Preparing the Way (5): Ruined by Rejection
November 9, 2014
Intro – Today’s message is tough. With great sadness I share with you the devastation that comes from rejecting Jesus Christ. Most people reject Jesus because the world rejects Him, and the world has more influence on us than God. It’s so much easier to just go along. It is so much wiser to be like the guy who wrote, “You say I am not with it?My friend, I do not doubt it.But when I see what I’m not with/I’d rather be without it.” Believe me, you would!
The Bible says, “It is appointed to man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” That’s Jesus’ last word to the 72 who are going to prepare the way for His last trip to Jerusalem. He clarifies the consequences of rejecting Him. Jesus pulls no punches in describing the devastating, eternal judgment awaits.
I. The Reason for Judgment
V. 16: “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Jesus establishes a linkage here. The one who rejects the messenger (and thus the gospel) rejects Christ. And the one who rejects Christ rejects the One who Sent Him – God the Father. A rejection anywhere along that chain breaks the chain.
A. Direct Rejection
1. Rejection of God
The hard-core unbeliever rejects God out of hand. He or she is an atheist (who does not believe there is a God), an agnostic (doesn’t believe it is possible to know if there is a God), a Deist (believes that while God may exist, He is irrelevant to us) or a Pantheist (believes that God is everything that is, but nothing more. He has no self-conscious or personal existence. God is nature and nature is God). All these reject God’s self-revelation in Scripture.
These are like Joe who goes to the doc and says, “I think my wife’s going deaf. What can I do?” The doc says, “Test and see how bad it is.” So, Joe goes home where his wife was preparing dinner. He stands 15 feet behind her and ask, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” No answer. He moves to 10 feet and asks again. No answer. Five feet. No answer. Finally, he stands directly behind her: “Honey, what’s for dinner?” This time his wife turns with an exasperated look and says, “For the fourth time – chicken. We’re having chicken.” The problem wasn’t Marge. The problem was Joe! Similarly, a lot of people are going to say, “God, you didn’t tell me.” And God is going to say, “No, you weren’t listing! I revealed myself in Creation; I revealed myself in your sense of morality; I revealed myself in the Word; above all I revealed myself in Jesus. But you weren’t listening.” What a tragedy to hear that from Him.
Imagine dying and suddenly finding yourself face-to-face with a personal omnipotent, omniscient, holy God whom you have denied and rejected. That is the inevitable future of those who deny Him. Rom 1:18-20, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” In nature; in their conscience; in the Word and in Christ. Sure and certain judgment awaits those who have rejected God. You can get by with it for a lifetime; you can’t get by for eternity.
2. Rejection of Jesus
This takes in a lot of people. They believe in God, and accept Jesus as a good man, great prophet and all that – but as God? No. As a substitute for their sin on the cross. No. They want a God they can control, can make in their own image. They want nothing to do with a God who became human, took their sin in His own body on the cross and now demands to be Lord of their life.
Problem is, you can’t have the Father without the Son. You can’t have God without Jesus. You can’t have the Bible without substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. The NT is full of the need to accept Jesus. John 1:11-12, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Who are the children of God? All people? No – those who have accepted Him for who He is and what He did. Those are the children of God. Turn to John 3:35-36, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” God and Jesus are inextricably bound. You can’t separate them. It is both or neither. I John 5:9-12: “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Could God make it any more clear?
In the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, a tool of Satan to discredit the Lord, Mary Magdalene sings, “He’s a man, he’s just a man.” But someone who is just a man does not go around forgiving people for their sins. He does not willingly encourage and accept worship from others. He does not cast out demons and raise people from the dead with impunity. The historical record of Jesus will simply not stand the foolish assertion that he is just a man. C.S. Lewis contends, “The doctrine of Christ's divinity seems to me not something stuck on which you can unstick, but something that peeps out at every point, so that you would have to unravel the whole web to get rid of it." We either have to accept Him as God or throw out the whole Bible. But we can’t have a tame Jesus. We either accept Him as the God who paid for your sins on the cross, or we reject Him and come under judgment.
3. Rejection of Messengers
V. 16: “and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” When we are faithfully representing he gospel, and people turn away, they’re not rejecting us so much as rejecting God. Paul says in I Thess 4:8, “Therefore whoever disregards this [his teaching], disregards not man but God.” People who reject the gospel message because they don’t like the person delivering; he is too square or too straight-laced or not to their liking in some manner, are really rejecting God. They are like the telemarketer who phoned one home where a little girl picked up. The telemarketer asked to speak to her parents, but instead was given a tour of the house, “I see a book, a flower, a doggie.” Eventually the father came on the phone, so the guy went into his pitch. “Hi, I’m calling from ABC phone company. How much do you pay for long distance?” The father said, “Hold on, please.” A moment later the guy heard, “I see a table, a lamp, a refrigerator . . .” Dad hung up on the phone company – same as people do when they reject God’s messenger.
B. Indirect Rejection
This is the most popular way of all to reject Christ. Do nothing! That’s all you have to do – nothing. Look at v. 15, “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.” This is a staggering statement. Capernaum was Jesus’ newly adopted hometown. This is where Jesus headquartered. The greatest preaching in world history was going on there. Miracles abounded; yet Jesus says, “Capernaum, I know you think you are going to heaven, but you are not. You are going to hell.” Why? They didn’t accept Him. Close isn’t good enough, Beloved. No one was closer than Capernaum. The Son of God lived right there. But close didn’t save them.
Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth ran Him out of town on a rail – tried to throw Him over a cliff. Remember? But Capernaum didn’t kick Him out. They were just coolly indifferent. They probably loved the publicity, enjoyed the show, and reveled in the added business the crowds brought. But thru benign neglect they refused His message, rejected His lordship. All they did was – nothing!
This scenario plays out weekly in churches around the world. People so close, yet so far. Dr. Paul Carlson was a missionary in the Congo in 1964 when he and a group of believers were targeted by rebels in the Civil War. Huddled in a small house, they decided to make a break for safety which was just beyond a wall in the backyard. As they took off running, shots rang out. One was killed immediately, but the others ran for their lives, clambering over the wall. Dr. Carlson was last. He quickly climbed to the top of the wall, and was about to jump off, when a shot rang out. He was hit and killed instantly. So close. And yet so far. No one took comfort in how close he came. It was almost more tragic that way. He was just as dead as if he’d been killed immediately.
That’s like people who make it to church every week, go thru the motions, do all the right things. Surrounded by truth, but never surrendering to the Lord of truth. So close and yet so far. Close doesn’t count, Beloved – not in Capernaum, not in the Congo and not in Eaton, CO. To be close is still to be under condemnation, and even as those are being eulogized by friends, they will be starting an eternity separated from the God who died for them.
II. The Reality of Judgment
Jesus made no bones about it. We, on the other hand, are in complete denial. Society teaches us to blame someone else for our problems. Psychology and psychiatry teach us it’s not our fault. The idea of God judging us for our sin is unthinkable. We’re in denial.
But Jesus left no doubt that judgment is real and it is meaningful. Some will be saved. Most will not. V. 13, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! [neighboring cities to Capernaum]. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.” Jesus hits hard. Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician cities which along with Sodom were OT examples of evil incarnate. Every Jewish person would have thought of them as Sin City. All had been destroyed just as God prophesied ahead of time in each case. And here is Jesus saying, “Listen, if those cities had seen what you’ve seen and heard what you’ve heard, they would have repented long ago. They wouldn’t be asking for more signs or being coolly indifferent.” Jesus is saying, just as judgment was sure for them, it is double sure for you. “Your indifference is noted, and if there is no repentance, there will be no escape.”
Please note, it’s not just anyone making this pronouncement. Do you know who it is? It is the judge Himself! That’s right. Jesus says in John 5:22, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.” Who will judge the living and the dead? Jesus will. And He is the one saying, “It’s coming, if you don’t turn from your sin. Judgment is coming, and I should know.” Listen, if you are an ice skater or a gymnast, what is the most helpful thing that could happen. It would be to talk to a judge ahead of time to know what they are looking for, right? Well, here is the One before whom you and I will one day stand, personally, saying, “If you reject Me; if you ignore Me; you are living with the unseen sword of judgment hanging over your head.”
So, what must we do? The judge answers in Matt 7:13-14, 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. [Turn from sin] For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Beloved, the Judge is telling us there will be a lot more people lost than those who are saved. It’s real. How is it with you? Do you know Him?
III. The Realm of Judgment
Jesus spells it out with one word – Hades – hell. Judgment leads to hell -- a place of eternal torment separated from the presence of God. The Bible speaks of it in terms of fire. Whether or not it is literal fire, it represents suffering -- primarily twofold. First, the loss of all hope of communion with God. Second, the recognition that one is there at one’s own insistence on rejecting Christ. An eternity of regret. The great Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper said, "Would you know what makes heaven, heaven? It is communion with God. Would you know what makes hell, hell? It is the forsakenness of God.”
Jesus believed in hell. It was never created initially for people. Jesus says of His own 2nd coming in Matt 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Note 2 things. First, hell was prepared for the devil and his angels initially. Second, people who reject Christ are being sent there. Judgment is real. But everyone gets what they asked for and those who desire TIME without God will find that they now have an ETERNITY without God.
Now, note in Lu 10 there are degrees of punishment in hell. God is always fair. He says this directly in v. 12: “I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” Implied – to reject greater light, like the preaching and miracles of the 72, is to incur great judgment. Lu 12:47-48 teaches the same. And in Heb 10 the writer makes the point that one who knows better but keeps on sinning because he wants to will incur judgment. But Heb 10:29 says, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” What he is saying is, it’s one thing to sin and be punished, but to know that Jesus died for you and refuse His claim of Lordship – in other words, to live on this side of the cross – will to be to incur even greater punishment. Degrees of punishment. Bad news for those who have heard the gospel time after time but chosen other idols ahead of Christ.
I am not a big fan of Bishop Sheen, but he had one thing right. A heckler once asked him a question about someone who had died. Sheen replied, “I’ll ask him when I get to heaven.” The heckler replied, “What if he isn’t in heaven?” Sheen replied, “Well then, you ask him.” The man replied that he didn’t believe in hell. Sheen replied, “You will when you get there.”
Conc – Beloved, this subject brings tears to my heart. But you must know to do nothing is to reject Christ. Here’s a question. Three frogs are sitting on a log. Two decide to jump off. How many are left? One, you say? Not true. All 3 are still there. To decide to jump is different from actually jumping. Same with Jesus. You can hear all the facts – believe He is the Lord and decide to accept Him someday. But until you actually invite Him to be your Lord you’re still sitting on the log. All you have to do to come under His judgment is nothing. Take the leap, Beloved. Repent your old life and trust Him for your eternal life. Let’s pray.