Strategies for Last Days Living

Please read 2 Peter 3:11-18 in your Bible.  I used the NIV for my research, but there is no compulsory choice.

As if he’d received a diagnosis of terminal cancer, the Apostle Peter dealt with the question, “How would I live if I knew today were my last day?”  In our time, people have answered this question by writing “Bucket Lists.”  It’s become so common we all know that a “Bucket List” is the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.”

There’s even a website where members can explore over SIX MILLION ideas of things to add to their Bucket List.  You can not only get ideas there, but you can share your own Bucket List items and your experiences crossing them off.

Have you seen the TV commercial where they guy is driving his elderly dog all over, crossing items off the dog’s Bucket List?  Do you remember the product they were selling?  HINT: a dog can’t use it.

Notice that most of the items that make Bucket Lists are possessing worldly items or doing things that excite or please the flesh.  Many are taking advantage of the fact that you won’t be held responsible for some mean-spirited or illegal acts.

How many Bucket Lists have you seen that include something like GROW IN THE GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST?  How about you?  If it became clear your time was drawing to an end, would this make your Bucket List?  Would it be a priority?

REVIEW (See the previous two posts.)

  1. We are called to be Saints among Scoffers (3:1-7).
  2. God’s timing is not your timing (3:8-10).

NEW

  1. Last Days Living (3:11-18).

Number One Last days Living Strategy = Live like it matters (vs. 11-13).  Knowing that this reality will end in fire could just as easily become Nihilism or some other excuse for ungodliness, saying, “The end is near and clear, so it doesn’t matter what I do.”

Peter wants to deny the SCOFFERS this excuse by asking the pertinent question: “Since the end is coming some day, how should we live today?” (11)  And then he immediately answers it; “We should live HOLY AND GODLY LIVES.”

The word HOLY describes a spiritual condition.  It means that my existence is set apart to God.  I no longer live for myself, but for God’s will.  The word GODLY describes a moral condition.  It means that with God’s help I am going to do the right thing with all the days given me.

Peter gave two good reasons for living HOLY AND GODLY LIVES in v. 12.  Firstly, AS YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY OF GOD. The Second Coming of Jesus is an event only His followers will anticipate with relish, because it is the day on which all the promises of God are realized, our faith is vindicated, and we go to our eternal home in new bodies, heavenly versions of our bodies.  Verse thirteen elaborates on this PROMISE God, adding that we have a new HOME to which we can look forward.  It is nothing less than a new reality (a NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH).  It is a place characterized by RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Secondly, in the phrase AND SPEED ITS COMING.  He didn’t need to, but God has chosen to partner with us in bringing about the DAY OF GOD!  We learned last Sunday that the Second Coming was being held back to give everyone every opportunity to repent and be saved.  As you and I participate with God in helping people come to faith, then we move God’s timetable ahead if the people who are going to be saved are saved sooner.  If anyone who claims to follow Christ but has never had the experience of leading someone to Christ, then they have not participated in speeding the Day of the Lord and need to be serious about their claim.

Number Two Last Days Living Strategy = Live blamelessly and biblically (vs. 14-16).  The phrase SO THEN in v. 14 might be paraphrased, “Now that you’re properly motivated, here’s where your part comes in.”  What will be true of people who are headed for heaven is their daily choice to MAKE EVERY EFFORT to live the HOLY AND GODLY LIVES mentioned in verse eleven.

Heaven-bound believers will MAKE EVERY EFFORT to live that way beyond all accusations of falsehood or hypocrisy.  Peter describes this EFFORT in terms of the EFFORT put into our relationships.

SPOTLESS and BLAMELESS refer to our relationships with one another.  We want our moral and spiritual life to give evidence that our claims of faith are true and give form to our witness to those who’ve not yet believed.

AT PEACE WITH HIM refers to our relationship with God, that we have accepted His gift of salvation and been forgiven our sins.

Verse fifteen reminds us of what we learned earlier; the “delay” of the Second Coming is a demonstration of God’s PATIENCE.  As we are the beneficiaries of God’s PATIENCE, it is fitting that we patiently await the fulfillment of all God’s promises.

In verses fifteen and sixteen, Peter supports this teaching by referencing the writings of his fellow Apostle, Paul, noting how the two of them were in agreement on this issue.  This is interesting, because Peter and Paul weren’t always on the same side of issues and Peter had to bear Paul’s rebuke at least once.  What Peter does in these verses is also important because it is Scripture verifying itself as the word of God, His revelation to us in written form.

Peter wants to protect the truth, especially the truth about the Second Coming, from the SCOFFERS.  One way he goes about that is to say, “Paul’s had to deal with his own scoffers and we are both in agreement about this teaching concerning the Second Coming to refute their false teaching that it’s not going to happen or has already happened.”

Number Three Last Days Living Strategy = Live guardedly, growing in Christ (vs. 17+18).  The word THEREFORE warns us that a summary and/or application of the previous teaching is about to occur.  In this case, we’ve been served notice: a WARNING has been given.  Peter warned his readers that this reality and all the people who have – by rejecting God – declared their allegiance to it, will be destroyed by fire.

Part of what makes this teaching so crucial is that it is a warning we all need to hear repeatedly.  Unbelieving people need to hear it so they will repent and be saved.  Believers need to hear it to renew our commitment to follow Jesus in the days we have left.

Peter’s warning is to the people in the church, as indicated by his salutation – DEAR FRIENDS – in verse fourteen.  That church people can be believers and unbelievers may come as a shock to some.  As much as we try to honor the doctrine of regenerate church membership, experience, reason, and Scripture combine to demonstrate that every local church has some degenerate members.

First, he warned the unbelieving church folk (the degenerates) that they need to be on GUARD lest the false teaching of the SCOFFERS cause them to fall away from what otherwise looked like a SECURE POSITION.

Second, he warned the believing church folk (the regenerates) to confirm their true standing in Christ by GROWING IN THE GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.  Science teaches that growth is part of the definition of life; things that are alive grow.  Peter sets forth two signs that we can use to judge whether we are alive in Christ or just faking it.

First, the phrase GROWING IN GRACE means that the temperament and character of a true disciple will be in the process of becoming more like Jesus.  We need to acknowledge that aging and maturing are two different things.  In fact, it may be observed that the majority of people “freeze” at a point of maturity and though they continue to age, they do not mature.

Second, the phrase GROWING IN KNOWLEDGE means that a true disciple is always a learner, always humble about what they know.  Humble people know in their hearts and say aloud that the more they learn, the more they realize they have more to learn.  Humble people acknowledge the biggest “room” in their home is “room for improvement.”

So believers and unbelievers are both being warned, but to different ends.  Peter is NOT warning the believers that they can forfeit their salvation.  Instead, he is giving church folk (both believers and unbelievers) a warning that simply claiming faith is not enough.  A genuine faith is not merely assumed or claimed; it is proven by how we live in these LAST DAYS.  Since God already knows our hearts, we are proving our faith to ourselves and others by the maturing of our character into Christ-likeness.

Believers are NOT given this warning to undermine our confidence in our salvation, but to give us signs we can see on our own, to verify our confidence.  This warning was given to humble us and cast us back on the grace of God and stand on that alone.  In this understanding Peter was again in agreement with Paul, who wrote; SO IF YOU THINK YOU ARE STANDING FIRM, BE CAREFUL THAT YOU DON’T FALL! (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Peter ends this letter giving GLORY to OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, which is the happy task of all His followers and the best use of our LAST DAYS on earth.

In his book, The Quest For Character, Charles Swindoll wrote about a little blue box held in the Library of Congress.  A label on the box reads: CONTENTS OF THE PRESIDENT’S POCKETS ON THE NIGHT OF APRIL 14, 1865.  Here’s what was in Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night he died:

  • A handkerchief, embroidered “A. Lincoln.”
  • A country boy’s pen knife.
  • A spectacles case repaired with string.
  • A purse containing a $5 bill — in Confederate currency!
  • Some old and worn newspaper clippings.

The clippings were concerned with the great deeds of Abraham Lincoln. One of them reported a speech by John Bright which said Abraham Lincoln was “one of the greatest men of all times.”

John Bright was a British statesman who was quite right in his assessment of Lincoln, but in 1865 many others had a contrary opinion. The President had fierce critics.   It is touchingly pathetic to imagine this great leader seeking comfort from a few newspaper clippings.

<See https://bible.org/illustration/little-blue-box.&gt;

True believers will, like Lincoln, face adversity in this life.  God promised that following Him would be worth it, but He did not promise it would be easy.  Peter faced his SCOFFERS and Paul opposed false teachers in the churches he founded.  Without bowing to opposition or compromising to the world, the promises and the warnings will be held dear by those who are true.  It is worth it.

Advertisements

Timing IS Everything

Please read 2 Peter 3:8-10 in your Bible.  I’ve used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

In a message entitled “Timing is Everything” Rev. Bruce Goettsche wrote, “You have probably heard the phrase many times, ‘timing is everything’. There is a great deal of truth in that statement.

“The difference between a good joke and a bad one is a person’s sense of timing.  An appropriate pause makes a joke . . . an inappropriate pause can kill the same joke.

“Timing is essential when dealing with people. You don’t ask for a raise when business is not going well or when things are tense around the office. You don’t try to correct someone who feels threatened by you. You don’t ask for a favor when someone is under a lot of stress or angry.

“Timing is important in cooking.  The juicy hamburger on the grill is raw meat if cooked for too little time and a clump of charcoal if it is cooked too long.

“Timing is important in your spiritual life as well.  Jesus was very conscious of timing. He lived His life with an acute awareness of God’s timing for His life. The gospel of John records these words of Jesus,

  1. John 2:4 ‘My time has not yet come’
  2. John 7:6 ‘The right time for me has not yet come’
  3. John 7:30; 8:20 ‘His time had not yet come’

“Peter tells us that the second coming of the Christ is a matter of timing. God has not sent Christ back to earth yet because ‘he wants everyone to come to repentance’.  God is waiting until everyone who will come to Christ, does.”

REVIEW

  1. We are called to be Saints among Scoffers (3:1-7).

NEW

  1. God’s timing is not your timing (3:8-10).

God is eternal; we are stuck in the present (8).  This is one of Peter’s rebuttals of the SCOFFERS – a theological one – God relates to time differently than we do.  All discussions of timing – including the arrival of the Second Coming of Jesus – need to account for this.  Peter is referenced Psalms 90:4, which says, FOR A THOUSAND YEARS ARE LIKE A DAY THAT HAS GONE BY, OR LIKE A WATCH IN T NIGHT.

The word “eternal” does not mean an unlimited amount of time; it is not exactly a synonym for the word “forever.”  Instead, “eternal” means timeless.  God is eternal in that He transcends time; He is not affected by the passage of time nor limited to any one time.

In a sense, God is always in the present moment; He exists in all times simultaneously.  We say that God is present in all places simultaneously (“omnipresence”) and we can also say God is present at all times simultaneously (“omnitemporal…?”).

Back to verse eight.  Peter is saying, “These SCOFFERS who accuse God of being late don’t know God.  He is never late because he is always present.”  That’s why Peter urged his readers DO NOT FORGET this important truth.  Because God is who He is, no one can accuse Him of lateness.  So the gap between the promise of the Second Coming and its fulfillment cannot be explained as some failing in God or something lacking in our faith.  Peter offers the true explanation in verse nine.

God is patient; we want it done yesterday (9).  God is neither late nor slow; instead He is PATIENT.  God is neither unwilling nor unable; instead He is giving people opportunity to repent so the Second Coming will be a day of life, not death.  The fact that the Second Coming has not yet happened is not to be misinterpreted as the SCOFFERS have done (AS SOME UNDERSTAND SLOWNESS).  Instead, it is a demonstration of God’s patience. There is a lot of biblical evidence for the patience of God; see Exodus 34:6; Numbers 13:18; Psalm 86:15; Jeremiah 15:15; Romans 2:4; 9:22 as examples.

The reason God shows patience is bound up in His desire to see all people repent and be saved.  The will of God is made clear in this verse; God’s will is for all people to be saved.

However, God is not going to save anyone against their own will.  He has delegated authority to us in the form of free will.  We decide for ourselves whether or not we accept His gracious gift of salvation.  I explain it this way: Salvation is 99% God’s action and 1% our reaction.  However, our 1% is the deciding factor.  With our one percent we either accept God’s salvation in Jesus Christ and have eternal life or we reject it and suffer eternal death.

This means that God cannot be accused of sending anyone to hell; people send themselves by the choice they make.  If God had His way all of us would be saved.  But then that free will thing is toast.

The Lord is coming; the world is ending (10).  Peter issued two warnings to the SCOFFERS.  One, Jesus’ second appearing will be something they won’t see coming while in their present frame of mind: it will surprise them LIKE A THIEF in the night.  Two, it will have a deadly outcome where they are concerned; they will be destroyed with FIRE.

While the Second Coming is something we are to anticipate every day, when it happens it will be without any obvious warning.

We install locks and security systems to guard against thieves, but they don’t call ahead to schedule their appearance at our homes.  Similarly, the SCOFFERS will be surprised at Jesus’ sudden reappearance.  Their decision not to have faith will mean that they did not see this coming.  The expression AS A THIEF is one Peter borrowed from Jesus’ own teaching on this subject (see Luke 12:30, 41).

The phrase DAY OF THE LORD tells us that the Second Coming is a single event that unfolds a series of consequences.  For example, the DAY OF THE LORD is the same event as Judgment Day, as judgment being one of the reasons Jesus will reappear in this way.  Judgment Day is implied in the phrase EVERYTHING DONE IN IT WILL BE LAID BARE.

The other part of this that is hard for the SCOFFERS to wrap their heads around is that reality as we have known it will come to an end.  What is bound by time will be replaced with what is eternal.

THE HEAVENS WILL DISAPPEAR WITH A ROAR is another way of describing the suddenness with which the Second Coming will occur.  Both heaven and earth will come to an end on that day; Peter makes it clear everything will be destroyed by FIRE: THE ELEMENTS WILL BE DESTROYED BY FIRE.  THE ELEMENTS are what we call “atoms” and “molecules,” the basic building blocks of reality.

– In the Bible, FIRE is a symbol of three things.

One, it is a symbol of purification.  Like gold, which is purified by fire, our faith and moral nature are purified by trials and tests (see 1 Peter 1:7).

Two, as the Apostle Paul used it in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, FIRE is a symbol of judgment.  What is not of God does not survive the fire, revealing its true nature.  On Judgment Day, each person’s life will be LAID BARE, the truth of our decision exposed in the way we have lived our lives.  All that survives the fire will survive in the new, eternal heaven and earth.  What is burned up is destroyed.

Three, fire is a biblical symbol of destruction (see verse eleven).

In a message entitled, “Don’t Blame The Judge,” Tim Smith wrote, “God has done everything He possibly can to keep you out of Hell and still leave you as a person with free will. Some Christians argue otherwise that it is in fact God who sends people to hell. But when a criminal is sent to jail, we don’t blame the judge, do we? We blame the criminal. The judge isn’t responsible because he’s just following the law. It was the criminal who broke the law and that’s why they were sent to jail. Likewise, God is bound by who he is, a holy, loving, righteous and just God and by His decision to give us free will and then not violate it by keeping us from making bad decisions. So it’s not God who sends us to hell but our decisions and the repercussions that we must live with.”

<Retrieved from https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-tim-smith-stories-hell-83766?ref=TextIllustrationSerps on 7/14/17.>

God’s timing is not ours.  Unless we step into Scripture and see things from God’s perspective, we see everything through this very limiting lens of time.  We must understand that things are NOT going to continue forever the way they have been.  Understanding this motivates us to appreciate the urgency of preparing today for an event that will happen tomorrow.  Preparation begins with deciding to accept God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Saints Among Scoffers

Please read 2 Peter 3:1-7 in your favorite Bible.  I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

(This is the first in a series of five messages on 2 Peter 3.)

The upcoming Second Coming demands godly living now.

Starting with Jesus Himself, people of faith have endured the scorn of people who, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, think themselves so much smarter.  Let me offer as an example a few quotes from notorious scoffers and Bible quotes that answer their objections to the Christian faith.

            Author Gore Vidal stated, “Christianity is such a silly religion.”

1 Corinthians 1:18 = For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but unto us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Gore Vidal died in 2012, after a decade of decline in which he fell into alcoholism and dementia and had painful feuds with family members and friends.  Maybe his words aren’t so trustworthy after all.

            “Christians are losers.” — said Ted Turner, media magnate (Between this quote and CNN, Turner has a lot to answer for!)

In Matthew 16:25 we read Jesus’ words; “For whoever want to save their life will lose

it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (So we are “losers,” but what we gain in trade is so infinitely more valuable!)

            The French philosopher Voltaire stated plainly the task of opponents of Christianity: “If we would destroy the Christian religion, we must first of all destroy man’s belief i/t Bible.”

In response, the Bible teaches such a plan is doomed to failure.  In Matthew 24:35, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

Voltaire never married but lived as a husband to his niece until his death in 1778.  You could say the Church got the last laugh on Voltaire; he refused to recant and was refused a Christian burial.  However, some friends had him secretly buried in a rural church outside of Paris.

<Retrieved from http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Roman%20Catholicism/SS/scoffer.htm on 7/7/17.>

In all these examples, men who achieved worldly success thought they could do better than Christianity.  They were scoffers, more impressed with their big brains than anything else, vain rebels against God, whose truth goes marching on.

  1. We are called to be Saints among Scoffers (3:1-7).

Peter’s aim in writing two letters to them: STIMULATE WHOLESOME THINKING (1).  The Greek word for WHOLESOME meant “pure when examined by sunlight” or “sincere.”  In this case, the purity in question is theological; it is to have a correct under-standing of the truth.  It means to have a faith that is not compromised by worldly views or falsehood of any kind. This is the opposite of the SCOFFERS, who’re thoroughly compromised.

WHOLESOME THINKING meant to have a “pure disposition.”  It is a worldview informed by, and is in accord with, God’s revelation.

Peter attempted to achieve his objective by reminding them of God’s word (2).  Peter is not just sharing his opinion with them.  These WORDS have come from HOLY PROPHETS and from OUR LORD & SAVIOR THROUGH YOUR APOSTLES.

THE HOLY PROPHETS refers to the Old Testament prophets specifically and generally to all the books of the Old Testament that aren’t histories.

THE COMMAND GIVEN BY OUR LORD AND SAVIOR THROUGH YOUR APOSTLES refers specifically to His two commands to love and generally to all the actions and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.  I love how Peter refers to himself and the others as YOUR Apostles.   They were put in authority to pass along the faith as they received it directly from Jesus.  Their testimony is verified by the fact that though 100s of years of history separated them, they spoke with one voice: the APOSTLES preserved what Jesus said and His teaching fulfilled what the PROPHETS predicted.

Further, this is the WORD that had been SPOKEN IN THE PAST.  It is not the latest trend, the popular notion, it is the faith as they had received it from the beginning.  In practice, this means that our faith is based on the word of God, the Bible.  At the beginning of our life of faith, it is especially important that our own beliefs be in accord with the traditions of the Church.  Finally, as we mature in faith, we apply experience and reason to Scripture and tradition to affirm a faith that is our own.

This is NOT to say that we are free to make it up.  That approach is too individualized and subjective to be trust-worthy.  A made-up faith is not true; it is not powerful to save us, nor is it powerful to help us overcome life’s challenges.  A made-up faith is easy prey for the world and our Enemy to corrupt.  It easily becomes a way to make excuses.  Instead of confronting our culture it capitulates to trendiness: “pop faith.”

“Saints” is a New Testament word that refers to all who truly believe and are thereby part of God’s family.  We are to be characterized by purity in thought and action.

Even more important (ABOVE ALL) than WHOLESOME THINKING, he needed to warn them that SCOFFERS would come, trying to confound their WHOLESOME THINKING (3-7).  This creates a couple questions.

One: when are the LAST DAYS (3)?  The LAST DAYS is the span of time between Jesus’ Ascension (when He went back to heaven) and His Second Coming.  All saints, including the New Testament writers, thought that Jesus would come again during their lifetime. The SCOFFERS have been quick to ridicule saints on this basis, as we see in v. 4.

Two: who are the SCOFFERS?  They are identified by their choices: FOLLOWING THEIR OWN EVIL DESIRES (3).  This is often what motivates people to make up their own faith or reject faith entirely; to justify doing what they please.  Remember, these are the SCOFFERS.  The word EVIL is more appropriate in their case because they actively promote falsehood.

They are also identified by their words.  (It’s a little amusing to read, SCOFFERS WILL COME SCOFFING.  What else would they do?)  They scoff at the notion that Jesus will come again.  They deny or sow seeds of doubt about Jesus’ Second Coming (4).  They ignore the facts of creation and history to replace the truth with their own narrative.  Instead of trusting God to reveal Himself accurately, they trust their own intellect, imagination, and/or experiences.

It’s essential to know the truth about the world as a guard against counterfeits.  First, we affirm that God is our Creator (5). It amazes me, for example, that people want to find “laws” of nature without acknowledging the Law-maker, God.

Second, we affirm that, as Creator, God has the right to do anything He wills with creation, including destroying His it.  The history the SCOFFERS are eager to ignore affirms that has already done so – on a limited scale – by means of flood waters (6).  Peter mentioned the world-wide flood to note the historical process:

Warning    =>     Scoffers    =>     World

Delivered            Appeared           Destroyed

This process is being repeated here in the LAST DAYS.

The prophecy the SCOFFERS are eager to ignore warns us He will destroy this creation – on an unlimited scale – by means of fire (7).  There are numerous Old Testament prophecies that connect FIRE and the DAY OF THE LORD (PSS 97:3; ISH 34:4; 66:15-16; DNL 7:9-10; MCH 1:4; JOL 2:30; ZPH 3:8; MCI 4:1).  So this is an example of connection between the PROPHETS and APOSTLES as mentioned earlier.

Peter warned THE PRESENT HEAVENS AND EARTH ARE RESERVED FOR JUDGMENT AND DESTRUCTION OF THE UNGODLY.  In other words, it’s going to happen, but God the Father alone knows when it will happen.  No matter how familiar or how enduring things of this world seem, the truth is that everything is just temporary and will one day be destroyed by fire.  So our job is to focus on the certainty of the end and get ready for it.

Both history and prophecy support the truth that God is in charge and He will decide when reality as we’ve come to know it will cease.

The upcoming Second Coming demands godly living NOW.

“On August 30, 2005 Coast Guard Lt. Iain McConnell was ordered to fly his H46 helicopter to New Orleans and to keep that machine flying around the clock for what would turn out to be a heroic rescue effort.

“None of his crew were prepared for what they were about to see. They were ahead of every news crew in the nation. The entire city of New Orleans was under water. On their first three missions that day they saved 89 people, three dogs and two cats.
“On the fourth mission, despite twelve different flights to New Orleans, he and his crew were able to save no one. None! They all refused to board the helicopter. Instead they told the Coast Guard to bring them food and water.

“They were warned that this refusal to leave was extremely dangerous. The waters were not going to go away soon. Sadly, many of those people perished because of their refusal to be rescued.”
<Retrieved from https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-sermon-central-staff-stories-rejection-79801?ref=TextIllustrationSerps on 7/7/17.>
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has mounted the greatest rescue effort of all time.  But He will not save anyone without their consent.  Giving our consent means giving ourselves to Him, accepting what God has revealed to us by means of WHOLESOME THINKING.

As Peter warns us scoffers will scoff.  We don’t need to be intimidated by them.  We don’t have to argue with or answer them. The proof of our faith is found in godly living.  It is up to us to speak the truth and live the truth and all the more so in these LAST DAYS.

Waging War on Weariness #1

 

What are we to do when we are wearied?

I read an article entitled “Six Sneaky Signs of Exhaustion” by Zahra Barnes.  I’ve got to say five of the six weren’t “sneaky” at all.  Eating more junk than usual, fuzzy thinking, difficulty working out at the gym (say nothing of even getting to the gym), and being stressed were all pretty typical stuff.  The fifth sign, sleeping poorly, even once a week, was a little unexpected, but the sixth clue was the surprising one:  Your lips are dry.

Yes, cracked lips are a sign of dehydration which is, in turn, a cause of weariness. Chapped lips are a common woe in cold-weather climates but it can also be a marker of dehydration that can lead to exhaustion.  So, do somebody a favor today and check out their lips.  Go ahead, its a public service.  Do they look exhausted to you?

<Retrieved from http://dailyburn.com/life/lifestyle/exhausted-signs-tips/ on 2?11/17.>

A more reliable source of information is the Apostle Paul.  He identified the spiritual problem of weariness and offered good reasons for combating it with godliness.

Please read Galatians 6:1-11 in your favorite Bible.  I have used the NIV for this message.

The reformer John Calvin commented on this passage’s command DO NOT BECOME WEARY; because he’s referring to human nature, his comments are just as relevant today.

“This precept is especially necessary because we are naturally lazy in the duties of love, and many little stumbling-blocks hinder and put off even the well-disposed.  We meet many unworthy, many ungrateful people.  The vast number of the nedy overwhelms us; we are drained by paying out on every side.  Our warmth is damped by the coldness of others.  Finally, the whole world is full of hindrances which turn us aside from the right path.  Therefore Paul does well to confirm our efforts, so that we do not faint from weariness.”  (Calvin, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries 11.114, as cited in The New American Commentary on Galatians, Timothy George, 1994.)

To command someone “don’t become weary” makes about as much sense as telling them not to sneeze or stop crying, etc.  In this life and with our nature, some moments of weariness are inevitable.

Paul is not writing to us about the avoidable or unavoidable moments when we naturally weary physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.  His concern, as made clear in the text, is that we do not become so weary that we GIVE UP.  We must not become so characterized or paralyzed by weariness that we quit.  A faith that saves us is a faith that lasts us – until the very end of life, and beyond.

So we’re not going to take any time to discuss weariness in terms of what it is or how to avoid it.  Though those are worthy topics, we’re going to assume that weariness, discouragement, and being “sick and tired” are going to happen.  We’re turning to Scripture to find out what we can do about it when weariness strikes.

  1. Continue to do good anyway. (Galatians 6:10)

Watch for the word THEREFORE in Paul’s letters.  That’s the word that links steps in his teaching together.  The first five chapters contain specifics about good deeds to be done by the Christians in the church in Galatia, including the Fruits of the Spirit passage found just before chapter six. THEREFORE links that with the promise in v. 9 if we DO NOT GIVE UP, we will one day REAP A HARVEST.

This is a great choice of symbols: who ever planted a seed and reaped a harvest the next day?  There is always a gap of time between planting and harvesting, and plenty of work to be done in the middle.  The waiting time in between can tax a person’s patience.  But hang on.  Some kind of harvest will inevitably come.

In this case, harvesting is a sure thing because it is a promised based on the character of God.  With that in mind, we do what people do while they wait on a crop to mature; they look for work to do to prepare for the harvest.  In spiritual terms, this means we keep on looking for and acting upon opportunities to DO GOOD: whatever is godly, noble, and spiritually maturing. The inevitability of the promise being fulfilled is offered as a God-approved motive for not giving up when we are worn down by weariness.

The HARVEST comes at the PROPER TIME (kairos = opportune moment), not necessarily at the time of our choosing.  That is God’s choice, not ours.  In 1 Timothy 6:15, Paul also used kairos to refer to the timing of the Second Coming.  It will happen when God the Father has decided it should.

We’re not to be fussy about who benefits from our good deeds, but we are to particularly extend ourselves on behalf of THOSE WHO BELONG TO THE FAMILY OF BELIEVERS.  LET US DO GOOD TO ALL PEOPLE means that we are not to limit our love to those who love us and/or seems especially loveable to us.  In Luke 6:32 Jesus taught,

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.”

Let’s face it; all people are created in the image of God, Jesus died for all of them, and God loves them all.  We have been loved with unconditional and unlimited love, so we must aspire to, as much as we can, do exactly the same.

The word ESPECIALLY means that we give first attention and extra effort to fellow believers.  Yes, that means “preferential treatment.”  Other believers are our primary neighbors.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.  Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.  (RMS 15:1-2)

This does certainly not excuse stiffing outsiders.  Remember, Paul lead with ALL PEOPLE and the Bible calls us to love OUR NEIGHBOR, which is another way of saying ALL PEOPLE.

  1. Wait on the Lord.

He will see justice is done and the Law of Sowing and Reaping is observed. (see Galatians 6:7-9 and 2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

In Galatians 6:7-9 we find the Law of Sowing and Reaping.  This Law can be stated as follows: “All deeds are seen and remembered by God.  One day, He will reward good doers and punish evil doers.  Perfect justice will be served.”  Though it doesn’t necessarily take effect as quickly, this law is as inevitable and reliable as the law of gravity.  God cannot be MOCKED; this law cannot be violated.

The use of SPIRIT and FLESH is mentioned to compare good and evil.  Just as you can expect a certain plant grow where you plant that kind of seed, you can also expect an appropriate reaction from God for the things you choose to do.

– A lifetime wasted on deeds that flow from a selfish and evil heart results in DESTRUCTION; it is a life lost.

– A lifetime spent on deeds the come from the Holy Spirit within true followers results in ETERNAL LIFE.

– Judgment Day is a reality and the wise person begins today to stockpile good deeds.

In 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 we see both sides of God’s reaction to human actions:

The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place.  But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.

Because the Lord had PITY on HIS PEOPLE AND HIS DWELLING PLACE, he gave the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem warnings and opportunities to repent.  But they repeatedly chose the world and its false gods and the result was that the WRATH OF THE LORD was AROUSED against them.  Note the ominous words: THERE WAS NO REMEDY.

Like the people of Judah, God graciously gives every one of us every opportunity to repent and be saved.  For those who refuse, their choices will catch up with them.

His salvation is coming (see Lamentations 3:25-26 and Hebrews 9:27-28).

In Lamentations 3:25-26 we read,

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

This verse details a GOOD thing from God = God is GOOD to those who place their HOPE in Him and not in any worldly thing.  It also conveys a GOOD thing we do = It is GOOD to WAIT QUIETLY for the LORD to bring our salvation.

Waiting is so often contrary to human nature that where it is practiced, it may be a sign of the Holy Spirit in us.  The only thing worse than having to wait is having to WAIT QUIETLY!  This means that the right kind of waiting is one that is marked by patience.  It means we cease our manipulations and instead devote our attention to the LORD and allow Him to do it for us.

In Hebrews 9:27-28, we read about the certainty of this promise of salvation:

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting on him.

Just as death is inevitable but comes suddenly and one should prepare for the moment, so the Second Coming of Jesus Christ an inevitable event that will happen suddenly and for which we must be prepared.

On that day, Jesus will recognize His people and take them into the presence of God the Father.  Those who are rewarded with SALVATION on that day THOSE WHO ARE WAITING ON HIM.

In a sermon on Isaiah 40:27-31, Pastor Joe Alain compared two kinds of weariness.  He wrote; “There is a weariness that we might describe as a good weariness. It’s the kind of being tired that comes as a result of some accomplishment. You’re tired but you’re satisfied. For example, you work out and you’re tired, but it feels good because you know you’ve accomplished something. You play hard and you become tired but it’s a good kind of tired, a rewarding type of weariness.
“But then there is a soul-weariness that is draining and anything but satisfying. It’s the kind of weariness of the soul that weighs you down. You’re tired spiritually, you become burned out, you get tired of fighting the spiritual battle that is going on the inside, you become weary of fighting the good fight of faith. When that happens, we give up and we give in to living a lesser life than God intends for us.”

<Retrieved from  http://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-outlines/76302/hope-in-the-hard-place-of-weariness-4-of-4/ on 2/11/17.>

Obviously, the Apostle Paul wrote about the second kind of weariness.  The first kind is a gift from God, an act of grace that is a natural reward for having done right.  The second is a curse from the devil, trying to distract us with pettiness and discourage us into bitterness.

This kind of weariness is not part of the life God intended for you.  It is a serious problem.  We are going to spend a few Sundays learning how we can be encouraged and ward off weariness.  We’re going to get at the heart of the matter, to expose what goes wrong when we walk in self-destructive ways.

Do You Love Surprises?

(Please read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.  I used the NIV to research these remarks.)

Jesus’ Second Coming motivates us to be prepared.

You may have heard there is a football game today.  The winner will take a place among football immortality, the loser scorned.  I can tell you that from personal experience, having backed Super Bowl losers eight times.

Still, I don’t suppose the losing team at today’s game with have to bear the scorn that one college football coach suffered at the hands of the alumni after a few losing seasons and a particularly embarrassing loss to their traditional rival.   He received a text the next day which read, THE NEXT BUS OUT OF TOWN LEAVES IN AN HOUR.  BE UNDER IT!

Obviously, that is not the kind of message we who believe ought to be sending one another.  Throwing one another under the bus is behavior best left alone.

God commands us to do just the opposite, to encourage and build each other up.  Church families are functional families when we put each other in a greater priority one another than ourselves.

Love is to be the chief motive for this behavior, but in this passage Paul offers another powerful motive.  Jesus is coming again.  He will appear at any time and He wants to find His people following His commands.  Since His coming can happen at any time, we want to be ready NOW.

  1. Somebody’s going to be surprised. (1-3)

But it wasn’t going to be the Thessalonians.  They understood the TIMES and DATES.  Paul had confidence that they didn’t “need” a reminder.  He knew they were looking forward to the Second Coming of Jesus and were preparing for it.  The words he chose have particular meaning: TIMES meant indefinite chronological eras, like a king who was currently reigning.  When would his reign end?  Who knew?  DATES to us would refer to appointments on our calendars, but in the Greek, it was “opportune moments.”

Paul was sure the believers in Thessalonica had spiritual maturity to see the signs of the times and take advantage of opportune moments as they occurred.  This is the same kind of message expressed in Hebrews 10:25: we are to increase our encouragement of one another as we SEE THE DAY APPROACHING.

The expression THE DAY OF THE LORD references the Second Coming of Jesus.  The phrase is primarily found in the Old Testament; it appears just five times in the New Testament.  In the Old Testament, it looks ahead to the Messiah; to His overthrow of God’s enemies, the persecutors of His people, and the establishing of His eternal kingdom on earth.  Sound familiar?

The Jews believed there were two TIMES that divided human history.  The present, evil age would come to an end when the Messiah appeared and a new, golden age would replace it.  This concept carried over into the New Testament writers (understandably; it was written mostly by Jews) who saw Jesus as the Messiah and associated the DAY OF THE LORD with the Second Coming of Jesus.  (As – for example – Paul does here.)

Though we’ve been warned, it will happen suddenly.  The warning is in advance, but not immediately before.  For example, there will be no countdown, like on New Year’s Eve.

Paul uses an image of suddenness that will catch some surprised and unprepared: Jesus’ Second Coming will be like “a thief in the night.”  The emphasis here is on suddenness, not on illegality or stealth. His Second Coming will begin the Day of Judgment, the ultimate legal proceeding, judging the entire human race.  His Second Coming will not be stealthy, it will be obvious and every person, world-wide, will know who He is and why He has come.  Those who are prepared will react with praise.  Those who are unprepared will react with horror.  We are to wake each morning and live each day as if it were our last because there are two immanent and sudden events: death and the Second Coming.

The other part of the THIEF image is that even though one doesn’t usually know when a thief will come, one can prepare for him in the daylight and in advance.  For example, in our time, we can do things to our homes to deter and discourage thievery.  From something simple like locking our doors to something complex like a security alarm, we can do stuff to protect ourselves.  Americans are expected to spend more than 35 billion dollars on home security in 2017!

This illustrates preparedness without knowing the moment will occur.  That is how we think about the Second Coming.  We will not be surprised that it happens because we have been preparing for the moment every day of our life.

  1. Somebody’s going to be prepared.

Paul contrasts those who are prepared with those who are unprepared for the Second Coming.

Prepared (Believers)       Unprepared (Unbelievers)

Children o/t Light.                        Belonging to the Darkness.

– Know & accept the truth.       – Reject the truth.

– Do good.                                       – Do evil.

Children of the Day.                     Belonging to the Night.

– Good reputation,                          – Bad reputation, based

based on godly char.                       sinful character.

– Things are seen.                            – Things are hidden.

Alert.                                                  Asleep and drunk.

– Accurate view of self.                   – Purposely ignorant of self.

– High moral ambition.                   – Low/no moral ambition.

– Spiritual sensitivity.                     – Worldly sensitivity.

Self-controlled.                              Drunk.

– Practices self-denial.                    – Practices self-indulgence.

– Priorities in order.                          – Disordered priorities.

– Takes responsibility.                      – Makes excuses.

Those who are prepared exercise their preparations daily.  Prepared people put on spiritual armor (8).  In our passage, the armor pieces listed are the BREASTPLATE OF FAITH AND LOVE and the HELMET OF THE HOPE OF SALVATION.  See Ephesians 6 for a more complete use of this imagery.  Why armor?  Because God wants to protect us from the enemy’s attacks and help us to stand on the day of trial.

Prepared people encourage each other in order to build up our shared faith (11).  There’s an entire message to be had there!

Finally, let us claim the promises to the prepared.  First, GOD DID NOT APPOINT US TO SUFFER WRATH BUT TO RECEIVE SALVATION (v. 9).  Second, whether we are AWAKE OR ASLEEP (alive or dead) WE MAY LIVE TOGETHER WITH HIM (10).  Eternal life is the prize awaiting the prepared.

We don’t all like surprises, do we?  They frequently they end up blowing up in the face of the person plotting the surprise.  For example, in May of last year, college student McKenna Pilling’s mom wanted to surprise her by breaking into her dorm room and laying on the bed. She got into the room, laid down on the bed and took a selfie.  She texted this picture to her daughter with the text, “Guess where I am.  Where are you?”

Her daughter tweeted back, “Don’t tell me you are in the wrong dorm room.”  It was then that her mother realized she’d broken into the wrong room.

McKenna later wrote, “She came to surprise me from New York City to help clean out my dorm and apparently walked in the wrong dorm.  No one was in there so she laid down for five minutes in the wrong bed and decided to send me a picture as a surprise.”

McKenna’s tweet has been retweeted a total of over 13,000 times and favorited over 28,000 times.   In this information age, news of our failed surprises can become world-wide news!

As bad as that was, it is a much more serious fail to be caught unprepared for the second coming of Jesus.  By accepting Him as Savior and living for Him as Lord can you avoid the worst surprise ever; being unprepared for the Savior’s appearing.  There will be worse consequences to that surprise than world-wide embarrassment.

 

 

What’re You Waiting For?

(Please read James 5:7-11 in your Bible.  I cite the NIV below.)

Patience makes all relationships better.

  1. We must be patient with God (5:7+8).

It may sound odd to say it this way, but there are a couple circumstances that require all followers of Jesus to be patient with God.

One is prayer.  We wait on the Lord for a “yes” answer to prayer.  Luke 18 instructs us that we do not stop praying, but continue to call on the Lord.

Another is Jesus’ Second Coming.  The Bible concludes on a promise that Jesus is coming again.  This time, His coming will signal a series of events that will bring this reality to an end, replacing it with a perfected and glorified reality, creation restored to the way it was before sin corrupted it.

This is what James meant when he wrote BE PATIENT…UNTIL THE LORD’S COMING (v. 7).  Our hope, whether we are currently enduring suffering or not, is that at the LORD’S COMING, our faith will be vindicated, all wrongs made right, and all losses replaced with rewards.

Patience with God is defined in the expression STAND FIRM (v. 8).  To STAND FIRM means to keep the faith.  It is to trust in God, confident that His promises will be kept.

James offers the illustration of a FARMER demonstrating patience as he waits for nature to follow its customary process.  SPRING RAINS were important for germination.  AUTUMN RAINS were important for maturation of the crop.  (Both of these rains were specifically promised in Deuteronomy 11:14.)  The FARMER can do nothing to hurry the process or change weather conditions.  He must be patient and so must every believer.

Whether we’re maturing crops or disciples, the periods of waiting are not wasted time.  Instead they are periods of development & growth.

Why should we STAND FIRM until the Second Coming? BECAUSE THE LORD’S COMING IS NEAR.  Paul expected the Second Coming in his lifetime.  It didn’t happen.  Does that mean he was wrong to have that expectation?  No, we’re all supposed to think that way and allow it to affect our decisions.  Is it right for us to think about the Second Coming as NEAR?  Of course it’s right.  One of the things that motivate our patience is the expectation that Jesus’ return is right around the corner.

In the Bible, true faith is distinguished retrospectively.  When we see that person remained true – stood firm in the faith – all the way to their end, we know they possessed true faith.

  1. We must be patient with each other (5:9-11).

One of the events connected with the Second Coming is Judgment Day.  Logically, it also is near; THE JUDGE IS STANDING AT THE DOOR (v. 9).

One of the aspects of judgment will be the way we have treated one another.  So James commands DON’T GRUMBLE (v. 9).  Though the word patience is not in this verse, we can easily see that choosing not to grumble is one way patience manifests itself in our relationships.  This echoes Jesus’ teaching about judgmentalism – if we are judgmental about each other, we can expect to face that same standard exercised against us on Judgment Day.

Another aspect of Judgment Day will be how we handled SUFFERING.  Was it with PATIENCE or not?  Being patient in SUFFERING means we don’t abandon our faith.  We stick with what we believe.

This kind of patience can be called perseverance and we have biblical examples of perseverance we can follow.  The PROPHETS (v. 10) spoke God’s messages in Old Testament times.  Their devotion to the truth put them at odds with their countrymen and made them the target of hideous acts of persecution.

Hebrews 11:35-37 summarizes their sufferings.

Job (v. 11) is, of course, the oft-used example of patience.  When you read the account of Job in the Bible, you note that he struggled with what he suffered and maintained his faith with a great deal of difficulty.  We are human, after all.  James mentioned JOB’S PERSEVERANCE.  This is attested to in Job 1:22 where we read, IN ALL THIS JOB DID NOT SIN BY CHARGING GOD WITH WRONGDOING.  James also mentioned JOB’S OUTCOME.  In Job 42:12 we read about God’s approval of Job in these words: THE LORD BLESSED THE LATTER PART OF JOB’S LIFE MORE THAN THE FIRST.

Our patience in suffering will inevitably result in our being blessed by God: WE CONSIDER BLESSED THOSE WHO HAVE PERSEVERED.  BLESSED means “happy.”  Life is a happier, better experience for those who wait on the Lord.

If we are patient, our patience in suffering will inevitably reveal that THE LORD IS FULL OF COMPASSION AND MERCY (V. 11).  At the end of our suffering we should be more convinced than ever of the loving character of God.

  1. How we can be patient with each other (1:19-21).

Patience is our first defense against ungodly anger as it allows us to slow down our reaction to offenses.  James writes to the BROTHERS, but EVERYONE should exercise the virtue of patience by setting a guard at their lips.

Verse nineteen is the thesis statement of the book of James.  His letter is organized around this proverb.  Here he outlined a 3-fold strategy for godly communication.

One, BE QUICK TO LISTEN to each other, but also to the Holy Spirit, who helps us understand the word of God.  Read the Gospels and you will be impressed by Jesus’ ability to LISTEN: He heard everything!  You will enjoy other people more if you spend more time listening to them and less time talking.

Two, be SLOW TO SPEAK: that means to guard our speech.  Maturing believers do not “let off steam” or use any other excuse for unguarded speech.  Instead, we take time to consider our words before we say them and keep from sins of the tongue.  In 3:2, James says that the follower who controls their tongue is PERFECT!  This gives us some sense of the import of sins of the tongue.

Third, SLOW TO BECOME ANGRY refers to misdirected wrath or selfish vengefulness.  Modern science has shown that anger is one of the emotions that takes the shortest pathway from brain to mouth.  In order to have a more considered response, we must involve more of our brain and that takes time.  Counting to 20 is as good a step to take as any.  When we are angry without a godly reason, we do more harm than good.

Why is anger a problem as regards the virtue of patience?  Anger is typically the opposite of patience; it is reacting quickly and overreacting.  It is reacting for the wrong reasons.  As a result, anger almost always impairs our spiritual maturity: MAN’S ANGER DOES NOT BRING ABOUT THE RIGHTEOUS LIFE THAT GOD DESIRES (v. 20).  When anger compels us to say or do the wrong thing, unrighteous results follow.  Harm comes to relationships, causing strains that can last a lifetime.  It is no good to God or man.

Ungodly anger is a sin; it is one aspect of the MORAL FILTH and EVIL that is PREVALENT in the world around us (v. 21).  It is PREVALENT because most people try to get through life without God.  Remember, Jesus said that it is “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

What makes a true follower of Jesus different from merely worldly folk is their decision to HUMBLY ACCEPT THE WORD PLANTED in them, to the effect that they are saved.  The word HUMBLY is of key importance because it is pride and self-centeredness that causes us to behave in ways opposite God’s will.  The sacrifice of self in order to love God and others will build relationships and increase happiness.  That seems backwards from a worldly point of view, but it is God’s honest truth.

One scale by which we can assess our spiritual maturity is the degree to which virtues are evident and sins are absent.  Another scale is the degree to which our words are helpful or hurtful.  On a personal scale, this means we must be more concerned about what comes out of us.  Our words and deeds are public revelations of our character; what are people finding out about us?  On a church-wide scale, it means that we value the unity God gives us above self-interests and work hard to guard it against deliberate attempts to create division.

How to Keep James 1:19 = A Serving of “P’s”

  1. Agree on the situation.

P = Paraphrase. “This is what I hear you saying.” (Relate your version of their words.)  “Is that what you want me to hear?”

P = Personalize. “When I hear you say that, this is how I feel.  Is that what you want me to feel?”

  1. Agree on the solution.

P = Partner. “What do you think we should do to resolve this situation?”  (Share ideas.  Negotiate a compromise.)

P = Perform. Work together to enact the solution you’ve agreed upon.

How to Recognize Sins of the Tongue

  1. If you are talking about a situation to anyone outside the group of those who are directly involved, that is gossip.
  2. If your desire is to make another person look bad or yourself look good in comparison, that is slander.
  3. If you are deliberately withholding any portion of the truth or including any portion of an untruth, that is a lie.
  4. If you are listing reasons someone is guilty of something you have not observed them doing, that is false accusation.
  5. If you find yourself talking more about things that are less important or trying to be funny without considering others, that is idle patter.
  6. If you are using words that you would not say in the presence of God, that is obscenity or swearing.
  7. If you are quietly muttering words that you would be embarrassed to speak aloud, those are evil whispers.
  8. If you are speaking out of anger or trying to “win” an argument, that is quarreling.
  9. If you are finding fault without working out a solution, you are complaining.

Notice that honesty does not figure in this list.  We can’t use honesty as an excuse for sins of the tongue.  We cannot justify any sin by claiming a virtue.

Notice that being “right” does not figure in this list.  No matter how accurate our words may seem, God is the final Judge of our words.  Being right does not give us the right to speak them.  So decide for yourself whether it is easier to be careful what you say or to just talk less.

Faithful to the End

(Please read Matthew 24.) 

          Note this is the second in a set of three blogs developing the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 24.  Please read the preceding blog in order to orient yourself in this passage.  Last week we learned two things:        

1. The End is near but unclear. (1-3, 32-34)

2. Sign #1: False Christs will appear. (4-5, 23-28)

           The second millennia A.D. saw a number of notable predictions of the Second Coming.  One thing they all have in common is their failure to accurately predict an event that Jesus Himself declared was known only to God the Father.

10) Doomsday, 1000 AD.  I guess this was known as “Y1K.”

9) 1844 AD. Baptist preacher William Miller predicted it; the end of the day saw no Jesus but lots of people atop barns.

8) 1914, 1918, 1925, 1942 – Dates set by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

7) 1981 – Chuck Smith predicted Jesus would “probably” return by 1981.

6) 1988 – Edgar C. Whisenant published 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988.

5) 1992 – “Mission for the Coming Days”, a Korean group, predicted October 28, 1992.

4) 1993 – Seven years before 2000, presumably dating backward from the end of the first millennium.  People forgot how that failed a thousand years earlier.

3) 1994 – Rev. Harold Camping’s first failed prediction.

2) 2000 AD – Programmers making a lot of Y2K money wasn’t the end of the world after all.

1) Rev. Camping’s reputation plummeted when May 22, 2011 came and went without Jesus’ appearance.

0.5) December 21, 2012 – was it the Mayans or their self-appointed interpreters who couldn’t tell time? 

Sign #2: The world will be in turmoil. (6-8, 29)

          International conflict. “YOU WILL HEAR OF WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS”  Wars are starkly disturbing things, but Jesus warns His disciples well in advance so they will not be upset by these reports. “NATION WILL RISE AGAINST NATION, AND KINGDOM AGAINST KINGDOM.”  This is typical language for apocalyptic writers of the day. (See Isaiah 19:2.)

          International disasters: “THERE WILL BE FAMINES AND EARTHQUAKES IN VARIOUS PLACES.”  FAMINES can be the result of wars, but earthquakes are always acts of God.

          Extraterrestrial events: “IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE DISTRESS OF THOSE DAYS…” These events are so extraordinary, so catastrophic, that they will herald the ONLY event that truly begins the end o/the world: the Second Coming. (See Amos 8:9; Ezekiel 32:7-8.) “THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT” (see Isaiah 13:10); THE STARS WILL FALL FROM THE SKY (see Isaiah 34:4), “AND THE HEAVENLY BODIES WILL BE SHAKEN” (see Joel 2:10; Isaiah 13:13; Haggai 2:6+21).  The point is that this language is not original with Jesus; He appropriated existing and familiar forms to express His vision of the future.

          This language as it appears here and elsewhere in the Old and New Testaments, is metaphorical, not literal.  But as this is a visible sign, it’s not just a metaphor; while this may not be a precise description or scientific, it will be an observable phenomena.  So observable, in fact, that these signs will arouse fears and doubts.  But God’s people are to be assured, God is in control.  “BUT SEE TO IT THAT YOU ARE NOT ALARMED” The key is to be prepared, NOT ALARMED. “SUCH THINGS MUST HAPPEN” is a typical Jewish expression of faith in Providence – the work of God in the world.  God is in charge.

          As we observed previously, this is not the end, but the beginning of the end. “THE END IS STILL TO COME” Jesus’ point here is that the end of this world will come, not that it will necessarily come soon.  Our relief is not that the Second Coming’s immediacy, but in its surety; it is going to happen and that it’s happening is in God’s hands, not man’s.  “ALL THESE ARE THE BEGINNINGS OF BIRTH PAINS.” Not the ending.  The beginning of labor, not birth. This was a common word picture in the day, used in reference to the time before the Messianic age. 

Sign #3: The Church will be persecuted, but will be triumphant. (9-14)

          Persecuted by the outside world. “THEN YOU WILL BE HANDED OVER TO BE PERSECUTED AND PUT TO DEATH” The word for WITNESS is martyria, Which refers to the ultimate kind of witness for Christ, laying down one’s life. “YOU WILL BE HATED BY ALL NATIONS BECAUSE OF ME” The Church will be the target of the movement of godlessness. The activity the world hates the most is the witnessing of the Church.  Have you noticed how the ungodly in our own culture have attempted to curtail our first Amendment rights?

          Persecuted by betrayers inside the church.  “AT THAT TIME, MANY WILL TURN AWAY FROM THE FAITH.” Not everyone in the Church will be an overcomer. “[They will] BETRAY AND HATE EACH OTHER.”  Betrayal and hatred will be signs that their heart was not really with Christ at all.

          Persecuted by those who’ve been deceived. “MANY FALSE PROPHETS WILL APPEAR AND DECEIVE MANY PEOPLE” (see verses 5 and 24).  The conflict of heaven and hell over human souls will reach a pitch previously unknown. “BECAUSE OF THE INCREASE OF WICKEDNESS, THE LOVE OF MOST WILL GROW COLD.  The “INCREASE OF WICKEDNESS” will be manifest in a love for worldly things and giving up on the faith when persecution gets too hot.  On the other side of that metaphor, “THE LOVE OF MOST WILL GROW COLD.”  The exact nature of this phrase is uncertain, but it seems to imply a loss of hope; the mistaken belief that there is no need to cling to faith in the face of persecution.  Personally, I think Jesus meant those who fall between the extremes of betrayal and faithfulness; that the majority of church-goers won’t take a stand one way or another.  “Stay under the radar.”

          Still, the church is encouraged and unmoved in their devotion to Christ. “HE WHO STANDS FIRM TO THE END WILL BE SAVED.” (See 10:22, the sending out of the 72.) The ultimate gift – salvation – belongs to those who remain devoted to Christ throughout this frightening and difficult generation.

          The Church is to stay focused on job #1: “AND THIS GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM WILL BE PREACHED IN THE WHOLE WORLD AS A TESTIMONY TO ALL NATIONS, & THEN THE END WILL COME.”  Hasn’t the Gospel already gone to THE WHOLE WORLD and ALL NATIONS?  After all, the Church has been going out into the world for nearly two centuries.  American missions are over 200 years old.  If not, what are we waiting for?  If this verse teaches that we can bring on the Second Coming by taking the Gospel to all nations, why haven’t we been doing it? (See 2 Peter 3:9.) Universal proclamation is a typical feature of apocalyptic literature.  Generally speaking, there will be a greater concentration of godliness and godlessness competing against one another as the end draws near.

          Remember, one of the questions that started this teaching was the disciples asking “WHAT WILL BE THE SIGN OF THE…END OF THE AGE?”  This phrase is Jesus’ most direct answer to that question.   I wonder if they realized that there was no way THE END was near because the Gospel had hardly been taken out of Judea, let alone THE WHOLE WORLD.

          “Doomsday Preppers” is one of the weird reality shows you’ll find on the National Geographic Channel.  “It explores the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Unique in their beliefs, motivations, and strategies, preppers will go to whatever lengths they can to make sure they are prepared for any of life’s uncertainties. And this season, the preppers are testing the limits of ingenuity as they develop extreme doomsday survival machines, high-tech shelters, and specialized escape routes. With customized features, super-secret locations, and home-spun engineering, these extreme Armageddon defense systems are ready for anything.”

          That quote came from  http://channel.national geographic.com/channel/doomsday-preppers/.  You can go there to find out about this American sub-culture that looks a lot like the bomb shelter crowd of the 50s and 60s.  You can take a quiz to find out how prepared you are for the coming apocalypse.  (My score was a 14, which predicted I’d last a week or two in a future disaster. The top score was 94.)

          Obviously, building bunkers and squirreling away supplies is not the kind of preparations Jesus has called us to make.  His idea of preparedness is standing firm in one’s faith in Him.  Jesus warned all His followers that difficult times were not the end, but the beginning of the end, the first of many signs and difficult times that will test their perseverance.  Those who have strengthened their faith by reliance on the Holy Spirit will remain faithful and only the faithful can expect to be rewarded with eternal life on the day He comes again.

NEXT WEBLOG: 5. Sign #4: The Holy Land will be attacked.(15-22)

                             6. We have nothing to fear. (13, 35)