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The Lord's Negative Prodding

Thursday, August 23, 2012 | Comments (7)

by John MacArthur

The Lord employs a variety of methods to bring about repentance in the lives of His people. Last time we looked at three positive means He uses to prod believers away from sin and back to His righteous standard.

But if the knowledge of God’s Word, His goodness to us, and the nagging guilt of a troubled conscience fail to bring us to repentance, God has other ways of leading us there. Let’s look at a couple negative ways He prods us back into a right relationship with Him.

First, He disciplines us. Revelation 3:19 says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” Do you know why God rebukes and chastens us? He sometimes puts us through crises to bring us to change. That happened in my life.

As a young man, I never would have denied a belief in God, and yet in my heart I was rebelling against what I knew He wanted in my life. God had tried knowledge, sorrow for sin and then goodness. Finally, He got to chastisement, and it worked.

After being thrown at seventy-five miles per hour from a car as it flipped and rolled, and then sliding on my backside approximately 100 yards down the highway, scraping off some sixty-four square inches of my back a half-inch deep, I knew God was dealing with me. My body was covered in abrasions and bruises. No one else in the car was injured, and I was able to get up and walk to the side of the road. It was a miracle that I was alive. Standing there immediately after the accident, I thought, “I know why this happened. I have been trying to ignore God’s calling, and He is making sure He has my attention.” Right then I said, “From now on, I’ll do whatever You want me to do.” That was the change in my life. That’s when I really turned around.

While that kind of prodding from the Lord can be uncomfortable and disruptive, we need to consider the reminder of Hebrews 12:5-11, that He only disciplines those whom He loves. So even as He uses hardship, difficulty, and struggle to steer us back to His righteousness, it ought to give us assurance that we truly belong to Him.

Another negative way that God brings people to repentance is by warning us of judgment to come. Acts 17:30-31 says, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world.” The message of judgment is all over Scripture, and it must be preached because God designed judgment to lead us to repentance. God placed guilt within the Israelites’ hearts and chastised them with wars, famine, and exile. He displayed His goodness to them by bringing them back to their homeland after the chastening. And He preached judgment to them through the prophets. God had tried to prod the Israelites with knowledge through the Old Testament and then He sent Jesus to perform miracles in their faces. Jesus preached judgment to the Jews in Matthew 21, but they didn’t repent.

Ignoring the prodding of the Lord puts you directly in the path of His judgment. Instead, you need to heed His warnings, root out the sin in your life, and repent. Unless you’re regularly mortifying your sin, you can’t have strong confidence in your salvation.

And that’s where we’ll pick it up next week.


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#1  Posted by Kristafal Miller  |  Thursday, August 23, 2012at 8:54 AM

John,

I laughed and cried when I read your post. It brought tears of joy to my eyes, because it reminded me of how God personally dealt with me. I too would not have denied God outwardly, but ran from the call on my life. I would not bend the knee in the one area I knew God was dealing with me. He brought on circumstances that humbled me to the point of praying the Lord's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane "If there is any other way [to please you] remove this cup from me. Lord [if not] not my will be done, but thine." I still remember the tears of joy that early morning, and the weight that lifted when I finally submitted.

The laughter followed when I thought of how foolish it is for us to try to resist God. Perhaps this is only laughter you can share in when you take an honest evaluation of yourself. It seems to be that way for me.

I have a lot of respect for you and your ministry. May God continue to bless you all at Grace To You. Thanks so much.

In Christ,

Kristafal Miller

#2  Posted by Adaeze Agada  |  Thursday, August 23, 2012at 11:05 AM

I feel like the Lord's prodding leads me more into sin. So either I haven't experienced a negative enough prodding or I'm just hopeless. At 25, I feel like I should be more right than wrong, 24 not so much, but the 5 following the 2 changes a lot in my mind. I am repentant of my sin, in all the anguish and sorrow that lies in the aftermath, but I still return....like a stubborn mule I respond to nothing, but "standing directly in the path of His judgment" as you put it, is a frightening thought. It'll keep me at bay for some time, until stress levels peak or boredom creeps, then I'll return to those familiar sins, for comfort. So with the sadness that comes with sin, I now have lurking over my shoulder, a fear of the Lord's prodding. Thanks.

#3  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson  |  Thursday, August 23, 2012at 4:37 PM

Adaeze,

I think you brought up an important point: how we react when our stress levels rise, and where our minds go when boredom creeps in reveals a lot about the condition of our hearts. The same is true of how we respond to God’s prodding.

John’s message from this past Sunday spoke directly to the issue of loving the Lord and responding to His truth in love. It’s worth a listen: https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/90-446/a-tale-of-two-sorrows

True repentance comes down to loving the Lord and hating sin. That’s not a switch we can flip—it’s a discipline we must cultivate over time. On its own, your heart will gravitate back to sin. Instead, you’ve got to train it to pursue God’s holiness.

#4  Posted by Bryan Chasteen  |  Thursday, August 23, 2012at 7:06 PM

Adaeze,

I understand what you mean by "the Lord's prodding". What you are talking about is some sin that you engage in to be able to cope with life. Christians don't have that luxury. Many people use excuses so that they can be able to have their sin and Christ as well. We don't need to make excuses for our sin. God has given us his word and a relationhip with him through his Holy Spirit. This was accomplished by nothing less that the death of His Son. That is all we need to be able to deal with every issue that life throws us. Who are we to say that the death of Jesus, the resulting gift of the Holy Spirit to his children and His word aren't enough? We need to humble ourselves and admit that we haven't been willing to go God's way and have instead chosen our own. That is why we have gone back to our sin.

#6  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Friday, August 24, 2012at 5:58 AM

1. A Christian have The Holy Spirit.

2. You can now be in one of two conditions.

a. In the flesh, (your old self) where sin reings. In this condition, you are in all bound to earthly things, and you read The Letters and the sin in you gives you an excuse to (mis)interpret according to your own sinful desires. (The law is a mirror, revealing your hearts true condition)

b. In the Spirit. Here your source is NOT the flesh, because you KNOW that nothing good comes from the flesh, therefore your self must die, and you must put on Christ. We must live according to Christ, as revealed in Scripture. He shows us the true meaning and interpretation of Gods Word.

3. Fruits as righteousness, love, joy, peace, holiness and all these things listed in Scripture are a clear test of whether you are in the Spirit, or still in the flesh.

That does not mean we are perfect, but we are "in the faith" if we are "in the Spirit".

#7  Posted by Rhonda Taylor  |  Friday, August 24, 2012at 12:40 PM

This post may be a tad off subject but I guess it's how you look at Scripture as a Whole. I've taken a wonderful journey through Revelation by way of "Because the time is near" by Brother John. I have read the Book of Revelation out of duty, out of curiosity and because it's the last Book of The Bible as I read the Bible in full....but never have I been on so great a walk with God & Jesus Christ as I have reading this book. Step by step and moment by moment I have eaten up the words of this Blessed Book and I can't convey enough to everyone/anyone who wants to know the truth of real understanding about why & what Revelation is and why & what is to come too please read this book. I don't say this because of the admiration I have for Brother John and his God gifted explanation of Scripture, though that's a plus, but because I know The Holy Spirit that lives in me and the conformation of Truth He comforts me with, without fear of any misinterpreted messages. I'm not educated, so please forgive the misplaced punctuation mistakes. Thank you Brother John, God Bless your service to The King, Rhonda

#8  Posted by Edward Youssef  |  Saturday, August 25, 2012at 4:05 AM

Dear Mr.John right you are,but I would like to know if GOD may use even the death of a dear one as a chastisement to me.