The Cargo Net of God's Wrath
Rom 2:1-5 GW No matter who you are, (God doesn’t play favorites here) if you judge anyone, you have no excuse. When you judge another person, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things.
There is an important distinction to be made here. The self righteous moralist not only passes guilty verdicts onto sinners, but he also passes acquittal verdicts on all forms of self righteousness or good works apart from faith in Christ. ...and Oh boy, is that dangerous! All of Christianity gets turned into bad St. Peter at the pearly gates jokes.
In so doing, he makes the good person feel good about themselves and judges them fit for eternal life apart from picking up their crosses and following Christ. We have what Jesus called, “the blind leading the blind.”
Luk 6:39 GW Jesus also gave them this illustration: "Can one blind person lead another? Won't both fall into the same pit?
And listen to the prophet Isaiah as he addresses the matter of self-righteousness:
Isa 64:6 GW We've all become unclean, and all our righteous acts are like permanently stained rags. All of us shrivel like leaves, and our sins carry us away like the wind.
This is the true state of every man, woman, and child, living today without faith in Jesus Christ. Most sincerely believe that there will be a line formed on the last day, and that God will find them, and their ilk, not guilty because their righteous acts far outweigh their unrighteous acts.
But because they haven’t bowed their knee at the cross of Christ, and surrendered to Him, they will shrivel up like so many autumn leaves and be blown away.
Imagine the horror of the self righteous when on the last day, they open up their bag of good works to present it to this God that they have been worshiping, this God who gave them the very Laws they used for self-reformation and find nothing but stained rags!
Listen. God’s Laws can convince you of your sin, they can curb sin, and they are used by the Holy Spirit to guide the believer, but God’s Laws cannot in and of themselves reform anyone! Only the gospel has the power to reform because the gospel transforms..
The gospel is the Good News that you and I can do nothing to earn our salvation. Our salvation was earned by Christ. He paid for all the sins of the world and offers free forgiveness to all who will receive the gift.
When the gift is received by faith, the Holy Spirit (Christ) lives in the believer and the reforming takes place and the transforming process begins. We are born again, or we might say re-formed.
(2) We know that God's judgment is right when he condemns people for doing these things. (What things? The things mentioned in Rom. 1:29-32., sexual sins, greed, murder, quarreling, gossiping, and so on.
No argument there. The Christian and the self-righteous moralist both know that God’s judgement against these sins is just and right. However.......
(3) When you judge people for doing these things but then do them yourself, do you think you will escape God's judgment?
You know, as I revisit this list in Romans 1, I have to admit that I am still guilty of many of these sins. Oh what a despairing thought! Does that mean that I am going to hell? Yes it does.....unless I humbly take them to the place where God’s requirements for justice are met in this life....the cross.
The real warning in this verse is for those who would judge others. If I have truly been to the cross, how dare I pass judgement on others. I’m still doing many of the same things, the only difference is God in His grace has granted me repentance and salvation as He revealed the gospel to me. It is He who gives me godly sorrow over my sins and seeks to help me overcome them.
And so my job is not to judge others but to be an instrument of gospel revelation to others.
So they may experience the same freedom in Christ. Paul continues:
(4) Do you have contempt for God, (Do you not have any appreciation of His holiness? Would you make Him common by daring to say that mere mortals can indeed be as holy as He? As sinless? Do you have the audacity to say that God will fellowship with you simply because you are not like “those others?”
Adam and Eve broke one commandment. They ate something they weren’t suppose to eat and they were no longer included in fellowship with God. Only when He covered them with animal skins that He provided were they allowed back into fellowship with Him.
And those animal skins cost some privileged animal his blood, and they were a foreshadowing of the cross of Christ, where He shed His perfect blood in order to cover our sins with His righteousness and make it possible for you and I to have restored fellowship with God. You cannot keep the Law of God perfectly, but you can by the grace of God receive the one who did....Jesus Christ!
I hope you are catching some of the passion of Paul here for the self-righteous. He knows how difficult it is for the self-righteous to see the light. He was once a self-righteous Pharisee and he wants the self-righteous to now the truth as he came to know it through Christ.
Paul, literally had to see the light as he was knocked off his high horse of self righteousness on his way to Damascus, and he presses on here against the self-righteous, trying to knock them off their high horse as well.
He says, “are you treating God with great contempt in spite of the fact that this is the God:
“who is very kind to you, puts up with you, and deals patiently with you? “
All right, let’s do a little character check on God. Let’s find out about these aspects of God’s character that are so often overlooked. First of all, “God is very kind to you.” This part of God’s character is like the total harmlessness of the dove. It is like a mellow wine, no bite, not harsh in the least. Not only is our God an awesome God, but HE is also a mellow God.
Next we read of God’s forbearance, “He puts up with us.” This is the temporary suspension of His wrath. Oh yes, God is mellow, but He is also wrathful, He hates sin, and one day He will unleash the totality of His wrath against those who are not in Christ.
The picture is that of a load of wrath that God bears, which the unrepentant and self-righteous heap up more and more making it heavier and heavier. Think of a cargo net hovering over the head of the unrepentant, filled with a heavy load and getting heavier with each self righteous or unrighteous act.
The net is straining, ready to let go but God keeps holding it back, hoping that the unrighteous and the self righteous will turn to Jesus.
In the meantime, we do get occasional glimpses of His wrath in various manifestations of preliminary judgements. (Financial catastrophe’s, physical catastrophe’s, and the like) Think of it as a few pieces of cargo that God allows to slip out of the net in order to get our attention.
These catastrophe’s are just warning shots off our bows if you will, designed to get us to look up and see the danger that looms over us.....the complete cargo net of the wrath of God. This is what is coming to those who are not found in Christ. Jesus spoke about these kinds of things in Luke.
Luk 13:4-5 GW What about those 18 people who died when the tower at Siloam fell on them? (A natural catastrophe right? No! More than that! A nasty piece of cargo that dropped in order to get our attention! ) Do you think that they were more sinful than other people living in Jerusalem? (Wow! There’s a slap at the heart of self-righteousness, because that’s one of the first thoughts that enters their mind.) (5) No! I can guarantee that they weren't. But if you don't turn to God and change the way you think and act, then you, too, will all die."
These kinds of events are tragic, but should be viewed as a warning of what final judgement will be like. Swift, unexpected, sudden, and devastating. When you realize this truth, it will change the way you read a newspaper. Yes, we lament those affected by the tragedies, but our thoughts ought to turn to the even worse catastrophe that awaits those who are not in Christ.
But God is rich in His forbearance and He delays the final dropping of the cargo net, hoping that people will see their need to escape and turn to Jesus. Make no mistake about it, God’s wrath is very real and very present.
Sometimes we withhold our wrath by counting to ten. That’s kind of what God does. The difference is when He gets to ten, He will take action, but we know according to what Paul has written here, that God is rich in the suspension of His wrath, He is rich in “counting to ten.”
Then there is the matter of God being rich in His patience. The idea here is that although God has the power to wield His wrath, He voluntarily restrains Himself from using it. All of these good qualities of God work together to buy us time to repent and get right with Him through Jesus.
This is not the “traditional” method of presenting the gospel is it? Normally a person will begin to look for hope and peace when his situation is bleak. That’s when we usually bring the Good News” to people. But we seldom lead people to the Lord when everything is fine in their life, but you gotta remember, that’s what the self-righteous person believes. They believe everything is fine.
They have weighed their good works in the balance and they are very confident that God will allow them into paradise without surrendering to Jesus. They can sing, “It Is Well With My Soul” with the best of them, because they believe their self-righteous acts are all the cushion they’ll need.
And if you are self righteous, (not surrendered to Christ, you need to hear this next part of Romans. You need to be hit with this challenge.
“Don't you realize that it is God's kindness that is trying to lead you to him and change the way you think and act?
Don’t you realize that it is not your “good deeds” that are preventing the wrath of God from falling on you? The good things that happen in your life are not God’s statement to you that everything is okay with your soul.
Mat 5:45b GW He makes his sun rise on people whether they are good or evil. He lets rain fall on them whether they are just or unjust.
Our “perceived” goodness apart from Christ has nothing to do with our blessings. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. The only thing that we need to know is that there is always a higher purpose for all that happens, good or bad.
Rom 8:28 GW We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God-those whom he has called according to his plan.
Maybe things are going great in your life right now. Well maybe God is giving you time to consider your relationship with Him. Are you coming to Him daily through the humility of the cross and through Jesus or are you approaching Him confident in your beautiful bag of good deeds which are really filthy rags.
You see a piece of cargo drop out here and another over there and you catch yourself saying....”serves them right.” Oh look up self righteous one, for the shadow of the cargo of God’s judgement is hanging over you. Look up and run to the cross!
Maybe things aren’t going well in your life right now. Maybe God is trying to get your attention too. Maybe He wants you to forsake your sin, and turn to your only hope for sin, guilt, and shame...the cross.
Or maybe God is using the rough time to help mold you and shape you into the person He wants you to be. No matter which of the three, they all bring us to the same place...the cross.
But woe to us if we refuse to go there. Woe to us if we refuse to give it up to Jesus.
(5) Since you (the self- righteous, although we could include the unrighteous as well) are stubborn and don't want to change the way you think and act, you are adding to the anger (the weight of the cargo net) that God will have against you on that day when God vents his anger. At that time God will reveal that his decisions are fair.
There will be no “yeabuts” on judgement day. The unrighteous will not be able to say, “Yea but God, you don’t understand I couldn’t surrender completely to You, I wouldn’t have any fun! Or yea but God, following Jesus was just too hard, too complicated My life was too messed up.
That’s what sin does, it weaves the tangled web, but God can and will help you untangle it. If you will just surrender to Him and follow His ways.
The self-righteous will not be able to say, “Yea but God, I went to church, I prayed, I gave my offerings, I kept your commandments, or Yea but, I’m not like those other people.
Nope, every mouth will be stopped on that great and dreadful day, and God will reveal His fairness to all. And the fairness of God is found in the cross of Christ.
What must you do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized. What must you do to be lost? It’s not necessary to do anything, for we are all lost already without Jesus. Jesus offers to save us, but if we reject His offer we perish.
The gospel is the only cure for the soul, and if we neglect it, sin kills us. You need not be a thief or a murderer to lose your soul. You may conform to all the outward trappings of religion, but if you don’t come to Jesus and the cross...you are lost.
Heb 2:3 GW So how will we escape punishment if we reject the important message, the message that God saved us?
Escape is impossible if we neglect the only means to safety.
A boat is drawn by the current of a river, it is heading for the falls where it will be crushed. But there is one solitary projecting rock. Some men are waiting on that rock and they have a rope, and they throw it to the boat, but suppose those on the boat fail to catch it. How will they escape? Their failure to catch the rope and latch onto the rock is their doom.
Every man, woman, and child starts out on this river in life, and this river keeps on a rolling along, the falls, or judgement day is inevitable for everyone. Jesus is that rock, and the Holy Spirit and those He uses as His witnesses are casting the rope to you. It is His desire that you be saved
Will you seize the rope? Will you latch onto Jesus? He alone can save your soul. It seems to me you have two options.
You can believe that somehow this trip over the falls won’t be so bad, but then you have no concept of hell, a place where the worm never dies, the fire never goes out, where darkness is forever, where you are forever alone, and where you will forever gnash your teeth., that’s what lies at the bottom of the falls.
Or if you are self-righteous, you can rip open your bag of filthy rags and start mopping up the river......good luck on that one!
Oh come to Jesus, unrighteous and self-righteous alike. Refuse His grace no longer, come with all your sins, all your guilt, all your sorrows, come just as you are, come at once, He will in no way cast you out. He will in no way judge you unfit, or beyond His help.
Only those who refuse His lifeline are beyond His reach, but it’s a choice you make. And as long as you have breath in your body, you can make it. It is appointed for man to die once and then the judgement. I pray that God will give you the inner strength and the power of the Holy Spirit to grab onto that rope today.