“Don’t prophesy against me, O man of God!” Did you catch the sarcastic inference? That’s the historical response to a prophet’s warnings, both then, and now. Of course, today’s prophets—we call them preachers—only reiterate the warnings of old, but such warnings are just as prophetic as they were then; reject God’s loving chastisements and suffer the consequences.
Pop psychology calls it, denial. God calls it, foolishness. I call it, normal human behavior. But, whatever you call it, the end result is the same: Judgment!
Today’s people reject God’s messengers as readily as did their Old Testament counterparts. So, what does God have in store for us? Whether you call yourself atheist, agnostic, pagan, religious, or Christian, the eternal Lord of hosts has words for you. All of those categories, indeed, each of their members, have unique ways of dismissing God’s messengers.
Some “consider the source.” Whether it’s a televangelist, a gospel tract, or a guest preacher, we easily rationalize their message away if they challenge our status quo.
Some simply tolerate direct preaching, preferring the more conciliatory approach. Judgment and hell-fire are, after all, a huge turn-off.
Some are so egocentric that they can’t imagine a higher authority than themselves. Of course, barring divine intervention, we’re each the center of our own personal universe, so it’s easy to imagine yourself as its god. That’s the personal autonomy myth, where we confuse volition with ultimate authority. Truth is, everyone, regardless their position or title, derives their authority from someone else. Even the President of the United States, though his lackeys say he’s the world’s most powerful man, serves the nation’s people, and ultimately, God.
Some honestly don’t know about God; that’s the definition of agnostic. Yes, they’ve heard of him, but they think they haven’t seen any evidence of his existence, even though such evidence surrounds them. Somehow, the idea of something, or someone, existing without giving sensory clues is inconceivable to them. The difference between the agnostic and the atheist is the agnostic grants the possibility that God exists. And that introduces the final category.
Where the agnostic finds God inconceivable—which, truthfully, he is—the atheist absolutely denies God’s existence. Atheists usually are mad at God, or even hate him, so they jealously grasp any ideological straw that allows them to deny he exists. I mean, if he doesn’t exist, he can’t punish you.
I, like most Christians, admit I could obey God more fully. That means we fail to live up to the light God gave us. What’s my excuse? What’s your excuse? Fact is, there is no excuse for disobeying God; we are all held accountable for our disobedience. If not for God’s grace, granted to us through Jesus’ holy blood, that accountability would be our condemnation. God’s Word is full of his love for us, but two Scripture passages clearly reveal to us the magnitude of his grace:
1 John 1:8-9 ESV
(8) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
(9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Romans 7:13-25; 8:1-2 ESV
(13) Did that which is good, then[the Law], bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
(14) For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
(15) For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
(16) Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
(17) So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
(18) For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
(19) For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
(20) Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
(21) So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
(22) For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
(23) but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
(24) Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
(25) Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
(1) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
(2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death
Both the bad news of our sin and God’s judgment for it, and the good news of his love and gracious provision for our weakness and rebellion, are prophetic. Just as God is always the same, so is his message: Listen up, and obey, so I can bless you with my infinite love and grace.