With sermons for tonight, tomorrow night and Easter Sunday done, my thoughts and prayer turn to those whom our heavenly Father draws to hear the gospel this year – those who only come to church on Christmas and Easter.
Do you know what is true about folks who only come to church on Christmas and Easter? God is speaking directly to them in the preached Word, and still they reject him year after year. They presume on God’s kindness and patience not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead them to repentance (Romans 2.4). Paul goes on to address them directly in verse 5: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” I shudder to think what their realization will be who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the ages to come, only to walk away.
But my heart is also drawn to those who never come to church at all. Do you know what is true about folks who never come to church? They may have a desire for God, but not according to knowledge revealed in the Scriptures. Being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they do not submit to God’s righteousness in Christ (Romans 10.3). For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they become futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts are darkened (Romans 1.18). The wrath of God is already revealed upon them.
So I find myself driven to my knees asking God to break the hardened hearts of those who come and of those who pass by. As I find hope and joy and grace in worship, I know that all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who sinned under the law will be judged by the law (whether that is the seemingly innocuous liberal TEC “law light” as in ‘love one another’ or that is the 613 Old Testament commands – it is still all law [Romans 2.12]) so my preaching takes on a greater urgency for this may be the last chance for some.
One could wonder how you can even ascend the pulpit knowing what the Word of God says. There is a great burden and real trembling in the preaching, but there’s tremendous reason to hope. Romans 10 goes on:
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
What a privilege it is to preach the gospel of Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification, to see the heart of stone replaced with a heart of flesh, to see the sinner convicted and burdened and then as they watch that burden fall away into an empty tomb never to be seen again!