If you are an avid C. J. Mahaney listener, you may well have heard of a series of talks he did many years ago on people in the Bible who God killed. In which case, I’ve got a real treat in store for you! But first, let me set the context.
I would like to share with you a few sermons over the coming weeks or months that have impacted me so much that I still remember them. I am convinced that the gentle “drip drip” effect of being continually exposed to good teaching over many years is as important as the moments of great impact and decision. But, by the nature of things, we don’t remember those sermons!
Some messages do consciously shape us, however, creating a moment of transaction between us and God. Often we remember how we felt when we heard them as if it were yesterday, even years afterwards. This is one such talk. I would love to hear from others about sermons they remember as having transformed them in a similar way.
To set the scene, I was still a young boy. I had somehow persuaded my parents to let me go into the adults’ meeting in a tent at Downs Bible Week, an early Newfrontiers conference.
Mahaney was a phenomenon even back then. He was funny, engaging, easy to understand, and truly passionate. He was speaking about the holiness of God, and by honing in on the people God killed, certainly got my attention. This was a side of God I hadn’t really given much attention to.
This talk was very well received. In fact, you could have cut the air with a knife that night because of the sense of the presence of God in the room. It was one of the very few times in my life when I caught something of the smell of revival. That night I experienced for the first time a sense of the weighty presence of God in all his holiness that both attracted and terrified me. I knew then that this was what a revival would feel like. If I had known how seldom I would experience the same sensation in the ensuing years, I would not have wanted to leave that tent. Sometimes today I cry out to God that he would reveal himself in such a way again. When we pray for revival, I’m not entirely sure we know what we are praying for.
Judging by the heavy sense of conviction in the room, many of us were totally undone that night. I know that for me, I would never be able to treat God as flippantly or irreverently again. That night kindled in me a healthy respect for God which has never left me. The Bible both commands us to fear God, and then tells us not to be afraid of him. Or, as Newton puts it:
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved.
One of my most enduring memories of that evening all those years ago was speaking to a member of our church who, with eyes brimming with tears, said that they felt they had just begun their Christian life all over again—if that were possible. There were many who felt the same way, wondering if they had ever been a Christian up until that point.
Here are some extracts from the talk—the first was in the context of talking about whether God’s punishment of Adam’s sin was excessive.
“I don’t in any way believe that that was too harsh. He was warned. God made every provision … When you sin, you forfeit any claim you had to human existence, because the purpose of his life and Eve’s life, and our lives was to represent the holiness of God. I don’t believe it’s unjust for God to take away the gift of life that he gave freely if it wasn’t used for the purpose for which he gave it. Because when we sin, what we are saying is—we are not just making a mistake—we are saying no to God’s law; we are saying your law is not good; we’re saying—God, your law does not cut it, I’m not under your authority; my judgment is superior to yours; I’m defying and opposing you, who in reality I owe everything to.”
“The amazing thing is not that God has judged people in the Bible; it is that God has not judged everybody.”
“I have seen some people teach on holiness and they almost seemed happy some people were going to hell.”
“God does not delight in sending people to hell … His judgment is not like our temper that flares up in an instant.”
“As soon as that apple hit Adam’s lips and Eve’s lips, they should have been wasted immediately, but God was merciful . . . justice was delayed so that grace might enter history.”
“The issue is not why does God punish sin, but why does he permit the ongoing rebellion of man?”
There was also an endearing moment, when in the midst of some hilarious Mahaney jokes, he turned to my mentor, Henry Tyler, who was on the stage beside him and said, “Henry, I don’t think Martyn Lloyd-Jones would have approved of this exegesis, do you?” It was a funny and intimate moment that nicely offset the conviction and passion of much of the sermon. While I am not sure that Lloyd-Jones would have approved of the humor, I like to think he would definitely have approved of the life-transforming effect on one young boy, and I suspect many others sitting in that circus top tent on a racecourse at Plumsted that evening.
Do you remember this sermon or one of Mahaney’s other ones on God killing people? What impact did it have on you?
This talk is reproduced with the permission of Newfrontiers. Visit their website for further free downloads from a variety of Newfrontiers events.