Systematic preaching and the judgement of God

I’m writing a commentary at the moment.  It’s in the Reading the Bible Today series put out by the Sydney Anglican Press (a bit like an Australian version of the Bible Speaks Today series).  I’ve already written a commentary in that series on the book of Numbers.  Now I’m writing one on the 7th century prophets: Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. These 7thcentury prophets have some beautiful words of comfort in them.  Habakkuk says that even if all the world around him falls apart, he will still trust in God, for nothing can take away our salvation:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Zephaniah similarly has some wonderful words at the end of his book.  God will rejoice with singing over the people he has saved.  What an amazing truth:

 “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Wonderful words.  But most of what the 7thcentury prophets have to say is about judgement.  There’s an endless array of verses I could quote.  Here’s just a few from the first chapter of Zephaniah:

“I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.   “I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked.  I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.”

“Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord.  In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.”

In fact book after book in the Old Testament is about God’s judgement.  And it’s not the case that the Old Testament is about God’s judgement and the New Testament is about God’s grace and love.  In the New Testament Jesus and the apostles often speak of the day of judgement and of Hell.  So when was the last time you heard a sermon on God’s judgement?  When was the last time you heard a sermon for that matter on Nahum, or Habakkuk, or Zephaniah?

Many of our churches these days, in an effort to be ‘seeker-sensitive’, in an effort to reach out to people of our culture, do not preach systematically through the Bible.  Often our churches preach on topics of interest.  With such an approach to preaching, who is going to preach on God’s judgement?  Who is going to preach on Nahum, or Habakkuk, or Zephaniah, if we are not systematically working our way through the whole Bible?

Preaching systematically through the Bible will mean that God will set the agenda for our preaching program, not us.  He will pick the topic to preach on, not us.  There is nothing wrong with preaching on topics.  However when I preach on a topic of my interest and choosing I am preaching what I want to say.  When I preach systematically through the Bible, God will open up to me all sorts of topics that I would never have thought about preaching, and I will preach on the topics God is interested in.  And that will include the topic of judgment.

God must really want Christians to hear about judgement!  It’s there in so much in the Bible – book after book.  How much more will I fear God rightly when I hear this topic of God’s judgement.  How much more will I love God’s salvation through Jesus when I hear this topic.  I deserve to face the full wrath of God at my sin, but Jesus took God’s wrath on himself in my place on the cross.  What great news!  However, I won’t hear this news much if I don’t preach systematically through the Bible.

Many churches today don’t preach on God’s judgment.  No doubt one reason among many is that so many of our churches no longer preach the whole counsel of God by systematically preaching through the books of the Bible.

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

“I will utterly sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“I will sweep away man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds of the heavens
and the fish of the sea,
and the rubble with the wicked.
I will cut off mankind
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.

18 Neither their silver nor their gold
shall be able to deliver them
on the day of the wrath of the Lord.
In the fire of his jealousy,
all the earth shall be consumed;
for a full and sudden end
he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

6 thoughts on “Systematic preaching and the judgement of God”

  1. I am just about wrapping up preaching through the OT, has taken over 9 years so far. I’ve lost many families through this time. The reason churches don’t preach judgment is because people don’t want to hear it and they will go elsewhere until they find a church that emphasizes what they want to emphasize. Itching ears need tickling.

    At the same time, many have stuck with me through it and we’ve gained a better view of God. But there should be a warning given to anyone considering preaching the prophets: people will leave your church. The God church-goers believe in is much nicer than the God of the Bible and this is unsettling to them. Rather than adjust, they find greener pastures.

    1. Jeff, good to hear from you again. Thanks for dropping by.

      Your comment about people leaving the church because they are uncomfortable with the God of the Bible caused me to pause. What a sad commentary. Perhaps this is the most subtle kind of idolatry – ‘christians’ who create their own god.

      Whilst some may choose to leave, praise God, at HBC there have been many more come and stay who are hungry for the teaching of the Word, the only thing we have to offer.

    2. Jeff… When you mentioned about churches emphasising what they think the people want to hear or will respond to more favourably, i.e. tickling their itchy ears, I am always reminded of a great irony in many churches today.

      It’s highly ironic when churches try to manipulate what is preached to their congregations based on their assumptions as if it’s up to them to save the souls of the people who attend, when in fact salvation is a work done by God alone. When churches do this, people start putting their hope in a God that is contrary to what the Bible teaches. They may even think they are Christians, but don’t understand their need for repentance and what Christ has really done for them on the cross.

      God is the one who saves souls, not us. We are His instruments therefore we must revere and whole-heartedly honour Him by teaching and upholding the full counsel of Scripture. Then the true biblical gospel message will be more faithfully taught and proclaimed and people will know what it means to repent and put their hope in Christ.

      Yes some may leave (in fact I would be shocked if many didn’t as the gospel message is offensive by nature!!), but at least the ones who stay are the ones who are truly seeking to know and trust in God, rather then try to find a quick fix that will meet their perceived needs.

  2. They asked John MacArthur if he is now going to preach through the Old Testament? He said It has taken be 40 years to do the New Testament, I am not going to live long enough.
    I like the point you made about “Preaching systematically through the Bible will mean that God will set the agenda for our preaching program, not us.” That is a wonderful statement and point.

  3. Thank you everyone for your comments. I’ve just got back – I’ve been away and unable to interact. I was preaching at a church camp, on Exodus, Leviticus, and Esther… :)

  4. Greetings! (this my first post on the Hills Church blog). I am forwarding this article – (‘The Judgements of God’ by Rick Joyner ), which I saw in my email inbox TODAY (Fri 23 Sept). It was sent by an older praying person from a (charismatic type) Anglican church in Melbourne. Thought it would be appropriate to add to the topic of Judgement on this blog, seeing that Martin has been teaching / doing a “Judgement” series.

    Article:
    The Judgments of God
    by Rick Joyner  
    Week 38, 2011

    One of the six basic doctrines of Christianity listed in is “eternal judgment.” One very revealing factor that was illuminated by the responses from our West Coast prophecies were the teachings and comments some made about God’s judgment. It is hard not to question if some of these Christians, especially those in ministry, had actually ever studied the Scriptures on this important subject. This compelled me to start asking believers when was the last time they heard a sermon on God’s judgment, and to date I have not found a single one who remembers hearing even one sermon on this important and basic Christian doctrine.

          I cannot remember the last time that I taught on this subject either. I did study it in some depth for about two years when I was a new believer. I have taught on it some in the past, but with the exception of a few references, I have not taught on this important subject in depth for more than twenty-five years. So I am not pointing fingers at others in this any more than I am considering myself guilty of overlooking this important matter too. However, I do have enough of a foundation to recognize how much, if not most, of what is being taught about God’s judgment is not biblical, but is sometimes in basic conflict with what the Bible reveals on it. Some comments or opinions I’ve heard lately were in direct conflict with even the teachings of Jesus Himself. That is revealing.

          I was expecting some of this because of previous experience, but I think this time it has revealed a much deeper level of how far from sound biblical doctrine much of the church in America has received. It is true that“the kindness of God leads to repentance” (see ), and we never want to forget this. However, like the basis of many false teachings, if we take this one slice of a verse out of context we can be led astray by it, as many are. Understanding the judgments of God are crucial for understanding what God is doing, and even God Himself, so let’s care enough to read this in its whole context.

      Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself ; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God ? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance ? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS : to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life ; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.(NAB ).

          It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance, but as we see here, if we do not repent because of His kindness we can surely expect wrath. The Jews who were in such pursuit of righteousness in those times were so sure that they were exempt from the wrath of God that they were recipients of some of the most intense. Their righteousness had become self-righteousness, which caused them to even persecute the Righteous One Himself. Even so, the Lord exclusively reached out to them for years before sending His apostles to the Gentiles. It was God’s kindness that kept reaching out so that they would not have to endure His wrath, but a time came when wrath was inevitable.

         It is in His kindness that He has been sending warnings to the U.S. that would cause the repentance so that His judgments will not have to come on us. This does not mean that His judgments will never come to all who do evil because it is made very clear in the Scriptures above.

          The judgment of God has been coming upon America, and it will intensify if we do not recognize the evil that has been taking over and repent of it. We have already paid a terrible price for not hearing, and I for one pray for the grace to be as clear as possible about what is happening and why so that it will not have to continue. It will continue without repentance and without revival and returning to the Lord. As the saying goes, “If you do not change your direction, you will end up where you are headed,” and America is now headed for increasingly serious discipline. The disasters coming upon us are a message, and if we would listen they can be stopped.

     

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