Thoughts on Preaching: PART 3. Preaching on Judgement
VERSION FOR FASTER READING!
sliding into a morass of speculation that is based on any thing but the
words of Scripture.
questionable examples of historical and modern disasters that are attributed
Understand God's Methods of Judgment
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:
Distinguish between Judgment and 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.
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.
Judgments AND Discipline
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
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.
such cases, if they repented, then there was always a way back, even though
judgment had started
ways that God brings discipline or judgement and it applies in both cases.
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
Attributing destructive acts to God is
unwise in the absence of clear Scriptural statement and prophetic application.
(We will expand on this below)
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
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.
Failing to Understand God's Warnings
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)
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
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?
given of James & John, of healing the blind man, Job's comforters
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.
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.
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.
Failing by Wrong Era & Wrong Ministry
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
- In the New prophets speak into the Church.
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.
Failing by Wrong Hearts
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
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?
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!
also David Sam 1:19
Mic 1:8,9 Lam 3:33 Ex
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.
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
Realise we are to have Jesus' heart for
all the lost and therefore to weep for them and not speak of judgment