Consequences Pt 4: Some New Testament Thoughts and a Question

So far, we've looked mostly at the Old Testament.  Even in the OT, much more could have been covered, including the people's rebellion when Moses was on the mountain with God (Ex 32), the incident at Peor (Num 25), and pretty much the entire book of Judges, where the common theme was people doing what was right in their own eyes! (Jdg 21:25)

But let's move to the New Testament.  As I said in the first post:

Because of the overwhelming love, mercy, and grace of God (Hallelujah!), sometimes there is this thought in the mind of well-meaning believers: because God forgives our sin He also forgoes the assignment of consequences.  In other words, because we are positionally covered by the blood, we also practically escape punishment.

This simply isn't true.  We could discuss one of the most egregious sins recorded in the Gospels: the rejection of Christ as Messiah by the Jews and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.  Jesus Himself prophesied much about what would happen in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24), future eschatological implications notwithstanding.   The famous first-century historian Josephus wrote of the terrible consequences of this sin in vivid detail.  God's judgment would fall and fall hard...

...the rebels shortly after attacked the Romans again, and a clash followed between the guards of the sanctuary and the troops who were putting out the fire inside the inner court; the latter routed the Jews and followed in hot pursuit right up to the Temple itself. Then one of the soldiers, without awaiting any orders and with no dread of so momentous a deed, but urged on by some supernatural force, snatched a blazing piece of wood and, climbing on another soldier's back, hurled the flaming brand through a low golden window that gave access, on the north side, to the rooms that surrounded the sanctuary. As the flames shot up, the Jews let out a shout of dismay that matched the tragedy; they flocked to the rescue, with no thought of sparing their lives or husbanding their strength; for the sacred structure that they had constantly guarded with such devotion was vanishing before their very eyes. 

Most of the slain were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, and they were butchered where they were caught. The heap of corpses mounted higher and higher about the altar; a stream of blood flowed down the Temple's steps, and the bodies of those slain at the top slipped to the bottom.”

When Caesar failed to restrain the fury of his frenzied soldiers, and the fire could not be checked, he entered the building with his generals and looked at the holy place of the sanctuary and all its furnishings, which exceeded by far the accounts current in foreign lands and fully justified their splendid repute in our own.”

As the flames had not yet penetrated to the inner sanctum, but were consuming the chambers that surrounded the sanctuary, Titus assumed correctly that there was still time to save the structure; he ran out and by personal appeals he endeavored to persuade his men to put out the fire, instructing Liberalius, a centurion of his bodyguard of lancers, to club any of the men who disobeyed his orders. But their respect for Caesar and their fear of the centurion's staff who was trying to check them were overpowered by their rage, their detestation of the Jews, and an utterly uncontrolled lust for battle. 

Most of them were spurred on, moreover, by the expectation of loot, convinced that the interior was full of money and dazzled by observing that everything around them was made of gold. But they were forestalled by one of those who had entered into the building, and who, when Caesar dashed out to restrain the troops, pushed a firebrand, in the darkness, into the hinges of the gate Then, when the flames suddenly shot up from the interior, Caesar and his generals withdrew, and no one was left to prevent those outside from kindling the blaze. Thus, in defiance of Caesar's wishes, the Temple was set on fire.

The Temple Mount, everywhere enveloped in flames, seemed to be boiling over from its base; yet the blood seemed more abundant than the flames and the numbers of the slain greater than those of the slayers. The soldiers climbed over heaps of bodies as they chased the fugitives.

Let's also be reminded of the New Testament situation of Ananias and Sapphira who lied to the LORD and subsequently died before the LORD...IN CHURCH! (Acts 5)  How about the situation with the man who committed incest in 1 Corinthians 5 whom Paul commanded to be delivered "unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh." (1 Cor 5:5)  He went on to say a few things that make many of us recoil:

"I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."  1Co 5:9-13

Yikes!  Look at these consequences!  Shunning a willingly sinning brother?  And this wasn't said just once in the NT...

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us."  2Th 3:6

Mercy LORD!

My point in all this isn't to advocate for a mean, unloving church.  I suppose what I'm trying to do is to bring some balance to our understanding of grace.  

My pastor once said, "It's grace, not grease."  Scripture actually says that the grace of God that brings salvation to men also teaches or trains us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. (Titus 2:11-12)  Law and Love work together.  This is because we serve a loving, merciful, but HOLY God.

Who can forget the LORD's Words to His churches in Revelation chapters 1-3?  Much of those loving words were warnings about impending consequence for their sin.  Did Jesus love those churches? Yes...that's why He inspired John to write to them!  Nevertheless, He disciplines (consequences) those whom He loves and scourges every son whom He receives (Heb 12:6).

There is nothing in the New Testament that even implies that our LORD will not allow the consequences of sin in the church.  In fact, the opposite is true.

So, here is a question: Do you believe the church is suffering any consequences at all right now?

"Based on what" you might ask?  Next time! :)

Consequences Pt 3: The Babylonian Captivity

Perhaps there are no greater examples of the consequences of disobedience in the Old Testament than the captivity of God's people, fully by Babylon over Judah in 586BC and Assyria over Israel in 722BC.

Focusing specifically on Babylon, here is what the Bible records:

2Ki 25:1-11  And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about.  2  And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.  3  And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.  4  And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king's garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain.  5  And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him.  6  So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him.  7  And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.  8  And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:  9  And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire.  10  And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.  11  Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away.

The king of Babylon starved the people, destroyed the temple, leveled the city, and carried off what remained of God's people in Judah captive.  This terrible event was actually prophesied beforehand.  Here it is from the New Living Translation:

Jer 25:1-11  This message for all the people of Judah came to Jeremiah from the LORD during the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign over Judah. This was the year when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon began his reign.  2  Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people in Judah and Jerusalem,  3  “For the past twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, until now—the LORD has been giving me his messages. I have faithfully passed them on to you, but you have not listened.  4  “Again and again the LORD has sent you his servants, the prophets, but you have not listened or even paid attention.  5  Each time the message was this: ‘Turn from the evil road you are traveling and from the evil things you are doing. Only then will I let you live in this land that the LORD gave to you and your ancestors forever.  6  Do not provoke my anger by worshiping idols you made with your own hands. Then I will not harm you.’  7  “But you would not listen to me,” says the LORD. “You made me furious by worshiping idols you made with your own hands, bringing on yourselves all the disasters you now suffer.  8  And now the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Because you have not listened to me,  9  I will gather together all the armies of the north under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whom I have appointed as my deputy. I will bring them all against this land and its people and against the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy you and make you an object of horror and contempt and a ruin forever.  10  I will take away your happy singing and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard. Your millstones will fall silent, and the lights in your homes will go out.  11  This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.

William MacDonald writes, "Jeremiah had warned all the people of Judah for twenty-three years; other men of God had not ceased to call them to repentance. Because they would not listen, they would be taken captive by God's servant, Nebuchadnezzar, and remain in exile for seventy years."

Our loving and patient God had persistently warned His people.  He loved them with a love that is hard to understand.  He said:

Deu 7:6-8  For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.  7  The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:  8  But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Oh how great is God's love for His people!  Scripture declares, "He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him."  Deu 32:10-12

Nevertheless, despite the great love of the LORD, eventually, there were brutal consequences for Israel's rebellion.  I personally believe God's discipline is always administered with more than wrath, but also with love and deep sadness.  We can discern this in other passages.  Like Hosea taking backsliding, adulterous Gomer back into his house, God continually received His wayward bride back into His good graces, "For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place."  Hos 4:16

This sort of love is AMAZING...

Jer 3:12-14  "Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.  13  Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD.  14  Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion."

What mercy!  Instead of being cast away forever because of spiritual adultery, God desired to bring them to His special and treasured city!  Of course, Jesus is the ultimate expression of the Father's love, sent first to Israel (Matt 15:24), then preached to all the world (Matt 28:18-20). "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Joh 3:16  Hallelujah! 

My point in this post, however, is to drive home the truth that consequences were real then and to posit that perhaps they are real now.  Could this idea of consequences be manifest in the New Testament, and subsequently, now in the church?

More next time!

Consequences Pt 2: The Fall at AI

I'd like to go a bit further on this thought of consequences by taking a look at a particularly powerful example from the Old Testament (there are many!).

Let's look at what happened at AI.

Many of us are familiar with Joshua chapter one.  Moses the servant of the LORD was dead.  Joshua son of Nun was God's chosen successor.  Joshua was given the divine commission to lead the children of Israel into the land promised to them by God and wage war in order to dispossess the pagan nations that lived there.

You might recall the LORD's encouragement to Joshua:

Jos 1:3-9  Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.  4  From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.  5  There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.  6  Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.  7  Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.  8  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.  9  Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Amen!  All Joshua had to do was follow God's instructions (and command the people to do so) and God would be with him, protect him, and give him great victories in the upcoming battles!

I pray I'm not alone in thinking that this sort of blessing is often available for believers today! Yes, the ultimate victory of Christians is spiritual in nature, granted unto us through the blood sacrifice of Jesus.  Temporal victories pale in comparison to the glories of heaven!  Amen! 

But the church of Jesus Christ is still an with a Commander in Chief (Jesus!)  The Body of Christ is still in a right now fight.  There are souls to be won and discipled, revivals to spark, generations to raise up, and devils to put to flight!  

Wouldn't it make Kingdom sense that God would bless obedience more than disobedience? (Deut 5:29; 1 Sam 15:22)

So back to AI.

After Joshua's commission, Israel miraculously crossed the Jordan (Josh 3).  Joshua then circumcised all the males in accordance with God's command and prepared for the first great test, the upcoming battle at Jericho (Josh 5).  And God brought them great victory there!  How could they lose with this sort of help...

Jos 5:13-15  And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?  14  And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?  15  And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

Given that Joshua's worship was not rebuked and the "holy ground" reference, many believe this was a pre-incarnate appearance of the LORD Jesus!  Anywho, after the wall came a tumblin down at Jericho (Josh 6), I'm sure there was elation in the camp of Israel.  The LORD was true to His promise!  Israel was unstoppable!  The Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites better watch out! (Josh 3:10)

Not so fast.

Out of hundreds of thousands of people in Israel, in the first verse of Joshua seven Scripture describes the sin of ONE man, Achan the son of Carmi.  Unknown to Joshua, Achan had taken of "the accursed" or dedicated things.  Joshua sent spies into AI.  The spies came back and said essentially, "Just send a few thousand troops Joshua.  There aren't many enemies; this battle will be easy."

It wasn't.  Israel was routed.

Joshua cried out to the LORD for answers.  Here is what the LORD said:

Jos 7:11-13  Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.  12  Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.  13  Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

Israel's crushing defeat was a direct consequence of sin in the camp.

If you read the rest of Joshua chapter seven, you'll see the sad end for Achan and his family.  Praise God for grace in Jesus in the New Testament!  But the point here is obvious: Sin has consequences.  

Yes, Christians are redeemed.  Yes, positionally speaking our sins are cast from us as far as east is from west in Jesus.  Yes, believers are blood-bought and Holy Ghost filled.  BUT, is there room in our theology to take a sobering look around the church and the world and see the results of sin in the camp?

More later!

Consequences Pt 1

There has been a word burning in my heart for a few months now; a word concerning consequences.  I've been hesitant to write about it because the topic is kind of "downy" and I've been attempting to be more positive these days. :)

However, I keep running into this subject in discussions with good friends.  So here are some opening thoughts.  Scripture declares:

Gal 6:7-10  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.  9  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.  10  As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

I love the NLT in verse seven:

Gal 6:7  Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.

Because of the overwhelming love, mercy, and grace of God (Hallelujah!), sometimes there is this thought in the mind of well-meaning believers: because God forgives our sin He also forgoes the assignment of consequences.  In other words, because we are positionally covered by the blood, we also practically escape punishment.

Now, thankfully, God doesn't give us the full measure of what we deserve.  Again, GRACE!  But do you know ANY father worth his salt who, for the love of children, does this?  Lord forbid!  Good dads love and forgive, but also discipline their disobedient children...for their own growth and good.  The writer of Hebrews describes this issue of parental consequences (or sowing and reaping) perfectly:

Heb 12:5-11  And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:  6  For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  7  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  8  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.  9  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  10  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.  11  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

God in love and mercy, exhorts (or encourages) us in the reality of chastening, rebuke, and scourging.  Doesn't sound fun but it comes from love!  Indeed, this is one way God deals with "sons" or His children: He disciplines them.  Earthly fathers do the same.  God sends consequences for "our profit."

When it comes however, it is tough.  But there is something wonderful God does through chastening.

So I suppose my initial point in considering consequences is that Romans 8:28 still applies.  God does, in fact, allow the fruit of sin to manifest.  He nevertheless loves us and instructs us even in our failures.

But make no mistake.  The fruit of sin and rebellion DOES manifest.  God will not be mocked.

Yes the devil is busy.  Yes fallen angels are active.  Yes unclean spirits may be involved.  But when we sow unto our flesh, we reap corruption, but when we sow unto the Spirit we reap life everlasting. (Gal 6:8)  

These "natural" sinful consequences, in my opinion, plague the Body of Christ.  May the LORD help us practically live for Him in daily holiness.

More later! :)