Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Our church preaching is focusing for a time on the topic of anger. The other preaching pastors have said their piece on this topic, and so I have decided to add my input. I am getting ready to preach a two-part series, starting a week and a half from now. The tactic which I want to take (based on thoughts gleaned from Bruxy Cavey, in « The Way Revisited: Overcoming Anger« ) is to look first at the just and appropriate wrath of God (cf. Rom. 1, many passages in Isaiah, Revelations, etc.), and then looking at the inappropriate and misguided anger of man (cf. James 1:20, Rom. 12:19, etc.) So often, we get « angry » because we are sitting in God’s chair, trying to do His job.
In preparing for this first sermon, I found and listened to the classic on the subject, the sermon by Johnathan Edwards, « Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. » (Read text, or listen to a very well done audio version). This historic sermon (it dates back to « The Great Awekening » of 1730-55) presents a thoroughly accurate, vivid and compelling presentation of the Bible’s teaching on the wrath of God, and hell.
Those unfamiliar with Christianity will find this sermon absolutely shocking! It is clear that Edwards has not been though the modern public education system! Edwards has the strange idea that self-esteem is a myth: humans are not « good people, » but wretches – held in contempt by the very ground we tread, and the air we breathe. Philanthropy and « spirituality » are vain supports, incapable of supporting the wretched sinner as their steps falter over the yawning chasm of hell beneath. Most shockingly, God does not exist to serve human needs! Rather than doling out warm fuzzies, moralisms and feel-good miracles, the God which Edwards presents is wrathful – indignant, outraged and incensed at our sin. But isn’t God a God of love? Yes, indeed He is. While we were yet sinners, enemies of God, wretched and completely undeserving, He died for us and made one way of escape, of salvation through Jesus Christ. Those who disbelieve, those who lean on their own righteousness, those who think themselves « good enough » will miss out on the only chance to avert the terrible wrath of almighty God!
Love it or hate it, you will have a hard time ignoring or forgetting this sermon, and the compelling version of reality which Edwards presents!
Although a tough listen, I think this sermon would be helpful for non-Christians, in helping you understand Christianity. Why is it that Christians feel the need to get into other people’s business, to be preachy, pushy and talky about their religion, to even travel the globe and make great sacrifices in an attempt to proselytize, and to put environmental and political concerns infinitely second to this one mandate of « winning souls »? Simply put: our belief system makes it unethical for us to behave otherwise.
Likewise, this sermon has great value for Christians: in the words of Peter, « Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…? » (1 Pet. 3:11). It is time to stop hedging, muttering and « discussing » – hell cannot be a peripheral issue! If there is even a faint chance that hell is a reality, then it must influence, control and dominate every thought and action which a loving Christ-follower makes in this world. To do otherwise would be the most extreme case of ingratitude, insensitivity, and cruelty to our fellow-man.