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WHAT KIND OF CHRISTMAS MESSAGE IS THIS?
by Philip Owen

            No less a luminary than King David confessed that he found his faith being undermined as he observed “the prosperity of the wicked” (Psa. 73:3b).  “For there are no pains in their death, and their body is fat.  They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like mankind.  Therefore pride is their necklace; the garment of violence covers them.  Their eye bulges from fatness; the imaginations of their heart run riot.  They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; they speak from on high.  They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue parades through the earth” (vv. 4-9).  So far from being judged by God for their sins, they flourish, grow rich, live long lives, and seem to go to their graves without qualms.  They often avoid many of the trials and troubles that beset the righteous and are so successful that they swell with pride at the grandeur of their accomplishments.  Even those who resort to violence escape recompense.  Their minds constantly devise creative ways to sin, and they proudly and arrogantly mock those they oppress.  They have no fear of God and speak openly of the contempt they have for Him and those who believe in Him.  “When I pondered to understand this,” David wrote, “it was troublesome in my sight” (v. 16).

            Many of us may be tempted with the same thoughts.  Flagrant sin seems to be vomiting out of every corner of our world. And some of the worst perpetrators seem to be escaping any consequences, and are, in fact, prospering greatly.  But we may learn from David, whose meditations did not end with his observations of what was going on around him.  He remained confounded by the apparent success of the wicked, he says, “Until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end” (v. 17).  These sinners had yet to reap what they had sown.  “Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.  How they are destroyed in a moment!  They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!  Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form” (vv. 18-20).

            God is far more patient and longsuffering with sinners than are we.  Sinners, even the most egregious, may for one brief moment, like a supernova, flash across the sky.  But this is certain:  “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).  The Bible has much to say about that judgment, but we have space here only to note one irrefutable fact:  the judgment will be microscopically thorough and absolutely right.  Observe these words.  The day is approaching when “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:16).  “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” (Rom. 2:5).  “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Lk. 8:17).  “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36).  “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14).   “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds” (Matt. 16:27).

            It would not be difficult to multiply these statements from God’s holy Word.  But the truth is clear:  God judges all sin.  Not the smallest sin escapes His attention; indeed, many things that we might refuse to acknowledge as sin will nevertheless be judged.  Sinners get away with nothing:  their time of judgment has yet to come.  But what kind of message is this to be published on the day before Christmas? you might ask.  It is a stark reminder that sin is real and judgment certain.  But as Paul wrote to Timothy, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (I Tim. 1:15).   May those who know the Lord not doubt His holiness  nor justice on the one hand; on the other, may we not fail to testify of His longsuffering, mercy, and grace.

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