Tremble With Joy

Read: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Last Sunday, Chad Ferrell closed out our Christmas series with a sermon from John 1:14-18, teaching us that we can know the Father through the Son by rejoicing in the incarnation, marveling at Jesus’ glory, and receiving Jesus’ grace. This Sunday, Pastor Ken will begin our new year with a sermon from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. As you prepare your heart for our corporate gathering, let these sobering words from John Piper move you to tremble with joy at the fact that Jesus has saved us from the wrath of God to come. Further, may this glorious truth spur us on to a greater urgency to share the gospel with as many people as possible, that they too may be rescued from the wrath of God to come.

Heart Preparation

Do you remember the time you were lost as a child, or slipping over a precipice, or about to drown? Then suddenly you were rescued. You held on for “dear life.” You trembled for what you almost lost. You were happy. Oh, so happy, and thankful. And you trembled with joy.

That’s the way I feel at the end of the year about my rescue from God’s wrath. All day Christmas we had a fire in the fireplace. Sometimes the coals were so hot that when I stoked it my hand hurt. I pulled back and shuddered at the horrendous thought of the wrath of God against sin in hell. Oh, how unspeakably horrible that will be!

Christmas afternoon I visited a woman who had been burned over 87 percent of her body. She has been in the hospital since August. My heart broke for her. How wonderful it was to hold out hope to her from God’s word for a new body in the age to come! But I came away not only thinking about her pain in this life, but also about the everlasting pain I have been saved from through Jesus.

Test my experience with me. Is this trembling joy a fitting way to end the year? Paul was glad that “Jesus . . . delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). He warned that “for those who . . . do not obey the truth . . . there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8). And “because of [sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6).

Here at the end of the year, I am finishing my trek through the Bible and reading the last book, Revelation. It is a glorious prophecy of the triumph of God, and the everlasting joy of all who “take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17). No more tears, no more pain, no more depression, no more sorrow, no more death, no more sin (Revelation 21:4).

But oh, the horror of not repenting and not holding fast to the testimony of Jesus! The description of the wrath of God by the “apostle of love” (John) is terrifying. Those who spurn God’s love will “drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:10–11).

“And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Jesus will “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:15). And blood will flow “from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 184 miles” (Revelation 14:20). Whatever that vision signifies, it is meant to communicate something unspeakably terrible.

I tremble with joy that I am saved! But oh, the holy wrath of God is a horrible destiny. Flee this, brothers and sisters. Flee this with all your might. And let us save as many as we can! No wonder there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous (Luke 15:7)!

“A Horrible Destiny,” by John Piper, www.desiringgod.org

Song List for Sunday

1. “Even So Come,” by Chris Tomlin
2. “Forever Reign,” by Hillsong Live
3. “Let Your Kingdom Come,” by Sovereign Grace Music
4. “Jesus, Thank You,” by Sovereign Grace Music
5. “In Christ Alone,” Arr. by Adrienne Liesching and Geoff Moore

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