ďGodís Wrath††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† November 9, 2014

John 3:31-36

 

INTRO:The most famous sermon ever preached in America was

†† Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards preached it to his own congregation in Northampton, Conn.,

†† and there was no unusual response.

But then he preached it July 8, 1741 in Enfield and the response was historic.

†† As he began to preach on Godís wrath the members of that very proper

†† Congregational church began to cry out for God to save them.

 

An eyewitness, Stephen Williams, wrote in his diary that . . .

†† before the sermon was done there was a great moaning and crying went out through ye whole

†† House . . .ďWhat shall I do to be saved,Ē ďOh, I am going to Hell,Ē ďOh, what shall I do for

†† Christ,Ē and so forth . . . ye shrieks and cries were piercing and amazing . . .

He says that finally Edwards quit and came down out of the pulpit and started

†† praying with people and talking to them and a great many people repented

†† and turned to Christ.

Edwardís sermon was one of the signature events of the Great Awakeningó

†† a revival that changed the spiritual face of America for generations.

 

This is one of those lessons from church history, and our own American history,

†† that ought not to be lost on us.A sermon on Godís wrath, preached not in

†† a bar or saloon, but in a church, led to a revival that changed a congregation,

†† a town, and then a nation.

 

I felt that I could not move on from John 3 without giving some attention to

†† Johnís closing comment about the reality of Godís wrath.

John 3 is one of the great chapters in the Bible,

†† and the last words of this great chapter are:ďGodís wrath remains on him.Ē

Itís not like John tacked this on artificially.

 

He had already mentioned condemnation and judgment in John 3:16 . . .

†† that whosoever believes in him should not perish.

†† Whoever believes in him his not condemned,

†† but whoever does not believe stands condemned already.

So by mentioning it one more time at the end of this chapter,

†† John is reminding us that Godís wrath is the backdrop

for Jesus Christís saving work.

Jesus came into the world to save us.Save us from what?

†† From the condemnation our sins deserve.From Godís wrath.

If there is no real danger to be saved from, then salvation has no meaning.

†† What is the point of saying those who believe in Jesus will not perish, unless it is

††† true that those who do not believe will perish and will not inherit eternal life?

John 3:36 is just as basic as the more famous John 3:16.

 

The Lord Jesus himself gets much more emphatic and specific in his teaching

†† about the reality of Godís wrath, and weíre going to see that later in Gospel.

But here at the beginning the Apostle John proclaims it clearlyó

†† that men and women everywhere are going to fall under Godís judgment

†† for their sins unless they believe in Jesus who alone can deliver them.

 

Itís no secret that the American church today barely talks about Godís wrath.

†† Even in Bible-believing churches such as our own that believe it as official

†† doctrine, we donít talk about it nearly as often as it appears in Scripture.

There are lots of reasons for that, mostly the pressure of our secular society.

†† But the fact is that human nature always pushes back against the reality

†† of Godís wrath and judgment.

Sinners hate to hear it no matter when or where they live.

 

But if you are going to have a Christian mind,

†† then you must know this doctrine and work it in deep.

At the very core of the historic Christian faith is the assertion that a person

†† must believe in Jesus Christ or suffer punishment in the world to come.

Without that, everything falls apart and you end up without biblical Christianity.

 

And on a more personal level, if you donít believe in the bad news of Godís

†† judgment, then you will not be able to know and receive the good news

†† of Godís grace and love in Christ Jesus.

 

So letís look at Godís wrath under two headings:

†† 1.The reality of it

†† 2.Our response to it

 

 

 

 

 

MP#1The reality of Godís wrath

C.S. Lewis said this about hell and judgment.

†† ďThere is no doctrine which I would more remove from Christianity if it lay in my power.

†† But it has the full support of Scripture and, especially, of our Lordís own words; it has

†† always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason.

He appeals to three authorities, three reasons we know wrath and judgment realó

 

First, it has the full support of Scripture.Itís in the Bible.

†† Not only do all the prophets speak of it, and all the apostlesóJesus does too.

Point often made that Jesus mentions hell more than any other person in Bible.

 

Second, it has always been held by Christendom.

†† Christendom means the universal church, the catholic church with a little ďc.Ē

†† Every major branch of the church for the past 2,000 yearsó

†† Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant believes in judgment.

The denial of hell by mainline denominations in Europe and America over the past

†† 100 years is an anomaly.Those denominations are dying.

The church in parts of Africa and Asia is experiencing explosive growthó

†† and those developing world churches hold to this historical view of judgment.

 

Third, Lewis says it has the support of reason.

Thatís a fascinating statement, and I want us to spend some time on that.

†† Because I know most all of you here believe in Godís wrath and judgment already

†† so it wouldnít be very beneficial to go over a list of Bible passages.

But this idea of judgment having the support of reason is tremendously helpful.

 

Godís judgment is not a doctrine you have to believe against evidence.

All you have to do is open your eyes and you will see that signs and marks of

†† Godís wrath are everywhere.Premonitions of his judgment surround us.

Experience confirms the reality of accountability before God.

†† In fact, the certainty of judgment is woven so tightly into the fabric

†† of human life that we experience it every single day.

 

If you eat too much you pay for it with extra weight or health problems,

†† even if overeating is a great pleasure to you and restraining yourself is hard.

If you engage in promiscuous sex, you contract a venereal disease, or conceive

†† a child, or irreparably damage your soulís capacity for intimacy.

If you are an indifferent parent, or harsh or lazy,

†† your children will grow up to disappoint you.

If you are an irresponsible employee, or if you put something critical about your

†† boss or job on Facebook, you get fired.

If the truth were told, every day we do some things

†† and refrain from doing other things for fear of judgment.

We keep our speed down on the interstate for fear of a ticket.

†† We study for an exam for fear of a bad grade.

†† We quit smoking for fear of lung cancer.

†† We report our income for fear of an IRS audit.

 

Itís true that some people by good luck or their own schemes seem to escape

†† the consequences of their actions.The Bible is candid about that.

It says that people donít get all they deserve in this life.

†† But it also says that God is not mocked, a man reaps what he sows.

†† Itís just a matter of time, in this life or the next, things catch up with people.

 

This principle of judgment is so built into us that we ourselves practice

†† judgment all the time.We make judgments, we sentence peopleó

†† and we feel just and right in doing so.

We say things like:

†† ďWell, he had it coming.Ē

†† ďI could have told you this was going to happen.Ē

†† ďShe has only herself to blame.Ē

And even if we donít say it, we think it.We pass judgment in our hearts.

†† We judge people for their actions and in that sense our wrath falls on them.

 

So if this is the case, if this is how the world is and how human life is,

†† that every day we see threats of judgment,

†† and every day we see judgments being carried out in form of consequences,

†† and every day we even practice judgment in our own thoughts and wordsó

†† then why should we think God will be any different?

 

We gave Will a subscription to Sports Illustrated for birthday about four years ago.

†† And weíve continued to subscribe every year since then.

I had never read Sports Illustrated before,

†† and I thought it would be mostly about games and scores.

What surprised me is how the strongest reporting and most compelling articles

†† are about moral judgments, and strong appeals that the right judgments be made.

Talk about wrath.Sports Illustrated is full of wrath.Itís full of people

†† passionately judging wrongs and insisting someone has to pay.

I tried to make a list of examples from memory and this barely scratches surface.

Should Michael Vick be allowed to play after his dog fighting conviction?

†† Some said yes, had paid his debt to society, rehabilitated.

†† Some said no, his cruelty to animals too heinous a crime to ever be forgiven.

What about major league baseball steroid scandal with Alex Rodriguez and others?

†† Lance Armstrongís doping conviction.

†† Jerry Sanduskyís pedophilia and the cover-up and NCAA judgment.

†† Tiger Woodsí illicit affairs.

NFL concussion report and settlement,

†† N.O. Saints paying bounty money for injuring opposing players.

†† Ray Rice beating his wife.

†† UNC, Chapel Hill, illiterate athletes given passing grades.

The oldest moral issue of all:Should Pete Rose be allowed in the Hall of Fame?!

 

Hereís the point:

In every one of those instances, the SI writers articles and readersí letters

†† are crying out in wrath for judgment to be rendered, for retribution,

†† for the punishment to fit the crime.

Why should we think God will be any different?

†† Will God let crimes go unpunished?

†† Will he be indifferent to the lives people have lived?

In the end, will God treat everybody the sameó

†† the child abuser and the abused child?Hitler or Mother Theresa?

 

Iím sure that none of you think that way.

†† You believe in Godís judgment and his wrath for sin.

But the world pushes back hard against the biblical doctrine of Godís wrath,

†† so itís helpful to see how sensible it really is.How opposing it irrational.

†† Lewis was right. Godís wrath and judgment do have the support of reason.

Even the unbelieving, secular world cannot live without a sense of judgment.

†† If there is no judgment, then all our actions as people are meaningless.

 

Iím not saying we know wrath and judgment are real because of our reasonó

†† we have Godís infallible word for tható

†† but Iím saying that a person can only deny it by at the same time denying

†† these fundamental ways we think as human people.

Letís move on to the more practical . . .

 

 

MP#2Our response to Godís wrath

If you believe this doctrine, if it becomes a fundamental part of your worldview,

†† then it should change you in three waysó

†† how you think, how you speak, how you act.

 

First, how you think.

We sometimes sing the hymn May the Mind of Christ, My Savior.

†† Itís a prayer that the Holy Spirit would enable us to think like Jesus.

†† I want that.I know you do too.

When we look at things we donít want to be driven by sentimentality

†† or worldly philosophy or pop cultureówe want to have the mind of Christ.

When Christ looked at the world, he thought in terms of Godís wrath and judgment.

 

Once some people came to Jesus and they said:

†† Did you hear the latest?A tower collapsed in Jerusalem crushed 18 people.

†† Did you hear about those Galileans who were massacred by Roman soldiers?

Then they asked:Were they worse sinners than other people?

†† Is that why their lives were snuffed out so suddenly and violently?

†† They wanted Jesus to respond by saying, that Yes, they deserved it.

 

The Lordís response was not at all what they were expecting:

†† ďI tell you, No!But unless you repent, you too will perish.Ē

How can you be so blind to the signs and foreshadowing of Godís judgment

†† that is going to fall on you if you donít repent and turn to me?

You debate at length the justice of someone elseís death but you fail to consider

†† the implications of that death for yourself.

 

This is Godís world.And what do we find in Godís world?Read the newspaper:††

†† We find all around us death, doom, lives cut short, misery, despair, terror.

And the Lord Jesus says the wise and thinking response is not to try to figure out

†† who did or did not deserve this or tható

†† but to see all these as warnings of Godís wrath and to heed the words:

But unless you repent, you too will perish.

 

Those thousands slaughtered in Iraq and Syria, are they more sinful than others?

†† I tell you, No.But unless you repent, you too will perish.

That driver killed in a wreck on I-65, was he more sinful than others?

†† I tell you, No.But unless you repent, you too will perish?

What does that do for you?It drives you to the Lord Jesus Christ.

You can get into the habit of watching the news, seeing all the terrible things on TV

†† and being dulled by it, or mildly entertained by it, or maybe even concerned

†† and bothered by itóbut Jesus Christ wants you to watch the news and thinkó

Godís judgment.Itís coming.O Lord Jesus Christ, save me.

†† When I am swept away in death, let me be found forgiven in you.

 

Second, Godís wrath should change the way you speak.

This is a tough one.Let me make some observations.

Bible scholars have pointed out that statistically speaking, for every reference to

†† Godís grace and mercy in the Bible, there are three references to his wrath.

That doesnít prove wrath is more important than mercy and loveó

†† but it may be proof that we have much more difficulty accepting the reality

†† of Godís wrath than his mercy.So the Bible has to tell us more often so sinks in.

Thatís the first observation:Itís in the Bible a lot.

 

Second observation is that 99% of the time, the message of Godís judgment

†† in the Bible is preached to the church, not to the world.

When Godís wrath is preached by the prophets and apostles and Christ,

†† it is preached almost exclusively to the church.

Even the prophecies of judgment about pagan nations found in Isaiah and other

†† prophets were not preached to those nations, those sermons for Israel.

They were either a call to Israel to repent and turn back to God, wake up church,

†† or message of assurance that God would deal with Israelís oppressors.

 

When you look at the evangelistic preaching of Paul in Acts, when he addressed

†† unbelievers and pagans, he mostly spoke of the existence of the true and living

†† God, and of his Son, and the hope of the resurrection.

He certainly spoke of sin and grace and the need for repentance.

†† And with that message, a day of accounting and judgment is mentioned.

But Paul never led with or emphasized Godís wrath in those settings.

†† There is little evidence he preached what we would call hellfire and damnation

†† sermons to assemblies of Gentile strangers.

 

Now, hereís my application.In our conversations with unbelievers,

†† judgment should be a minor theme to the major theme of Godís love and mercyó

†† thatís obvious.Our message is one of good news, Godís love in Christ.

But we have to be willing to speak up when Godís wrath is denied.

†† Someone says:God wonít judge anybody.There canít be a hell.

†† You will be in those conversations, have to be ready to speak.

But this is the main point:

We should probably talk more about Godís judgment in house, so to speak.

†† It should be part of our conversation with one another and our children that

†† a day of wrath is coming, and praise be to Godó

By his great love, through Jesus, we are delivered from that wrath.

†† I wish I had more time to work out the application, maybe you can talk about it in

†† Covenant Groupsóhow we need to talk about Godís judgment amongst ourselves

†† in a what that builds us up spiritually.

 

Third, Godís wrath should change the way you act.

But not in the way you naturally think.Our minds naturally think:

Godís judgment coming, his wrath against sin is being revealedóI better be good.

†† I better live a good life so that Iím ok on the day of judgment.

 

Hereís where an understanding of the grace of God is crucial.

You ought to live a holy life because you have already been delivered by Christ

†† from the wrath of God.

You ought to live a holy life because God canít destroy you on that day.

†† because he has already poured out his wrath on Jesus your substitute.

You ought to live a holy life because for everyone who trusts in Jesus,

†† the judgment day is a day of salvation and joy.

If you have been delivered from Godís wrath by the death of Christó

†† how can you live any other way than to strive to please him?

 

Has Jesus saved you from judgment so that you can love money

†† and devote your life to making money and accumulating stuff?

Has Jesus suffered Godís wrath on cross for you so that you can indulge

†† in sexual immorality and foul language and lazy parenting?

Has Jesus changed judgment day for you from a day of total loss

†† to a day of eternal blessing so that you can be discontented

†† with your lot in life and complain about your circumstances?

Noóhe has saved you so that the day of Godís wrath will be for you a day

†† to meet him with a clear conscience and with joy and receive the blessing

†† from his handóa new heaven and new earth, the home of righteousness.

 

And, listen, this goes hand in handó

On that day you will also give an account of your life, your Christian life.

†† You will give an account of how you have treated his grace.

†† You will give an account to Christ of your faithfulness and of your sins.

And this itself is Godís grace.The fact that he has told us and warned us

†† that even as saved people we will have to give an account for every

†† idle word and everything done in the body, good or badóthatís grace.

Isnít that the very way we treat our children?

 

One of the great expressions of parental love is to show them our displeasure

†† at times, and even anger, at their wrong and foolish behavior.

Weíve all known parents who think love means never crossing their childrenís

†† will, never expressing their wrath, so to speak, at childrenís wrongdoing.

You know what happens to children like that, how they turn out.

 

Weíre Godís children.

We need to have that same connection reinforced all through our lives.

†† We are always acting as if our behavior just disappears after a time.

That the consequences of our words and actions just goes away.

†† We resent it when people remember bad things we did a long time ago.

 

But there is a moral permanence to all our deeds and there is a day when

we will give an account as Godís forgiven and loved children.

Positively this means all our unnoticed acts of loyalty to Lord will be recognized.

Negatively this means that all our sins will eventually find us out.

†† Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed.

 

This should make us very unwilling to sinó

†† knowing every sin will be discovered, even if the sin is forgiven by Christ.

And it should make us determined to live in obedience to God,

†† knowing that every tiny act of obedience will one day have its reward.

The church father Jerome said:

†† ďWhether I eat or drink or whatever I do, I think I still hear the sound of these words

†† in my ear: ĎArise you dead and come to judgment.íĒ

 

I am grateful for the revelation of Godís judgment and wrath.

†† It makes me see my need for Jesus Christ and fills me with gratitude

†† for the loving deliverance from that wrath he has provided for me.

And it gives me the highest motivation for obedienceó

†† gratitude for Godís grace.