Bro. Ytterock was a frail, older man, weighing no more than 140 lbs. He had big coke-bottle-like glasses, a patch of hair on the middle of his head that always stood up, and always wore a sport coat. He had two, so there was always a 50/50 chance you could guess which one he would be wearing that day.
He was a genius. He was reading the newspaper by the age of 3. He loved history, science, philosophy, and cooking. He had a photographic memory. He studied at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But then God interrupted his life and called him into the ministry. He became a pastor for the next 30 years. He loved the Word, loved people, and was generous to a fault. He had impeccable integrity. And he was always listening to hear you say the “J-word.” Jesus!
Towards the end of his life, he came on staff at Life Challenge as Director of Education where I had the privilege of getting to know him personally. He became a mentor and took me—a young, wet-behind-the-ears kid—under his wings. That was 25 years ago.
He died in 2003, and I miss him. Hardly a day goes by that I do not think about him.
There was a speech he would give every time a new student arrived on our campus. So it was conceivable that our men and women would hear this speech up to five times in one week.
“I have good news and bad news,” Bro. Ytterock would say. “We’ll start with the bad. God is angry with you!”
Bro. Dave would then soberly tell the students that they had disobeyed God, dishonored Him, disgraced Him. They had ignored Him, snubbed Him, belittled Him. They had fallen short of His glory, wasted His gifts, lived for themselves. And now God was very, very angry with them.
Bro. Dave would make it clear that they were not just addicts or alcoholics. No. They were idolaters, adulterers, rebels, law-breakers, …sinners. Sinners who stood under God’s fierce and terrible wrath.
After a few moments of silence, Bro. Dave would then share the good news.
“All the sins of God-cursers and God-abusers were laid on Jesus. Jesus absorbed God’s wrath in his body by bearing the punishment we deserved.” And he would then give Scriptural witness: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Bro. Dave taught me what true rehabilitation is. It is more than overcoming a bad habit. It is more than gaining victory over some longstanding, life-controlling problem. It is more than learning how to manage your anger and lust. A person can be sober without being saved, clean without being cleansed, healed without being holy.
True rehabilitation is about being delivered from God’s almighty, merciless wrath. It is about forgiveness of sins, being washed with the blood of Jesus, being justified and declared righteous in God’s sight through the perfect obedience of Christ.
Think about it: If you are a Christian, God took the record of all your sins that made you a debtor to His wrath, and instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell, He put them in the palm of his Son’s hand and drove a spike through them into the cross. As Col. 2:14 declares, God “canceled the record of our debt…nailing it to the cross.”
If you do not know Christ as your Savior, your Lord, your righteousness, I plead with you: Flee from the wrath to come. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey . . .the wrath of God remains on him” (Jn. 3:36).
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is a hero of mine. He was a prolific author and a great preacher. He pastored Westminster Chapel in London for 40 years following the renowned G. Campbell Morgan. The year before Lloyd-Jones’ death in 1981, at the age of 81, Christianity Today asked him, “Do you have any final word for our generation?” He answered simply by quoting 1 Thess. 1:10, “Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come.”