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Title:  Looking at Preaching Afresh



Fresh Thoughts on Preaching: PART 3. Preaching on Judgement




1. Introduction


Beware sliding into a morass of speculation that is based on any thing but the words of Scripture.

Beware questionable examples of historical and modern disasters that are attributed to God.



2. Understand God's Methods of Judgment


It is important to understand just how God is seen as working in Scripture, when it comes to bringing correction. May I make some suggestions about judgment as seen in Scripture:


2a. Purpose

•  Distinguish between Judgment and Discipline:

•  Discipline, I suggest, is that act of God that is brought to bring about change of heart and attitude and subsequently behaviour, in those who will receive it. It brings about a change in people.

•  Judgment, I suggest, is that act of God that brings an end to a person or people, where God sees they will not heed and repent. (see, for example, Ex 6:6, Acts 12:23, and generally the Law in Deut 28:20-)

•  Both are clearly visible in both Old and New Testaments. The key distinction between the two things, is the intended outcome by God, and only He knows what He can achieve by different actions.


2b Judgments AND Discipline

Judgement, rather than a quick single act, can be a process (e.g. illness) which if not heeded will result in death, but can also be seen as discipline where the person responds and repents and is healed. Hezekiah's illness is a classic example of this – Isa 38:1-5


In respect of the people of Israel , God's acts of judgment came on the people from time to time and men and women were killed, but that was also, in respect of the nation as a whole, an act of discipline to turn the nation back to Him.

In such cases, if they repented, then there was always a way back, even though judgment had started


2c. God's Methods

Two ways that God brings discipline or judgement and it applies in both cases.


i) Divine Acts

•  God brings an act of destruction or discipline upon a person or people.

•  Acts of destruction may be by illness or disease, by famine or pestilence, by war or destruction, or through ‘natural' catastrophes.

•  Attributing destructive acts to God is unwise in the absence of clear Scriptural statement and prophetic application. (We will expand on this below)


ii) Divine Releasing

•  This is very important to understand,

•  It is the way Paul spoke about in Romans 1 and seen so clearly in the book of Judges

•  The Lord lifts off His hand of restraint or protection and thereby allows the folly and sin of mankind to rise up in ever increasing acts of unrestrained folly or of wickedness against itself or against the person or people being chastised. i.e. He releases people to do what their sinful hearts desire, removing His hand of restraint from them. Observe Rom 1:24,26, 28

•  It is clear from the context that God ‘stepped back' and released or let sinful man free to do worse and worse, and the consequences become worse and worse.

•  The divine intention is to bring man to realise his folly and repent. If he refuses to repent, then destruction eventually follows.


Observing the direction of the nations of the West today and the consequences that are following, it doesn't require much understanding to suggest that undoubtedly the West is under this form of God's judgment today.


3. Failing to Understand God's Warnings


A case can be made from Scripture to suggest that wherever judgment is brought (i.e. destruction) it either comes to a people who are warned (e.g. Pharaoh in Exodus) or people who clearly should have known (e.g. Herod in Acts 12). (Many examples in the main notes)


Intriguingly Jesus never brought judgment down on unbelievers and berated James and John when they wanted to (Lk 9:54,55). All he ever did curse was a fig tree – Lk 11:13,14,20


4. Failing by Wrong Selective Assessments


•  When preachers choose particular disasters and particular people to flavour their sermons, ask the questions, why only these things and why only these people?

(examples given of James & John, of healing the blind man, Job's comforters wrong theology)


When we see something that has gone wrong we so often try to attach an ethical dimension to it, not realizing that just living in a fallen world where things now naturally go wrong , means we don't have to be guilty of a major sin when some such wrong occurs in our life.


Observe Jesus' specific teaching in Luke 13:1-5

•  This teaching specifically denounces this way of thinking that so many have that wishes to attach guilt and blame to misfortunes. In so doing we ignore the sins of many others.

•  When we focus on one misfortune and one group of people, we then miss all the other sinful people of the world.


A much more plausible reason for natural catastrophes is that ever since the creation of a perfect world, the effects of Sin, and the presence of Satan and powers and principalities, have meant upheaval in the creation. If the last times ARE more godless days as scripture clearly suggests, then it is not surprising that the activities of the enemy are empowered by that sin and such things become more regular.


5. Failing by Wrong Era & Wrong Ministry


When we move from the Old Testament to the New, there are significant differences;

  • In the Old Testament we find an account of God's dealings with Israel .
  • In the New, we find God's dealings with the Church as it becomes.
  • In the Old, Israel is to be a light to the world;
  • In the New, the Church is to be a light to the world.
  • In the Old, prophets spoke to both Israel and to surrounding countries who should have learned about God through Israel .
  • In the New prophets speak into the Church.

God's word to the church and the world is essentially different:

•  to the world it is repent and believe the Gospel

•  to the church it is that God loves you and has a plan for your life.

•  The call in the New Testament is not to preach judgment but to preach that the “ kingdom of God is at hand” and that is “Good News” (Mt 4:23, Mk 1:14,15. Lk 4:17-21).

•  The call in the New Testament is to believe in Jesus and follow him.


6. Failing by Wrong Hearts


Whatever our stance on man's sin and God's judgment, one thing is clear: the man with a heart after Jesus does not relish the thoughts of such destruction coming.


Ezek 18:23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?


Ezek 18:31,32    Why will you die, O house of Israel ? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!


See also David Sam 1:19     Mic 1:8,9    Lam 3:33     Ex 32:11,12


•  If our society is sinful and godless, part of its blame lies with us who have failed to be a light to the nations. We the church have failed God's world and are far from what he desires us to be.

•  It leaves us no room to rejoice over the fall of sinful men. How much better if they had repented and turned as they saw the light and love of God in us, His love and goodness and revelation and power displayed through us.

•  The reaction of the OT prophet was not to rejoice over the downfall of those who should have known better, but to mourn for what was happening

•  May we have such a similar concern that will wipe away thought of vengeance on the ungodly! God may decree it, but it is not for us to rejoice in it, or even talk of it casually.

•  If judgment comes, it is because we have failed. Yes, it is because of the hard hearted sin of mankind but until we have warned ‘Pharaoh' as many times as Moses did, may we not be so quick to rejoice over their downfall as some are.



7. And So….


Let's summarise what we have noted:

•  Distinguishing between judgment and discipline helps us understand God's purposes.

•  Distinguishing between God's acts of destruction and His removing His hand of protection helps us understand the different ways He works.

•  Recognising that He brings warnings before judgments will stop us making hasty assessments over natural disasters.

•  Understanding the nature of this ‘fallen world' will help us see that calamities fall indiscriminately, although we do need to recognise that often God works in the midst of such things for His people.

•  Understanding Jesus' teaching not to make selective assessments.

•  Realise we are to have Jesus' heart for all the lost and therefore to weep for them and not speak of judgment lightly.