2011 08 07

The Scandal of Complacency

Reverend Anthony R. Locke

August 7th, 2011  www.FirstPresTucker.org

at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker

Click HERE for the Zephaniah Sermon Series. Sermon # 4

Zephaniah 1:12-14 English Standard Version

12  At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’

13  Their goods shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.”

14  The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there.[1]

There is a sick conspiracy theory that President Bush knew on 911 that the planes would be flown into the twin towers. Some very cynical people slandered President Bush with the intention of undermining his leadership and destroying the citizen’s trust.

It takes a self-proclaimed “political hack” like James Carville to suggest something so hateful and deviant.

The real shock is that anyone would believe that the most trusted fellow citizen in our land, an elected president, would stay quiet, knowing death and destruction was in the air.

It is shocking to think anyone could know great danger is lurking around the corner, and keep silent. Only someone without love in their heart could complacently watch others speed toward their own destruction.

God feels the same way.

God warned Adam and Eve not to eat of the forbidden fruit on fear of death. God warned Israel not to worship other idols on fear of national destruction. God warns us today that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ His Son.

God would not allow children of His creation to go into eternal darkness without many, many warnings. God sends these warnings to His prophets. The Church is God’s modern day prophet warning the world to turn or burn.

And on the day of the Lord’s visitation, God will not go gentle when dealing with religious people who buried the warnings in complacency and silence. God is going to get a search warrant and leave no stone unturned that He might punish those who sat in silence. Verse 12.

To illustrate, what would we think of President Bush if we discovered that he knew and chose to stay silent? Label those emotions: anger, extreme disappointment, sick in your stomach. That’s how the unconverted world will feel toward the Church if we stay silent about God’s Big Plans to end the creation, purify His people, and change world markets and priorities.

Brothers, what will the world think about the Church, when they discover that we received the warnings that judgment was fast approaching, and we stayed silent in the square, silent in the market place and silent in our relationships with our friends and family?

–   God help us if we are not willing to risk the pleasant fellowship we share with our neighbor.

–   God help us if we fear being labeled a religious nut and stay silent about what we know.

–   God help us if we fear the disapproval of man more than we fear the disapproval of God.

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of man brings a snare.

The Church of Jesus Christ in our generation works so hard to become main stream that we have buried in complacency and silence the warnings God gave the Church.

What will our neighbors think of us when this world gets turned upside down and they discover that we knew, but stayed silent? What will that say about us? It will be a scandal worse than the 911 conspiracy theories.

We must not stay silent. Noah didn’t stay quiet. Noah built a huge boat which was a visible testimony to his faith in the promises of God. Noah spoke out against sin and rescued his family.

People who stay silent don’t rescue their friends or family. Lot stayed quiet in Sodom and Gomorrah. People worthy of our scorn stay silent. Heroes leap to the edge of disaster and hold people back.

Here’s the first lesson in our sermon: knowledge of pending destruction, followed by silence, uncovers a heart without love.

Second lesson: if we become informed about an immanent threat, and yet we stay silent, it might reveal that we don’t believe that there is any real danger.

Let’s say that President Bush heard a few weeks before 911 that a dozen Islamic men were planning to hijack planes over America, and planned to crash them into strategic populated buildings. Let’s assume he knew, but he stayed silent because he believed that self-preservation and love for their fellow passengers would keep the hijackers from fulfilling their mission.

That would have been a terrible miscalculation! No kidding.

We are probably making the same level of miscalculation with Iran. To allow the President of Iran to get nuclear weapons, on the assumption that he would never use them, would be a terrible miscalculation.

I know the material in this sermon is heavy, so let me illustrate this again with some family examples. To give my 2 year old son Elijah a pair of scissors, on the assumption that he would not cut up your favorite shirt, would be a miscalculation. To give me a Ziploc bag of cookies and ask me to bring them home for my wife would be a terrible miscalculation. LOL

–   Maybe Christians miscalculate God’s unwavering intentions to end all evil.

–   Maybe Christians don’t understand that God is resolute. God won’t change His plans midair. God won’t turn back.

–   Maybe we downplay the warnings of scripture because we think God is unfair to judge the world so harshly. Maybe we think that God will become aware of His radicalism and stop.

–   Maybe we fully expect that feelings of compassion will weaken His hand.

But all of this would be a miscalculation about God. God will end the evil that Satan started and Adam and Eve brought into the creation and upon the human race. God isn’t fickle. God isn’t unfair. God doesn’t question the justness of His cause. God isn’t slowed by indecision.

God is patient. 2 Peter 3:9-10 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

The only event, the only time, when God’s judgment appeared unjust and might have been delayed was when Jesus suffered for sinners on the cross. That’s a moment that gives us all pause, but God didn’t pause. God the Father did what He promised. God fulfilled the mission.

People who stay silent about God’s warnings, assuming His words were just empty threats, don’t know the God of the cross. God means what He says, and He says what He means.

Zephaniah 1:12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’

Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? What are you gonna do when God comes looking for you? God will search hearts and identify those who ignored His words.

What sort of life are we living? Are we living for the comforts and pleasures of this world? God says in verse 13 that those things won’t last. They are not eternal. God will keep the complacent from enjoying His goodness.

Our faith in Jesus Christ is the only things that will matter. The treasures we lay up in heaven will endure. The people we keep out of Hell fire will go with us.

No one will come in and plunder our heavenly homes or heavenly treasure. The Master Carpenter has built a perfect new heaven and new earth.

The best wine from the first miracle that Jesus performed will again be prepared in perfection for His family.

All of these good things and more are held in reserve for those who listen to the word of God and act like they believe.

Verse 12 holds the simple message from the book of James. True faith is not complacent. A profession of faith, followed by inaction and complacency, reveals that we don’t fully believe. Faith without works is dead.

Notice also that the heart can’t really believe in God’s goodness alone. The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill. People either believe in Heaven and Hell, the Blessing or Curse, or they don’t believe in either.

Many modern day televangelists are very open to admit that they don’t think God will judge sinners. The don’t believe God will follow through with His warnings, so they intentionally stay silent about God’s Big Plans to purify the world with fire. Joel Osteen comes to mind.

Maybe this is why our society is without restraint. God motivates us to repentance and holiness by informing us about the Day of Wrath.

2 Peter 3:11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.

Either God is true, or He is a liar. Our response reveals the true nature of our faith. Sadly, many people have actions which don’t support their profession.

How does God describe the Day of Wrath? God begins to describe it in verse 14.

Zephaniah 1:14  The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there.

If you are not living for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, then the sound is bitter, which means, the sermon this morning will irritate you.

The whole message of judgment makes folks uncomfortable. It’s unhinging. Bitter. Human nature hates the person who tells us this message. People who are unprepared to stand before Jesus make Christians suffer for bearing witness to this message.

The prophets all suffered for bearing the message of God’s future judgment. Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. He didn’t keep silent about God’s plan to judge sin and was stoned to death. Isaiah, Micah, Amos and Zechariah were all martyred by kings or leaders in Israel.

Jesus, the Greatest Prophet, was also killed for speaking the truth about God’s plans to redeem sinners through His own shed blood.

Complacency and silence with God’s message of judgment will make the world love us, but God will get a lamp, search for us, find us and judge us. We can’t win by loosing. Either the world will congratulate us, or God will. We can’t have it both ways.

People who are prepared for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ don’t get bitter hearing about God’s plans to judge sin. It’s like the songs of Christmas morning. We love His appearing.

Jesus is coming again. It may be morning, it may be noon, it may be evening it may be soon. If we are ready then we pray, “even so, come Lord Jesus!” We don’t fear. We know that the judgment and wrath for our sin was already poured out on Jesus when He was on the cross.

We can’t bury the message of verse 14 with complacency. The Church must proclaim it.

In 1970 the Church literally stopped singing verse 14.

Over 700 years ago Thomas of Celano wrote a song based on Zephaniah 1:14 called Dies Irae. He wrote in Latin and Dies Irae means Day of Wrath. For 300 years the Church sang this song at almost every worship service.

After the Reformation, only the Roman Catholic Church kept singing Celano’s song. In 1970 they rearranged the music of the Mass and no longer sing it at every worship service.

But Celano’s song, Day of Wrath, is back on the music charts. Heavy metal rock and roll artists like Devil Doll, Rage, Art Zoyd, Dark Moor and Diabolical Breed have remixed Celano’s Day of Wrath for a new generation.

The song helps them communicate the hopeless they feel. They can hear the drums of judgment beating louder and louder, and they know they will be judged for their sins.

The Church knows the message of doom and the message of salvation. Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

We must speak the Gospel to our neighbors. We must tell them of God’s judgment on sin at the cross. We must tell them about God’s Big Plans to remake the creation without the stain of sin. We should be inviting people to repent and live for Jesus.

How will they believe if we stop speaking God’s word? Our silence will get us in trouble too.

May we support God’s warnings with love and good deeds. May we live a holy life in full assurance and faith. May we know that God will keep His word. May we believe that God is doing a wonderful thing by purifying this world of sin by fire.

And may we not be scandalized by our complacency when we know the truth. Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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