Summary: Only by fearing sin now and trusting in Jesus' forgiveness will we enjoy an eternal life without fear.
When do you feel the most secure? Is it when you’re snuggled in bed with the covers pulled up to your chin and all the doors locked? Or do you feel most secure when Mom and Dad and your whole family are in the same room together gathered around the Christmas tree and enjoying one another’s company? Aren’t those the kind of moments you cherish and wish would never end? While moments like that may make us feel secure, there is no guarantee that we actually are secure. Someone could keel over with a heart attack during that family gathering. Or a robber might crash into our bedroom while we’re sleeping. In our Tweet from Heaven today, God does promise a time when there will be no fear. But only those who dread sin now and continue to seek God’s forgiveness will get to enjoy an eternal life with nothing to fear.
This is now our third sermon from the Old Testament book of Zephaniah. Last week we heard God turn his attention to the nations surrounding the Israelites to say that they would be judged. We spent some time pondering God’s startling announcement that Nineveh, one of the leading cities of the day would be decimated and its buildings left a ruins, and still are today. When the people of Jerusalem heard that pronouncement they must have thought: “It’s about time Lord. Nineveh is bad news. Give them what they deserve!” So when God continued to speak about judgment in Zephaniah 3, God’s people must have thought that he was further describing the hurt he would bring against Nineveh. God said: “Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! 2 She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD, she does not draw near to her God. 3 Her officials are roaring lions, her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning” (Zephaniah 3:1-3). God, however, was not describing Nineveh. He was actually talking about Jerusalem! He went on to say about that city: “Her prophets are arrogant; they are treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law…the unrighteous know no shame” (Zephaniah 3:4, 5b).
How startled the people of Jerusalem must have been when they realized that God was describing them and not the Ninevites. They were like people who come to church expecting the pastor to speak about how wicked the world is and how thankful we can be that we’re not like “those people.” But our Sunday mornings here together in church are not supposed to be rag sessions. Sure, I need to point out and warn against the sins of this world, but I am not much of a shepherd if I don’t point out sins “in here” - sins that we struggle with. A coach who points out the weaknesses of the opponent and gets his team to laugh at them has not done much to prepare his players for the upcoming game. If anything, he’s probably made his team less prepared since they will now be more apt to take their opponent lightly. No, a smart coach will pay more attention to the weaknesses of his team and work at removing them.