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Being on the wrong side of God’s history

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Unsplash/NeONBRAND

The constant parade of prominent church leader failures is painful to watch. Take your pick from the recent events surrounding Hillsong or other pastors who have been caught robbing their churches, it’s a news stream that never seems to bottom out.

Christian or not, it’s head-scratching to watch people fall into the same traps by which they’ve seen others ensnared. How many political, corporate, or church leaders see their peers lose everything due to sexual wrongdoings and infidelity, excesses of alcohol, financial thievery, and so on? If their mindset is, “that won’t be me,” I’ve got news for them.

Yes, it will.

Like Paul said, “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? There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil” (Rom. 2:3, 9).

The German philosopher Hegel is credited with first saying, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history” and that certainly seems to be true as we watch so many take spectacular falls from grace. The Bible tells us that such an axiom is painful enough to experience in this life, but is infinitely worse in the next.

Hey Jude

The book of Jude hammers home this fact multiple times, starting in verses 5-7:

“Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 5-7)

In these verses, Jude “reminds” us of three historical examples that we can learn from when it comes to ignoring God and His moral pronouncements. All three have the same thing in common: simply put, they abandoned what God said was right and pursued what God forbade.

With Israel it was idolatry; with the angels, it was the boundary between their world and ours; with Sodom and Gomorrah, it was violent sexual perversion.

And their end result? “Destroyed”; “kept in eternal bonds under darkness”; “undergoing the punishment of eternal fire”.  It’s safe to say that no one intends to sign up for those things.

Speaking of just Israel’s failures, Paul says the same thing twice about heeding their example to emphasize its importance: “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved…Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction” (1 Cor. 10:6, 11).

The question is, will we listen to that instruction?

Portrait of failing God’s history lesson

The most popular smear cry today, especially in politics, is, “you’re on the wrong side of history.”  The phrase belongs to what some call the “Whig school” of history, a term coined in 1931 by historian Herbert Butterfield, that says the world progresses toward the inevitable victory of liberalism and anti-God enlightenment philosophy.

Such a stance is seen in the morally bankrupt portrait described by Jude in his letter: “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties” (Jude 8).     

Those on the wrong side of God’s history typically portray themselves as visionaries (“dreaming”), but in reality, they end up promoting the same old mistakes of those who have been on the receiving end of God’s wrath in the past: physical immorality, rejection of God’s authority and “speaking evil of” (what the term “revile” translates to in the Greek) God’s moral code, which Jude represents as angels – the ones tasked with communicating God’s moral law (see Deut. 33:2; cf. Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:1–2).

There’s no permanently concealing things once you mount that horse as many in very visible church leadership positions have recently discovered. Scripture plainly says, “be sure your sin will find you out” (Deut. 32:23). A. W. Tozer puts it like this: “The wheels of God’s judgment may grind slow but they grind exceedingly fine.” 

Being on the wrong side of God’s history means that, sooner or later, you’ll experience the temporal and possibly eternal consequences of what Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (6:7).

In other words, you either learn from bad examples or become one yourself. 

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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