Fire and Brimstone

by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)

Zephaniah 1:14-18


 14 The great day of the LORD is near— near and coming quickly.
The cry on the day of the LORD is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry.
15 That day will be a day of wrath— a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness— 16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers.
 17 “I will bring such distress on all people that they will grope about like those who are blind, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath.”
   In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.

DISCLAIMER
Before I begin today I'd like to mention that the stories that I allude to today that don't involve my own family have been loosely borrowed and paraphrased from the wiritngs of Christian author Bill Weise.

We are told that what is being described is “The day of the Lord”
A day that will be, according to the verses:
a> Bitter
b> A day of wrath
c> Troublesome
d> Distressing
e> Devastating and desolate
f> A time of darkness and gloom
g> An alarmingly bad day

THE SECULAR WORLD...

Doesn’t often think it needs a savior.
They often don't believe they need to be saved from anything, because they have lived a good life.

STORY
Tom didn't think his parking tickets were a big deal.
The police came for him at 4am.
He was loaded into a paddy wagon.
And brought him before the judge.

As he stood before the judge he said...
Your honor I brought $1,000 with me to pay tickets / cover court costs.
But instead the judge sent Tom to jail.
He was horrified.

Tom had trivialized his crimes.
Thought: they're just parking tickets.
He had deceived himself.
Had he known the judges ruling
That he could go to prison
Perhaps he would have made things right between himself & the law.

We trivialize our crimes all the time.
Have you ever lied?
Yes, but only white lies.
Have you ever stolen anything?
Just little things.
You're trivializing those crimes and like Tom deceiving yourself.

The secular, moralistic, liberal attitude that would deny this truth
Scoffs at this scripture and says we can justify ourselves.
When we can only truly be justified by the atoning work of Jesus.

What we have with us today is a world attempting to forgive itself of its sin.

THAT IS WHERE TODAY’S VERSE COMES IN.

Zeph. Is telling us we are saved from the repercussion of sinfulness.

1 Thess. 1:10 tells us the day of the Lord is coming.

"…wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath."

STORY
Junior high progress/report cards every 3 weeks
I was in big trouble every 3 weeks.
On the receiving end of mom’s wrath.
Things went from bad to worse.
Thought mom was going to “kill” me (not literally of course).
So, if mom’s anger can be symbolic of God’s wrath
Dad was symbolic of Jesus.
I’d go to my dad and say “I’m sorry” or “I’d try harder”.
I was repentant (and really believed I was).
Dad would go to mom
Just like Jesus goes to God on our behalf.

1 John 2:1 “1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. aAnd if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

See Jesus intervenes on our behalf with God
And my dad would intervene on my behalf with mom
But both parents would tell me to get my act together.
I think God is telling us that too
That there are severe repercussions for sin
That life without him is hopeless, but…

HAVE WE GONE SOFT?
In the name of better ratings or for the sake of drawing in larger crowds:
Has the church and its leaders grown soft?
Preaching a feel good message?
When it comes to salvation have we missed the horror of what it means to be separated from God?

Have we re-worked the image of the Son of God?
Looking at Jesus as someone who just helps us out of scrapes or who gives our life direction?
We have such a rosy view of spiritual matters some times
We only look at those parts of the Bible that are easy to digest.

We look for Sunday morning warm/fuzzy feelings
Turn a deaf ear when it comes to the wrath we would face without Christ in our lives.

And when it comes to God as a righteous judge
We tend to skip over that…we don’t want to think about it.
And yet that death sentence; that conviction, condemnation
THAT DAMNATION is what you and I have been saved from.

WHAT SORT OF PROPHETS HAVE WE EMBRACED?
In the OT the true prophets didn’t pull any punches.
They declared the day of the Lord, as did Zeph, as a day of wrath.
Whereas false prophets tickled the ears of their audiences
Told them what they knew the audience wanted to hear
So that they could win the people’s favor:

a> Told everyone: God loves you; no need to change, no need to repent.

b> God has a plan for you
But they failed to tell them if they were unrepentant then you’re:

a> Dead in your sins.

b> You’re separate from God.

c> God doesn’t have a plan for you.

d> Other than what befalls those who never knew Him

Amos confirms all of this in 5:18-20. The day of the Lord, for a lot of people, will not be a good thing:

18 Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD?
   That day will be darkness, not light. 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
   only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall
   only to have a snake bite him. 20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—
   pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

MAYBE YOU CAN’T SEE A LOVING GOD ACTING IN SUCH A WAY:

Part of your problem is confusing your idea of love with a holy God.
Have you considered Noah and what God did during that time?
The day of the Lord and his wrath fell on the unrepentant
But for Noah and his family the day of the Lord was the day of their salvation.

STORY
Father’s day
Grampa and the family around the fire pit
Logs fell over and landed on him while he slept
His pants on fire.
Everyone just watching grampa burn
We didn’t react, but grandma did
“Well, put him out.”

There are a lot of people out there waiting for someone else to act.
An awful lot of people being spectators
When there are people that need saving from the fire.
Which is symbolic of God's wrath.

So...

I realize a fire and brimstone message can leave you feeling rattled.
Mostly I hope it leaves you with a sense of urgency.
There are those in your very family who need to hear from you
That salvation is of the Lord
So, that they can be rescued from those things that are coming on the day of God’s wrath.
I also hope this message causes you to rejoice in your salvation.
Jesus paid a great debt to rescue us and to save us from the repercussions of our sins.

AMEN

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