Access To Classified Information
Pastor Adam Mallett, Jr.
Adapted from sermon by
Pastor Gary DarDar, Jr.
For Reflections this week, there was one major thing that stood out to me as I listened to the sermon and as I went over my notes. Much of what I heard spoke to me in a way that was very personal and specific to something that God has had on my heart for a while now, but what I would like to discuss here, in this article, pertains to the punishment that the world endured as a result of rampant wickedness. Every single person, aside from Noah, and his family, was wicked and far from God. Humanity had strayed ever so far from where God desired His people to be. The Bible says that every thought was wicked. Nothing that any human did was pleasing to God! God was grieved, and regretted ever creating mankind! The idea that God would regret creating humans grieves me! But I am grateful that the story doesn’t end there! As we read through the story of Noah, we will get a perfectly painted picture of God’s justice, mercy, and love. And that is what I would like to discuss today.
In the flood, all of mankind received perfect judgement for their actions. Noah and his family included! Even Noah received the due consequences for his actions and lifestyle. Noah was saved, though, right? Exactly. When I think of the word consequences, I think of bad consequences. Why is that? If you say consequences, my mind only pictures punishment for inappropriate actions. I think that must people feel the same way. It is probably due largely to the way I was raised. Many of my friends in school were on a rewards system with their parents. Money for good grades, treats for good behavior, praise for not getting in trouble. That seems to work for some children! For me, it was the opposite. My parents held me to a very, very high standard! They expected good behavior, good grades, and appropriate behavior. I remember asking my parents if they would agree to give me money for making all A’s. They would not! Why? Because I had proven to them, without being enticed with money, that I was fully capable of making all A’s. Why give me money for what I am expected and fully able to do? In the same way, God has set a very high standard for His people! The problem is that we are entirely incapable of attaining to that standard! Yet, as New Testament saints, we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to make us able, through Christ, to attain to that standard. In Noah’s day, they did not have the indwelling of the Spirit. However, we see through Noah’s example that it was still possible to live in accordance with God’s law. Noah’s consequences were good consequences as a result of striving for the standards of God! Everyone else received the bad consequences of failing to do so! Each received their due consequence!
Another reason I think that we only think of consequences in a bad light is that we so often take the good consequences for granted. As a child, I often felt as though my parents were mean, strict, and heavy-handed. Now, as an adult, I recognize that the good consequences were flowing in abundance! They helped me be the best me I could be! They fed me (plenty!), clothed me, provided for my needs and my wants. I was very blessed to have the good consequences that I had! As a child, those good consequences were taken for granted. The result was that, from my perspective, my parents only ever were mean, doling out bad consequences, or punishment. I saw my friends getting money for good grades, getting nice things despite what would have been called bad behavior in our house, etc. And that cast a shadow on the just, beneficial love that I was blessed to have. In the same way, we often take God’s blessings for granted! I am alive today, breathing, full of food and coffee, typing this article on an expensive computer, listening to music being played on an expensive phone, while my expensive iPad charges for me to use later. I am going lead worship at a church tonight for their revival, but only after they feed me supper. God lavishes His blessings upon me each and every day, and my perspective is that its just another day. Another day that I don’t have as much money as I think I should have, enough as I think I need, etc. Today is just another day that will likely be filled with my complaints about the things that aren’t quite the way I would like them to be. I take His good consequences for granted!
Think about it this way: we never get our fill of good consequences, blessings, and we have even come to expect those blessings! Yet, when we sin and experience the bad consequences for that sinfulness, we beg God to withhold that punishment! When I find myself struggling in the results of my sinfulness, my cry is, “God, I know you are good! So why don’t you spare me from this struggle?” What if His answer was to withhold ALL consequences, good and bad? What if God’s answer was, “Sure, I will withhold the bad consequences for a time, along with all the good consequences?” So we wouldn’t struggle in the results of our sinfulness, but we also wouldn’t have the blessings that we have? What would that look like? How outraged would we be at the withholding of our blessings! Yet, we cannot have one without the other. We cannot have blessings without punishments. Unless, of course, we were to become perfect!
There is a caveat to this understanding. The punishments, bad consequences, that we are talking about are not really the true consequences for our actions. Ultimately, none of God’s children will ever receive the due consequences for sinfulness. Sinfulness earns death! Eternal separation from God! Yet, if you are a child of God, having accepted salvation, you are free from death! We have life in Christ our Savior because of the work of the cross! So, really, we are blessed beyond all measure in that while we received all the blessings of being obedient to God, we still never receive the punishment for not being obedient to God! We have been spared!
What we receive as a result of our sinfulness is a degradation of the good that God intends for us. I still receive bad consequences as a result of my sinfulness. I am free from eternal death, but that doesn’t mean that I am free from a rough time, financial struggle, or other bad consequence while still here on earth. If I fail to honor God with my finances, I will see the result of that. If I fail to honor God with my time, I will see the result of that. If I fail to honor God with the authority given to me as a leader within the church, I will see the result of that. Thank God I have been led out of the grip of death, but let us not forget that He is still the God of perfect justice. We cannot take grace for granted and expect to live a life of luxury without regard to the effects of sin and disobedience.
My understanding of God’s nature has been reshuffled by these thoughts. God’s justice was applied equally to all mankind all at once in the story of the flood. God did not pick Noah as a favorite for any reason other than that Noah chose to follow God. So when God flooded the earth with His justice, what Noah received was the justice of continued life as a direct result of his continued obedience to God. In the same way, every single one of us is receiving the due consequences of our actions. Maybe you don’t tithe faithfully because you feel as though you have not been blessed financially. Listen, I am by no means wealthy. I am a pastor. That pretty much defines my financial situation. I am too broke not to tithe! Martin Luther is quoted as saying that he was “too busy not to pray.” It is the same with all of our resources! When we honor God, regardless of our perspective on our finances, our time, God’s character, the world’s environment, God honors us! Like Noah, when we pursue God, striving to uphold His standards, without regard to the state of the world around us, God’s justice dictates that we are blessed in response!
Now I know that some of you right now are wondering, “What about grace? We don’t deserve any blessings because we are sinful human beings!” That is true. As an imperfect human being, I don’t deserve another breath, another day, another second. However, I have received salvation! It is by grace that I have been saved! Grace is so important for humans! We are the only created thing that gets to experience grace! After receiving salvation, though, justice plays a huge role in my being blessed. Grace still abounds to cover my continued imperfection, despite having been saved. As a child of God, I received grace upon grace every single day when I find myself stumbling in sin. But, as a child of God, I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ! My account has been reconciled with His! He stands as my Mediator, my Great High Priest! Because of that, God’s justice demands that I receive blessings in response to my obedience! That’s a scary thing to say. Some of you might have some words for me after reading that, but hear me out. Christ’s death paid for all of my sins! Every single one! I am no longer a slave to sin, but a child of God. I am no longer delinquent before the eyes of God. My obedience to God is met with blessings because that’s what justice requires! As a person who has been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, I am made able to attain to the high holy standard of our great God! And now I can rejoice in the blessings that are due in response to my pursuit of His will for my life!
Should we sin more, that grace may abound? Certainly not! I am grateful that God has orchestrated things in such a way that His perfect grace and justice work hand-in-hand so that I might be saved from death, lavished with His love and blessings, and still have the motivation and drive to pursue His will for my life! As we continue to study the story of Noah, let the Holy Spirit remind you of the consequences that are due for our behavior. The life that we are living is a serious affair! It is a matter of life and death, and a matter of the glory of our God!