Word for Word 3/7/18

Pastor Bill Odermann
Pastor Bill Odermann

To All Church Attenders: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, NASB).

Two years ago, I was introduced to a retired evangelical minister who oversees a food shelf ministry to Hispanics near the Gulf of Mexico in the southern part of Texas. We discussed the spiritual condition and challenges in our respective denominations. He knew about mine so I asked him about his denomination. He was quick to reply,

“There’s no fear of God.” This struck a fire in me as I realized I have been seeing the same issue - it lived with me for days and I have never forgotten that conversation.

Walking in the fear of God is only possible if one holds and strikes a balance beween God’s mercy side as well as His judgment side. As one preacher stated years ago in my hearing, after a funeral, “Mercy without the possibility of judgment is only tolerance.” I agree! It’s easy to preach God’s love and mercy side and equally easy (and convenient) to ignore his judgment side.

His judgment side can easily seem offensive, unreal, out-of-date or out-of-step with modern times and thinking (this is not new, we’ve seen this before).

In my churches I have served, I have met plenty of people who fear the IRS more than they fear God! Why is this? I figure this happens because the consequences for tax evasion are heavy and happen quickly, this side of eternity. The consequences of apathy and indifference towards God and His Word are far greater, with eternal consequences if there is no repentance and change of heart! And the judgments of God do not necessarily happen quickly - all because the goodness (delay) of God is meant to lead us to repentance. There are plenty of people out there who misinterpret ‘delay’ as God’s disinterest thus, salving their consciences against their own sin.

Should this not be a deeper fear than that of the IRS? You would think so. Especially if people truly understood what’s truly at stake.

Have you noticed the lack of the fear of God in church and society? Have you wondered if there might be a correlation between the absence of the fear of God and the absence of the belief in eternal punishment? How can you tell if there’s a lack of the fear of God or concern about eternal punishment? It’s people’s lifestyles, choices, and indifference to these doctrines - live the way you want to or please, there’s no consequences. God loves everyone and he came to save, not judge, which is true but he also requires holy living … and reverence and honor towards him … speaking for Him, sharing Him, He is not someone to take lightly, trivialize, minimize, or use and misuse for our own selfish pleasures and agendas. Heaven does have a ‘protocol’ when it comes to approaching and relating to the almighty!

When one humbles themselves before God, everything changes. Confession of sin, true humility and repentance changes everything! Eternal punishment comes off the board and God is then free to relate to us differently. That’s fundamental to the gospel! To say nothing about eternal punishment can actually cause people to believe it’s not important, true, or real simply because the pastor handles it that way or ignores it all together. May the Lord help us, the church, to recover a healthy fear of God and to walk in His love, grateful for all he has done through sending Jesus to die for us!

Pastor Bill Odermann
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Waukon


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