Dane Skelton

    Dane Skelton is the Pastor of Faith Community Church and the author of Jungle Flight: Spiritual Adventures at the Ends of the Earth, a book of true stories from the ministry of JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). His second book, Papua Pilot: Flying the Bible to the Last Lost Peoples, co-authored with the late Paul Westlund, is now available on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.
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    • Nov6Wed

      THE BLESSING OF WRATH

      November 6, 2013
      Filed Under:
      Theology
      Someone recently asked me, “Do you believe people can change?”

      “Yes,” I said, “I’ve seen it happen. I’ve also experienced it.”

      “What makes them change?” He asked.

      “The power of God working from within, but there is only one way to get that.”

      “What is it?”

      “Humility. Usually precipitated by pain.”

      “Huh?” My friend didn’t like where this was going, but I could tell he was still interested so I pressed on.

      “Most of us won’t do what the Bible calls repentance – giving up our role as Lord and master of our lives, as well as giving up our sins, and giving ourselves over to God – until our way of doing things has caused enough pain and frustration to make us consider that God might have a better plan.”

      What I didn’t tell him was that the pain that we experience is a manifestation of the mercy of God. It’s part of God’s wrath and I consider it one of his great, though severe, blessings. Wrath’s purpose, as well as the way it operates, is not always how we imagine.

      When we think of God’s wrath we often think of cataclysmic natural phenomena: the great flood of Genesis or the Ten Plagues of Egypt. Some have even said that Hurricane Katrina and the like are evidence of God’s wrath. But a passage in Ezekiel, along with others in the New Testament, offers a different take.

      Ezekiel 20:25-26 is a record of God’s wrath against Israel for her sins. It reads: “I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by; I let them become defiled though their gifts – the sacrifice of every firstborn - that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD.”

      Israel had become hard of hearing. God had sent plenty of warnings by previous prophets; notables like Elijah and Elisha and Jeremiah. But Israel had refused to listen. So God “gave them over.” In other words, he let them experience the full consequences of their choices. Instead of his life-giving, civilization building, order preserving Ten Commandments they ended up with a system of frustrating laws under which no one could flourish. Worse, instead of the purity and peace of temple worship they ended up sacrificing their firstborn, murdering their children to appease the new gods they had chosen over Jehovah. God’s purpose? That they might be so filled with horror at their own behavior they would recognize their folly and return to him.

      This version of God’s wrath is also visible in the New Testament. Jesus, responding to his disciples concern over some false teachers, said “let them alone, they are blind leaders of the blind, they will both fall into a ditch.” Paul, in Romans 1, repeats the phrase, “gave them over” when explaining God’s wrath. Each time the result is the same: people experiencing the painful and destructive consequences of their choices. That’s how wrath works. It is designed to induce revulsion in us, disgust at our own behavior, and such horror at the consequences of our choices that we are willing to consider another way to live.

      All of us, every single one of us, deserve God’s wrath, the eternal as well as the temporal consequences. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “Are we any better? Not at all! … There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away. They have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Romans 3:9-12.

      Thankfully, wrath is not the end, at least not for those who can hear its message. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8.

      God’s wrath in our lives is a blessing in disguise. It is designed to help us see the awfulness of sin so that we will turn to the savior.

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