence of the impact their proclamation was having, spiritually.
Yet it is when Scripture (Isaiah 42:6) is quoted that a sweeping harvest of souls begins. The Holy Spirit used the passage to cause great rejoicing among the Gentiles in the crowd, "and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."

No one believes indiscriminately. No one is saved by happenstance. Belief to salvation is by design, by divine intention, from all eternity. Given the nature of man (Romans 3:10--12), only by such eternal grace could anyone be saved, for no one would seek Him, otherwise. All credit and glory belongs to the triune God for His plan of salvation in grace and mercy!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Ongoing Warfare

Daniel 10:1-14, 20, 21
"In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar; and the message was true and one of great conflict, but he understood the message and had understanding of the vision. In those days I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all, until the entire three weeks were completed.
And on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult.
Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.
Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, "O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you. And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.
The he said to me, 'Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words.
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future.
Then he said, 'Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come. However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.' "

This is a rare parting of the curtain, giving us a very unusual glimpse into angelic warfare that is undoubtedly going on all the time in unseen realms. From Daniel's perspective, the three weeks were filled with mourning for his nation's spiritual bankruptcy, manifested by such intense focusing upon God for intervention that he left off both food and personal hygiene. Perhaps after a week he wondered at the apparent lack of answer. At the end of week two, weakened physically, there seems no lessening of his resolve to seek God's face. By the conclusion of the third week, his bodily weakness is pronounced, requiring aid and strengthening several times during the encounters he has with God's messenger. Still, even in the face of heavenly silence, Daniel prayed on... refusing to allow the lack of God's response to deter him in his prayerful pursuit. He simply would not give up.
What a needed word for this generation of instant gratification Christians! We know nothing of this kind of prayerful perseverance, this kind of lengthy pursuit of our God's intervention. Our love of ease has deep roots into our flesh, and we are loathe to sacrifice comfort & convenience for spiritual power.
Too, we seldom consider spiritual warfare in the heavenlies as a factor in our praying... and we pay the price for such lack of spiritual awareness. May our Lord bring this, and other such passages, to mind to heighten our sensitivity to the need for alertness when we enter the domain of prayer (Colossians 4:2).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

II Kings 6:11-17

"Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, 'Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?" And one of his servants said, 'No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.' So he said, 'Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him.' And it was told him, saying, 'Behold, he is in Dothan.' And he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.
Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, 'Alas, my master! What shall we do?' So he answered, 'Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' And the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."

Everything which fills our senses incessantly insists that it is real, and what is unseen is myth. Every moment of our days is filled with this message, skillfully impressed upon our hearts by the world's system, reinforced by our own flesh, and confidently confirmed by the enemy of our soul. Each sensing overlaps and is interwoven with another to reduce to nothing any thoughts of dependence upon that which cannot be touched, tasted, seen, heard, or felt. Such focus, such perspective on the 'seen-only', leads to fearings and frettings... overwhelmed by life's armies, both real and imagined... Elisha's servant found it so: he assumed that what he saw was all there was... forgetting the greater reality of the invisible living God. What a moment it must've been when the unseen armies were revealed, in all their spiritual might!

I John 4:4 comes to mind... a needed reminder that the Lord who resides within each of His children is greater than the enemy who attacks from without. James 4:7 promises that we can resist him and he will flee... Ephesians 6 describes the weaponry we are to use... what then? Stand firm!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Luke 11:1

"And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.' "

Such an intriguing thing...Jesus praying.  No mystery that I need to heart is desperately sick, my soul in deep dependency ever and always, continually in need of the Spirit's ministry, interceding with groanings too deep for words... but the Lord Jesus?  To fend off any hint of slighting His equality with the Father, we are instant in our defense of His deity (Colossians 2:9)... perhaps to the point of understating His humanity.  As 100% man, He modeled His dependency upon the Father through the same means He bids His elect ones use: prayer and the Scriptures.  From the outset of His public ministry, prayer preceded the calling of His Twelve...and use of the Word as a wonderfully-wielded weapon during intense temptation set the tone for the entire time of His earthly moving among men and spirits.
Yet, apart from the seventeenth chapter of John, and a smattering of other moments addressing His Father before a miracle, we do not know what He uttered in His times of prayerful solitude. And, despite the tendencies of theologians and theologian-wanna-be types to give quick responses.... there is actually answerless mystery here: the Son of God, praying. Yes, it pleased the Father, yes He was glorified... but's an intriguing thing... Jesus praying.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Be still, and know that I am God."

The greater my vision of who You are, the better my perspective on the circumstances of life. When life looms large, You seem inadequate, and my vision is skewed. My soul's enemy will do all he can to scatter my thoughts with busyness...frenetic worryings...unlikely possibilities...dubious outcomes...incessant makes him no difference...whatever it takes! So long as I am not still, to know You, my God. For when I still my spirit and quieten my heart... when my thoughts are taken captive to Your obedience, lost in the wonder and adoration that You deserve, he is forced to flee, praise to Your Name!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Acts 1:1--11

"The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, 'Which,' He said, 'you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.' And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, 'Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?' He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.'
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.' "

Forty days after rising from the dead, the Lord Jesus rose from the earth, ascending while His astonished disciples looked on. Suddenly two angels appeared, asking them why they were standing for such a long time, looking after Him... Like Mary at the tomb, clutching at His robe, His disciples were now visually clinging to Him, yearning to keep Him in sight for as long as possible. (Then, as now, it is always easier to walk by sight than by faith.) In their case it took two angels to pry their eyes from the skies, assuring them of His return in like manner as He had left.
The Lord's ascension was absolutely essential. He had to return to the Father. Much as the disciples wanted Him to stay, to know His nearness as they had experienced it for the years He walked with them, He simply could not remain with them now. Intrinsically linked to His ascension was the sending of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). This One of the same nature as the Lord Jesus, with the added attribute of omnipresence, would bring to their remembrance all that the He had said, empowering them for accomplishing what He had commanded. As emotionally difficult as it was to bear His physical leaving, it truly was for the best.

"Father, grant the needed grace to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done whether we feel like it or not. Emotions can cloud our judgment, fog up our view of You, and wreak havoc with our priorities. Call us back to the basics: to love You first & foremost. To be doers of Your Word, and not hearers, only.
In Your Son's Name,

Matthew 12:34b -- 37

"...For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

The world says talk is cheap. God says talk is our heart, speaking. The world says, "Sticks and stones...." The Bible says talk is so reflective of the heart's condition that men's judgment before God will have their words as a basis for entering heaven or hell. Will we take God seriously?

"But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ" --Ephesians 4:15.

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear." -- Ephesians 4:29.

"...and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks." -- Ephesians 5:4.

"Oh, Father, forgive for times our tongue does not give grace to those who hear... but rather cuts deeply with a critical spirit, thereby grieving Your gracious Spirit of love. Grant grace and humility to go to those we've offended with hurtful words, or appalled with coarse jesting, or insulted with arrogance, and seek to make things right. May Your Name be glorified in reconciliation.
Restore resolve to fill our hearts with that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, in order that our mouths will speak of such as well. Cause our thoughts to be filled with Your Word, Father, so that our speech is sweetened by interweaving your Truth into our conversations... assured that it will not return to You empty, without accomplishing what You desire, and succeeding in the matter for which You send it. May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing and acceptable in Your sight, O blessed Father.
In the Name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus,

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dealing With the Empty Tomb

What's to be done with that tomb..? The empty one... the one that contained Jesus' body... I feel sure the vast majority of today's citizenry give it little or no thought at all. But for the thinking soul who grasps the enormity of the implications, that empty tomb silently screams for an explanation. And through the passing of time, some attempts to explain it away have been clever, while others have been lame. In his excellent book, "Does God Believe in Atheists?", John Blanchard lists and answers some of these efforts to explain away the empty tomb.
1. "The tomb wasn't empty." 'This is woefully weak: why did the authorities not encourage people to visit it and see for themselves?
2. "The first visitors all went to the wrong tomb." 'Yet we are specifically told that at least two of them had been present at the burial just 36 hours earlier and 'saw the tomb and how His body was laid in it.' What's more, the tomb had been donated by Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent local citizen; would he have forgotten the location of his own carefully chosen burial plot?'
3. "The body was stolen by a person or persons unknown." 'There is not a shred of evidence for this, let alone any opportunity or motive. As Norman Anderson wryly comments, 'A Jew of that period could scarcely be suspected of stealing bodies on behalf of anatomical research!'
4. "The Roman authorities removed the body." 'They obviously had the opportunity, but why would they have done so? Why post a guard in the first place? If they had moved the body elsewhere, why did they not produce it when Jesus' followers began to announce His resurrection?
5. "The Jewish authorities removed the body." 'As they were hand in glove with the Romans, and knew of prophecies that Jesus would rise from the dead after 3 days, they had both opportunity and motive for hiding it elsewhere for 4 days, when they could then squash the 'Jesus movement' at birth. Then why did they resort to arresting, imprisoning, flogging and executing the first Christian preachers when they could have killed off their movement by producing the body? The Jewish authorities' silence speaks volumes.
6. "Jesus' disciples removed the body." 'This was the story cobbled together by the frantic religious authorities, who circulated the rumour that the disciples had snatched the body while the guards were asleep, but it runs into an avalanche of problems. (a) Would every one of the guards have fallen asleep on duty, knowing as they must have done that such an offence attracted the death penalty? (b) How did the disciples manage to break the seal, roll away the massive rock and take the body away without a single soldier noticing what was going on? (c) If the guards were asleep, how did they know who had stolen the body? Did the body-snatchers leave a business card? (d) If the guards were awake, how (and why) did a handful of men who had run into hiding 'with the doors locked for fear of the Jews' suddenly pluck up enough courage to tackle an armed squad of soldiers and risk the death penalty for breaking the governor's official seal-- all for the purpose of taking possession of a body already in the safe keeping of one of their own friends? (e) Why is there no record of their ever being charged with a capital offence?
7. "Jesus never actually died." 'This is the so-called 'swoon theory.' 'This asks us to believe that after a succession of savage beatings by Roman soldiers, and being left for hours nailed by the hands and feet to a wooden beam and a vertical pole, Jesus lost consciousness, but remained alaive, even when His body was ripped open by a soldier's spear in order to ensure that He had died. We must believe that nobody noticed any sign of life throughout the removal and burial of the body, and that later, revived by the cool air or the strong-smelling spices with which He had been embalmed, Jesus came out of coma, wriggled free from the tightly-wound grave-clothes, pushed aside the rock sealing the tomb, overcame the soldiers, ran off naked (the grave-clothes were left behind) and, by the time He met with His disciples a few hours later, had made such a complete recovery that He persuaded them He had conquered death and begun a radiant new life. Surely only the grossly gullible would swallow such nonsense!'
Conversely, Blanchard continues, 'evidence for the truth of Jesus' resurrection is plentiful and persuasive...'
It begins 'with the fact that the Bible records six independent, written testimonies (three of them by eyewitnesses) telling of eleven separate appearances over a period of forty days. Skeptics have suggested these 'appearances' were hallucinations, but this line of attack founders on the fact that they fail to meet the necessary criteria. He appeared in a garden, in a home, on a roadside, out in the country, on the seashore and on a hillside. He appeared at many different times of day, and hardly ever in places where He and His disciples had spent time together. What is more, He appeared not merely to individuals but to two, three, seven, eleven and on one occasion several hundred people at once. It is difficult to discount the force of this accumulation of evidence.
Too, one of the most 'striking piece(s) of evidence for Jesus' resurrection is the sudden transformation of the disciples from a dejected, faithless and depressed rabble, cowering behind locked doors, to a fearless and dynamic band of believers, prepared to face persecution, imprisonment and execution rather than deny their convictions.'
This, indeed, could well be the most compelling proof of all: changed lives. Where philosophical arguments and logic do not convince, it is very difficult to deny the inner change of spirit, perspective, priorties, and attitude that characterize the life of one who has been saved by Jesus. And, only if He rose again and lives today, could He change lives continually. Praise to His Name, He IS risen! He is risen, indeed!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

"Their foot shall slide in due time." -- Deuteronomy XXXII. 35

In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God's visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all of God's wonderful works towards them, remained (as v. 28) void of counsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text.--- The expression I have chosen for my text, Their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.

1. That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm lxxiii. 18. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction."
2. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning: Which is also expressed in Psalm lxxiii. 18, 19. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!"
3. Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.
4. That the reason why they are not fallen already, and do not fall now is only that God's appointed time is not come. For it said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.
The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this.--- "There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God."--- By the mere pleasure, His arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God's mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.--- The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.
1. There is no lack of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist Him, nor can any deliver out of His hands.--- He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but He can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the number of his followers. But it is not so with God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God's enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when He pleases, to cast His enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before Him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?
2. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using His power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" Luke xiii. 7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God's mere will, that holds it back.
3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between Him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John iii. 18. "He that believeth not is condemned already." So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John viii. 23. "Ye are from beneath." And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God's word, and the sentence of His unchangeable law assign to him.
4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not very angry with them; as He is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of His wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than He is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.
So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that He does not let loose His hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an One as themselves, though they may imagine Him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.
5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The Scripture represents them as his goods, Luke xi. 12. The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand by waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw His hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.
6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God's restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of the damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in Scripture compared to the troubled sea, Isaiah lvii. 20. For the present, God restrains their wickedness by His mighty power, as He does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;" but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God's restraints, whereas if it were loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.
7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumberable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumberable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of His providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God's hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to His power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.
8. Natural men's prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is clear evidence that men's own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? Eccles. ii. 16. "How dieth the wise man! even as a fool."
9. All wicked men's pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.
But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, "No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself; I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief; Death outwitted me: God's wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction came upon me."
10. God has laid Himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given to Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.
So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about the promises made to natural men's earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.
So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, His anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of His wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out; and they have no interest in any Mediator; there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forebearance of an incensed God.


The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ.-- That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell's wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.
You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things mean nothing; if God should withdraw His hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.
Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God's enemies. God's creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of Him who hath subjected it in hope. There are the black clouds of God's wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays His rough wind; otherwise, it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.
The wrath of God is like the great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till and outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God's vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw His hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.
The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow is made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but His mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.
The God who holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: His wrath towards you burns like fire; He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; He is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in His sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in His eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended Him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell last night; that you were allowed to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking His pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending His solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you have ever done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.-- And consider here more particularly,
1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. Prov. xx. 2. "The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul." The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison to the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing; both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as His majesty is greater. Luke xii. 4, 5. "And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear Him, which after He hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear Him."
2. It is the fierceness of His wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isaiah lix. 18. "According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay fury to His adversaries." So Isaiah lxvi. 15. "For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire." And in many other places. So, Revelation xix. 15. we read of "the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, "the wrath of God," the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is "the fierceness and wrath of God." The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful must that be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also "the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." As though there would be a very great manifestation of His almighty power in what the fierceness of His wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!
Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of His anger, implies, that He will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; He will have no compassion upon you, He will not forebear the executions of His wrath, or in the least lighten His hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay His rough wind; He will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezekiel viii. 18. "Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them." Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to Him, that it is said He will only "laugh and mock," Proverbs i. 25, 26, &.
How awful are those words, Isaiah lxiii. 3, which are the words of the great God. "I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in My fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment." It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, He will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, He will only tread you under foot. And though He will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet He will not regard that, but He will crush you under His feet without mercy; He will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on His garments, so as to stain all His raiment. He will not only hate you, but He will have you in the utmost contempt; no place shall be thought fit for you, but under His feet to be trodden down as the more of the streets.
3. The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that He might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on His heart to show angels and men, both how excellent His love is, and also how terrible His wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show His wrath, and magnify His awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of His enemies. Romans ix. 22. "What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction?" And seeing this is His design, and what He has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, He will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. When the great and angry God hath risen up and executed His awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of His indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isaiah xxxiii. 12--14. "And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge My might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites, " etc.
Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. Isaiah lxvi. 23, 24. "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of men that have transgressed against Me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."
4. It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For "who knows the power of God's anger?"
How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting-house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before to-morrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day's opportunity such as you now enjoy?
And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to Him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north, and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to Him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in His own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?
Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how generally persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God's mercy? You had need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God.-- And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness.-- And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?
And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle-aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God's Word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favour to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men's hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in His elect in all parts of the land; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great out-pouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles' days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you were born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God's Spirit, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.
Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: "Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed."

-- preached by Jonathan Edwards
8 July 1741
Enfield, Connecticut