Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Often we hear church members complain about the state of “religion” in this nation, “People don’t get saved anymore! No one comes to the altar! We can’t get new people in church! We no longer have evening services because no one will come!” And the tune goes on… But why?
Well, the problem stems from the way we have changed the emphasis of Christ’s Gospel. We no longer preach God’s Word the way we use to.
Two hundred, seventy-five years ago, a Presbyterian minister named Jonathan Edwards preached one of the most powerful sermons ever heard in this country. On July 8, 1741, Reverend Edwards was preaching to a very apathetic group of people in Enfield, Connecticut. His sermon text was Hebrews 10:31, and the title of his sermon was “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God.” The message was nearly an hour long; however, before he had finished the congregation was so moved to tears that Edwards stopped and pleaded for his audience to be quiet and listen. If you’re curious about the sermon, I invite you to find a re-enactment of the very same message on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vmvZIAGKJo). But be warned, “We don’t preach God’s Word this way anymore!” However, maybe we have done the world a disservice by chirping, “Love the sinner but hate the sin.”
Sin cannot be separated from the identity of the individual who rebels against God’s righteous commandments. Sin is not a tick or chigger that hops on a person to take a bite and then is picked off later. A sinner and their sin are one in the same! There is no way of effectively addressing sin until the sinner is miraculously transformed by a New Creation through the intervention of God’s Grace! Jesus did not tell Nicodemus, “You must try harder to be nice!” Christ told the man, “You must be born again!” John 3:3 Jesus didn’t come to make us better… He came to make us NEW! And except for that, people will burn in Hell!
During His ministry, Christ used some very unflattering names to warn a group of people about God’s fiery judgment, “You snakes! You pit of vipers! How will you escape a burning Hell?” Matthew 23:33 However, most of us would NEVER say anything like that! Consequently, in the last one hundred years, we have “dumbed down” Christ’s Gospel! The Church has naively convinced the world that “God loves you no matter who you are or what you do!” As a result, the ungodly are convinced they have Christ and His Church over a barrel, “Why should I change? I don’t need to change because God is forced to love me no matter what I do or who I am!” We hear it all the time, “God is a god of love. I don’t believe He would ever send me to Hell!” And guess where they learned that? They heard it from us, but they didn’t get it from God!
For just a moment, listen to what God REALLY said about sinners, “You hate all who do evil. You will destroy those who tell lies. The LORD detests murderers and deceivers. Ps. 5:5-6; He hates those who love violence. He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds (Sounds a lot like Hell, doesn’t it?). Ps. 11:5-6; There are six things the LORD hates—no, seven things he detests: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a liar, and a troublemaker! Proverbs 6:16-19.” Wow! Arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill, a heart that plots, evil feet… all sound like “sinner body parts” to me!
But what about John 3:16? Did you notice the Word says, “For God so loved the WORLD” rather than “God so loved sinners?” What happened the first time God destroyed sinners out of the earth? He had to destroy His Creation too! Consider what Paul says about the pain sinners inflict on God’s Creation, “All creation was forced to bear God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning in pain until this present time.” Romans 8:20-22 Yes, from the very beginning, God has loved His WORLD, or else He would not have said “It is very GOOD!” after creating everything in it. Gen. 1:31
God is love! But there is no divine law that says God must love us when we sin! Instead, God mercifully “offered” His love to us by allowing His Son to die for us when we were still sinners. Romans 5:8-10 However, without accepting God’s Son as our Savior, we remain OUTSIDE God’s love due to our rejection. God owes us absolutely NOTHING… but Hell when we refuse to take advantage of the gift of Grace through Jesus’ death!
So, you still think God loves everyone… no matter who they are or what they do? “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:13, Malachi 1:3 Why? Esau had an opportunity to claim a promise that was rightfully his, but he considered it to be worthless and refused! Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover our sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume His enemies. Just think how bad the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant (which was given to make us holy) as being worthless, and have insulted and ignored the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know what God said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” Hebrews 10:26-30
Edwin Woolsey’s family has lived in Shannon, Texas, and Howell counties since 1860. He taught 31 years at Missouri public schools and is currently the pastor of a small country congregation at Pilgrim Rest Community Church. Follow him on Twitter at @edwinwoolsey.