Pity Thy Soul
Robert Wurtz II
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked (1 John 2:4-6 ESV).
“The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41).
Since the beginning of the Church, there have been people who said “I know Him” but they didn’t keep His word. This is why John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned such strong words. It’s no coincidence that he uses the Greek word pseustes, translated as “liar,” far more than any other New Testament writer. John is concerned with reality and truth. He understands peoples’ tendency to deceive themselves. He first used pseustes in John 8:44 to describe the Devil and those who follow his ways.
Those who said “I know Him” but didn’t keep His words are unlike the ones who openly rejected Him. Rather, they are liars because they are lying to themselves and to all who hear their profession. They want a sort of “no man’s land” where one claims to be His follower and yet rebels against His word as the authoritative standard of life. They never changed their mind to agree with God or turned to Him in obedience, and yet they say “I know Him.” They pretended to believe despite hearing His oracles and witnessing His miracles.
James would call them, “hearers but not doers of the word” who deceive themselves (James 1:22). Deceiving is when we do to ourselves what the Serpent did to Eve in the Garden of Eden. What did he do? He beguiled Eve by questioning and casting doubt on what God said and when that didn’t work he downplayed the punishment for disobedience. In other words, he (the true liar) called God a liar. John goes on to explain that those who say, “I know Him” but don’t keep His word prove by their actions that the love of God is not perfected in them. They do not love God no matter what they profess. Why? Because this is the love of God that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).
Despite the person’s claim that “I know Him” their behavior betrays their profession. At the end of the day (so to speak) they are no different than the people who rejected the Lord Jesus from the beginning. Why? Because they never repented. The Lord pronounced a sobering fate for them, the men of Nineveh will someday witness against them in the great judgment (Matthew 12:41, Luke 11:42). Keep in mind that the men of Nineveh heard no oracles and saw no miracles and yet Jesus said they repented at the preaching of Jonah.
Nineveh was a city within the Assyrian Empire. The people were known for their savage brutality. They didn’t mind massacring until the blood ran to the horses’ bridles, as it were. They celebrated death and destruction with murals on the walls of their government buildings. Their murderous atrocities spread a fear that carried all before it. God sent Jonah to warn them. If ever a people embodied that nature of Satan who was a murderer from the beginning — it was the Assyrians. They prided themselves in their brutality and projected a reputation that they could fight lions with their bare hands.
Like Jonah, Jesus came to warn the people. Only Jesus didn’t threaten the people that forty days from now they would be destroyed, He warned them of One who after He had destroyed the body, had the power to cast them into Hell. As if those words weren’t sobering enough He added this emphatic statement, “Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5) Those words should have made the meanest sinner tremble.
Did the people listen? Did the religious leaders listen? For the most part, no they didn’t. Some were bold enough to reject Him publicly. Others were waiting for an opportunity to kill Him like their fathers had killed the prophets that God sent them many centuries before. As His earthly ministry was drawing to a close, He asked them a great question, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33).
These fierce words made no impact on the hearers. Their hearts were as hard a diamonds. When the men of Nineveh received word they were about to be destroyed, they pitied themselves and repented before God. They didn’t want to die. They didn’t want to be slain by the sword or killed by some calamity. Yet here is the Lord Jesus declaring with the most potent signs and wonders ever the world beheld that damnation awaits those who reject Him and His word and yet those callous people couldn’t as much as shed a tear when the horrific terrors of hell that awaited their everlasting souls were set before their eyes.
How Can You Escape?
Let the question of the Lord Jesus sink down into your ears, “How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” Here is the God of the Universe asking a question to which on the surface seems to have no answer. Yet He knows that there is an answer. “How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” The answer is repentance. Not just any repentance, but the kind of repentance that the men of Nineveh lived out. What did they do?
They believed the word. They didn’t just say “I know him” (referring to Jonah) like many have claimed down through the centuries concerning Christ. That would never do. Nay! It wouldn’t be enough to make an empty proclamation. What did they do? They repented at the preaching of Jonah. How did they know how to repent? They didn’t. They had no Bible. They had no instruction. They did what their heart told them to do and they utterly humbled themselves before God with fasting and sackcloth. Even the king abandoned his throne to bow in humility and repentance before God.
Jesus said the men of Nineveh repented. They forsook their evil ways and God spared them. Yet the very people who knew God’s word and knew His requirements, were acquainted with Him, witnessed the Lord’s miracles and heard His lively oracles — still refused to repent. Is there any wonder He exclaimed, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”
God would have turned those serpents into saints if they had simply repented and believed the Gospel. They rejected God and Christ despite miracles like no one had ever seen and oracles like no one had ever heard. They had no pity for their own souls. They banished from their minds the thoughts of their own torment until they ran roughshod over the Lord’s battered body and trampled underfoot His precious blood. Why will Sodom and Nineveh rise up in judgment against those who have heard and rejected the Gospel? Because the men of Nineveh didn’t know their right hand from their left (Jonah 4:11) and yet they had sense enough to repent. Not an empty confession, but a true demonstration.
What About Us?
What a time we are living in! If ever a generation walked the earth who needed to hear a message that cultivated the fear of God it is this generation. Yet ministers never cease to find some historical example of people more wicked and vile than what we see today. I tremble to think that in modern times, ministers, drunk on deception, take to any media platform they can find to downplay the seriousness of the fate that awaits each and every human being on earth. They comfort the people before the Holy Spirit can convict them of their sin. They cry as did the false prophets of the Old Testament, “Peace Peace and there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). They are liars and they beget liars. The real truth is that we are all going to stand before God to give an account of our lives. The heavens and the earth are going to flee from before His face on that great day (Revelation 20:11). God will call the Assyrians and the people of Sodom to the witness stand to testify against us if we don’t repent and turn to Christ. It’s not enough to say “I know Him.” Our words and our actions must match. Judgment day is fast approaching. Dear reader are you ready to face God?