A note from the State Overseer:
As I sought the Lord about what to print in this month’s edition of the State Paper, my mind and heart went to this subject and I remembered a sermon by Brother R. O. Covey that spoke volumes to me some years ago. Although this message is longer than typical for this application and we needed to forego “From the Desk” for this month, I believe it will be well worth it’s printing here. I encourage every reader to prayerfully consider these words and absorb them into your spiritual life as we strive to draw closer to the Lord.
God’s Chastening Love
R. O. Covey
Mother has just told 6-year-old Susie not to use a certain “bad word” anymore. Susie sticks her tongue at Mother and repeats the word three times—and gets by with it!
Across town, a father has just told 8-year-old Johnny to carry out the garbage. Johnny kicks Father’s shins and tells him to carry it out himself—and gets by with it!
Why do they let them by? “We love them so!”—they say. Ten years later, Susie is living the “bad word” life, and Johnny is stealing to support his drug addiction. The parents are wringing their hands and walking the floor, asking, “Where did I go wrong?”
Let’s transfer the scene: a 26-year-old Susan and a 28-year-old John have married and are members of the Church; but they decide that they are going to use tobacco, do “social drinking,” and wear rings (at first the wedding band, then as many as they like). The pastor and local church lets them “get by.” With the passing of time, the congregation is doing anything they please! When asked, “Why?” this pastor answers, “We love these people too much to lose them.” (And, of course, they just might decide to stop tithing!) Let us see if the scriptures will support this strange brand of love: “...ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:5-11).
This passage has reference to “big children”—the children of God, whom Paul (in his “love chapter”) says are supposed to have “put away childish things [ways]” and to have “become a man” (cf. 1 Cor. 13:11). And it is only fair to say that the pastor in the above situation might well accept his share of “chastening.”
Today it is called “love” to allow people to do as they please. Though some things they are doing are very “unlovely.” Still, in order to “show love,” not even a finger must be placed upon them, no matter how offensive, reproachful, or peace-disturbing they may be to others!
That is indeed “a strange brand of love”! When we can “love” a man so much that we can stand by and watch him go to hell without lifting a finger or crying out in alarm, it is an “off brand” that should in no way be associated with “love”! It pollutes the beautiful word “love” by its irresponsible misuse—yea, even abuse! Even in the animal kingdom the mothers cuff their young ones quite roughly in order to teach them an awareness of danger; but the affection they have for their young is apparent, and the young respond to it.
Parents who try to persuade themselves that their children will love them better in return for this unscriptural “love” should open their eyes and face reality. In most instances it begets disrespect, lack of confidence, and finally, open, flagrant disobedience. And the same is true spiritually. We only deceive ourselves when we contend that we are winning the affection of people by condoning their sin, or by “looking the other way” when they disregard the Church’s teaching and advice.
Today’s so-called “evangelism,” to an alarming extent, is so “honeyed up” that sinners can hardly think of a reason to go to the altar. As a rule, one can sit through an entire revival (?) without hearing anything about man’s depraved condition—his utter unworthiness to be saved: his absolute hopelessness except for the sheer mercy of an offended and angry God!
If hell is mentioned at all, one might get the impression that the altar route is a way to escape the injustice of a vengeful God rather than to accept the merciful provision of a loving but just God. Evangelists may encourage sinners not to feel condemned, but only convicted. Tell me—how can an utterly lost sinner feel convicted without recognizing his state of condemnation? And tell me—is it “love” to invite sinners to come to the altar in an attitude of “doing God a favor” rather than of accepting God’s unmerited favor? If that is love, the Holy Ghost certainly must have changed His “office work” since the day of Pentecost, and since the day of the Reformers and of other “Great Awakenings” of the 18th and 19th Centuries!
I would say that Jonathan Edwards showed great love back in 1741 when he preached his immortal sermon on “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” I would say that the Holy Ghost confirmed His pleasure by His overwhelming conviction during Edwards’ sermon causing men and women to scream for mercy as they clung to the pews and pillars, feeling that they were slipping into perdition!
Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world; not that the world should not feel condemned, but because it was already condemned, though nobody had showed it how lost it was (cf. John 3:17-21)! Men cannot be shown how lost they are without preaching to them the justice of God in imposing His unbending Law. The exactness of the Law’s requirements must be preached, and its death penalty must be laid down without one grain of “sweetness.” Then, and only then, may the gospel be preached with Holy Ghost unction. Then, and only then, will the sinner sense old-time Bible conviction.
No man can prove that he truly loves them to whom he preaches unless he first preaches God’s Law without mercy, then following it up with the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ in pure mercy. We have not shown sinners our love, and God’s, until we have shown them that His love is not a mere setting aside of His just and righteous Law, but rather a total fulfillment of that Law by subjecting Himself, in the person of His dearly beloved Son, to a shameful, substitutionary death for undeserving men. There is no love apart from the truth; and the truth is that depraved man is too sinful to merit salvation, and not “too good to be lost,” as is so often said.
This “strange brand” of love is seen today in the way many ministers treat the subject of adultery and fornication, including the divorce and remarriage evil—for just one example. Is it godly love to let adulterers and fornicators live on and on in their sinful state without due conviction for their being “already condemned”? Why would any minister call this “love”? Because of his fleshly desire to be thought of as “a good fellow”? Or is it for the satisfaction of seeing two more places filled on a church pew? A commendable (?) report to headquarters? Or a selfish concern for financial support for himself and his church?
When in hell, will those adulterers and fornicators be found praising the ministers for making them feel comfortable rather than miserable while here on earth? On which side of the “great gulf” (cf. Luke 16:26) will these compromising, ambitious minsters be found? Could they face Christ unashamed? —The Christ who showed His love by being straightforward on this subject?
Instead of holding out a false hope that “God will make a way,” those living in adultery or fornication should be shown that God has already made a way—for all who will forsake their sins!
Yes, God in His great love chastens “every son” in mercy, for “mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13). “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye” (Ezek. 18:32).
As “death-prone” as every individual is today, it is tempting God with every breath drawn to go on living in sin; whether it be the sins of immorality, or the sin of “buddying up” to the enemy of God—the world (cf. James 4:4; John 15:18)! Yes, or the sin of ignoring God’s chastening rod, every “blow” administered with the merciful assurance that He loves us too much to let us live comfortably all the way to everlasting torment!
David said, “The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death. Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord” (Psa. 118:18, 19). He submitted to the chastening and was blessed thereby.
The longsuffering love of Jesus is seen in His final appeal to the church of the Laodiceans, which He was ready to “spew out of His mouth”: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:19)
Let us draw very close to God when He chastens us; like the little lad who learned to get close to his father when he used the “rod.” He said, “Daddy, it doesn’t hurt so bad when I am real close to you.”
“...Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise” (Matt. 21:16).
© The Church of God, Alabama
Youth Convention – May 10 & 11
Alabama Children’s Day- May 18 (Bessemer, AL)
Bible Training Institute – May 26-June 8th (Cleveland, TN)
Family Camp – July 10-14 (Poplar Point Camp)
State Convention – July 26-28 (Bessemer, AL)
International Youth Camp – August 16-19 (Lutheridge Conference Center, NC)
General Assembly – August 20-25 (Ridgecrest, NC)