This is an exegetical sermon on Romans 2:5-11 titled, Seek Glory (Part II) and explains how a fear and appreciation of God’s wrath leads us to give God more glory. This sermon was originally preached by Pastor Duane Smets on Sunday, August 14th, 2005 in San Diego, CA. Audio unavailable.
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:: The Resolved ::
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Duane Matthew Smets (elder)
“Seek Glory” – Part II
When I preach there a few things which are utmost in my mind to accomplish. Of first concern is to please god…I don’t do this because I have to or even because the bible commands me to. But I do it first of all because I love to do it. There is much joy and much of god for me in this most holy task. Me preaching is me getting to worship god. I preach first for his pleasure. My second most important goal whenever I preach is to make much of god’s word, this book. That is to value and care for it highly. Thus, it is a chief concern to me to carefully work with the text, the actual words, so that it is correctly interpreted and understood.
Lastly, is to be affected by the text. By “affected” what I mean is to have an emotional response. First for me and then hopefully for you as well. And there are to ways you may be affected and it my hope in every sermon that I preach that god would grant the grace for both.
The first of those two is that my soul would feel a great need for god or to put it another way that my soul would know its utter sinfulness, how ruinous and corrupt I am at my core. This is the conclusion of every text. If you walk away from any passage of the bible and you think that it is not teaching you about your sinfulness and your need for god then you do not understand the passage.
The second of the two affections is that my soul we see and feel how utterly beautiful and loving and merciful and kind and majestic and glorious that god is. That I would have a sense of that and long for it. If the first affection is one of guilt and conviction and fear the second conviction is one of delight and satisfaction and joy and overwhelmedness.
Now, with those things said there is one more thing I must say. There may have been more than one of you who at time have been uneasy with my use of the English language at times, particularly the use of words that some might consider to be on some sort of imaginary black list of bad words. In response, I have but one simple thing to say and I will let someone else say most of it for me.
John Piper writes “my responsibility as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher in the church is not to preserve and repeat cherished biblical sentences, but to pierce the heart with biblical truth.”
And I add, I will go to great lengths in the words that I use in hope of stabbing us awake into spiritual life, for I fear not for the offending of any man but the god of whom I plead for.
Let us pray
Title of sermon: “Seek Glory” part ii
Last week was an intense week we looked at these same verses and we spent the whole of our time attempting to answer the question of whether or not Paul is teaching that one can be justified by works. And essentially what I did was give you 7 reasons why it is not. Here were the seven reasons:
1) Romans is a book about god
2) Romans is written by Paul
3) The thesis of Romans
4) The context of this passage
5) The word repentance
6) The word seek
7) The word according
Interpretation summarized – there is something about the human condition that naturally has a hard heart which leads us to seeking ourselves by doing evil and incurring wrath. What we need is a soft repentful heart that seeks the glory of god and leads us to life everlasting. God sees the evidence, fruit, or proof of whether we have a soft repentant heart that seeks his glory according to or by the kind of works or deeds our life consists of.
This week two things: wrath and glory
The text begins with wrath moves to glory. So I’m going to follow that pattern.
Let’s read the text again. Wrath. In verse 5 “you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath” and in verse 8 “..Persuaded to unrighteousness, wrath and rage.”
Wrath. That god is a god of wrath is for many churches something they would rather you not know. I grew up in the church and all those years I never heard is mentioned once. Many preachers and theologians, to their shame, act as though god’s wrath were a blot on the pages of this book; some literally with scissors in their hands, are ready to cut it out.
it is not too different than what Thomas Jefferson did, cutting out parts of the Bible he disagreed with. And he was one of those founding father who supposedly built this nation on Christianity.
Point loma. Llodal and Powell.
But set aside the craziness of cutting out passages of the bible. Why is this such a bothersome thing? Why do so many wish the bible simply did not speak of such a thing?
Here is why…they believe that in order for god to be a god of love, there can be no such thing as wrath. Say it again.
Today I am going to argue the very opposite, I submit that god cannot be a god of love unless he is a god of wrath. Say it again. But before I argue for it I am going to make the problem worse, because that is what the text does. So look at verse 8-9. Read verse 8-9. Look at these three words. Anger. Affliction. Anguish.
Anger has in it the idea of boiling. White red hot.
Affliction has in it the idea of torment and being broken and injured and physically maligned.
Anguish has in it the idea of being cramped for space. Suffocating. Tortuous.
These are the things that Paul describes god’s wrath as. Anger. Affliction. Anguish.
But let me make the problem even worse yet.
Look up at verse 5. “Storing up.” They had store houses for grain or gold. The picture here is you keep putting more and more. Just as you put more and more firewood in the fire to make it burn, the storing up of wrath has this picture of an ever increasing warehouse of god’s anger being pent up and to the point where it is about to burst in the unleashing of affliction and anguish upon the souls of men.
Listen to the way the prophet Zephaniah describes the day of god’s wrath…
Zephaniah 1:14-2:3 14 near is the great day of the lord, listen, the day of the lord! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. 15 a day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and the high corner towers. 17 I will bring distress on men so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the lord; and their blood will be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung. 18 neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the lord’s wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of his jealousy, for he will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth. 2:1 gather yourselves together, yes, gather, o nation without shame, 2 before the decree takes effect– the day passes like the chaff– before the burning anger of the lord comes upon you, before the day of the lord’s anger comes upon you. 3 seek the lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the lord’s anger.
If I haven’t made it hard enough. I’m going to go one step further and magnify the weightiness of the question of whether or not god can be a loving god if he is a god of wrath. And the way I want to do that is to go to Jesus.
Several other passages of scripture tell us that he is in fact the judge who all will stand before on this judgment day (verse 3). And the thing about Jesus and wrath is that he spoke about it perhaps more than any other single person in the bible. One commentator says this “Jesus spared no delicate feelings in warning against hell. No one in the bible spoke more often or more frightfully, about hell and the wrath of god.”
Listen to just a few of Jesus words
Mt 13:49-50 “the angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Mk 9:48 “it is better for you to enter the kingdom of god than to be cast into hell where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”
Mt 25:30 (the unrighteous will be) “thrown out into the outer darkness”
Luke 12:4-5 ““I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”
Makes me shudder. The wrath of god, anger, affliction, anguish, being stored up, an unending day of unquenchable fire, darkness, weeping, torment.
Jonathan Edwards summarizes the scriptural teaching on the wrath of god and hell
”hell is a spiritual and material furnace of fire where its victims are eternally tortured in their minds and in their bodies by god, the devils, and damned humans, including themselves. Their memories and consciences as well as their raging, unsatisfied lusts torture them. In hell, the place of death god’s saving grace, mercy, and pity are gone forever, never for a moment to return. God will be the hell of one and the heaven of the other as a consuming fire. Scripture justifies the doctrine that hell remembers this world. Especially they will remember how they were warned, will remember their sins, thinking hell was a dream, will see the glory of god and the redeemed and that sight of the blessedness of heaven will increase the hellishness of hell. Hell is not the absence of god but his presence-his inescapable, wrathful presence. Impenitent sinners will see god face to face forever. That is their hell.”
So here is the question Paul & Jesus, “if god is such a god, a god of wrath and hell then how can he be a loving god?” Is this not fair?
So let’s let Paul speak and return to Romans and trace back his argument to see if he has not in fact already answered this question.
First, beginning in 1:18 where he started this digression about our sin. Read vs.1:18-25
here is the charge of this passage…god, the maker of all things, the most beautiful, the most lovely, and the most excellent being has permanently put his worth and value on display throughout the whole earth so that human beings might enjoy him and his infinite glory. Yet, rather than continually thanking and praising and loving him, we have sought things of far less pleasure and have made ourselves the center of our lives and our world pretending that we are god when we are not.
There is evidence for this in our own heart and life right now. Let me illustrate.
Why is it that our heart automatically passes judgment on a person who fails to acknowledge us when we have done them a favor? Suppose one of my kidneys was failing and if I did not get a kidney transplant I would die. But, suppose my friend Adam here, who happens to have the same blood type as me, came and said that he would go through the medical operation to donate his kidney to me so that I could live. Now say the operation went perfect and I was all healthy and well again, but never said a word to Adam about it. Never said thanks even once. Would not Adam or anyone else in this room rightfully feel that he had somehow been wronged? You see, we automatically hold a person guilty who falls short of expressing gratitude when we have shown great kindness. Our hearts know that one who is ungrateful is guilty of wrongdoing.
The reason our hearts react in this way is because we were created by god and made in his image. God is a perfect being, the ultimate moral standard and source who in creating humans, wove into the very fabric of our souls an inner sense of right and wrong, an inner moral law that cries out for justice. Man has been made with the image of god’s justice. We know right and wrong because god has permanently fixed his voice inside of us telling us so, and we therefore know that not giving thanks when thanks is due is wrong, and sinful.
Second, look at vs. 1:28-32 read.
In that broad stroke Paul just covered everyone in this room and showed us the heinousness of our condition. I’ll tell you where I find myself. Malice. Boastful. Slanderer. Jesus spoke too clear about these things…said if we even think them or feel them it is the same as if we had done them. Our affections reveal our evilness. Oh how too often my conscience condemns me, I find myself quick to anger and resentment. If god did not exercise justice in wrath he would not be a good or loving god. He would not be a just judge if he did not punish and condemn wrongdoing. God cannot just sweep sin under the rug and forget about it. His glory and his honor and his goodness are at stake. God is a completely just god and his righteousness is perfect. If he did not respond to our ingratitude, our unbelief, or our disobedience he could not be called good. He must preserve his worth and his glory by unleashing his wrath. \
And this wrath must be eternal. God’s response to sin must be equal to its offense and our sinfulness is an infinite offense. By not giving god thanks and glory, by rebelling against his goodness, and by not believing in him we offend and dishonor an infinitely holy and worthy god and deserve an eternal or infinite response. You see doing wrong is not just an abstract distant and remote offense but is rather a personal attack against the greatest being in all the universe. We have not offended a small animal, or a dog, or another human being, but have wronged almighty god. And he rightfully is angry and shall pour forth wrath and it will be eternal because our offense is infinite.
One of the clearest descriptions of god’s righteous wrath is in revelation 14:10-11. Speaking of the one who will receive god’s wrath it says, “he shall drink of the wine of the wrath of god, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the lamb: and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night,”
We are going to talk about glory, and heaven and eternal life in a minute. But to belabor the point just a moment longer, so that it will be crystal clear that there is no such thing as love without justice, I want to read a couple things from Jonathan Edwards. May not know it but our name comes from two places. One – krino in 1 Corinthians 2 and the other from Edwards’ 70 resolutions.
In the sermon titled “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners” Edwards writes the following:
You cannot but draw a breath or live a moment unless god upholds you; for in his hand your breath is, and he holds your soul in life, and his visitation preserves your spirit. And yet you willfully provoke him to anger. You have slighted the kindness of god. You have been supremely ungrateful and have only abused his kindness. As great as this wrath is, it is not greater than that love of god which you have slighted and rejected. Infinite mercy offers to lost sinners. The given his only-begotten son. Infinitely glorious and honorable. How just he would be in his damnation. If god should ever cast you off, it would be exactly agreeable to your treatment of him. You never have exercised the least degree of love to god; therefore it would be agreeable to your treatment of him if he should never express any love to you. You never have loved god, who is infinitely glorious and lovely; and why then is god under obligation to love you, who are all over deformed and loathsome as a filthy worm, or rather a hateful viper? You have no benevolence in your heart towards god; you have never rejoiced in god’s happiness…and not only have you slighted god in time past, but you slight him still. You indeed now make a pretence and show of honoring him in your prayers, and attendance on other external duties and seem devout in your words and behavior; but it is all dissembling. That you quarrel for mercy and find fault with god, that he does not bestow more mercy and contend with him… is to have voluntarily chosen to be with satan in his enmity and opposition to god how justly therefore might you be with him in his punishment. Consider how often you have refused to hear god’s calls to you, and how just if would be therefore if he should refuse to hear you when you call upon him. You are ready, it may be to complain that you have often prayed and earnestly begged of god to show you mercy and yet have no answer of prayer…you have flattered yourself, that though you did so, yet god would show you mercy…for now you have dared to affront the majesty of heaven so dreadfully.
If that and the rest of everything I have said today has not scared you than I have not done my job as a preacher of the gospel. I asked my wife, whom I love so much, I asked her the other night at dinner a question, I said, “Amy, when you hear me say things at church like I did last week like ‘do not be so naïve to think that you have arrived for your soul could very well be hanging over the pit of hell’ do you think that I am speaking to you or to some other people here?” You see there is no one exempt here.
My goal as a preacher is to do everything I can to show you dire state of our need for god and how wonderfully glorious he and his provision is in Christ. If you think that is manipulation or that it is wrong for one to try and persuade people in such a way than let me ask you this, “if you had a child or a brother or sister who was small and they were running toward a cliff would you not do and say everything in your power to keep them from heading that way?” You see it is not manipulation if it is true. Manipulation is when you falsely represent something so that you can control people and get them to do what you want them to do. There is no manipulation here. Hellfire and brimstone. Yes, and much of it because we believe it is real and we love and care about you and so we stand here to plead. Every sermon here is a plea. Turn to god turn to god turn to god. He is kind. He is good. He is loving. He is merciful. He is glorious.
And that is what I want to do for the remainder of our time tonight. Urge you to seek glory. For there is an alternative to wrath. And that is glory and it is offered to everyone here.
Let’s go back to our text and read it one more time. Read 2:4-11
The two phrases we are focusing on in particular are vs.7 “those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” And vs.10 “but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good.”
There is an alternative to wrath. Paul’s desire here is not vindication. Not hoping bad things to happen to people but he is pleading for people to seek glory. And god is pleading. He is an emotive being, in 2 pet 3:9 it says “god is not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.” The plea is for repentance. And repentance is a turn to glory.
So for the remainder of our time I want to try to paint glory for you as best I can. If you have ever asked yourself the question, “why am I here, why do I exist?” I believe glory is the answer.
There are five words that describe the kind of seeking that does not lead to wrath: glory, honor, immortality, eternal-life, and peace.
Every one of these is about glory. It is the sort of umbrella that these five words fall under. I say that because of Romans 1:23, which we studied a number of weeks ago now, but it says that the essence of all sinfulness or the corruption of humanity in our hearts is quote “exchanging the glory of god.”
Glory is this all encompassing. It could almost be a name for god. God is glory. If you were here and you remember, I called my friend who did his master’s thesis on glory. Let me read that again,
“Glory is weight. Glory is overwhelming. Imagine god falling on top of you. Seeing things so bright you can’t stand it. How much does god weight. Even at a distance. It is both fear and joy. Intimidating and captivating. Want to see it and then you are scared too. It is beauty and wonder and utterly satisfying.”
The Westminster Confession. A historical creed of the Christian church that this church, the resolved affirms begins in the first line with the question, “what is the chief and highest end of man?” And answers “to glorify god and enjoy him forever.”
Saint Augustine, one of ancient fathers of the church wrote a great book called “confessions” and it begins with a prayer:
Great art thou, o lord, and greatly to be praised; great is thy power, and thy wisdom infinite.
And thee would man praise; man, but a particle of thy creation…thou awakest us to delight in thy praise; for thou madest us for thyself, and our heart is restless, until it finds rest in thee.
Hmm. Wonderful. Let me try to say something specific and simple about each of these words in our passage, “glory, honor, immortality, eternal life and peace.”
Glory – it is the excellence of god.
Honor – is the echo of that excellence.
Immortality and eternal life – are the extension or the duration of that excellence.
Peace – is the freedom from the war of our souls to participate and be wrapped up into that excellence.
What does it mean as this text says “to seek” these things?
John Piper writes, “It is to seek the pleasure which is god himself. He is the end of our search, not the means to some further end. It is not to reduce god to a key that unlock a treasure chest of gold and silver. Rather it seeks to transform the heart so that the almighty will be our gold and choice silver.”
Hear me today. The proclamation of this text is to seek pleasure. It is not wrong to want to be happy. We are made for happiness and what this book says is that happiness is in god and everything else pales in comparison and leaves of empty and dry and leads us to eternal misery.
Listen to C.S. Lewis here:
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit this notion has crept in from Kant and the stoics and is no part of Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our lord find our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Jonathan Edwards spoke of this joy and the eternity of it in heaven as this. As scary as his vision of hell was his vision of heaven was even greater.
“Heaven is the communion of the god-man of which we shall eat and drunk abundantly, and swim in the ocean of love, and be eternally swallowed up in the infinitely bright, and infinitely mild and sweet beams of divine love; eternally receiving the light, eternally full of it and eternally compassed round with it and everlastingly reflecting it back again to its fountain. It is the sight of god himself. The Amor Intellectualis Dei. The beautiful vision of god is not a sight with the eyes of the body, but with the eyes of the soul. There is no such thing as seeing god properly with the bodily eyes because he is a spirit. Tis not in beholding any form of visible representation, or shape or color, or shining light, that the highest happiness of the soul consists in; but tis in seeing god, who is a spirit, spiritually with the eyes of the soul. “
When a saint dies the soul is released from this prison and comes into a state of glorious freedom and happiness. When the soul beholds the glory and love of god it shall be at the same time filled with the glory and love of god it shall receive satisfying pleasure for it shall receive god. The knowledge of god then will not be like the knowledge the saints have of god in this world which is like the twilight before sun-rising. It is not the direct light of ht sun, but the light of the sun reflected and comparatively dim. But hereafter the saints shall enjoy the perfect day, they shall see god as we immediately behold the sun after it is risen above the horizon and no cloud or vapor shall hinder its sight. They shall see everything in god and all in light of him. They shall enjoy god in a more exalted and excellent manner than man would have done if he had never fallen. The saints in heaven shall see god.”
In preparing for this message, I wanted to get away. Everything around me sometimes seems to obscure reality. So I went to point loma to study. I sat on the cliffs overlooking the water and tried to look at the sun, but I couldn’t, barely for a second. Then I looked at the water and saw the sun’s reflection dancing around on the water. Then these clouds rolled in and the sun shone through them with these bright beams piercing through the clouds. And something lept inside me. The glory of god. How excellent, how beautiful, and it is just a faint reflection.
There is more. I think there is so much more that we have even begun to conceive of concerning god’s glory. Piper, who has been such a great aid to us in this sermon, says this…
“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of god, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. God did not create you for this. There is an appetite for god. And it can be awakened.”
Here is the conclusion church:
God is a god of wrath. Be afraid.
God offers his glory. Seek it while it still may be found.
For those who have never experienced the satisfaction that is found in the loving acceptance of god, turn to him and begin a life of pursuing god, his glory is all-satisfying.
For those who have experienced that satisfaction but find themselves turning away from it often. Which you will (that is why this text says “in patience or perseverance…seek glory.”) Turn to god.
For everyone here, be happy in god. He does not intend now nor ever for us to be miserable but to be happy creatures. And our happiness is not dependent upon the feeble features of what our life may consist of here on earth. Your body may be broken, the circumstances of life may have shattered you, but there is glory and joy in god to be found. Worship your maker and be happy.
Let us pray.