Our ability to think and to make decisions have been fundamentally corrupted. As much as we may want to believe that humanity is naturally inclined to choose what is right and true, reality paints a far bleaker picture. God told the prophet Jeremiah, “‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?’” (Jer. 17:9). Likewise, the apostle Paul teaches, “No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. … No one does good, not a single one” (Rom. 3:11, 12b).
Left to ourselves, we consistently choose a self-destructive path that leads to divine judgment. Indeed, Paul notes that God’s judgment against “people who suppress the truth by their wickedness,” even though “they know the truth about God,” was simply to “abandon them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired” (Rom. 1:18–19, 24). Pastor John MacArthur calls this judgment God’s wrath of abandonment. This is when God steps aside and permits humanity to suffer the full consequences of their natural inclinations and poor decisions.
Truth be told, we must often be warned of the consequences of our decisions before we can think clearly—before we are willing to deny our passions and do what is right. Perhaps this is why, when establishing Israel as a nation for Himself, God provided a detailed description of the blessings and the judgments that would come upon the people according to how faithful they were to follow His instructions (Deut. 28). It is not sufficient to speak only about God’s blessings. We must also warn people about the consequences of their continued rebellion against God’s instructions. Only then will they be fully equipped to make an informed decision.
John the Baptist serves as a model forerunner who went ahead of the Messiah, preparing the people to meet God. It was prophesied of John, “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17, NASB, capitalizations removed). John accomplished this, not merely by proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah and His kingdom, but by warning of the consequences of meeting a holy God while still living in sinful rebellion to Him. As such, he preached a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4) and warned, “Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9).
If we truly wish to change the way people think about moral matters, then we must first change the way they think about the consequences of their decisions. However, we do not simply declare judgment. Rather, like John the Baptist, we call everyone to respond in faith by submitting themselves to God. Thus, we hope to change the way people live by extending to them God’s invitation to bring their beliefs into alignment with His will and ways.
This article comes from Heart of a Forerunner: How to Be a Relevant and Influential Voice in a Wayward Nation
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MacArthur, John. “When God Abandons a Nation.” Sermon. Grace to You, August 20, 2006. https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-314/when-god-abandons-a-nation.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Biblegateway.com.