Posted in destruction, jesus, jonathan edwards, salvation, sinners in the hands of an angry god

When you’re saved…and your friend is not

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. ~Walter Winchell

I’m not a social person. I am a loner who likes her own company. However the Lord blessed me with two very good friends in my life. One was while I was in grade school through High School. The other came into my life when I was 40 years old.

If you ever had a friend who loved you for who you were, accepted you quirks and all, and with whom you never had a fight or even a cross word, you were blessed. I know I was.

Imagine a person so caring, so selfless, so consistently nice, that there were even whispers from others that ‘she must be an angel’ and mean it literally.

Imagine a person whose house was always open, no matter the time of day or night, and who would make you tea if you were sick and bring issues if you were crying. Who always listened without interruption. Who had been married for over two decades to the same man, an astounding statistic among unsaved people. Who was a great mom and a great wife. Who would cook for you even if it was from her last can of beans in the cupboard, and serve it with a smile. Who was talented and artistic and always up for a road trip, whether it was mini or maxi.

Who was the one person in town everyone loved.

And all this without being a Christian. But then again, neither was I.

She made me a better person. She introduced me to concepts of unconditional love, consistent acceptance of people without criticism, staying married, putting the children first. Of having uncomplicated fun, and enjoying the small moments. Of even spiritual things, like there being a force in the universe managing events and people.

For 6 years it was a great relationship. When everything else in my life went crazy, this friend was there.

And then I got saved. You know what happens then. I moved 1200 miles away, You know what happens then. A double strike against a friendship continuing.

When two are together and one is in Christ and the other is in sin, it is called being unequally yoked. This refers back to two oxen who are yoked together for the purpose of plowing a straight row for planting. If you yoke together a large ox and a small ox, or an old ox and a young ox, or a strong ox and a weak ox, they will pull in different directions, make crooked rows, or plow in a circle. It does not work.

A mom doing dishes. EPrata photo.

It is the same with two people getting married if one is saved and the other isn’t. The Bible prohibits such unions. And as for friends, it is similar but not exactly the same. One friend is a new creation, yearning for the things of heaven. The other is an old sinner, yearning for the things of the world. The twain exist together, but their very purposes for life differ as much as the east is from the west.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Christians are not to be bound together with non-Christians in any spiritual relationship or enterprise that would be detrimental to the Christian’s testimony within the body of Christ. … [however] … this command does not mean believers should end all associations with unbelievers; that would defy the purpose for which God saved believers and left them on earth.” ~John MacArthur on 2 Cor 6:14

Still, the inevitable pull of Jesus away from unsaved friends is going to happen. But meanwhile, it was my chance to illustrate to her by word and deed what it means to be a Christian. How Jesus who gave me a new heart and a purpose for living (glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever), and how He brings meaning to life and that eternal.

Even though friends may be far apart in geographic distance, the wonders of the internet allow people to keep up. I prayed for her, I witnessed on my FB page, and I carefully watched what she put up on her page. Nine years went by. As sanctification increased, there was less to talk about. As the world infiltrated her more and more, she became more deeply entrenched within it. As the Spirit infiltrated me more and more, I became more deeply yearning for heaven and the things of heaven. I read her typical liberal stuff, but there was nothing overtly declarative for satan. It seemed that a seared conscience or a reprobate mind was not happening yet. (1 Timothy 4:2, Romans 1:28). A holding pattern continuing this long perhaps meant that the Lord in His grace would save her still. Hope remained.

And then the inevitable happened. As these Planned Parenthood videos keep coming out, demonstrating America’s culture of death and our deeply entrenched sin, she made a comment on her FB page exalting PP and minimizing sin and God. This time, I could not refrain and I gave the Gospel (again) in a short sentence.

As it is with the Word of God, it pierces. It settles like a burr on the conscience, to niggle and worm its way into the very soul. This is because–

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

I knew the Spirit would work its way into the heart once again. As we all know, there comes a time when the person either submits to the pricks of the goad, crumbles, and repents; or closes the heart and it becomes hardened.

Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (Romans 9:18; cf. Mark 8:17).

What will happen? Would this be the moment we’d see grace upon grace, and a converted heart? O, Lord, I yearn for all to be saved, as You do, but I yearn most for the people I love. My friend was wonderful how I wish I could share that Jesus is the best friend of all. How great if we could enjoy Him together.

Unfortunately it was not to be. This appeared soon after. My heart broke in two. It was titled “Declaration of Sinlessness.”

And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ (Luke 16:26)

A public and formal confession repudiating our sin, God, Jesus, and the atonement is a pretty devastating event in a person’s eternal life. A public confession of Jesus and His atonement and belief in His resurrection is an important public utterance, and so is the importance of rejecting Him just as forcefully.

And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:32)

Gill’s Exposition explains the unpardonable sin spoken of in Matthew 12:32.

It shall not be forgiven him: not because the Holy Ghost is greater than Christ; or for want of efficacy in the blood of Christ; or because God cannot pardon it; but because such persons wilfully, maliciously, and obstinately oppose the Spirit of God, without whom there can be no application of pardon made; and remain in hardness of heart, are given up to a reprobate mind, and die in impenitence and unbelief, and so there is no forgiveness for them.

Is this the unpardonable sin for her? Probably. Conclusively? I leave it in Jesus’ hands. He knows what is in a man, I do not. I only know what I see, and the fruit is thorns and brambles. The road seems to have finally diverged for good.

“For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:43-45)

Therefore, publicly repudiating God and declaring one’s self sinless is a serious offense. If it’s not a sin leading to death at this moment, it’s a sin that will in all likelihood lead to a hardened heart and a seared mind. The prognosis is bad, if not terminal.

Of course God CAN change the heart of anyone. Whether a name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life or not I don’t know. I still pray so. But it is with my own heavy heart that I see the voice declaring evil, the heart hardening, the conscience searing, the chasm arriving.

The Christian life is hard. It involves constant battle of one’s flesh nature, to subdue the old man in us and glorify God by submitting to His Spirit. It involves rejection, hardship, trouble. All these things we know. But to watch loved ones, or any ones travel that broad road leading to death with the eternal chasm at the end of it is agony. Hearing or seeing their blasphemous words of evil against a Holy God is wrenching. One friend is traveling the road that ends where there is no weeping (Isaiah 65:19) while the other travels the road where it only ends in eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28)

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. ~Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

I’m no different than anyone else. I was a horrible sinner, now saved by grace, hoping and praying for the gift of redemption to be given to those I love, and those I don’t love, and those I don’t even know. When a soul goes striding past grace and insists on their own broad path to destruction, it’s hard to watch, let alone endure. Everyone has loved ones who are on the broad path, with a mother or a father or a friend praying for them with breath held and hands clasped.

Everyone has loved ones who died in their sin, unconverted and now in torment, with their friends on this side of the veil clinging to the knowledge of the Justice of Holy God and there but for the grace of God go I.

I’m no different. But … Lord, come quickly.

———————————————
Further Reading

Is it good to have close friendships with unbelievers?

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Pilgrim’s Progress online

How do I minister to an unsaved friend whose loved one died without a relationship with Christ?

Posted in bible, jonathan edwards, repentance, revival, sinners in the hands of an angry god, valley of vision

Marks of a True Spirit-initiated Revival

The Book of Acts is such a wonderful book to study. I’m fascinated by what the Spirit brings to mind each time I read through it. On Wednesday night we were studying the end of chapter 13 and the beginning of 14. I was thinking about Acts chapter 13, verse 42. Here are the rabbit trails I went down after I got home and in the succeeding two days 🙂

As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. (Acts 13:42)

Antioch. From Wikipedia

I focused on the word “begged”. Isn’t it wonderful that the people BEGGED to hear more of the Word. Begged to hear more of the Good News. It seemed important. Begged.

I started thinking of the reaction of people to the Gospel that Acts shows us. Shortly after the verse 42 was this one in v. 44

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.

What a wonderful work of the Spirit! To ignite an entire city’s heart so that almost all of them turned out! I know that among the crowd would like be some rubber-neckers, others would be sent to spy on them (Gal 2:4) but still, almost an entire city eager and begging to hear of the Gospel. It blesses the heart and refreshes the mind to even think of such a thing happening today.

That thought brought me to another city that turned out to hear the message from God, this time, not Good News but Bad News: impending Divine wrath. Jonah preached only one day into a three-day walk sized city and immediately they were repenting already. (Jonah 3:3-4). Again, another amazing move of the Spirit.

Turning from those days to Enfield CT when Jonathan Edwards preached Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, I was thinking of the Spirit’s lack of move in Edwards’ own congregation. He’d preached the same sermon to his own people but it fell like a lead balloon. When Edwards was invited to preach at Enfield, it had an immediate impact, the historically verified one we know of today.

The Dictionary of Bible Themes defines revival as

The soveriegn activity of God whereby he renews his people individually and corporately in vigour, affecting both sincerity of belief and quality of behaviour.

What seems to be the marks of a real revival? In looking at Antioch, Nineveh, and Enfield CT the same things are present:

–an immediate response (eagerness to hear more of God’s word, repentance)

–widespread impact (in the case of the Woman at the Well, her individual conversion resulted in telling the Good News to the town, which all showed up asking Jesus to stay and tell them more as per John 4:40. In the case of the corporate conversion, the people at Antioch wanted to hear more and all showed up the next week to listen to Paul.)

–demonic opposition (angry Pharisees, plots, riots, rejection. Even as Edwards was lauded for the sermon and people begged to hear it over and over from different pulpits to which he was invited, after a several-year fight he was dismissed from his own pastorate for trying to lead them away from the liberalism and compromise in the Half-Way Covenant).

It’s so strange to think of the Spirit’s move in masses of people. In Nineveh, widespread repentance. In Jerusalem, widespread rejection of Jesus and His followers. In Antioch, widespread acceptance (at least, a curiosity without rancor). In Lystra, they drove Paul out and stoned him. In June 1741 in Northampton, Edwards’ sermon was received without murmur. A month later in Enfield, they tore their clothes and begged to be saved.

It seems that after repentance, the very least one should see in a genuinely converted or revived person or corporate entity is eagerness to hear the Word preached, to study it, and proclaim it. After that, one should expect to see lives that align with the repentance they professed, in the form of a personal hatred of sin and progressive sanctification as their old man dies and the New Man is growing in them. Last, one should expect to see perseverance of the saints. The genuinely revived or converted will not fall away

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

Matthew Henry wrote,

The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ.

The Faithlife Study Bible Commentary says,

3:8 wind The Greek word pneuma can mean “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” John uses the metaphor of the wind as a power that is felt but unseen to explain the power of the Spirit of God. This echoes God’s Spirit hovering before His creative works began—providing credence for the Spirit that Jesus initiates among all believers being one with God the Father as well (1:2). The creative act of God will enter people, becoming the source of their transformation back into God’s image.

The Holy Spirit’s work in salvation individually or corporately, is a wondrous strange thing.

Lord Jesus, I sin. Grant that I may never cease grieving because of it, never be content with myself, never think I can reach a point of perfection. Kill my envy, command my tongue, trample down self. Give me grace to be holy, kind, gentle, pure, peaceable, to live for Thee and not for self, to copy Thy words, acts, spirit, to be transformed into Thy likeness, to be consecrated wholly to Thee, to live entirely to Thy glory. Valley of Vision

Posted in jonathan edwards

Jonathan Edwards on heaven

The “Jonathan Edwards” entry in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that Edwards “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian.” He is also considered to be one of America’s greatest intellectuals.

Johnathan Edwards is known for his great sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I quoted part of that sermon earlier today in a separate essay.

What many people do not know is that Edwards wrote and preached frequently on heaven, too. One of his most famous Heaven sermons is titled Heaven, A World of Love. It is a 16-part series based on the text from 1 Corinthians 13:8-10,

“Charity never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

I printed the sermon out last night and it is 19 pages. It is well worth the read. The words flow over the soul as a balm and enlivens the mind., The heart expands as we read of the tremendous love that awaits. I want to quote it but it is difficult to decide which words to quote, they are all equally wonderful. If you need encouragement or want a glimpse of the complexity yet purity that awaits us ‘over yonder’ please click on the link and read the sermon. You will be glad you did.

Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest heavens;
from Gustave DorĂ©’s illustrations to the Divine Comedy

Meanwhile, here are a few tidbits.

by Jonathan Edwards
(1703-1758)

There, even in heaven, dwells the God from whom every stream of holy love, yea, every drop that is, or ever was, proceeds. There dwells God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, united as one, in infinitely dear, and incomprehensible, and mutual, and eternal love. There dwells God the Father, who is the father of mercies, and so the father of love, who so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son to die for it. There dwells Christ, the Lamb of God, the prince of peace and of love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for men.

There dwells the great Mediator, through whom all the divine love is expressed toward men, and by whom the fruits of that love have been purchased, and through whom they are communicated, and through whom love is imparted to the hearts of all God’s people. There dwells Christ in both his natures, the human and the divine, sitting on the same throne with the Father. And there dwells the Holy Spirit — the Spirit of divine love, in whom the very essence of God, as it were, flows out, and is breathed forth in love, and by whose immediate influence all holy love is shed abroad in the hearts of all the saints on earth and in heaven.

There, in heaven, this infinite fountain of love — this eternal Three in One — is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it, as it flows forever. There this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love!

EPrata photo

II. To the OBJECTS of love that it contains. — And here I would observe three things: —

1. There are none but lovely objects in heaven. — No. odious, or unlovely, or polluted person or thing is to be seen there. There is nothing there that is wicked or unholy. “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination” (Rev. 21:27). And there is nothing that is deformed with any natural or moral deformity; but everything is beauteous to behold, and amiable and excellent in itself. The God that dwells and gloriously manifests himself there, is infinitely lovely; gloriously lovely as a heavenly Father, as a divine Redeemer, and as a holy Sanctifier.

All the persons that belong to the blessed society of heaven are lovely. The Father of the family is lovely, and so are all his children; the head of the body lovely, and so are all the members. Among the angels there are none that are unlovely — for they are all holy; and no evil angels are suffered to infest heaven as they do this world, but they are kept forever at a distance by that great gulf which is between them and the glorious world of love. And among all the company of the saints, there are no unlovely persons. There are no false professors or hypocrites there; none that pretend to be saints, and yet are of an unchristian and hateful spirit or behavior, as is often the case in this world; none whose gold has not been purified from its dross; none who are not lovely in themselves and to others. There is no one object there to give offense, or at any time to give occasion for any passion or emotion of hatred or dislike, but every object there shall forever draw forth love.

Posted in hell, jonathan edwards, judgment, wrath

The holiness of the everlasting wrath: Jonathan Edwards

You spurn all who go astray from your statutes,
for their cunning is in vain.
All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross,
therefore I love your testimonies.
My flesh trembles for fear of you,
and I am afraid of your judgments.
My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law.

(Psalm 119: 118-120, 136)

EPrata photo

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.

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?”

Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Further Reading:

Jonathan Edwards on Heaven, part of a 16-sermon series, Heaven, A World of Love

Posted in encouragement, jonathan edwards, sermons, sinners in the hands of an angry god

Preaching divine wrath: A pair of timeless and wonderful sermons, one old and one new, to bookend your weekend

I have four favorite sermons. In thinking about them, I realized they were two pairs, one old and one modern. Each pair was of the same subject. Of course each of the two pairs of sermons are edifying. Let me share the first pair now, and the second pair tomorrow.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead; …
and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink
and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf,
…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. Sinners

On July 8th, 1741, pastor Jonathan Edwards ascended the pulpit and preached one of the most famous and convicting sermons in the last 270 years, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“.

Edwards first preached an outline of it to his own congregation, then preached it fully as a guest pastor to the Enfield CT people. Sinners is part of the First Great Awakening.

The Spirit’s work in the First Great Awakening, unlike the Second Great Awakening which reached the unchurched and unconverted, was to shake complacent, church-going Christians to the core and revive their somnolent Christianity to one of fervor for personal holiness and prayer under a loving but wrathful eye of God.

First Great Awakening. Edwards’ use of vivid imagery combined with the powerful concepts of personal responsibility for sin in the face of a holy and sovereign God, crushed the hearts of listeners everywhere- because Edwards was asked to re-preach it often.

Edwards “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologians,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals. The only son in a family of eleven children, he entered Yale in September, 1716 when he was not yet thirteen and graduated four years later (1720) as valedictorian. He received his Masters three years later. (Source)

On July 8, 1741, in Enfield CT (where a small stone marker marks the spot) Edwards delivered this great, theologically convicting sermon. Though Puritan congregations were well used to fire and brimstone teaching and preaching, the fact of hell and wrath unquestioned, the Spirit’s desire to spark an awakening by using this gifted preacher and his powerful sermon with vivid imagery stands still today as one of the great sermons.

Here is JD Wetterling’s foreword to the sermon, a concise recounting of the sermon’s history and impact.

If you live at the turn of the third millennium after Christ walked this earth, you’ve probably never heard a sermon like this one. Jonathan Edwards was a renowned Puritan preacher, philosopher, theologian, and the leading intellectual figure of colonial America. He graduated from Yale at age 17, became a preacher like his father and grandfather, and is today considered one of the theological titans, along with Augustine, Luther and Calvin, of the Reformed faith.

SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD was delivered during a time called the Great Awakening, when revival was sweeping the continent and thousands were daily coming to Christ. Two-hundred-fifty years later it is generally recognized as the greatest sermon ever preached on the North American continent, and one of the prime manifestations of the Holy Spirit that brought about the first Great Awakening. While Edwards was equally fervent and eloquent in his preaching on all of God‟s infinite attributes, especially His love and mercy, he is remembered most for this powerful portrayal of God‟s infinite hatred of sin. Edwards was not considered a charismatic orator. He read his sermons, and when he looked up at all it was to stare at the rope for the church bell on the back wall. He knew that in order for lost sinners to come to Christ, their only hope for salvation, they must first be brought to the realization of the desperate state they were in and the horrendous eternal consequences of it. He brought many of his listeners to that realization this day with “remarkable effect.” Such was the power and passion of his words that moans and groans filled the sanctuary and people fainted as he spoke.

The “h-word” is used more often here than I have heard in 52 years of church attendance—it sets the standard for “fire and brimstone.” Jesus himself talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, and Edward‟s biblical support for his awesomely graphic metaphors is correct,complete and convicting, and elicits a sense of urgency rarely heard in church pulpits today.

To read in original form-
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

To hear on Youtube:
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

—————————————————————-

Edwards was concerned with sin, complacency, and the wrath of God. His biblical exposition used vivid imagery and is the hallmark woven through the entire sermon. In this next sermon from today’s times, the vivid imagery is also a powerful vehicle to bring the concepts of the devastation of sin to the listener.

The title of this sermon that has three times now brought me to a place of utter conviction, is called “Hacking Agag to Pieces.” Many people consider this sermon as MacArthur’s best. Its content is as vivid as the title, which is a literal event from 1 Samuel 15:33.

John MacArthur’s bio from Wikipedia,

John Fullerton MacArthur, Jr. (born June 19, 1939) is an American Calvinist, Baptist pastor and author known for his internationally syndicated radio program Grace to You. A popular author and conference speaker, he has served as the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since February 9, 1969 and also currently serves as the president of The Master’s College in Newhall, California and The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California. MacArthur has authored or edited more than 150 books.

MacArthur is … a strong proponent of expository preaching. He has been acknowledged by Christianity Today as one of the most influential preachers of his time, and was a frequent guest on Larry King Live as a representative of an evangelical Christian perspective.

The sermon is paired with the verses from 2 Corinthians 1:12, Romans 6:14-17, both about sin and how it devastates a life, unless it is hacked to pieces. MacArthur exposition of the context of Saul’s disobedience set the stage for the doctrinal explanations of the verses in Corinthians and Romans.

Both sermons bring to the listener how important it is not to give quarter to sin. We must not give the enemy any opportunity to weave his way into our hearts nor to nestle there. When we find sin in us we must deal with it immediately and vividly. Jonathan Edwards reminded his audience that it is only the pleasure of God that we draw the next breath. If you are unsaved, and your breath is taken away and death befalls you, an eternity of unutterable torment awaits. Those living a deluded life in false assurance of their salvation are at most risk.

And in MacArthur’s sermon, Agag lived a pagan, rebellious life before God and until the first sword stroke never thought it would be his last breath. As for Saul, God pronounced a curse upon him for his disobedience in not killing Agag in the first place, another sin before God, because disobedience is always sin.

Both sermons remind us that sin has profound and eternal consequences.

In tomorrow’s blog essay, a pair of sermons that uplift the listener, one old and one new. Prepare to be awed by His providence and His sovereignty.

The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. It is upon the dark canvas of divine wrath that the splendor of His saving grace most fully radiates. Preaching the wrath of God most brilliantly showcases His gracious mercy toward sinners. ~Steven J. Lawson

Posted in jonathan edwards, wrath

"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God": Not so seeker friendly

The following excerpt is Point #4 from the famous sermon by Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Jonathan Edwards was a part of the First Great Awakening. He lived between 1703-1758 and delivered this sermon at the height of the Awakening in New England, in Enfield, Connecticut, July 8, 1741- 272 years ago this week!

As Wikipedia summarizes the sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is a typical sermon of the Great Awakening, emphasizing the belief that Hell is a real place. Edwards hoped that the imagery and message of his sermon would awaken his audience to the horrific reality that awaited them should they continue without Christ. The underlying point is that God has given humanity a chance to rectify their sins. Edwards says that it is the will of God that keeps wicked men from the depths of Hell. This act of restraint has given humanity a chance to mend their ways and return to Christ.”

Below is the interior of the Rocky Hill Meetinghouse, Salisbury, Mass. built in 1785. It’s typical of the New England meetinghouses of Edwards’ day. It’s called Meetinghouse because the building was used for church services AND government activities. This one was unheated until 1830.

Source

They were leaping out of their pews… “Parishioners personalized their pews by adding footstools, cushions, foot stoves, or arm rests. The pew seats are hinged, possibly to allow women more space for their full skirts while standing.” (source)

Numbered box pews were sold to parishioners.
The remainder of the seating was unreserved.(src)

An oft-overlooked fact is that as Edwards preaches hell and gets to point four, he tells the congregation that of the danger of hell, he is speaking to them. Not everyone in a church is saved, as Edwards says,

“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.” 

It doesn’t matter how moral you are or how sober you are, if not saved by faith in Jesus, their place wrathful torment will be their state forevermore. (Matthew 7:22-23).

John Wesley preaching during 1st Great Awakening

Here’s Edwards:

“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?”

He ended this way:

“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.””

—————–end—————

Not so seeker friendly, is it? The reaction of the congregation was astounding. Reverend Stephen Williams was minister at Longmeadow Mass. He recorded the reaction in detail later that night in his diary. This is Pastor Williams’ description of the congregation’s reaction at Enfield to Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,”

“Before the sermon was done there was a great moaning and crying out throughout the whole house, “What shall I do to be saved?! Oh, I am going to Hell! Oh, what shall I do for Christ?!” etc. etc. So that the minister was obliged to desist. Shrieks and cries were piercing and amazing. After some time of waiting, the congregation were still so that a prayer was made, and after that we descended from the pulpit and discoursed with the people, some in one place and some in another, and–amazing and astonishing!–the power of God was seen, and several souls were hopefully wrought upon that night, and oh, the pleasantness of their countenances that received comfort.”

Lest one believe that Jonathan Edwards was dour and sad, here is the text of his sermon, Heaven, A World Of Love

“…But heaven is his dwelling-place above all other places in the universe; and all those places in which he was said to dwell of old, were but types of this. Heaven is a part of creation that God has built for this end, to be the place of his glorious presence, and it is his abode forever; and here will he dwell, and gloriously manifest himself to all eternity. And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. And therefore the glorious presence of God in heaven, fills heaven with love, as the sun, placed in the midst of the visible heavens in a clear day, fills the world with light. The apostle tells us that “God is love;” and therefore, seeing he is an infinite being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love. Seeing he is an all-sufficient being, it follows that he is a full and over-flowing, and inexhaustible fountain of love.”

Yes indeed! His love reigns.

Every person born has an automatic citizenship in hell the world of wrath. You can transfer that citizenship to heaven, the world of love, by repenting of your sins and calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved from the world of despair.

Posted in hell, jonathan edwards, sinners in the hands of an angry god, wrath

"God abhors you"

The default position on earth for every adult is hell. That is the destiny. If a person dies outside of Christ, they will remain outside of Christ for all eternity. Further, because they have sinned against Him and hadn’t dealt with those sins prior to death, they will endure His punishment for all eternity. (Matthew 3:12; 2 Thess 1:9).

But here is the GOOD NEWS.

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13).

Hell, though prepared for the devil and his angels, became the permanent abode for humans. (Matthew 25:41). UNLESS… before a person dies, he repents of his sins and appeals to the Lamb who was slain. Jesus died on the cross as the sacrifice to satisfy God’s wrath. As a sign of that acceptance, God resurrected Jesus. Jesus now reigns and will come again- to judge the earth. (1 Thessalonians 4:14; Romans 14:9).

People don’t realize how close hell is to them at any moment. (Deuteronomy 32:35). Unbelievers are unaware of the gossamer wispiness of the silk net upon which they tread. At any second, it could tear. Your entire life, and your physical body, will slam down into the miry pit. Jonathan Edwards wrote about this in his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He wrote:

“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.”

“God abhors you.” Quite a different story than the one we hear from the Prosperity Gospel preachers, the Gnostic/Mystic teachers and the Emergent pastors, isn’t it?! “God abhors you.” You don’t believe it? Read Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, Lev. 20:23, Prov. 6:16-19, Hosea 9:15, Jeremiah 12:8…

Let’s focus on the Colossians verse for a minute: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13).

Rescue? From what? What is the rescue about?

I think of the Twin Towers. Our national day of remembrance for the terrorist hate attack on the US on 9/11/01 is just a few days past. I thought a lot about 9/11 on Tuesday. Eleven years later, it still hurts.

The life we live can be compared to the moments during the time when the planes hit. When the planes hit, people above the strike zone did not know that they needed rescue. They continued to work, they went to different rooms as instructed, or they waited. But they did not know that a fiery death was a short time away. The fires were igniting and the floors were softening under their feet. But they didn’t know it.

When the people above the hole realized the situation, they expected rescue. A fire ladder…a helicopter, something. Their minds would not let them believe that they would end up in the fiery pit. When it became apparent that no rescue could come, they knew that death awaited.

For most people, they do not have that luxury- knowing that death was coming for them and that the ground under their feet would fall away. They made calls, they wrote notes, they said goodbyes. Hopefully, some prayed to Jesus and were saved. Normally the floor is softening under the feet of every person on earth. At one unknown and unforeseen moment, it will give way and they will die.

Man rescues only the body. It is JESUS who rescues the soul and then gives a new body. That was the ONLY rescue awaiting the victims of the terrorist attack on the upper floors. In the world, it is like every person on earth is dwelling on the floors above where the planes hit.  They don’t know they need rescue. If at some point, they do become aware, will they wait for man to rescue them? Or turn to Jesus?

Rescue is in Jesus. He rescues from having to spend eternity in the fiery wrath. He abhors sinners, but He loves to forgive.

Jesus RESCUES.

Edwards wrote: “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.”

“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.”

JESUS rescues.