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2-4 The Patience of God 9-12

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MBC - 9/12/2004 - Pastor Doug Thompson

“Patience and Wrath”

Romans 2:4,5

Ø      ROM 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

Ø      ROM 2:2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.

Ø      ROM 2:3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?

Ø      ROM 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

Ø      ROM 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

This morning we’re going to talk about the patience of God with sinful men. If you have the KJV, the word in v.4 is longsuffering--God suffers long with sinners. The Gk. is makrothumia = long fuse. God’s fuse is long--but it’s not forever. And while God is waiting for sinners to repent, He is continually showing them goodness and kindness. But His patience won’t last forever. And when His long fuse finally reaches His wrath, it will explode. Listen to what I’m going to say--

“Behind every display of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience, is a threat of judgment if that kindness, tolerance, and patience is rejected.”

How are you responding to the kindness, tolerance, and patience of God in your life?

I. Review: Two questions for the moralist.

Paul is leveling the playing field when it comes to salvation: In ch.1, he shows that Gentiles who don’t have God’s written law are condemned because they have sinned against the light of His revelation in nature. And in ch.2, Paul shows that those who have God’s special revelation—specifically the Jews—are condemned because they sin against that revelation. As we put it in our study last week, the bad people are bad and the good people are just as bad! All people stand condemned before God because all have fallen short of the standard of absolute perfection that He demands. Paul is destroying any and every hope a person might have of being good enough to go to heaven when they die. No one is good enough to get into heaven—not even one.

And maybe you have noticed that here in ch.2, Paul has shifted into his debate mode: he’s speaking to an imaginary opponent—a self-righteous Jew, anticipating his objections and firing back questions. This was a rhetorical device known as a diatribe. And look at the two questions that Paul asks of this Jewish person who judges others for their sins, but does the same things himself:

1.) ROM 2:3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?

I.e., “Do you think that the standards that you apply to others don’t apply to you?” Well, that’s exactly what he thought! Now he would have said that he believed that God is fair and just when it comes to judging. The Jews had a strong sense of the fairness of God that goes clear back to what Father Abraham said to God in—

  • GEN 18:25  "Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?"

But they just assumed that they were on the side of the righteous because they were Jews and Abraham was their father. Remember what we saw last week: The Jews at this time believed that they wouldn’t be judged individually for their sins. They were part of a group—the nation of Israel, the chosen, covenant people of God—and that group was going to heaven. We said that the rabbis taught that Father Abraham sat at the gates of hell to turn back any Jews who happened to take a wrong turn! In the book The Wisdom of Solomon, right after a passage on pagan idolatry, it says this:

  • 15:1-3: “But Thou, Our God, are gracious and true, longsuffering, and in mercy ordering all things. For even if we sin, we are Thine, knowing Thy dominion; but we shall not sin, knowing that we have been accounted Thine; for to be acquainted with Thee is perfect righteousness!”

Do you hear the tone of presumption in that? But isn’t it human nature to say the same thing? “God I know that there is a hell for really bad people, like Saddam Hussein, and Hitler, and Madonna, and Geraldo Rivera—bad people. But not people like me!”

Well where do people think God draws the line between those bad people, and the good people—like them? Try to get an answer to that question! But you know where they will end up: “Well wherever the line is, I’m sure I’m on the right side!” but they neglect to see those 3 devastating truths about sin that we saw last week:

1.)   Sin is any lack of perfection. Anything less than the absolute perfection which belongs to the holiness of God is sin.

2.)   Sin is measured by the heart, not just the actions. Even when you restrain yourself from sinning, you still sin in your heart, in your motives, in your attitudes.

3.)   When you break one law, you have broken the whole law.

So everyone is condemned by this standard—a million times over! So ask the question again: You believe that God’s judgment is right and just—that God is like Fox network: “Fair and balanced”--and you want to see Him judge those bad people for their sins?

Then don’t you think, if God is fair and balanced, that He must judge you by the same standard that you want Him to use on others? That’s just what Paul says:

Ø      ROM 2:11 For there is no partiality with God.

Those who think that they will escape the righteous judgment of God are deluded, they are living in a dream—but one day they will awaken! As Jonathan Edwards preached it in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, “In due time, their foot will slip: As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next, and when he does fall, he falls at once, without warning. . .and there is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”

 The truth that Paul is establishing is that all have sinned, all are deserving of condemnation, and all will receive that—unless God has provided an escape, a pardon, a salvation from His judgment! And that’s where we ended up last week: God has provided a way to heaven, not through law-keeping, but through trusting in His Son.

But now look at the 2nd question that he throws at this opponent:

2.) ROM 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

Paul is like Isaiah here: “Come now and let us reason together! You know 2 things: you know that you are a sinner who deserves to punished for your sins, but you also know that God hasn’t executed the sentence yet—you’re still here! Do you take that lightly? God is being patient with you! Don’t you see His goodness all around you? You see it in the countless ways that He has blessed you: your job, your possessions, your health, your family. You have had many more good days than bad days. He has even allowed you to hear the good news of salvation in His Son—not everyone has had that opportunity—but you have!

Don’t you see the goodness of God in allowing you to get up in this morning? And don’t you see that the only reason you are still alive is the kindness and mercy of God? But His goodness and His patience have a purpose: He is allowing you the opportunity to respond to His kindness and tolerance and patience with repentance that you might escape His judgment!” Do you hear me?

Before we talk about the purpose of God’s patience, we need to talk about the abuse.

II. The abuse of God’s patience.

Until God does His work of grace in a person’s heart, that person will misunderstand and abuse God’s patience. How?

1.)   By slandering God’s justice.

He will say. “Hey, God’s a wimp. I’m spittin’ in His eye, and He’s not doin’ anything to me! I don’t see any lightning bolts. This hell thing is just a myth that people made up to try to keep bad boys like me in line. Well it won’t work.”

Listen to the Word of God--

Ø      PSA 94:7 They have said, "The Lord does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed." [i.e., God obviously isn’t watching what I’m doing!]3

Ø      PSA 94:8 Pay heed, you senseless among the people; And when will you understand, stupid ones?

Ø      PSA 94:9 He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see?

Ø      PSA 94:23 . . . He has brought back their wickedness upon them, And will destroy them in their evil; The Lord our God will destroy them.

Ø      PSA 50:16 But to the wicked God says, "What right have you to tell of My statutes And to take My covenant in your mouth?

Ø      PSA 50:17  "For you hate discipline, And you cast My words behind you.

Ø      PSA 50:18  "When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, And you associate with adulterers.

Ø      PSA 50:19  "You let your mouth loose in evil And your tongue frames deceit.

Ø      PSA 50:20  "You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother's son.

Ø      PSA 50:21  "These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you [i.e., “You have completely misunderstood Me! I was being patient with you, not flaky, like you.”]; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.

Ø      PSA 50:22 "Now consider this, you who forget God, Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.

You have heard people say these things. You try to tell them that we are living in the last days, Jesus could return at any time, and it’s a joke to them—

Ø      2PE 3:3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,

Ø      2PE 3:4 and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation."

Do you see the irony in this? God is being patient, and they mock Him for it!

Ø      It’s like a little wimpy kid picking a fight with another kid who has a black belt in karate, and the kid with the black belt is restraining himself even when the wimpy kid is slapping him and taunting him. He just keeps turning the other cheek until the wimpy kid walks away saying, “What a coward! What a loser! I showed him!” The truth is, the one with the black belt was being patient and merciful in letting him get away because he could have killed him in seconds.

Someone said, “Evil men curse God when He strikes them and laugh at Him when He is patient toward them.”

And the second way that people abuse the patience of God is—

            2.) By using it as an excuse to sin.

“Hey, no thunderbolts from heaven? Dude, let’s keep partyin’!”

Ø      ECC 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.

Ø      ISA 26:10 Though the wicked is shown favor, He does not learn righteousness; He deals unjustly in the land of uprightness, And does not perceive the majesty of the Lord.

Jesus told a parable about people who take advantage of God’s patience in forestalling Christ’s return—they don’t say, “More time to repent,” they say, “More time to sin!”

Ø      MAT 24:48  "But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,'

Ø      MAT 24:49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards;

Ø      MAT 24:50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know,

Ø      MAT 24:51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But do you see what God is saying in v.4: “Rather than abusing God’s patience and goodness, see it for what it is—time to repent, opportunity to come to your senses and be saved from God’s judgment, an invitation to come to Christ for eternal life, abundant life!”

Do you notice that he uses the word “leads”—the goodness and the kindness of God—leads you to repentance. Now God commands you to repent in His Word. He orders you to submit and obey. But for those who won’t darken the door of church to hear that sermon, He gives another sermon through all the good things He does for you, and in that sermon, He is wooing you. He is coming alongside and leading you to turn from your sins and come to Him. This is why He waits, the purpose of His patience is to lead you to repentance.

III. The purpose of God’s patience.

Adam and Eve:

You can see the patience of God by comparing 2 verses in the first chs. of Genesis:

Ø      GEN 2:17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

Ø      GEN 5:5 So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.

That’s patience! God could have killed Adam when the fruit touched his mouth, but He didn’t, because He had a plan to rescue Adam and the human race from Adam’s sin.

The Flood:

Within just a few generations after Adam, the human race had become so wicked that—

Ø      GEN 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

God had made up His mind to destroy His creation, there was no turning back, but—

Ø      1PE 3:20 . . . the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark . . .

God waited for 120 years! Why was God waiting? I believe the answer is in 2 Pet.3, where Peter is also talking about the Flood—

Ø      2PE 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Do you see what Peter is saying? “Don’t misinterpret God’s long delay as procrastination, or indecisiveness, every year that goes by is another display of His amazing patience with sinners. Although He doesn’t have to, He is allowing time for them to repent and be saved!”

Israel in the wilderness:

Ø      ACT 13:18  "For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness.

Ø      NEH 9:16 "But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; They became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments.

Ø      NEH 9:17  "They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.

Ø      NEH 9:18  "Even when they made for themselves A calf of molten metal And said, 'This is your God Who brought you up from Egypt,' And committed great blasphemies,

Ø      NEH 9:19 You, in Your great compassion, Did not forsake them in the wilderness; The pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, To guide them on their way, Nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go.

Ø      NEH 9:20  "You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, And You gave them water for their thirst.

Ø      NEH 9:21  "Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell.

Ø      PSA 78:37 For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, Nor were they faithful in His covenant.

Ø      PSA 78:38 But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; And often He restrained His anger And did not arouse all His wrath.

Ø      PSA 78:39 Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, A wind that passes and does not return.

Ø      PSA 78:40 How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness And grieved Him in the desert!

Ø      PSA 78:41 Again and again they tempted God, And pained the Holy One of Israel.

But did God ever just put an end to the Jewish people? No. Why? Because He promised to save a remnant of that people, even after they rejected their own Messiah, Paul says in Rom.11 that in this present age, God is still, still showing patience to Israel, even after He has set them aside, veiled their eyes to the gospel, and has grafted the Gentiles in their place—when the full number of Gentiles has been called in, God will once again turn His kindness to the Jews and save a remnant before Christ’s return.

Ø      This is why there are still Jews—after 4,000 years! When I was going to secular Jr. College, I had a history professor who had once studied for the ministry, but he turned his back on Christ, and became the most antagonistic enemy of Christianity I have ever met. The only reason he taught was to try and turn as many young people from Christianity as he could. But I remember the final bluebook exam for the class was one question: “The Jews—why?” i.e., No other people on the face of the earth has existed for so many millennia, why are the Jews still here?” So I used up the whole bluebook telling him: It’s the patience of God, because of a promise that He made to Abraham, and one day, they will turn back to Christ as their Messiah. God is being patient with Israel so that they might be saved.” He gave me an A—with no comments.

Beloved, God’s goodness and His patience have a purpose: time and incentive to repent!

Ø      PSA 103:8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

Ø      JON 4:2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, "Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

Ø      ROM 9:22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

God’s fuse is long, but it is not forever! Don’t take His patience for granted--don’t miss the purpose of His goodness toward you!

Ø     (Spurgeon) “It seems to me that every morning when a man wakes up still impenitent, and finds himself out of hell, the sunlight seems to say, "I shine on you yet another day, so that in this day you might repent." When your bed receives you at night I think it seems to say, "I will give you another night's rest, that you may live to turn from your sins and trust in Jesus." Every mouthful of bread that comes to the table says, "I have to support your body that still you may have space for repentance." Every time you open the Bible the pages say, "We speak with you that you may repent." Every time you hear a sermon, if it be such a sermon as God would have us preach, it pleads with you to turn unto the Lord and live. Surely the time past of your life may suffice you to have wrought the will of the Gentiles. "The times of your ignorance God winked at, but now commands men everywhere to repent." Do not life and death, and heaven and hell, call upon you so to do?”

IV. When patience runs out.

 

Look again at v.4: The word “tolerance” or “forbearance” was a military term for a truce. Now what is a truce? Does it mean that the war is over? No, it just means that the shooting has stopped, temporarily, and hopefully for the purpose of the parties involved re-considering what they are fighting over so that they can reach terms of peace.

Please hear what God is saying in His Word this morning: If you have never repented of your sins and trusted in Christ--this is the day. Just because you don’t hear any shells going off or bullets whizzing past your head, doesn’t mean that you are peace with God! You are not. This is a time of truce. God is giving you time and space to repent, but the truce won’t last forever--and mark it, while God is showing you His goodness, and giving you time, He is re-loading--that’s what v.5 says--

Ø      ROM 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

“Storing up wrath” = this is banking terminology. For every day that goes by that you spurn God’s goodness and refuse to repent, you are socking away more wrath, day after day after day.

God’s wrath is just like water in a dam that is rising higher and higher, putting more pressure on that dam. God’s wrath is being revealed against right now--but it’s just a dribble--just a demonstration. God isn’t settling all His debts in this age:

Ø      It’s like the way the IRS audits our taxes: not everyone gets nailed, they pick people at random, as a reminder and a warning to the rest of us that WE COULD BE NEXT!

But when the dam finally breaks, it all comes down. And when it does, there will be no extensions, no reprieves, no excuses--and get what I’m going to say--no mercy!

No mercy? It’s almost impossible for us to imagine God without mercy, because we see so much of His mercy and goodness, all around us, constantly, even on those who hate Him or ignore Him. It’s almost inconceivable to think that a day will come when God doesn’t give sinners a break, when there will be no escape--no more time to repent. But that’s what Scripture promises, all throughout the Bible, there are the warnings interspersed--like fire drills--telling men to prepare. Listen to the way the prophet Zephaniah describes that awful day--

Ø      ZEP 1:14 Near is the great day of the Lord, Near and coming very quickly; Listen, the day of the Lord! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.

Ø      ZEP 1:15 A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness,

Ø      ZEP 1:16 A day of trumpet and battle cry Against the fortified cities And the high corner towers.

Ø      ZEP 1:17 I will bring distress on men So that they will walk like the blind, Because they have sinned against the Lord; And their blood will be poured out like dust And their flesh like dung.

Ø      ZEP 1:18 Neither their silver nor their gold Will be able to deliver them On the day of the Lord's wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end, Indeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Ø      ZEP 2:1 Gather yourselves together, yes, gather, O nation without shame,

Ø      ZEP 2:2 Before the decree takes effect -- The day passes like the chaff -- Before the burning anger of the Lord comes upon you, Before the day of the Lord's anger comes upon you.

Ø      ZEP 2:3 Seek the Lord, All you humble of the earth Who have carried out His ordinances; Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden In the day of the Lord's anger.

Ø      Imagine that you were living in southern Florida last week and turned on the TV and heard the predictions of the 3rd hurricane on its way, the worst of the 3, “Ivan the terrible,” a category 5 hurricane. And the announcer told you to evacuate immediately and go to a certain shelter where there would be plenty of food, water, and everything you needed for survival. How would you have regarded those warnings?

Ø      “Ah, what do those idiots know? They’ve been wrong in the past. And besides, we don’t need their help. Our house made it through Charley and Francis--we can weather another storm!”

Ø      “So this is it, the big one? Well maybe I’ll just try to make it into the shelter at the last minute, but in the meantime, it’s not even raining, so I’m gonna get some friends together for the party of the century. Let’s the good times begin!”

Ø      “Or would you have said, “Thank You, thank You, Lord for the warning! If I had lived 100 years ago, there would have been no TV or radio to tell me what was coming. And thank You, thank You, that a shelter is available to save my family and me from this storm.”

How are you responding to the kindness, tolerance, and patience of God in your life?

Ø      MAT 24:37 "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.

Ø      MAT 24:38 "For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,

Ø      MAT 24:39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

And just as in the days of Noah, the patience of God keeps waiting . . .

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