2 Timothy 4:4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
We live in a time of competition for church members; a time where success is measured primarily by numbers and income. There is no end of teachers, writers or churches who will present what feels good and tickles the ear. There is no shortage of churches that provide programs, support groups and myriads of resources that will “meet your need”.
This wouldn’t be so alarming were it not for the fact that many uncomfortable or unpopular issues are avoided because they aren’t “good marketing” and don’t put behinds into pews. The Bible has many unpleasant topics. I call them “distasteful doctrines”. These are being sorely neglected today and that’s a shame because they are a vital part of Christianity. Over the next few days we will take a look at Christian doctrines that you may have never studied, rarely studied or only lightly studied unless you are in a good, uncompromising Bible-teaching assembly – or you have studied them personally.
Jesus had much more to say about hell than heaven. Hell is a grim reality that is virtually ignored by Christians today as being too harsh, unloving or uncomfortable. We don’t want to scare people away with talk of hell, so we simply ignore it, or give it a quick passing mention before moving on to more friendly subjects. That’s a shame because our friendly intentions won’t count for much to those who find themselves in eternal torment. We’ll take a look at the facts about hell straight from the Bible.
It has been said by a very prominent “Christian” preacher that teaching about sin is one of the worst things we can do because it destroys self esteem. Quick, somebody tell Jesus and Paul. Regardless of whether we want to hear it or not, the Bible is very clear about the sinfulness of man. As Christians, we typically believe in the “idea” or doctrine of sin as it applies to humanity as a whole, but very rarely do we get honest about sin when it comes to ME. We’ll take a look from Scripture at the real nature of sin in our lives.
You would think that Christian liberty would be a very pleasant doctrine, but to teach it threatens our stranglehold on “truth” as we define it. I’m not talking about the core essentials of salvation, but all the other peripheral issues that have divided Christians into almost 3000 different “flavors”. We don’t hear much about Christian liberty because we’re afraid people might actually take hold of it and not do things OUR way. Christ died to bring us liberty, and we constantly want to rob other sincere Christians of it simply because they disagree with us on some issue or doctrine. We’ll take a look at liberty, where it applies, where it doesn’t apply and what it means to the Christian life.
Suffering is seen as something today that either is caused by a lack of faith, or is something to avoid and alleviate immediately as all costs. Does God have a use for suffering? Does He allow it? How are Christians supposed to think about suffering? We’ll examine the Bible to see if God agrees with today’s opinion about suffering..
- Christian Discipline
In this age of political correctness, competition for church members and fear of lawsuits, Church discipline has all but disappeared. That’s a shame because a leading factor in the ineffectiveness of the Church today is its hesitation to apply Church discipline. We’ll look at Scripture to find out what it is, how it works and what it accomplishes.
- Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment
We hear much about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness – and rightly so. But how much is our concept of those things distorted when we hear little about God’s jealousy, wrath and Judgment? The lack of teaching on these subjects certainly contributes to the lukewarmness of the average Christian. “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to SCARE people about God!” Oh, really? Who says? There are lots of scary and fearful things about God that we would do well to know and understand. We’ll take a look at the “unpleasant” side of God and how it affects our daily walk with Him.
- Intolerance & Exclusivity
There is only ONE way to avoid being eternally damned in hell, and spend an eternity with God in Heaven. There couldn’t be a more unpopular message today than that. All the political correctness, ecumenism, tolerance, diversity and inclusivism in the world doesn’t change that fact. We’ll look at the Bible to see how it teaches very plainly this “one way”.
Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment
We hear much about God’s love, and well we should. God loved sinful humanity so much, that He sent His Only Son to suffer and die to pay OUR penalty for sin. God is the source of love. Love is not simply a characteristic of God; love originates with God and love exists because it starts with God and flows out from Him. Love does not exist without God; love cannot be defined without God. That would be like trying to define the taste, smell, texture, shape and color of “orange” if the orange fruit didn’t actually exist. You couldn’t have “orange-flavored” or “orange-scented” without the existence of oranges. It’s where orange comes from. Same thing about love. You can’t have love without God; it’s where love comes from.
We don’t have a very hard time understanding or embracing God’s love. It’s perfect; it’s wonderful; it feels good. Everything about God is perfect. That’s true about His love, right? The Bible also says that God is a God of jealousy, wrath and judgment. Are those “character flaws”? Are those aspects of God perfect, good and right just like “love” is?
If there is something “bad” about God’s wrath, then we serve a God who is not perfectly perfect. If there is something “wrong” with God’s wrath, then how can we trust Him about everything else? If there is something “unloving” about God’s judgment, then Christianity as a whole has got big problems.
On the other hand, if God’s jealousy, wrath and judgment are perfect, just and right – like His love – how come we rarely hear these aspects taught? Did God mess up somewhere along the way? Is God somehow “negative” for revealing these parts of His character to us? Shouldn’t we just focus on love and blessing and abundance and mercy and forgiveness – avoiding such unpleasantness as jealousy, wrath and judgment?
Let’s think about that for moment. God’s jealousy is every bit as revealed in Scripture as His love is. Are we to determine which parts of God’s character are more palpable, enjoyable or effective than others? God’s wrath is just as clearly revealed as His mercy; is it our job to decide that “wrath” is not the right approach to teaching people about God? God’s judgment is just as prevalent in the Bible as His forgiveness is. Are we to avoid the subject of judgment because it is both politically and religiously unpopular to declare God’s judgment on people?
The answers are all obvious, but reality doesn’t line up. Stated in the safe context of a Bible Devotional, we will all safely agree that God’s jealousy, wrath and judgment are part of the Bible and part of God. But when it comes to witnessing, discipling, evangelism or preaching, these aspects of God become quite uncomfortable and for the most part avoided. Those who present a balanced view of God and speak of His jealousy are labeled as “harsh”; those who teach of His wrath are “unloving”; those who teach of His judgment are “intolerant”. I believe this is the result of two things: 1) a misunderstanding of these characteristics; and 2) giving in to the world’s pressure about how God should be presented.
First, to think in any way that there is something “wrong” or “negative” or “bad” about God’s jealousy, wrath or judgment is simply to misunderstand them in the first place. Think about what it means to have the opinion that something about God is “less” than something else about Him. In other words, do you think that God’s wrath is somehow inferior to, less needed, or less important than God’s love? To have this opinion is to unconsciously believe that God is not perfect in all ways.
God is not perfect IN SPITE of His
jealousy, wrath and judgment;
God is perfect IN LIGHT of these attributes.
If God is jealous, it is perfect, pure, righteous and necessary jealousy. If God displays wrath (anger), then it is perfect, pure, just and righteous anger. If God judges, it is perfect, necessary and just judgment.
If that is true, then we are wrong for avoiding the subjects; we are spiritually less mature than we should be if we are not aware of and educated about ALL the attributes of God; and we insult God by deciding that one thing about God should be used to reach the lost (love and forgiveness) and avoid the distasteful parts that will “scare people” away (jealousy, wrath and judgment).
Of course, we as humans will have a different response or feeling to wrath, than we will to mercy. Our reaction of Godly fear and trembling are naturally appropriate in response to hearing about God’s judgment. We don’t embrace God’s jealousy the same way we embrace His love. Just because our reactions are uncomfortable and sometimes painful, it does not justify avoiding the subjects for the sake of presenting a “user friendly” Christianity. God has revealed to us all He wants us to know about Himself. It is not our place to pick and choose which parts of God we will declare. We are to teach and preach the truth in the same balance that God has revealed it to us in His Written Word. With that said, let’s take a look at what the Bible says….
A Jealous God
The jealousy of God means that God can not, and will not, give up His rightful place or glory to any one, or any thing. There is only one true God and the things that are true about Him are true about Him alone. God will not – nor is it possible – for Him to share His rightful dominion and honor with anyone or anything else. In a VERY imperfect sense, we can begin to understand this when we experience jealousy. If another man attempts to charm my wife away from me, I am jealous because she is rightfully mine and someone else is trying to take away what belongs only to me, as her husband.
This is a very shallow glance at God’s jealousy; however, while we are motivated more by feeling and insecurity, God is not “motivated” to jealousy… God is jealous because it is the natural and perfect response to anything or anyone that attempts to deny God His rightful place in the world, His rightful dominion in our life or His rightful supremacy in all creation. God is jealous because He knows full well the consequences that occur when we turn our attention to something or someone other than Him. God’s jealousy originates from a pure and perfect reality of who God is, and what God is.
- Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), (NKJV)
- Deuteronomy 4:24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (NKJV)Nahum 1:2 God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; The Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies; (NKJV)
- Joshua 24:19-20 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” (NKJV)
God will not give up His rightful place. He will not share time with other gods no matter what form they take – idols, religion, money, recreation, etc. God is a jealous God and that jealousy is perfect, just and holy. We do well to learn about it, and understand it, rather than avoid it.
God is angry about sin. Look what it has done to His creation. Look what is cost His Son. Look what it does to our lives. God’s anger is not the kind of frustrated irritation or annoyance that humans have. God’s anger is motivated from perfect righteousness and love. God’s anger is 100% justified and right. God’s anger is not “negative” or some character flaw God is still working on. God’s anger is pure and holy; justly deserved and properly administered. In a nutshell, God’s anger is His response to the presence of sin.
- Romans 1:18-19 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (NKJV)
- Romans 2:5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, (NKJV)
- Revelation 19:15-16 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (NKJV)
Make no mistake, God is angry about sin. There is coming a day when God’s wrath in all its fury will be poured out on those who have rejected Him and insulted Christ’s sacrifice. Rather than avoid this reality, we would do well to warn those who stand to suffer God’s wrath.
The Judgment of God
If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “the Bible says don’t judge”, I could buy a small country. Quick, somebody inform God because He has promised to judge the entire world. For the record, what the Bible teaches is “don’t judge in a manner that will bring judgment on yourself” (Matt 7.1). In other words, don’t be a hypocrite. But that’s another lesson.
God has proclaimed many judgments throughout time. He judged Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen 3); God judged the entire world before the flood (Gen 6); He judged the Israelites (2Kings 17; 2Kings 24); a judgment occurred at Calvary (Matt. 27:33–37; Isa. 53:1–10; Ps. 22:1; Heb. 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:21–25; 3:18); the Jews were judged via the Romans (Matt 24; Luke 19) and the Lord judged the local churches (Rev 2-3).
God is a God of judgment (Heb. 9:27; Acts 17:31). He will judge every person on how they responded to His call of repentance; and He will judge the works of His children. Our actions will be judged on the last day (Matt. 25; Rom. 14:10, 11; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:7–10). Jesus will judge all things (Acts 17:31; John 5:22, 27; Rev. 1:7). Every single person will be judged (Matt. 25:31–46; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; Rev. 20:11–15) and the fallen angels will be judged (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6).
God’s judgment will be final (Ecc 11.9), universal (2Cor 5.10), righteous (Rom 2.5), decisive (1Cor 15.52) and eternal (Heb 6.2). No one will be able to argue the just nature of God’s judgment because all the secrets of the heart will be revealed (1 Cor. 4:5; Luke 8:17; 12:2,3).
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God’s jealousy reminds us that we need to be careful about letting anyone or anything take the place of what only belongs to God. God’s wrath gives us a proper perspective on His attitude and opinion concerning sin. God’s judgment helps us to remember that everything we do is important and has eternal and temporal consequences.
Lord, Help us to learn everything we can about You, even the uncomfortable things. Give us wisdom to understand Your jealousy, wrath and judgment. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you think God’s jealousy, wrath and judgment are as important as His love? Have you ever considered that God is jealous?
Application:God’s jealousy reminds us that we need to be cafeful about letting anyone or anything take the place of what only belongs to God. God wrath gives us a proper perspective on His attituded and opinion concerning sin. God’s judgment helps us to remember that everything we do is important and has eternal and temporal consequences.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?