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Dr. Jeff Bonzelaar

Wrath, Righteousness & Rehabilitation

By January 18, 2014March 30th, 201532 Comments

img027One of the most significant persons in my life was the late Dave Ytterock. Other than my dad, no one has left more of an impact upon my life than him.

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.”


  • Randy Baker says:

    I have often wondered what became of Pastor Dave after I moved to Arizona back in 1981. I took some of his classes at 1st Assembly of God Rockford IL from 1979-1981 and always loved when Pastor Ernest Moen ( another great man of God) turned the pulpit over to him. The two messages I remember impacting me the most were ” The Hard Sayings of Jesus” and “The Monster in the Basement”. Do you know where I might find either of these in written or audio form?

  • Janet Blakely says:

    Great article Jeff! We were looking for some information today about Brother Ytterock and his ministry of teaching with Central Bible College-Detroit Extension. Do you know the year he started teaching there?

  • Greg Fraley says:

    I attended Sterling Heights Assembly of God in the early ’70’s , under Pastor Yttrock’s teaching. His sons were/are my age, and I will never forget how much he positively effected my life.

  • Martha Carlton says:

    Pastor Ytterock took our adult group from BT to New York City in the late 1980s. Until we arrived there, I didnt know he had been raised in Manhattan. He had a wealth of information about the city and we had so much fun. I attended Bible studies in his home and aside from learning more from him than any preacher I have ever known, I knew that he loved us all.

  • Kari Ranta, Wycliffe Bible Translators says:

    My first journey into Latin America was with Dave Ytterock to Ecuador – acted in his plays and sat under his tutelage both at BT and CBC extension – great memories! Got to know some great Teen Challenge guys as well.

  • Nazar says:

    Dear Jeff. I was praying early this morning and thought about my dear friend and mentor, David. I thought I’ll google his name, your article is the only thing I can find about that great man of God. You’ve expressed my exact sentiments about him and I wanted to honor him by sharing it on Facebook page. Thank you.

  • Dave Porter says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Bro. Ytterock was indeed a genius. One was never quite sure exactly what he would say, except that it would be fascinating and that it would ultimately point to Jesus.
    Thanks for stirring up some great memories.

  • larry darby says:

    you have definitely left an indelible mark on my life. thank you.

  • Yes. I too remember his sermon “The Hard Sayings of Jesus” (I believe that was his title). Does anyone know where I can find a written copy or an audio tape?

  • David MacPhail says:

    Be. Ytterock had a profound affect on my life. Back in the early 80’s he was the Dean of the Bible College at First Assembly of God in Rockford, Il. I was a very young Christian and just recently saved. I remember taking Daniel/Revelation with him, the synoptic gospels, New Testament Survey. I remember being on the edge of my seat just listening to him teach. It really didn’t matter what he taught, it was a privilege and honor just to to hear him speak, regardless of the topic. I loved him and he definitely marked my life!

    I have periodically googled his name. I haven’t been able to find out anything about him until now.

    If anybody has a tape of him speaking please post it on line! Oh! How I would love to hear his voice again!!

    Dave MacPhail
    Chicago, IL

  • Tim Stotler says:

    Greetings Jeff,
    I want to begin by saying thank you for all the articles you post. I have been encouraged by your teaching. I do have a question, and maybe it is only my understanding. The bad news was, “We’ll start with the bad. God is angry with you!” I know when I was without God in my life that I was separated from him. I did not know that he was angry with me. Please teach me about his anger. Is the wrath of God, his anger? I want to know. I will begin a search in scripture and online today. Again thank you for your ministry and teaching. Have a blessed day. I am praying fro you and the ministry today.

    • Tim,

      Thanks for the email. Appreciate all your prayers. Yes, I would equate God’s wrath with His anger. Anger is evidence of love. Great love can be greatly angered.

      Do keep in mind God’s anger/wrath is not vindictive, selfish, uncontrolled, etc. Also, His anger is always governed by His love.

      God bless,


  • Robert Mackin says:

    My favorite teacher of all time. Sorry Brother Jeff.
    He inspired me to improve on my paltry vocabulary. There are still some words I hear and use today that remind me of Brother Dave Ytterock.

  • Karla Lee says:

    I feel like I know this man personally from all of the wisdom and stories my husband, Todd shares about Pastor Ytterock. He was a great mentor. I have heard all of these words from Todd. Clearly, God used Him to impact Todd as well as many others including myself!
    So thankful for his testimony.

  • Dave Altenbach says:

    When I was in the program I remember going to Paster Itterocks house and putting down new tile in his kitchen. After I finished the job he took me to eat at Red Lobster. What a blessing he was to so many. I remember the first time I saw him was at the old center on Grand River. I remember the guys in the program telling me that they could’nt wait to see him each week. Will miss him.

  • Mindy Taber says:

    Thanks Jeff for this reflection. Years ago, he led us in an intellectually challenging game “Name that Carol” at a Christmas dinner! His great mind was greatly yielded to the mind of Christ. I miss him and his preaching.

  • Lois Shelley says:

    Bro. Ytterock had a great influence on everyone.
    Just a wonderful, humble man.
    He did indeed leave behind a great legacy.

  • Ranae says:

    That’s an awesome testimony and a wonderful legacy of love and faith! Thanks for sharing. Thank you lord for loving us soooo much!!

  • Martin Hall says:

    Love it! Bro. Ytterock was my spiritual father, and there is not a day that goes by, that I don’t miss him. Thank you Bro. Jeff for writing this. You as well are one of my heroes!

  • cathy hill says:

    I didn’t know him personally very well but of all the preachers in my life he was the preacher I always wanted to hear – never could get enough of him..In fact if you know where I can get his sermon – “The Hard Teachings of Jesus” I would love it. Remembering him with love and wishing he’d had longer with us.

  • Ken Drew says:

    Thanks for the reminder Jeff. I miss him too. There have been many times in the last couple of years that I have wished I could sit and talk to Dave about things that were happening around me.

  • Melba Drew says:

    Jeff, thanks for sharing your memory of Bro. David Ytterock with all of us. He truly was a wonderful example of what it means to follow Christ. We were SO blessed to sit under his ministry!

    • You know, Melba, most of the time (at least for me), you don’t know the bless you have until it is taken. God was so good in allowing me to work side-by-side with him. Blessings!

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