We have all done things that lead to some kind of consequences.
Sometimes it's just a simple decision to eat a food that we know will cause indigestion. Sometimes it is just going a little over the speed limit to get there sooner, which might get us a ticket. Of course, for most of the things we do, we weigh the consequences and decide whether or not we want to take the risk. And, we can be extra careful and the consequences may not turn out to be so bad.
What if you don't know? You could still die
However, what about those times when we don't even know that we are taking chances? Maybe you are walking along the sidewalk in the middle of the city while a crane carrying a large load is swinging it out over the edge of the building next to us. If the cable broke, we may never know until it is too late that the load would definitely kill us if it hit us. Or we could be driving along a street, go through a green light and get broadsided by a truck with no brakes.
That last paragraph shouldn't concern us because worrying would not help in those type of situations. Usually, there are some warning signs that we could see if we were vigilant. Normally there are no cranes working overhead without some signs around to let us know. The truck driver would likely be blaring his horn to let people to know to get out of the way. The only way we would be in real danger is if we read or heard the warnings and decided to ignore them because we were in a hurry or believed that the warnings were only for other people, or just would rather not know.
Some would rather not know
Then there are those times when the signs and warnings are right there for us, but we either don't bother to read them, or read them and ignore them, or worse yet, let someone else tell us what they think the warnings mean. When you get right down to it, that's exactly where many Christians are today. If they even read the Bible, they don't read it for everything it says about a subject. When they see a warning that they don't like, they assign it to someone else and claim that they don't have to follow it. That book is full of signs and warnings, but they go unheeded because many believe they are only for other people.
"What do you mean? We don't do that...!"
Let's look at this in a little different way. Have you ever seen a sign like this:
We might not know for sure what it means to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but would still have a pretty good idea it won't be pleasant. In this case, trespassing is clearly wrong, but the consequences are less clear. We really want to get inside and look around, but should we? A smart person would do a little checking into the meaning of the words first. That brings up another thought. A twelve-year-old would have one idea while a 20-year-old would have a better idea of what it means. Based on past experience, the twelve-year old would likely just be run off, while the 20-year-old would likely be arrested - so the consequences would be different for each offender because of the variable definition of "the full extent of the law" with regard to minors vs. adults.
But what about these signs?
This scenario is different from the trespassing example above because in that one, the consequences could vary. In this case, age doesn't matter. Now, looking at the one regarding sharks, it is pretty clear that we are being warned not to jump into the water. Why would we not just jump in and assume the sign was for someone else? Well, most of us have seen or heard about what happened to someone who has been attacked by a shark. The consequences are clear in our minds. If we decide to ignore the signs, we can be sure of what happens if the sharks are present today. We don't jump in because we know what will happen. We don't have to guess.
There are general worldly consequences
Oh, we have heard of the earthly consequences, and they are real to us because we have seen the results of these acts of disobedience. If you steal from someone, you may be caught and embarrassed, you may be beat up, you may be arrested and jailed, or you may be shot on sight. These are not only immediate consequences of Biblical sins of disobedience, but many of our man-made laws are built on them. These consequences have an affect on our earthly lives in the here and now.
As for the Old Testament, one of the clearest verses is in Deuteronomy 8:11-20, when Moses spoke to the people:
11Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
19If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.
Some consequences we have been told, but have never seen
That brings us to the Bible. The Bible is full of signs and warnings. The warnings are clear and the consequences are described in a way that is unmistakable - with one difference from the signs above. No one on earth today has ever seen the eternal consequence of not heeding the warnings in the Bible.
That means that we have to take the promises of the Bible on faith! But faith in what? What are the real consequences of disobedience or obedience? What do the Biblical words mean? When John makes a list in Revelation 22:15
15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
, or Paul in Gal 15:19-21
19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
, do we get to just ignore these for ourselves and act like they only apply to those we don't like?
Are the rules really only for some people? Are there one set of rules for some people and different rules for others? These lists, and many others, are a message to Gentiles (the Galatians) as well as Jews. If we do not have faith that the rules and consequences in the Book are real, then we do not believe in the word of God. If we feel that we can just ignore some of the rules and have no eternal consequences, then our faith is in ourselves, not the God Who made the rules. If we believe that God didn't mean what He said, we will be in for a big surprise when it comes time for the wedding.
"But, they don't apply to us..."
But, like so many other facts that people don't want to hear, they say, "That's only for the Israelites!", as in, "I don't have to worry about that consequence because He wasn't talking to me. Besides, I don't worship other gods or anything bad like that." Some really feel that they do not have to worry about obeying God's commands, yet feel He will still answer their prayers while they disobey.
A real-life example, it's not just "out there"
My wife and I have recently been involved in a divisive, bitter battle with a member of her church who refuses to reconcile and forgive. A rumor started in the congregation that this person immediately attributed to us. When we tried to reconcile by first going directly to them, then going before the deacons, this person secretly recorded conversations, tried to separate us from the reconciliation process, phoned and insisted on an apology from us for something that we did not do, and much more. If you feel someone is your enemy, you can easily become overwhelmed by anger or fear. The point here is that we can do things that are directly contrary to the words of Jesus (Matt 5:43-45
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."
) without even realizing it.
We have forgiven this person long ago, but they still hold on to the bitterness of their anger, claiming forgiveness, but with actions that show otherwise. The actions of this person were anything but Christian, yet, this person is involved with a major children's program in the church. We teach by example, and our actions sometimes affect others. According to the words of Jesus, Paul, and John, will this activity have consequences? We, as Chrisitans, can fall into the devil's trap and not even recognize it. Look around you, in your church and in the world. Put yourself in that place with regard to your children. Would you give them good things if they continually did what you told them not to do?
Are you trying to obey?
It's not like they are trying to disobey, they just don't study the Word well enough to make sure what they are told and do matches what God said. Worse, many take the word of their pastor and make up things to do that are directly against the will of the Father. Since they have not received some prompting from the Holy Spirit, they are certain that they are doing His will. But what did God tell us He would do if people continue to ignore His wishes? Paul made it pretty clear in 2 Thes 2:10-12
10and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
. Notice that the actions are not necessarily deliberate, but the doers are "deceived" by the wickedness. How do you make sure you are not deluded? Rather than compare yourself to the world, compare your actions to the word of God. Be like the Bereans
11Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
Some even use their current happiness and success as a measure of their righteousness (verse 17
17You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me."
) after God gives them the ability to have a good life. They claim that God answers their prayers all the time, and can point to their new home, new car, big bank account, or whatever to prove it. But, if they are not following the will and commands of God, how can God be blessing them? The wicked prosper, so we cannot judge our righteousness by their measure (Psalm 73:3
3For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
), and we do not want the consequences of the wicked (verse 20
20Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.
). Besides, our material success, or even outward happiness, in this life is not the measure of our righteousness in the Lord (2 Tim 3:12
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
, 2 Cor 12:10
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
, Matt 5:10
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Those are only temporary consequences
As bad as these are, these are not the consequences we should worry about since they affect only this life on earth. The ones that really count are those consequences of our action that affect us after death. There are only two possibilities - eternal life or eternal punishment. We have no experience with either of these, so our concern is based on what we read in the Bible or what we are told by our pastors - and these are too often not the same.
"I'm not as bad as ..."
Many will say that they do not worship other gods (their own definition of idolatry), so this bad stuff won't happen to them. However, the real definition of idolatry includes many things that are not recognized by the average Christian. Colossians 3:5-6 tells us:
5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming[a].
aSome early manusctipts coming on those who are disobedient
Paul has warned us
Note that the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient because of idolatry. He didn't say, "If there are any idolatrous people, they will see the wrath of God...", he said the wrath of God is coming on them. In fact, Jesus was so concerned about finding true faith when He comes, He voiced it out loud in Luke 18:8
8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
Disobedient and no faith?
Above, Paul was speaking to the Colossians - an audience of some Jews mixed in with a population that was predominately Gentile. That wrath is the ultimate consequence of our disobedience as Gentiles. But, disobedience to what? Ask around and see if you can find any Christian who claims to be idolatrous, or even disobedient. Of course, you won't find anyone. No one feels that they are idolatrous or disobedient. But if all the denominations believe something different, someone must be doing something they prefer instead of following the word of God. This doesn't mean a total lack of faith, just a lack a partial lack of faith in Jesus and His Father's will. That is the issue with most, if not all, denominations today.
What is idolatry?
If no one is idolatrous, why is the wrath of God coming? The easy answer is that anything that comes between us and the will of God is idolatry. Not just carved images to which we bow down and worship what they represent, but anything that we decide we want to do that God said not to do. And there are millions - no, billions - who call themselves Christian who deliberately break God's rules every day (Sabbath, Easter, Christmas, unclean foods, etc). Some don't know that they are, but they are still breaking them by believing others who say it is OK to do so.
Check things out before just accepting them
How can you not know that you are breaking them? Several ways:
1. Being told that they are not rules any more.
2. Being told that they are still rules for some, but they don't apply to you.
3. Being told that Someone else keeps them for you.
4. Being told, "Yeah, it says that, but it doesn't mean that."
Then believing what you are told without checking it out!
Notice the first two words of points 1 through 4 above. Doing what you are told by your pastor, friends, priest, or teacher, but not doing what you are told by God. That puts your advisor's will above God's will if the two differ at all. That's the definition of idolatry. How do you find out? Go to another pastor at a different church? He might even agree with your first pastor, but that may still contradict God. This Christian life is not a Democracy where the majority rules.
There is only one place to go for the truth - the Bible. If you read it for what it says, in context of history, language, and culture, then you will get the truth. Then when you find that you are sinning, you can confess and be forgiven. If you never check it out (remember the Bereans in Acts 17:11
11Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
), then you will only be following someone else's opinion. Believing that, you will feel justified in not repenting and asking for forgiveness. Where does that leave you?
How did they check?
Note that the Bereans did not go to their pastor or priest, they went to the Scriptures - that was the Old Testament at the time - in order to see if what Paul said matched the word of God. If Paul had been contradicting the Old Testament, they would have pointed it out. However, the pastors of today's churches seem to have a real problem with the words of Paul, saying that he claims that the Old Testament no longer applies. Why didn't the Bereans see that as an issue? They knew what Paul was saying because they were part of his culture and understood that he was agreeing with the word of God.
Once you find out, do something
No one wants to admit it, but recognizing a sin is the very nature of confession (1 John 1:9
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
). If someone points out a sin (Galatians 6:1
1Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
), then we become aware of the sin and are responsible for the consequences. The passage in Galatians refers to the restorers as those who live by the Spirit, ones who try not to sin at all. And how does John define sin? (1 John 3:4
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
) You can't sin if the law doesn't apply to you, as many pastors today hold, but Paul states that Christians can sin, indeed, and should be restored gently. If we knowingly sin and do not confess it, we are not forgiven. Without forgiveness and some kind of change in our lives, we are not being true to God and there will be consequences.
"No one in my church would believe a lie..."
So, how do you determine which one you are headed for - eternal life or eternal punishment? Find out what the guidelines are. Once again, ask around to see if you can find anyone who is seriously certain that they are going to eternal punishment and are satisfied with that knowledge. You will always get the joker who says something like, "Yep, I'm so bad I'm sure I'm goin' to Hell!" But if you get into a serious discussion with that same person about what the Bible promises for those in eternal punishment, they will not act so jovial.
Most people you speak to are certain that they are good enough to get eternal life. This is true even if they believe exactly the opposite on critical issues as others. The decision is always based on how they feel they are doing, without any comparison on what the Bible requires of a person to avoid consequences and gain salvation.
Paul also tells us what to do
Here's where everyone jumps up and says, "There is nothing you can do! Jesus does it all!" OK. Then what is Colossians 3 all about? Paul didn't say, "Just believe in Jesus, and He will do all this for you!" He instructed us to "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:" (Col 3:5
5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
), He didn't say to let Jesus do it for us.
"Rules, but I thought...?"
The chapter in my NIV has two headings in Colossians 3: Rules for Holy Living and Rules for Christian Households. While Paul didn't write the headings, he did write the rules that we are to follow in order to avoid the consequences of disobedience. Did you catch that - "the rules we are to follow"? If, as many "Christians" today say, there are no rules to follow to be saved, then what the heck is Paul talking about? Unless Paul is feeding us a line of nonsense, then he is giving us the word of God - with the rules clearly listed. Not following God's clearly defined rules leads to consequences - and usually, the consequences are not good.
"But, my pastor says..."
So, what are we thinking when we read the Biblical warnings and then don't pay heed to them? Without any guidelines except our own opinion or our pastor, we select the ones we feel are "no longer necessary" and just ignore them because they are too "Jewish" or too strict. And yet, when it comes to other commands in the same list from God given "only to the Israelites", we follow them to the letter.
But, what did God say?
Find a place in the Bible where God says you can now ignore any of the ten commandments. Find a place where He says you can now worship Him in the same way as the pagans worship their gods (Christmas, Easter). Notice I didn't say "worship their gods", but worship Him the way they do. You won't find it.
Exodus 20:3-6, 12-15 (commandments 1, 2, and 5-9), Leviticus 18, and a few others are followed by Christians exactly as commanded. Notice, however, that the Exodus references in the previous sentence skipped verses 7-11 and 17 (commandments 3, 4, and 10) in Exodus 20 because these are often ignored by "Christian" actions as though that section of God's command list does not apply to Gentiles. In fact, there is one in there (verses 8-11, number 4 in the image to the right) that most so-called "Christians" ignore. Who chooses what we are to obey and why do we let them?
Obey or pay the price
Thinking of this in terms of our topic, what are the consequences of ignoring these warnings and rules? Since there are only two options available to us, the decision is simple, but not necessarily easy. Are we so sure of ourselves that we can willingly disobey the commands of God and have no consequences? If all the churches are believing something different, and only one of them (if even that many) is right, how many of us are going to make it to the right consequence?
Once again, remember the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13
1"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'
7"Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'
9" 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'
10"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11"Later the others also came. 'Lord, Lord,' they said, 'open the door for us!'
12"But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I don't know you.'
13"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
). They were all invited, but they did not all make it because of the consequences of not doing what was expected of them. And they didn't even know why. Here's your chance to make sure you do know.
Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and give us your view.