The Wrath of God before Thanksgiving?
Our national day of Thanksgiving is in just a few days. And here we are in Romans 1:18-23.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
These verses begin a series on the indictment against humanity. They are not pretty verses. But they are reality. And before a cure can be administered, the diagnosis must be accepted.
The diagnosis with mankind is this: the wrath of God is coming against each of us individually because of the sin in our lives.
Not pretty, huh! There are people who SAY they know God, but if they had a true knowledge of God, there would be a reverence and deep level of thanksgiving & humility in their lives. Many church-goers accept the wrath of God because it is in the Scriptures….but they deny the wrath of God in their practical life. Look at what they post on Facebook, or where they spend their time, or how they spend their money, or what sites they visit on the web….and you will find an attitude that disregards the wrath of God.
The wrath of God is not what we normally associate with the wrath of man. Man’s wrath is irrational, spontaneous, uncontrolled, reactive anger. God’s wrath is never exercised in loss of self-control and is always justified due to the sin in which it is based. God’s wrath is a deep, intense anger and indignation at all sin. The wrath of God is God’s loving self-sacrifice in Christ, and His own initiative to avert His own anger.
It is not popular today to discuss the wrath of God. The love of God? Absolutely OK to discuss; it’s socially acceptable, even cultured, to discuss. But the wrath of God is taboo, uncultured, barbaric, intolerant.
Let us never forget that the wrath of God is as real as the love of God. One cannot exist without the other. Either we as individuals are hidden in the love of God (through Christ’s death, burial & resurrection), or we are consumed by the wrath of God (because of our stubborn affection for our sin).
There are three things about the wrath of God that Romans 1:18-23 teaches us.
1. It is an essential part of the Gospel. Verses 18-23 are linked to vs 17….”It (the Gospel) is the power of God until salvation….for the wrath of God is revealed…” To embrace the Gospel means to fully acknowledge the wrath of God. The Good News is necessitated by the wrath of God. The reality is that a definite, finite point in time is coming when the wrath of God will no longer be contained; it will be poured out upon all those who have offended His righteousness by their sin. If we shed no tears over the lost, if we dare not share the Gospel with others in spite of our weakness/timidity, then we do not know the full power of the wrath of God, and we need to sit & ponder its reality.
The modern habit is to downplay the wrath of God. And therein is our doom. For we cannot know the Gospel if we do not start with the wrath of God that rests upon each of us!
2. The wrath of God is clear biblical teaching. There can be no question about it, no hemming & hawing, no beating around the bush. Consider these verses:
Rom 2:6-8….. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
II Thessalonians 1:6-9….. since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…
Rev 14:6-7… Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth…
My dear friend, which one of those verses do you want to ignore? The wrath of God is a reality. It is clear biblical teaching!
But ever since the Garden, the Evil One has dared to contract the teaching of God. “You will not surely die,” he said then….and he says the same lie to you & me & all of our neighbors. “God’s wrath is not real. How could God be so unloving to you?”
And so the great lie continues down from generation to generation, and from culture to culture.
My friend, there are two kinds of people….and only two. Those who are “in” Christ and those who are “outside” Christ. We understand what “in” and “outside” mean. Going to a ballgame, there is that great divide…that moment of truth where the ticket is handed over and a barrier is crossed. Those on the “in” are those with the ticket; those on the “outside” are those without the ticket.
On that great day of wrath, when God brings our sin to account by His righteousness, only those with the “ticket” of Christ will be on the “in”side…while those without Him will be left in the cold to face His perfect, destructive wrath.
And what is the “ticket” of Christ? It is the turning over of our lives to Him for safe-keeping. It is the abandoning of our ship for His. It is the risking all in obedience to Him. It is allowing ourselves to be “covered” by His blood, so that our putrid sins are cleansed whiter than fresh-fallen snow!
All men today are infected and afflicted by sin. The wrath of God against sinners is not an archaic idea. It is the teaching of Scripture for 2011 and 2012.
3) The wrath of God leads us to Christ as clearly as the love of God!
Romans 1:18 says that “the wrath of God is revealed.” Without the wrath of God, there is no urgency for the Gospel. We are just floating along, without an endpoint of destruction in view. But the wrath of God has been revealed to us to wake us up, and show us the great falls that are coming! All of history is moving towards that great Day of Judgment. And because of that current towards destruction, there is an urgency to take the Lifeline of God, the Gospel, before it is too late!
The judgment of God is right. Life’s choices are followed by consequences. We know this to be reality. Ignore a debt agreement, and the credit score is affected. Violate a marriage vow, and the relationship with the spouse is harmed. Eat only fats & sugars, and the health deteriorates. We accept consequences in all areas of life….but we stubbornly refuse to accept the consequence of our rebellious heart towards God.
The wrath of God is right, just, appropriate, rational, perfect and very real….but it is not cruel. He has given us good warning. His wrath has been revealed. It is no secret…no sudden, alarming, unexpected destruction. He has told us clearly that an appointed Day is coming more certainly than Jan 1, 2012 is coming. And He is showing us TODAY about His wrath, if we will just open eyes to see it.
Where is the wrath today? It is in the Gospel message. It is in natural disasters. It is in our tolerance of sin in our midst.
His revelation is “from Heaven”, meaning it reaches everywhere. There is no escape from this message. None of us can claim ignorance of the revelation of His wrath.
His wrath is “against all ungodliness.” The reason for His wrath is clear….our acts of irreverence toward God, our wickedness, our pride, our sin against each other, our unloving behavior. All sin is an attack on the glory of God. And all sin will reap its just wrath from God.
And where does that “ungodliness” come from? It comes from our suppressing the truth. We redefine terms and play the game that in changing the words, we change the sin. “Abortion” no longer means murder….it means choice. “Homosexuality” no longer means aberrant wickedness; it mean alternate life style. “Murder” no long means hatred and killing; it means temporary insanity. Bribery & deceit not longer means thievery; it means networking.
God makes no allowances for sin. Cancer is cancer. Diabetes is diabetes. Heart disease is heart disease. Stroke is stroke. ……. and Sin is Sin.
And the wrath of God is directed to each of us individually because of that sin. And except we hide in the sacrifice of Christ, we are doomed to be destroyed on that Day.
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
Now, there’s a reason for Thanksgiving! God has made a way to escape the wrath that is coming!