“Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.”
Jesus in Matthew 10
Do you find it as intriguing as alarming that Jesus taught by graphic illustration that one’s indifferent rejection or hard-hearted rebellion against a God-appointed message or messenger of Truth brings consequences that would make being consumed by a fiery volcanic eruption of hell upon our head pale by comparison. “More tolerable than Sodom and Gomorrah” does not sound a good thing nor right, does it? Volcanoes always wreck devastation wherever and whatever they even come near to touch. Honestly though, haven’t you always discovered that true Truth has a sure and prickly edge on the one side as well as a comforting, inviting touch upon the other? That is why we handle Truth with care, and why we entrust the care and keeping of truth to but few in the high calling of the role of teacher or preacher. We do not play fast and loose with the Word of God as to drop it carelessly in the lap of a novice regardless of how excited he may be for sins forgiven. “…not a novice lest he fall into condemnation incurred by the devil…”
The “good news”
My boys with Niagara in the background.
that truth brings is fabulous once we embrace the terrible gravity of the bad news of our native condition. So in this case it looks as though the volcano-type threat on the head means precisely what Jesus says by way of calling Sodom and Gomorrah alongside as His witnesses.
Just who was that Angel of the Lord, now? Who was the Captain of the Lord of Hosts? Who issued the command and then passed through Egypt that terrible first night of Passover? The message of Jesus was not only nor simply a message categorized by love: He clearly prescribed wrath as the remedy for rejection. This principle is revealed elsewhere as instruction of accountability and stewardship as taught in the saying, “To whom much is given, much is required.” We would say today, “You snooze, you lose.” (For the faint-of-heart I’m quite sure He possibly ended this gnarly topic with our comfortably familiar and light-hearted adage, “Have a good day now… Y’all come back now.” Or maybe He did not for He presided over His kingdom as a faithful Son who faithfully discharged truth to the children He instructed by never failing to speak the hard sayings.)
“You snooze, you lose, sucker,” is another way we express neglectful indifference today.
It is probably not ordinarily in our ever-flowing stream of typical thoughts that when we sit under the sound of the gospel this day, (or any day), it is to be with a reverent accountable attentiveness befitting one who has privilege to hear the direct proclamation and instruction of our Creator and Owner, upon threat of death and hell for simple indifference or disregard of the messenger, regardless how ugly he is. (Good gosh! Do they make an automated shock collar for one who tends to doze off during the sermon?) To listen carelessly or to adorn our response with the smock of indifference exposes our very life to grave danger. It is no small matter to attend to preaching adorned with “words of life and beauty as they teach faith and duty.” (Phillip P. Bliss) I suspect such truth-oriented preaching that brings such hideous consequences for ungodly indifference is more rare today than we suspect. “To the one it is an aroma of life… to the other an aroma of death…” (2 Corth 2:16) Horrible thought… though I must confess it forms a facet of the basis of my ministry to prisoners. I earnestly plead with them to receive, to choose life, to flee the wrath, but it is with a clear presentation that we tinker with matters eternal of life and death, heaven and hell. These are things eternal upon which we live, and of which Lewis stated, “All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.” That is why Truth matters and why it matters how we respond to it.
Danger is just over the rail. It is that close. Danger is always at hand, crouching where truth and beauty reside. Amy responded appropriately to the implied threat of the guard-rail, and I did not have to tell her to GET OFF the rail. We see signs. Do we hear God?
“All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.” Lewis
Yet how safe we are from peril and destruction in the one Refuge so freely offered in “the only name given under heaven among men by which we MUST be saved.” And again, how naked and bare, how stripped and undone we see ourselves as we are exposed to wrath not deferred, (not propitiated), should we do as the Jews who deemed themselves unworthy of eternal life as they rejected truth in Jesus as proclaimed by Paul. Their deference was to self and tradition, and their desire was to remain slavishly in blind bondage rather than received fulfilled law in Christ by the free grace Paul preached.
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.” When we listen and when we purpose repentant obedience to the King’s gracious life-giving commands that proclaims a message of Divine accomplishment, we are actually actively running further into the Kingdom by Way of the road of holiness as we draw nearer, nearer to the throne of grace, from whence our Help comes. Listening is an active life-saving activity and not a spectator sport that allows you to “time-out” and sit upon the sidelines as preacher preaches. “Waiting upon the Lord” means I engage God where I am. Paul referenced personal responsibility this way:
1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (NASB)
“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Here is a concluding poem once known and sung by many it seems almost in another age…
Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
Christ, the blessèd One, gives to all wonderful words of life;
Sinner, list to the loving call, wonderful words of life;
All so freely given, wooing us to heaven.
Sweetly echo the Gospel call, wonderful words of life;
Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior, sanctify us forever.
Phillip P. Bliss
God calls us to prepare this day to tremble before His word. In this hell of mess we witness in our world as the devastating consequences of sin advances into land and home, we have hope and there is light in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God says to not fear nor be dismayed, He will be with us and help us. Consider these Truths worthy of implementation as we listen today with a passion and an expectation that pleases the Father. The message of Heaven brings:
1. His pervasive presence.
2. His unfailing promise of a righteous cause.
3. His sure providence that accomplishes His purpose.