In my last blog we discussed two ditches we see many people trekking through in America in their desire to “make it” to Heaven. One is religion and the futile exercises of the flesh to “win” God’s favor; the other is minimal-izing sin, because “after all, God loves me and wouldn’t send me to hell. I will just continue to eat, drink and be merry.”
Whether you are counting on your own brand of religion, or you are counting on the Grace of God to “wink-wink” at your sin…you are on thin ice. God’s Word has serious warning for both groups of people. To pull yourself out of one of these two ditches requires reverence for God; a healthy fear of who God is, and how seriously He takes idolatry. Idolatry is putting anything or anyone ahead of God in your life; it is also creating a god to suit your own image of god whether it be physically, or in your mind. The most common form of this that I have noticed looks something like this, “well, my god would not send anyone to hell, he is a loving god.”
Let’s take a look at willful rebellion. A friend of mine shared an amazing summary of James 4, which also gives the reality of where we are placing ourselves when we deliberately continue in sin:
“The Law says, ‘do not slander’, but if I chose to slander, I am exalting myself above God’s Law.”
James 4:11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?
Anything that God forbids could be plugged in here. God’s Word says, do not fornicate; therefore:
“The Law says, ‘do not fornicate’, but if I chose to fornicate, I am exalting myself above God’s Law.”
“The Law says, ‘do not be a drunkard’, but if I chose to get drunk, I am exalting myself above God’s Law.”
“The Law says, ‘do not practice homosexuality’, but if I chose to practice homosexuality, I am exalting myself above God’s Law.”
You get the idea. Isn’t it interesting that our society pushes these three as normal behavior in all entertainment venues. You cannot watch a movie, sitcom, reality show, news program, sporting event, or concert without at least one (if not all) of these being presented subtly or overtly. Yet, God warns us in His Word that Sodom and Gomorrah are given as examples:
Jude 1:5-7 But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; 7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has been warning of rebellion against Him in both the Old and New Testament:
Isaiah 1:2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: "I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me;
He warns of forsaking Him and practicing sin:
Isaiah 1:4 Alas, sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity, A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, They have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, They have turned away backward.
1John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
God would be Just in condemning us all, yet He loves us so much that He continues to extend His Hand of Grace and Mercy; He does it all:
Isaiah 1:9 Unless the LORD of hosts Had left to us a very small remnant, We would have become like Sodom, We would have been made like Gomorrah.
John 6:63-65 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."
Ephesians 2:4-9 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
The spiritual battle in the time of Isaiah’s prophecy and today are the same. They (and us) lived in willful and deliberate rebellion and sin, yet they thought a few acts of the flesh and religiosity would restore their relationship with God and God hates t. This mindset is an exact opposite of reverence for God; this is a complete disrespect for our Creator.
A small microcosm of this is my high school years. I was very rude, disrespectful, and problematic for most teachers and administrators. I was a nightmare and the school would have been better off without me there. But, even with that being the case, there were a few teachers that I respected. I wasn’t worthy that they should care if I respected them or not, and I am sure they didn’t care if I respected them or not; none the less, I did respect them and at some level I feared them and I never screwed around in their class. I was respected their wishes and was obedient to their rules. Even as I write this I can’t help but think what conversation may have been like in the faculty lounge with most of my teachers commenting on what a nightmare Steve Culley is and one of them being confused because they didn’t see the person being described; after all, I was a model student in their class. This is reverence, respect, a healthy fear.
Isaiah 1:11-14 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. 12 "When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.
Galatians 5:1-4 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
One of the scariest realities of not being in a right standing relationship with God is the fact that prayers are not heard:
Isaiah 1:15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
1Peter 3:12 FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE ON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ARE OPEN TO THEIR PRAYERS; BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL."
Revelation 8:3-4 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand.
So then, who are saints? All those that call on the name of Jesus Christ as their Lord:
1Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
God is very serious about obedience, yet He continually extends His hand of Love, Grace, ad Mercy:
Isaiah 1:18-19 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;
Hebrews 3:15 while it is said: "TODAY, IF YOU WILL HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS IN THE REBELLION." 16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Yet, once again, He is not without warning. Isaiah chapter 1 has presented the bad news and the good news, as should be the case whenever the true Gospel is presented; however, He doesn’t allow for any confusion about the fate of those that ignore the warning, and those who do not take seriously the seriousness of sin.
Isaiah 1:24 Therefore the Lord says, The LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, "Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries, And take vengeance on My enemies.
Isaiah 1:28 The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, And those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed.