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Archive for November, 2009

…Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7

Forrest Gump: Lieutenant Dan, what are you doing here?”
Lieutenant Dan: “I’m here to try out my sea legs.”
Forrest Gump: “But you ain’t got no legs, Lieutenant Dan.”
Lieutenant Dan: “Yes… yes, I know that. You wrote me a letter, you idiot!”

 Later on…

Forrest Gump: “No shrimp.”
Lieutenant Dan: “Where the Hell is this God of yours?”
Forrest Gump: “It’s funny Lieutenant Dan said that, ’cause right then, God showed up.”
Why Do I Sin?

For some Christians, this passage from Romans chapter six is a frustrating portion of theology. “If my old sin nature was done in, ” we might say, “why then do I still sin.”

The truth is that we struggle because we don’t fully understand the Apostle Paul’s assertion.

Lieutenant Daniel Taylor

I chose Lt. Dan from the movie Forrest Gumpas in illustration because, when we first see him in the fictional movie, he is Forrest’s abusive, arrogant, and generally annoying commanding officer during the Viet Nam War. In this respect, Lt. Dan is a picture of the domineering sinful nature inside of us.

Dan Taylor is later wounded in battle and when we catch up to him again nothing much has changed–he is the same vicious, prideful, and irritating guy, but minus his legs and bound to his miserable little wheelchair.

Hold that image…

Back to the Bible

Have you read Romans 6:6-7 and concluded that your old man’s sinful nature is dead because he was crucified with Jesus upon the cross? That’s not an accurate interpretation. Your old man is not dead; he’s incapacitated, just like good ol Lt Dan in his rusty wheelchair.

The Greek word used in the passage for the phrase, ‘Done away with’ (*or ‘destroyed’ in the King James Version) is katargeo, and in this instance it means to make idle. In other words, our old man is not dead, but rendered powerless. As an illustration, Paul uses the imagery of one who hangs helpless on a cross.  Recall the despicable thief on the cross next to Jesus? I’m reminded of Lt Dan; once controlling, now feeble and ineffective—just like our old man.

When We Sin
When we sin, we are in effect listening to an incapacitated man who cannot make us do anything. The reality is that we have the power to both resist and overcome, as given to us by Christ Jesus.  If we sin we have made the decision to put God’s power aside and surrender to something powerless.
God has equipped you!  So forget the notion that God won’t give you ‘anything you can’t handle’.’  That’s rubbish.  A more accurate expression would be (as per the First Corinthians quote below), “God won’t give you anything that He can’t handle.”

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 6:6-7

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Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

What Promises?

I’m talking about the promises from God as a result of having been justified by our faith in God and the resurrection of His Son. In the precious light of the fabulous news the Apostle Paul reveals to us in Romans chapter four, we have peace with God, access to God, and joy in God.

We are at peace with the Father because we believe what Jesus accomplished on the cross was sufficient appeasement for our sin. By that same faith we have been given access to the Father by the power of His Holy Spirit. And finally, we rejoice because we know by faith our Heavenly hope is a sure guarantee; a done-deal. Fundamentally, the war with God is over—He is not angry, annoyed, or disappointed in us, for having been justified, He sees us in our glorified state.

How Can That Be?

This doctrine is vitally important towards the serenity and sanity of every believer, so pay attention. ‘How can the Lord see us in our glorified state when we have not yet received our glorified bodies? Let’s go back to Genesis and Abraham for that answer.

(As it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed–God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did… Romans 4:17

When the Lord told Abraham these things they had not yet happen, but He makes the statement in a tense that implies the event already was. In other words, Abraham at age 100 has yet to father a child, but God talks about him as if these countless nations already were.

(I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been… Ecclesiastes 3:14-15a

God has essentially told Abraham, “That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been.” It is an incredible premise and only one that God could accomplish—not only can God see the beginning from the end, He is able to operate in both realms simultaneously. Only God can give a future promise and then proclaim it as if it has already occurred. Think about that the next time you pray for a healing of some kind.

(For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:29-30

God can, in a sense, see the entire parade as if viewing it from the Goodyear blimp. Although the analogy is flawed, it loosely demonstrates how He can see the beginning and the end concurrently and how He is able to forecast with perfect accuracy to the person below what lies ahead. God can say, “You have seen the Underdog balloon,” before we have seen it, because He knows it is only a matter of time before we do. From our limited perspective we can only realize that which is directly in front of us, but by faith we are able to take God at His word. When we do, we are justified, and when we are justified, we are seen by God as glorified. If you believe that by faith, it should bring you much peace, access, and joy!

(Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:1-3


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What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Romans 4:1-4
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If it’s True it’s Not New
Building on the divine standard pronounced in the previous chapter, the Apostle Paul brings us way back to the Old Testament to emphasize that justification by faith alone is nothing new. Using Abraham to demonstrate his point, the passage reveals that his righteousness was accredited to him based solely on his faith and not by his efforts. If Abraham did achieve righteousness by his works he could have sung his own praises, but that was not the case . Abraham was a saved-man before he set out from Ur and before he brought Isaac to the mountain sacrificially; he was saved when he simply believed the Lord and took Him at His word.

Now to him who works…wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Romans 4:4

Romans 4:4 is an incredibly significant doctrine and one that many born-again believers quickly forget. Many Christians comprehend that salvation is not something that can be earned and that it is a free gift from God that we receive by faith—at least initially. The mistake we often make is after we are saved; after we have freely received this gift of grace and buy into a false teaching.

By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)

God Owes Us Nothing

For whatever the reason, it is not unusual for the born again Christian to initiate works in order to earn God’s blessings. It’s often what’s being taught (the false prosperity gospel) and then erroneously enforced when we misinterpret the blessings the Lord bestows before, during, and after we work.

“I tithed, ” we might say, “and this is the reason God blessed me.”

That is wrong theology.

The Lord’s blessings do not cease or increase based upon any work we do. His blessings flow continually. Whether or not we are receiving them is based on positioning, not propositioning. We cannot approach our Lord and proclaim, “Ok Lord, I’ve prayed, I’ve fasted, I’ve poured through the Bible, and gone to church, now how are you going to bless me today?”

These are things that we get to do because it is our desire. If someone tells you that these are things you must do in order to gain or maintain your salvation, call him a liar and run away.

Just teasing.

Tell him the truth. Tell him that to assume God owes us anything is likely the most ridiculous concept we could harbor, for God is a debtor to no man. Any work we do should be a gracious response to what the Lord has done, is doing, and will continue to do regardless of our efforts. It is that faithful model that keeps us close to the spout where His blessings pour out.

He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. Scarcely shall they be planted, Scarcely shall they be sown, Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, When He will also blow on them, And they will wither, And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble. “To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the Lord, And my just claim is passed over by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. Isaiah 40:23-28

  1. What do these passages say about God?
  2. What do they say about us?
  3. What should we consider doing?

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Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight Romans 3:20 What is Justification?

In the biblical sense of the word, what does justification mean? My pastor has always liked to say that its meaning is plainly spelled out in the word itself. “Its just-as-if you never sinned, ” he would say. It helps to recognize that it means much more than just having been forgiven of transgression; it’s a declaration of righteousness. Imagine going to court for a speeding ticket and your case is never called. When you make an enquiry, the judge advises, “We have no record whatsoever of you having committed the offense you speak of.” That’s justification.

Justification is Independent of the Law

The opening verse from Romans 3:20 remind us that no person can be justified; that is made righteous, by the law. Perfect adherence to the law is an impossibility for the earth-bound. While it is true man can justify certain behavior, that in know way suggests that the Father does the same. In His perfection, God cannot and will not wink at our offenses.

Justification is by Faith in the Lord

…The righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 3:22a

There is only one source for justification—Jesus Christ. By faith alone can righteousness be realized.

Justification is For all Mankind

…To all and on all who believe… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:22b-23

The word all in the original Greek language means all–this blessing is for everyone. Why? Because all have sinned and our Father desires that no one should perish. His grace is always there and all a person must do, is by faith take possession of it.

Justification is Exclusively by His Grace
…Being justified freely by His grace Romans3:24a

God has provided one way, not because He is mean or even exclusionary, but because we are, for lack of a better word—stupid. God’s purpose is to keep the formula, the remedy, whatever you want to call it, as simple as possible—one way, two choices—a person either wants salvation or they don’t. The more choices we have, the muddier the water—satan know this and the likely reason there are gazillions of false religions out there. Our loving God is not a God of confusion, but order.

Justification is Free But not Without Cost

Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood. Romans 3:25

God the Father gave to us His Son to pay the price for all the sin of the world, thus solving the divine dilemma: doling out perfect love and perfect justice simultaneously.

Justification is Not an Achievement

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. Romans 3:27

There are no bragging rights for the guy who rides the bench for the entire game when his team wins. So it is with justification. The justified had nothing at all to do with it, therefore the only one to get the glory is the One who afforded it. We are saved and blessed by grace, not by works. Let us never confuse the fact that because God might bless us while we do works, that the work itself is what brings forth blessings.

Justification Validates the Law

Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:31

A road sign is designed to do two things: tell you where you are ~and~ where you aren’t. The Law is such a device—it tells us that we are mired in sin and at the same time points us to the solution in Jesus Christ. The law is not dead to those who are justified, but we are in a sense dead to it. The mere fact that the law brought us to the cross proves its inherent value and establishes its purpose.

 

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For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse… Romans 1:20

God’s creation is undeniably God’s handiwork. No one, having taken it all in could honestly proclaim otherwise. From the smallest atomic particle, to the vastness of space, and to everything in between–it all screams of divine intelligent design.

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Psalms 19:1

Consider the enormity of our universe. Earth is approximately 93 million miles from our sun. Let’s say that the thickness of a sheet of paper is equal to that distance. If we desired to jump in our spaceship and travel to the next-nearest star, Alpha Centauri, a stack of paper 31 feet high would represent the distance. If we wanted to continue to the boundaries of our galaxy, the Milky Way, the stack would climb to 310 miles. And if we sought to voyage to the edge of the known universe, the stack would soar beyond a whopping 30, 000, 000 miles. We’re talking a kind of hugeness that only God could create.

A majority of scientists have concluded and proved that the universe began in a single event, thus creating for them a weightier fix. They are now faced with the problem of determining what caused this effect, where did this matter come from in the first place, and why and how was the energy set into motion. Believers already know that the answer is not a what, a how, or a why, it’s a Who.

Robert Jastrow, the director of Nasa’a Goddard Institute for Space Studies has said that science cannot answer these questions. Jastrow went on to later say…

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Amen to that!

So Why Does Man Deny God?

…Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21

If God is so inheritantly obvious, why does man suppress the truth? Simply stated, we’re selfish. We do not want to glorify or express gratitude because to do so is to admit we are subject to a Higher Authority. In the same vein, graitutude comes with the notion of indebtment. The selfish only submit to themselves or to an undemanding false idol in order that they might blindly chase worldy desires. It is in steep contrast that the grateful believer continually glorifies and pursues the Father, praying, “Thy will be done.”

 

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To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:7

You’re Either a Saint or an Ain’t

I study my Bible using the King James (primarily) and occassionally the New King James versions. I only point that out because in those editions the recorders occasionally insert italicized words or phrases that are intended to help the reader better understand the text. Unfortunately, sometimes those modest flourishes detract from the Authors’ (Gods’) true intent and muddy the water. In Romans 1:7 we discover one of those regrettable expressions—the phrase ‘to be’ should not be there. Those who are born again are not called to be, or are working towards sainthood—at rebirth all Christians are saints.

But That’s Not What I Wanted to Talk About

In the passage, the Apostle Paul combines the Hebrew shalom and the Greek charis to formulate his all-inclusive greeting, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is a greeting Paul uses over and over, and each time with grace always preceding peace. Why? Because it infers that we cannot maintain any type of sustained peace unless we have first received God’s grace through Jesus Christ. Without Jesus any peace we might have is temporary at best. As Paul has written, ‘peace is from God.’

But That’s Not all

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

Our peace is from God and it is also with God. What does that mean? God is proclaiming to everyone that what His Son accomplished on the cross put Him at peace with us. He is not mad at us, He is not disappointed in us, He is not annoyed with us—He is at peace with those, who by faith have accepted His free gift of grace.

But There’s Still More

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

We also have access to the peace of God. The peace we have with God is unconditional (for the born-again believer that is), but the peace we can have of God comes experientially through prayer. It’s not a work we have to do, but rather something we get to do—and why wouldn’t we want to? The promise from God is that when we toss aside our burdens and come to Him in prayer, His peace is our peace.

There is of course the evil one and his henchman that set out to continually remind us that we are not worthy to approach His throne, recalling us to our past sin and spiritual shortcomings. We have all heard his chants, “You haven’t been to church in weeks, ” or “Look at the dust on your Bible, how can you possibly think about going to God in prayer, He won’t hear you.” It’s a lie from the pit of hell. Despite our inadequacies and failures, God is at peace with us.

…And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

 

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And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint… Romans 5:3-5

List Your Hopes

So what are you hoping for? A new job? A new spouse? An improved house? What makes your hope-list? Maybe your hope is for someone else; your child perhaps, that he or she will succeed in college, find a suitable mate, a career, and so on and so forth. I submit to you that we should toss them all aside, for these are not hopes, at least by Biblical standards. Please keep reading.

Throw Them All Away, Save One

Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not throwing away all my hopes. That’s an absurd notion.” Well the truth be told, I’m not suggesting you purge yourself of all hopes, but advising that you get rid of all of them save one—the hope of eternal life with our Lord and Savior in Heaven. Why? Because that singular hope is the only one that will never disappoint. To help us gain a better grasp of the concept, consider this quote from Pete Warren, a Christian Musician residing now in Nashville, TN.

Hope Was the Enemy

“It resonates with me conceptually, because I’ve lived it. I recall over a decade ago, my then wife left me for another man. I had this false hope it’d all work out. I thought it was hope in God, but it was not. I got over it fairly quickly. I realized that “hope (outside of our Heavenly hope) was the enemy.”

To that we might say, “But what about when things work out for the good?”

What the Lord through His word is teaching is that it is reasonable to aspire towards these things, like a good marriage or a better job, but we are not to put our hope in these things for in due time they will all come to an end—even if they end on a good note, end they will.

Consider the hope-list you made earlier. What would you foresee your circumstances if none of them came to pass? Would it be a crushing blow to the person you perceive yourself to be or are you the type to shake it off and commence to fashion new hopes? To what end I’d ask you—to what end–to be disappointed again?

I cannot begin to tell you how many testimonies I’ve heard from Christian athletes who strived and hoped to attain the highest awards their vocations tendered—and got them! We’re talking Olympic Gold Medals, World Series trophies, and Super Bowl rings. Their earthly hopes were realized and inevitability do you know what they all said? Afterwards, after the trophies were stashed away and the cameras were turned off, there was barrenness; a hope–less void. Their achieved hope, they soon discovered, had no sustaining qualities. In many instances, the only saving grace was that in their despair, they came to know Jesus Christ.

For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:30

I submit to you that if your walk with Jesus Christ is not light and easy, the most-likely cause is that you have more than One hope in your life. Think about it. Have you ever said or thought of your Christian faith as hard?

“I share the Good News with my friends, ” you say, “and they roll their eyes. At work people avoid me and make comments behind my back. Let’s not even talk about my family.”

What Were You Hoping For?

When you make a statement like that, chances are you have put to much hope in your friends, your family, and other relationships. Unquestionably we aspire to have good associations with others, but when they falter, do we falter as well? We most certainly will if that’s where our hope lies. The doctrine the Lord is putting forth is this: if we are determined to have one singular focus, that is One Hope, the yoke of Jesus will always be easy, the burden, although still a burden, will be light and we will not be disappointed.

Can you cope with just one hope? The maturing Christian can.

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Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. Deuteronomy 33:1Now What?

Did you know this is the first time in the Bible the phrase ‘man of God’ is used? In autobiographical fashion and under the inspiration of God the Father, Moses writes this about himself. How come? Numerous reasons I suppose, but the passage from Deuteronomy 33, I believe, sums up the intent most excellently. Moses was, as best as any one can be, a selfless man; his heart and love for Israel an expression of God’s own heart and the final reason God directs him to record it.

What Did He Do?

God had just informed Moses that he was not going to enter the Promised Land ~and~ that he was going to die—like immediately. Moses already knew about the first part, but what’s this death-stuff he had to wonder. Yes it’s true, Moses was 120 years old, but the Bible tells us he was in great shape. He could have complained or at the very least attempted to intercede on his own behalf, but what does Moses choose to do? Nothing. Instead he turns and pronounces a blessing upon those who would be entering into the Promised Land; the nation of Israel.

What Would You (or I) Have Done?

Don’t tell me, but that’s why God has given us an opportunity to read this account of Moses—so we will know what to do when tribulation smacks home. Moses had no forewarning (and the reason that makes his case extra special), but we do—God has given us His word and in it He instructs us how men and women of God are to react. And why would we want to respond like Moses? Because it is what men of God do—we live to bring honor, glory, and praise to our Lord and Savior, with the deepest gratitude we can muster.

We don’t have to, we get to.


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Their foot shall slide in due time. Deuteronomy 32:35

The Great Awakening was a period of great revival, the height of which was between 1740 and 1742. It was at this time that Edwards preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” with astonishing results. The sermon finds its roots in Deuteronomy 32, commonly referred to as the ‘Song of Moses.’ Here is Edward’s sermon in its entirety. It’s long, but because of the awesome work the Lord accomplished through this message, it is worth our consumption. Enjoy.

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

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 God’s wonderful works towards them, remained (as ver. 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 doings, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.
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 73:18. “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 73:18, 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 is 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 of God, I mean his sovereign 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 want 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 numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God.

There is no fortress that is any defense from the power of 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 8:7. 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 3:18. “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 8:23. “Ye are from beneath.” And thither be 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 then 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 11:12. The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand 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 perrnit 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 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, Isa. 62:20. 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 let 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 innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable 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 expence of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked nian, 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 this 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. 2:16. “How dieth the wise man? even as the 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 were not as wise as those who are now alive: it was not because 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 subects of that 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 suddenly 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 in 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 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 forbearance of an incensed God.

APPLICATION

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 the 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 are nothing; if God should withdraw his band, 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 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 great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an 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 increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are 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 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 that 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 the last night; that you was suffered 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 ever have 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. 2:2. “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 of 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 59:18. “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries.” So Isaiah 66:15. “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, Rev. 19:15, 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 forbear 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. Ezek. 8:18. “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, “Prov. 1:25, 26, &c

How awful are those words, Isa. 63:3, 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, vis. 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 mire of the streets.

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 to 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, Meshech, 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. Rom. 9:22. “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endure with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to 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. Isa. 33:12-14. “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, “ &c.

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. Isa. 66:23, 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 the 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 harken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favours 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 was 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.”


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Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Fear

So frequently we find ourselves in God’s word, but lament that nothing much of spiritual significance is going on. Maybe we’re mired in fear, far too anxious to be of much good to anyone or anything, complaining about most of what we experience. Faced with tribulation our tendency is too often to crabbily recoil, belligerently spoil, or inefficiently toil, turning out results seldom worthwhile.

In order to overcome the first thing we need to recognize is that fear is pleasing to satan. Why is the devil pleased? He is pleased because in our fear we are not drawing on faith; in other words, we are not relying on Jesus Christ. It’s not necessarily that fear is faith in the devil, but rather a faith in nothingness—that somehow, in our anxiety, in our complaining, in our dread, something positive will be the result. That’s just utter nonsense.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

An Important Principle

The Deuteronomy passage plots a critical, spiritual principle in regard to our faith that you might not have caught. God essentially tells Israel to first be not afraid, for He will be with them on the other side of the Jordan River. In other words, it is a conditional agreement—God tends to reveal His self after we act faithfully. So, if it is our testimony that God seems distant, the cause might very well be that we walk in fear.

And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:26-27

We see the very same thing illustrated in this account from Matthew’s Gospel. There is a horrific storm and the disciples fear for their lives. Suddenly Jesus appears to them walking upon the turbulent sea, but they do not recognize Him. Why? Because they were filled with fear and fear nudges out faith.

Take note of what happens next because it is important. Jesus tells them to first be of good cheer, then He announces, “It is I.” Then and only then do they recognize Jesus for who He truly is. And that is the true essence of our faith. Christians should never be caught saying, “Seeing is believing, ” because that is in direct contrast to what faith is! It is when we believe; when we speak and act faithfully, we see.

Furthermore, We Know…

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God Romans 10:17

Faith is worked-in as we absorb God’s word and faith is worked-out when we speak or act out faithfully. If faith comes in and does not go out, we are quenching His Spirit and the work He desires to do. It’s the very reason the Dead Sea is dead—the Jordan flows in, but nothing whatsoever flows out. However, when we act faithfully (fearlessly), we experience the abundant life in Christ Jesus as He reveals more and more of Himself.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him… Hebrews 11:6a

When we more fully understand this principle, in the face of our tribulations we will choose to be of good cheer and thus an awesome, pleasing witness for Him. Inevitably we discover it works, or more accurately, God works. As God breathes forth His word and we eagerly take it in, our faith matures. As we faithfully speak out and act out the word that we heard, God is pleased, He is honored, He is glorified, and He is revealed.

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5b-6

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