When people go to church and don't hear the truth about the Bible, this is
an example of God's wrath says Luther.
The American contemporary Church Growth Movement, distinguished for its
happy clappy worship, must now attempt to "blend" an explanation of
death at the World Trade Center with its prosperity driven entertainment
The World Trade Center was the most successful place on earth.
It is hard to have worshippers be upbeat and rejoicing when they know that
it was God who allowed the removal of approximately 7000 people in four
airplane crashes and the destruction of numerous buildings. Entertainment
religion, with the big screen bouncing ball and praise bands, doesn't
harmonize with repentance themes.
At the moment, Americans are even subdued at sporting events, let alone
worship. It is hard to be happy at the local mega-church when thousands died
so tragically. Some may even conclude that their religion and community church
worship are inappropriate.
The opening four verses of Psalm 38 are hardly the stuff of growing PLI
churches and multiple choruses of "Shine Jesus Shine":
"1 O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot
2 For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there
any rest in my bones because of my sin.
4 For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are
too heavy for me." Psalm 38.
The paradox of a simultaneously loving and wrathful God is a little too
complex for the "I don't know how to use a hymnbook crowd."
For example, in Romans 1:18 Paul says, "For the wrath of God is
revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who
hold the truth in unrighteousness;"
Then 10 chapters later we see the same God described by Paul as follows,
"But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands
unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." Romans 10:21
Superficial smiles are not a basis for spiritual discernment. There really
is no rational explanation for the existence the Scriptures, Christianity, or
a worship service without the proper distinction of Law and Gospel.
The greatest manifestation of God's wrath is on people who despise God's
Word and don't want to hear the truth and according to Luther : "This is
preached only to Christians, who are to believe it and wait for the future,
better life. The rest, the mad mob (der tolle Pobel), will not believe
anything of it anyway. For they are not worthy (because they despise God's
Word) of appreciating it; and God is punishing them in such a way that they go
on in their folly and blindness and do not accept it, and His wrath has
already begun its work on them."
"For it is the greatest and most terrible manifestation of God's wrath
when He does not grant that one gladly hears and heeds His Word."
("What Luther Says" CPH Vol. III, page 1557)
Luther says that before God destroys people, He first blinds them to the
"What greater and more horrible punishment and plague exist on earth
than spiritual blindness or madness, namely, that a man no longer can or will
listen when he is told how he is to be saved? What greater vengeance could I
nowadays take on pope, bishops, and tyrants than seeing with my own eyes how
God so plagues them that they are blind, furious, and foolish? When God is
severely angry and allows His punishment to descend in earnest, He first
closes the eyes of people so that they stagger on blindly from one pit to
another. This is what happened to King Pharaoh in Egypt until he drowned in
the Red Sea. Later on it happened to the Jews because of Christ and His
Again says Luther: "God's wrath is greatest when He removes His Word
or permits people to despise it. When the Greeks despised His Word, He took it
away and gave them the Turk and Mohammed; to us Germans and to the Italians He
gave the pope and with him all sorts of horrible things-the denial of the
faith, for example, and the entire papacy."
In essence God is where most contemporary worshippers believe He is not.
They don't seek Him in repentance but exuberance. They don't seek Him in Law
and Gospel, but in healthy relationships and positive environments. They would
rather feel the power than submit to His Word.
Now they must face the confusion of a God who they think wants them to be
happy but has exposed them to so much death.
Only the believer in Christ can rejoice with Paul in the following verse:
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is
made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my
infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians