Last week we continued to follow the apostle Paul as he left Athens and went alone on to Corinth. It seemed an impossible task, one man against a city of very devoted sinners. Of course, it wasn’t the first time God sent a man alone against unbelief like that, but it was an intimidating prospect, nonetheless.
But Paul did not stay alone for long. He reached out on common ground, met like-minded people, and before long a small congregation was blossoming. In fact, this pattern repeated most places he went. Even where he was forcibly driven out, he left behind a contingent of the faithful who continued the work after he departed. Though he made his rounds, sharing Jesus, strengthening churches, and moving on, each place he worked carried on the work without him.
Today, it is that effect in particular that we want to look at. That from the efforts of one, many can come to faith by God’s power. And each one of those many can reach out to just as many more. Let’s begin by taking a look at our reading for today, from Acts 18:
Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.
After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
One hates to talk numbers when discussing the church. God wants all people to be saved. He does not measure success in numerical terms. The effectiveness of the Gospel or a congregation should not be measured in numerical growth. It’s a slippery slope to talk numbers.
That being said.
Foregoing issues of doctrinal divide and incorrect teachings, the number of people in the world with saving faith in Jesus could probably be estimated in the hundreds of millions. The number of people who have passed to heaven in the faith in the last 2000 years makes that number significantly higher. Imagine what that number would look like though, if Paul had been the only one teaching people about Jesus. If everyone who had come to faith by his efforts simply took that faith home and enjoyed it for themselves and that was that? God is all-powerful, but humanly speaking – how fast can one person share the faith with the world?
In fact, even Jesus himself said the task was too great. He said the workers were too few and to ask for more workers. He turned to his disciples, told them to pray for more workers that the lost and helpless sheep might get what they so desperately need.
And we’ve seen through the book of Acts how desperately people need Jesus. And people haven’t changed much since our time. As we look at the people in Acts who need Jesus, we don’t just see the same people in our world, we even see ourselves. We see either what we once were or struggle every day not to turn into.
We saw the group that loved just indulging in everything life had to offer in order to try to find happiness on any given day. Do you know that person? Have you tried it yourself? Or even given into it a little bit? The rush of whatever is great… but at the end you have to face reality. And it’s never the same the second time. You have to go bigger and better. And you get caught in an endless loop of one-upping everything that went before. Doesn’t even have to be a sinful vice. Could just be a hobby or vacation or something. You’re working towards that one thing that you say, “when I get here, I’ll be happy and content and everything will be good.” But it’s a hamster wheel. It doesn’t work. And you just have to do it all over again. It’s a hollow chasing of the wind.
We saw the group that preferred to work for satisfaction. That’s just as deceptive a trap. Either you work really hard and end up with a false sense of security from how great you are… or you more likely stumble and make mistakes and end up utterly discouraged that you just can’t seem to get it right. It’s just as bad as chasing those hollow pleasures to think that somehow my life, my worth, my joy has to come from how good I am at something. I can’t stop moving and working because if I do, I’ll realize how empty it really is and it’ll all come crashing down.
And the less said about the town of Corinth and their worship of Aphrodite, the better. Sexual sin is some of the most prevalent in our world. We all know someone caught up in it and we’d be utterly foolish to think that as Christian believers we are above it or immune to it.
All of these people in our world are people chasing empty lives, knowing on some level that something is missing but unable to fill it. And before we look down our nose, they are exactly what you and I would be except for God’s grace in saving us. They need someone to save them. They need a God who died to make these things right. To give them joy and comfort that lasts, water they can drink and never be thirsty again. They need Jesus to fill that void and calm their desperate pursuits.
Just like we needed Jesus to do the same for us. And to help us daily that we don’t go back to those ways. We’re here to plant Jesus in the heart of North Raleigh and beyond…because North Raleigh is full of hurting people who desperately need it.
But this is not a job that one man can do. It’s not even a job that a small team of called workers can do. It is the calling of every Christian to multiply the faith wherever you go.
Jesus told the disciples to pray for workers and then what happened next? He made his disciples workers and sent them out to work. Paul made friends of Priscilla and Aquilla and before long they were travelling with Paul and teaching other believers
And what about that list of people Paul sent greetings to in Rome? You know, at the point Paul wrote that letter, Paul himself had never even been to Rome? And yet he had a laundry list of people he personally knew who had gone there to carry out ministry for Jesus.
The mission of the church can be summed up simply in two words: Grow and Go. We are to grow the faith of existing believers and we are to go with that faith to share it with others. If you look at Jesus’ great commission that is exactly the directive you’ll find him giving. But the great way about how God works is that each person the Holy Spirit works on and brings to faith is another person to carry out that same mission. One reaches many, the many reach many more, and on and on it goes.
We are a congregation. A gathering. We are very different, with different backgrounds, different attitudes and quirks and foibles. But we are united as a gathering of believers in Christ to carry out his mission. This is not a passive club that we show up to, put our dues in the offering plate and go home with a little bit of salvation. The believers are the church and the church is the believers. Yes, to guide our path we call a man specially trained to lead and shepherd us. Yes, we call teachers to bring up our children. Yes, we appoint leaders to help keep the chaos a bit organized. But you are still the church.
And the ministry of the church is more than Pastor Kiecker can do alone. It’s more than the preschool teachers can do alone. It’s more than the church council can even do alone. It’s up to all of us. Every believer working together to accomplish that mission to multiply the church, to share the gospel message, give the Holy Spirit his moment to work and bring others to the faith you know and treasure.
We’ve talked about the people who are hurting, we know how badly they need it. We know that could just as easily be you or me. And yes, maybe they’ll reject it. God doesn’t hold us accountable for that. He does hold us accountable if we never speak up. If we never do anything. How can anyone believe if they don’t hear and how can they hear if we don’t speak?
Now, I know we’re not all equally equipped. That’s part of the reason we have different roles in the church. We are not all here to do exactly the same things. But we all have gifts that can be used to carry out this ministry. Use them! Maybe it’s not a direct outreach effort, but it’s still work that supports that outreach. Whether it’s helping worship run smoothly for the visitor or keeping our facility beautiful to glorify God or taking some task off another’s plate so they can focus on larger priorities – we all talents and gifts to contribute to the ministry.
And let me just backpedal for a second and point out that ministry is not all about outreach, either. Remember I said the mission of the church is to Grow and Go. Becoming a believer means we are saved, 100%. But it’s also not the end of our earthly walk with God. Faith needs to be fed, nurtured, and grown. The ministry to strengthen faith right here in our own midst through regular worship and study and devotion is just as vital as the ministry to reach outside of our congregation. Look at Priscilla, Aquilla, and Apollos strengthening each other through instruction and study of God’s word prior to really tackling the task of reaching out.
What are you doing to grow? Are you making a point to attend Sunday bible study or one of the mid-week groups? Do you have a devotional habit to dig into scripture regularly on your own? Do you have someone you can reach out to for help when you wrestle with a difficult section of the Bible? If you don’t feel up to the task of reaching out, then start by reaching in – grow your faith in the Word here and help others do the same. And, if you’re not sure where to start – which is super common, then ask. Ask Pastor Kiecker, ask me, ask the leadership. Any of us can point you in the right direction and give you resources to get started.
Brothers and sisters, we are the church. We are the gathering of believers called to do his work. Study his word, learn from him regularly, build yourself up in that truth and then share it out there with those who so desperately need it. Ultimately the work of salvation is up to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who changes hearts and brings people to faith. The success of our mission is in his hands, not ours. But he has chosen to rely on us for the opportunity. Study the gospel, share the gospel, that more can know Jesus, that more can share Jesus, that the most can be saved. Amen.
Last week we started our Eyewitness sermon series. Our goal is to look at Eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. Last week we heard the eyewitness account of Mary Magdalene. She reported that she saw an empty tomb, two angels, and Jesus Christ himself.
But today is a second part of the series. That implies – there’s more than one eyewitness account.
I remember growing up my family was visiting my grandmother in Omaha, NE. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a McDonald's. Now – this was during one of those Monopoly promotions – where you collect peel-able Monopoly pieces from fry containers and soda cups. Once we ordered our food, mom let us peel off the game pieces to see if we could collect a FREE fry or two-for-one ice cream cone.
But…we found something better.
If you know your Monopoly, then you know that Park Place is the last set on the board. In McDonald’s Monopoly, if you collect the Park Place piece and the Boardwalk piece, you win $1,000,0000.
And I told my mom, “We won! We won a million dollars. Because…I am sure that I have Boardwalk back at home.”
At first, she didn’t believe her 6-year-old son.
But we were on vacation for a whole week. So…I kept repeating the same truth.
I insisted to everyone that we were about to be millionaires.
I started introducing myself to my relatives as, “Future millionaire-cousin Phil.”
I began explaining to my mom that, “I deserved most of the money because I peeled off the game pieces, but don’t worry…she’d get some, since she paid for it and all.”
Finally, after a week of vacation, we got in the car. We drove home.
And…honestly…mom started to get excited.
She dreamt up a golden-plated vacuum cleaner.
She dreamed of never cooking again.
She closed her eyes and pictured a kid-free trip to sunny Hawaii.
So… after the 8-hour drive, we hopped out of the car, I ran up to my room, opened my dresser drawer and found…
The entire family followed me …
Another “Park Place.”
If there is only one witness, it is hard to believe them.
If there is only one witness, maybe you shouldn’t believe them.
If there is only one witness to Jesus’ resurrection, that witness could be passionate…but confused.
That’s why more than one eyewitness is important.
Today we’ll look at a second eyewitness account. Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Eyewitness Account
The eyewitness account comes from Luke 24:13. “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.”
It’s an account from two people. A disciple named Cleopas (Memorize that. It’s a great Bible trivia answer) and the other guy is…completely unknown. In fact, they are so non-famous that they are better known as the “Emmaus disciples.” Why? Because they were on their way to Emmaus.
Think about that: They are better known by the small town they were travelling to than their actual names.
That’d be like waving to someone that you meet in the hallway today and saying, “Hi guy going to the bathroom. Hope your day is good.”
The account takes place a bit later in the day on the first Easter. A brief timeline –
Jesus rises from the dead.
The women appear at the tomb.
Mary Magdalene runs away in distress to the disciples.
The other women enter the tomb and see angels.
The two disciples run back to the tomb to see it’s empty.
Concurrently, the other women are on their way back to tell about the angels when they see Jesus. (So, there’s another eyewitness account)
Then, Mary reaches the tomb and see Jesus as well.
I’m thinking that places the time of day here as early afternoon. Because as they are walking to the town of Emmaus – they are discussing the eyewitness account of Mary, the women and the disciples.
And to be fair – they’ve got some time to discuss. Emmaus is about 7 miles away from Jerusalem. This is long before cars. It’s long before bikes. It’s long before those little ‘uber’ scooter things that are popular downtown. They have to walk. At a decent pace, the trip takes about 3 hours.
But as they get started.
As they get to walking.
As they get to talking.
Look who joins them:
Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. (v.15-16)
Look at that end part.
They were “kept” from recognizing him.
It’s a bit different from Mary Magdalene who misses Jesus because she’s clouded by grief and tears. The implication is that God did some kind of cloaking miracle to keep Jesus’ identity a secret.
Remember that. We’ll come back to it.
“Random stranger” Jesus asks them: “Friends, what are you discussing together as you go along?”
Cleopas replies, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
It’s the Greek equivalent of: “Have you been living under a rock?” Or “Has your Twitter account stopped working?”
To which Jesus’ simply replies: “What things?”
“About Jesus of Nazareth.” (v19)
Now before we get into it, understand what just happened.
Jesus just asked these two guys to tell him what they’ve been talking about.
They just happen to be talking about Jesus.
They are about to tell Jesus all about Jesus.
That’d be like Einstein asking you to explain the theory of relativity.
Or Gordon Ramsey asking you how to make the perfect risotto.
Let’s see how they do:
He was a prophet. That’s not wrong. A prophet is someone who speaks God’s Word. Jesus spoke God’s Word. Usually Old Testament prophets spoke God’s Word about the future. Jesus also spoke God’s Word about the future. He told the blind man, “You will see.” He told the deaf person, “You will hear.” He told the lame person, “You will walk.” He told his disciples, “We’ll go to Jerusalem and I’ll be arrested, convicted and crucified.”
Jesus was a prophet.
He was powerful. True. He told storms to stop and they did. He told waves to be calm and they were. He told 5 loaves of bread to multiply into enough bread to feed 5,000 people and they did. He told demons to abandon their human hosts – and they did. He told the dead to rise and they did.
Jesus was powerful.
He suffered. He was handed over to the chief priests. Truth.
He was sentenced to death. Truth.
They crucified him. Truth.
The disciples are on a roll – bring it home for us!
“We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (v.31)
Did you hear that?
As in, “no longer hoping.”
As in, “Our hope was wrong.”
As in, “Jesus is not the redeemer.”
“And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women shocked us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
Really… it’s foolish.
Hopeful foolishness, but foolishness all the same.
Foolish that the women think he’s alive.
Foolish that others are starting to believe them.
Foolish that anyone we ever thought Jesus was the Redeemer.
They turned to Jesus. “What do you think?”
And Jesus responds: “How foolish…”
“How foolish…You are…
“And how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (v.26-27)
Like the Scripture where God tells the devil that one day the Redeemer will crush his head. Which is exactly what Jesus did on the cross.
Like that Scripture that says the Messiah would come from Abraham’s genealogical line.
Then Isaac’s. Then Jacob’s and Judah’s and many more.
Jesus was a part of that family line.
Like the Scripture that a virgin would give birth.
That the Redeemer would be born in Bethlehem.
That a star would appear to mark his birth
The virgin did; Jesus was; and a star appeared.
Like the Scripture that the Redeemer would make the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk.
Jesus made the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk.
Like the Scripture that the Redeemer would be betrayed.
Would be arrested.
Would be convicted.
Would be killed on a cross.
Jesus was betrayed.
And killed on a cross.
Like the Scripture that said, “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life…” (Isaiah 53:11)
As the witnesses had already told these men…
He saw the light of life.
At the end of about a 3-hour journey, the trio make it to Emmaus. They get to the path leading off the main road and into their house. The journey is over, but the disciples don’t want to stop listening to Jesus.
“Stay with us. It is evening. The day is almost over.” (Lk. 24:30)
So, Jesus did.
He entered the house.
They sat him at a table.
They got some bread out of the cupboard.
They sat down to eat.
Since he knew so much about Scripture, the Emmaus disciples thought it good to let him lead the prayer.
He took the bread.
And gave it to them.
And suddenly --- “Wait.”
“That sounded familiar.”
“He took bread, broke it and said prayers just like…
II. Resurrection Truth
This is the eyewitness account of the Emmaus disciples.
When you combine that with Mary’s eyewitness and the eyewitness of the other women…
We’re led to some important resurrection truths:
(1) Jesus Rose from the Dead
If you are wondering, YES…that is the exact same first truth as we learned last time.
But it bears repeating with the second set of eyewitnesses.
Think about it.
Mary and these disciples aren’t talking about the same time.
It isn’t as if they are both talking about something where they both identify a person incorrectly and they egg each other on to belief in the process.
They both have eyewitness sightings in different places at different times.
It’s like in your neighborhood. If one of your neighbors said, “I saw a deer in our backyard.”
You might not believe them. Maybe they thought it was a deer, but the way that the light was on the shadows – maybe it was just a really, really, big squirrel.
But if another neighbor tells you that they saw a deer drinking out of their pool on Thursday…
And a third neighbor tells you that they saw a deer in their backyard on Friday…
And a fourth neighbor says that they high fived a deer on a John Deere sometime on Saturday…
There’s a deer in your neighborhood.
Jesus wasn’t just seen by Mary in the garden.
And the other women on the road from the garden.
But also, these two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
3 different sightings.
And by the way --- these guys are relatively obscure! This is Cleopas’ only appearance. And the other guy doesn’t even have a name.
If the Resurrection was something that was made up, I imagine that humans would think:
“Let’s have Jesus appear to some really important people. I’m sure that others will believe it then. People like Peter and James and John. Maybe Pontius Pilate. Or…even Caiaphas. That’d make for a good story.”
Among the first people to see Jesus.
Cleopas – a relative unknown.
And unknown guy – an absolute unknown.
That means this story is real.
It means this resurrection is real.
It means your salvation is real.
Even if you feel like a Cleopas.
Even if you feel like an unknown.
Even if you feel like you aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things at all.
What does it tell you about the importance of your everyday average person that one of Jesus’ first appearances is to these two relative nobodies?
It tells you that they weren’t nobodies.
It tells you that they were very important to Jesus.
And it tells you that you aren’t a nobody.
It tells you that you are very important to Jesus.
He lived for YOU.
He died for YOU.
He rose for YOU.
(2) Scripture is Really, Really, Really Important
Because one of the most interesting things of this story – I said we’d come back to it – is at the beginning of the account. The disciples were “kept from recognizing him.” (v.16)
Now…if I was Jesus, I think my first instinct for removing doubts and revealing to these disciples that I was really alive would be…to reveal myself to them and show that I was really alive!
But he doesn’t do that.
Instead, he takes them to Scripture.
He takes them through Scripture.
He immerses them in Scripture until their hearts are burning.
And then…only after they already believe because of the Scriptures – then Jesus reveals himself.
Why is that important?
Because you and I can’t see Jesus.
You and I can’t touch Jesus.
You and I cannot be eyewitnesses of this truth.
But visual proof was not Jesus’ first solution to a doubting faith.
Scripture that we have today.
Scripture that we read today.
Scripture that you can read any time you are doubting.
Friends, if you have doubts about this message.
If you have doubts about your Savior.
If you are struggling with guilt and sin and shame that leads to doubting the whole Easter story…
Don’t try to will yourself to faith.
Don’t try to pray yourself to faith.
Don’t try to scream at yourself to faith.
Immerse yourself in Scripture.
Not only does God create faith through Scripture…
He strengthens it.
He sustains it.
He causes it to burn within you.
Which leads to our final point:
(3) Go and Tell (and go to great lengths to do so!)
After Jesus visually reveals himself to the disciples, he disappears. But his effect doesn’t.
“Weren’t our hearts burning within us as he talked on the road?” (v.32)
Didn’t our faith burn with confidence?
Didn’t our passion burn for Jesus?
And they got up.
And hearts still burning…
And decided they’d like their lungs to burn.
Get this! They take off on a 7-mile run back to Jerusalem!
They turn around and go back on a 7-mile sprint in order to share the message that they previously thought was foolishness!
The message that...Jesus was alive.
That they had seen him.
That Jesus was the Redeemer.
Friends, go to similar lengths to share Jesus.
Granted. I’m guessing you won’t have to go on a 7-mile sprint.
Maybe you just have to go down the block.
Maybe you just have to go onto your phone.
Maybe you just have to walk down the hall.
If you know others who don’t have the reality of the resurrection, share with them the reality of the resurrection.
Tell them about the eyewitnesses.
Tell them about Mary.
Tell them about Cleopas.
Tell them about…what’s-his-face.
Tell them about the Scriptures.
Tell them about the prophecies.
Tell them about how Jesus fulfills every one of them.
Tell them the message that Jesus is alive.
That Jesus rose form the dead.
That Jesus is the Redeemer.
Don’t be surprised if your heart doesn’t burn a little while you do so…
Last week was awesome. We celebrated Easter. I think I emailed that there were over 300 people in our North Raleigh community gathered together to hear the message of the Resurrected Lord.
And that’s awesome.
But…sometimes when I get down – it’s not like I can see people’s hearts.
It’s not like I can see how many people believed.
It’s not like we can visually see that the message had an effect.
Someone came up to me this week to talk.
Someone with whom – I don’t have much of a relationship with – I barely know them.
They wanted to share some struggles that they had been having.
Some deep sadness.
Some terrible events.
That were leading to depression – sadness – and the thought that “I am worthless.”
They had come for Easter.
They had heard the sermon.
They thought God was talking to them.
They believed it.
Now…I don’t always get to see it.
It’s not about me anyways. It’s about Jesus. It’s about Jesus. It’s about Jesus.
But…man…what a privilege!
Their heart was burning.
My heart was burning.
Our hearts were on fire for the message of the Risen Lord.
It’s my prayer that your heart is burning too!
And if so, won’t you share the message of Jesus with others?
Won’t you go Plant that message in the Heart of North Raleigh? Amen.
This is a great question. There are a ton of resources for studying God’s Word. However, I think that might be the biggest problem. If there was only book to read, I think we would be in pretty good shape. Get book-read book. However, there are literally hundreds of Bible translations, not to mention the thousands of devotional books.
Where to start? I see four possible ideas:
Let me ask you a question; how often are you having a conversation with someone, engaging in a little small talk, and the conversation turns to just how awful a place this world is? Maybe it was something that happened to you this last week – someone was rude or disrespectful to you; maybe you saw some example of ridiculously selfish behavior. Maybe it was how someone was raising their kids. Maybe it was worse. Maybe you were the victim of a crime or maybe you’re just talking about the latest local or even national atrocity you saw on the news. Maybe it happens anytime your conversation turns to politics these days. The world, the people in it…well they’re just disgusting, aren’t they? Maybe even that old standby escapes your lips: “Things just aren’t what they used to be.”
I’ll tell you what, you’re right. But, probably not in the way you meant it. This morning, let’s take some time to unpack that, take a look at why it’s true, at what really is wrong with our world. Let’s try to understand better what’s going on out there. But more important than that, let’s see what we can do about it.
To do that, let’s do some troubleshooting. It’s pretty obvious when we look at the world that something is wrong. There’s a lot of symptoms we could identify as we already talked about, but that doesn’t really bring us any closer to understanding the cause of those problems and more importantly, a solution. Of course, lots of people think they know solutions to the problems, including ourselves at times, right? How many times have we been having one of those conversations griping about the way things are and the words, “If only…” come on out? “If only their parents had raised them better.” “If only people just paid attention to where they were going.” “If only there was a law about that.” Pops right out and hey it’s perfectly rational, but would your brilliant solution really fix anything? No. No, it wouldn’t. Those fast fixes aren’t the answer. Instead of wasting time trying to patch up the individual symptoms we come across, instead let’s go back to the basics. Let’s take a look where it went wrong.
To do that, we’re going to have to go back a lot further than any sort of idealized age we might have in our head. Way back before we were children, back before the 50s, before the Romantic Age, back, back and back through the centuries and the millennia to the very beginning. Creation. God, infinite in wisdom, power and creativity, had a plan for a system so infinitely complex that not one human could possibly comprehend it all at once. A world with beauty and variety that we could never imagine on our own, with millions of species of all kinds of life that all function together in harmony, in a way that keep each other going perfectly. Everything interlocking exactly as it should and working together as a perfect world. All the creatures, all the life, all the inanimate forces of the world and most especially the human beings God had created, they were all perfectly in tune with the will of God. His will of selfless love for each other permeated and dominated everything. Nothing was wrong, no one was unhappy, there was no pain because everything and everyone knew what God wanted and did it. This is the way it was designed.
So what happened? If God did it so well, where did it go wrong? For that we need to turn to our section for today. (Read Genesis 3:1-19)
From the moment the fruit was eaten, up to God's declaration of consequence, it's pretty obvious things have been seriously broken. In fact, when you look at the behavior of Adam and Eve after they broke God’s law, it’s not so very different from those things out in the world we complain about. Running and hiding from God? Adam knew God. He knew God was all knowing and present everywhere. It’s stupid, it’s pointless, it’s irrational…he did it anyway. And then when God asks him what happened. Adam knew that God knew what happened, and yet Adam tries to misdirect the conversation, he tries to make excuses and then in a horrifying move, attempts to get out of this not only by placing the blame at the foot of his wife to save his own skin, but even implicated God himself when he says, “The woman you put here with me -”
He knows, just as well as you and I and especially God can see, this was his own fault. He was the husband, the head of the family. He stood by and said nothing while the serpent spoke with his wife. He watched as she took the fruit and didn’t try to stop her. He had some himself when it was handed over. This was on him. But now, instead of the selfless love he was created to show, his every action is selfish, he incriminates everyone but himself no matter how guilty he is. His wife does not act any better when it is her turn to be questioned.
And their behavior is just scratching the surface of what has changed now that they broke their relationship with God. Sin entered creation and everything was corrupted as a result. God elaborates on more of this at the end of our reading, talking about the troubles that will follow us now, and most shocking of all, man will return to the ground from which he was formed. Earthly death will chase us down now. Suffering and pain will be with us in our lives, and death will follow close on.
So that’s our world. It was a machine of infinite complexity designed by our God and now from one act of defiance, not one single part of that system is doing what it is supposed to. Not one piece is operating as it should. Let that sink in for a moment. Any of you who’ve ever tinkered with anything mechanical, what’s the consequences of just one part not working right? Could be minor, maybe some noise, heat, or just slowing things down. Or maybe it brings the whole operation grinding to a halt. What would happen in any machine where not one single part is functioning the way it should?
Exactly. Nothing that we see in this world should surprise us, except maybe that things aren’t worse than they are. Even that is only by the guiding hand of our gracious God.
So now with this in mind, understanding the state our world is in; what do we do about it? Well consider our analogy; when you have a machine where every single part is broken, where every circuit board is fried, where the parts are brittle to the point of collapsing to dust, where just leaving it function is a danger to everyone around – how do you fix that? You don’t, obviously. You wouldn’t even try. You would junk it and make a new one. You would start over. That’s the only option.
Except, what if there were something really valuable in there? Something you truly cared about more than even your own health and safety? Naturally you would try to get it out of there. Naturally, you would try to rescue it. And that’s exactly what God did. Sure, after the sin, after the corruption, God could’ve just wiped the slate clean and tried again. But he didn’t because that would mean these two people he loved, Adam and Eve, would be cut off from him, sent to hell forever. Their crimes, their sin forced them apart from a holy God. So God reached in and fixed it. He promised that the offspring of the woman would crush the work of the serpent and put the divide, the enmity, back where it belonged. No longer between God and man, but between man and the devil, the serpent.
His own son, Jesus would be that man. We inherited from our parents the same broken condition our first parents created. We were born in sin, cut off from God and unable to do anything about it. But God would accept payment on our behalf. Jesus lived the sinless life that you do not. Jesus died the sinful death that you ought. And because that life and that death were carried out by God himself, its value is immeasurable. The scale of God’s value cannot be tipped by human lives. There is no sin so large in your past that the blood of God himself cannot pay for. Everything you’ve done against God can and has been paid for already. By the life and sacrifice of Christ, you are bought from death, and the fall has been fixed. Not this world, that’s a lost cause, but when the time comes to scrap this world and start over, you will endure with God because God has rescued you from it.
It's important to remember this distinction. Yes, the world is a bad place, but it's the Titanic post-iceberg. It's going down. We're not trying to sweep the floors and rearrange the deck chairs to make it a nicer place while we sink. Our primary objective, our absolutely first and most critical goal, is to get people to the lifeboats. And there's plenty of room. This is something important to ask ourselves as God's people when we're trying to do good. Are we trying to get people to the lifeboats...or are we just trying to make the sinking ship a better place?
We want to save souls for eternity. The message of Jesus does this. The word of God, the same power that brought the world into existence, is the power that brings us to believe in Jesus. And then we are rescued. But here's the beauty of God's plan; when God brings us to faith, he doesn't just teach us about Jesus – he creates a whole new heart in us and that heart is the heart you were supposed to have. In other words, in faith, you become the part that you should have always been, and the more you study and learn God’s Word, the better you get at being the part of his creation that you were always supposed to be. What do you suppose the effect on the world is then? The more believers there are who take the time to build themselves up in God’s word, who strive to know their God best, the more they function as God intended and the better this world is going to be. It’s a beautiful side-effect of pursuing our main goal. We want ourselves to be rescued for eternity. We want those we care about to be rescued for eternity. But the more we pursue this goal of bringing ourselves and our loved ones closer to Jesus, the better the rest of this life is going to be as a result, too. This is exactly the same kind of encouragement Jesus was trying to give in our gospel when he told us to seek first God’s Kingdom and the rest would naturally follow.
So here it is. We want to complain about the world. We want to think we know what would fix all our social problems today. But there is only one fix. The world is broken beyond repair. Only God can rescue you and those you care about and he does it through the power of his Word that teaches us about Jesus. Learn that Word. Study that word. Take advantage of every opportunity to know your Lord and Savior better. The deeper you dig, the stronger your hold on that life-line of faith. And then share that Word so others might be saved. Concern yourself with eternity, with fixing the real problem. Let God fix the fall in you, and all the rest will follow naturally. Amen.
Besides fitting into the trendy, one word serial drama (Revenge, Believe, Resurrection), this ABC show stars a photographer, who begins an affair with a married lawyer working the opposite side of a high profile murder trial.
Betrayal. Intrigue. Immorality. It makes for a winning show.
I've got another idea for a hit drama. It's about a guy who betrays his mentor of three years. All for a chunk of money. It'll have greed. And murder. (Two things that sell big in Hollywood). Plus, the script is already written!
OK. It's not so much a script as a portion of Holy Scripture. Check it out from John 13 below:
18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ 19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
Can you believe Judas? Betraying the Lord! He leaves and with his actions sentences Jesus to death. The very Jesus who had called him. Who had taught him. Who had loved him.
But does the same story ever play out, albeit in a less intense way, within your own life?
* "Yes, I've always followed Jesus and I love everything he's taught me, but I need to drop "Christian" from my Facebook profile, because all of my friends have been calling Christians bigots lately...and I don't like it! Instead, I'll just like a few 'progressive' stories (and totally betray the very Lord I love!)"
* "I cherish the story of Easter, but I just saw another Christian at work get ridiculed for believing that the Bible is true. I'll pretend I think it's a joke too. I'll even laugh at a few anti-Bible jokes. Quick. Let me search on Google for a few anti-Christian comics. Maybe I can find one to distance myself from this stuff."
* "I grew up in Sunday school, always went to church, even enjoyed the delicious Chocolate chip cookies afterwards. But now I am older. My college friends won't take me seriously. They think that Christianity is a joke. I'm starting to get left out of event invitations. Maybe, I'd be cooler if you just stayed out all night drinking this Saturday. I'll just trade in my Savior for a bottle of PBR."
Betrayal. It might not make it to the small screen. It might not even make it to the "TV Shows you've never heard of" section on Hulu, but it is betrayal nonetheless.
Thankfully, He never betrayed us. He never betrayed his plan to save us.
It would have been so easy. He knew that Judas went to go get the soldiers. He knew that if he went to the garden, he would be arrested, falsely tried, and condemned. He knew about our future betrayals! All Jesus had to do was not go to the garden later that night and he wouldn't have had to suffer for a bunch of people who had betrayed him.
But Jesus went anyway.
He could not betray you! He loved you too much. He had to finish his mission -- however terrible -- in order to save you from eternal death in hell! He did that so "whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
This is what Jesus did for you. It means that through faith in him you are forgiven for all of your past betrayals!
And now? I'd like you to think about Jesus again. Unlike your friends who have backstabbed you, your coworkers who use you to get to the top and even your family who have turned on you in the past, Jesus has NEVER betrayed you.
So...why would you ever betray him?
Instead, stand behind him. Speak his truth boldly. Confess his name clearly. Never give up the fact that you are child of God and a follower of your righteous Lord.
That's an Emmy award winning moment.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus forgive me for all the times that I have betrayed you in order to save myself. Forgive me because you never betrayed me. It's why you went to the cross. Lord in the wake of this forgiveness empower me to day to withstand all the pressures of Satan and this world to betray you. Instead, lead me to speak the truths of your Word in love and clarity. In Jesus' name, Amen.
"You need to wash those before you sit on the furniture."
At the church work day this past week, I did some gardening. Unfortunately, standing in the soil all day had gotten my feet quite dirty. They were dirty enough that I needed to take a shower right away before they would be allowed on the ottoman.
I really wanted to watch an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, so I trudged to the bathtub.
I didn't even THINK of asking her to wash them for me.
In today's lesson that's what Jesus did. He's starting washing the feet of his disciples. This was a job usually reserved for the servants, now done by their leader. Plus this was at a time when sandals and walking in the desert left feet much dirtier than argyle socks, black shoes, and an office complex did.
Why would the Lord of heaven and earth lower himself to such a lowly job? See if you can grasp why...
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Peter was indignant! Why would Jesus, his master, lower himself to such a level? This was his 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' not 'plebian' and 'servant'. Jesus was above doing such work. And he, Peter, was above having his feet washed! So he tried to stop Jesus.
But then, Jesus stopped him:
"Unless I wash you, you have no part in me."
Now Jesus wasn't just talking about having clean feet. Certainly, as they walked the roads earlier that very day, their feet had gotten dusty. Yet Jesus hadn't sent them away from him. He wasn't offended by dirty skin.
He was offended by a dirty soul.
Because as dusty as his big toes may have been, Peter's soul was a mess. Just like any human being it was filled with the ugliness of hatred, lust, pride, and selfishness.
It was so dirty that not even a mother would love it.
And, as God himself describes, not even He could love it. "The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." (Genesis 6)
It's a disturbing thought.
More disturbing is God reacts to such dirty souls! Just like a wife who tells her husband he'll need to clean his feet before setting foot in her living room, so God tells us that we'll need clean souls before setting foot in his heavenly house!
And how do you clean a dirty soul when the soul that tries to clean it is dirty too?
That was Peter's problem! "Stop it! I can do it myself!"
It's a problem that we are often plagued with too. "Lord, Jesus, I don't need your help. I have a neighbor who wears tattoos and is struggling with homosexuality. He needs your help. But not me. I don't need to be cleaned. I'm just fine!"
Listen to the words of Jesus to such an attitude. "Unless I clean you, you will have no part with me."
Of course, when we accept that hard truth, Scripture urges us to turn to Jesus! He is our Lord, our Master, the great One from Above, yet he is not above getting his hands dirty...
...even with blood.
That's why he was on the cross. Because "the blood of Jesus...purifies us from all sin." (John 1:7) Jesus served us in a way even greater than cleansing our feet. He cleaned our souls.
This was way more degrading than getting on your hands and knees to scrub the grime off of our dirty heels. He was horribly mocked, terribly ridiculed, and cruelly treated like the scum of the earth in order to cleanse the grubbiness of sin from our spirit.
Yet he did it. Even though he is the great ruler of the universe deserving of all praise!
What motivated him to get himself dirty in this way?
Yes, washing the feet was a nice thing for Jesus to do. He helped to relax and refresh the disciples for a time. But the washing that Jesus would do on the next day was even greater. It was a thorough cleansing of their souls. It would relax them with the joy of having God's love. It would refresh them with the peace of sins forgiven. It's a cleansing that lasts forever.
This is the same cleansing that God has given you. Through faith in Him, you are clean!
Now...you can pulled up the heavenly ottoman.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, forgive me for selfishly thinking myself above a Savior. Forgive me for comparing myself to others and labeling myself as 'more pure' because of my own actions. Instead, cleanse me. Cleanse me with your Word and the promise of Jesus' purification on the cross. Hold me in faith that I may stand before you with a heart of purity in heaven. Amen.
Ever meet someone famous?
Sometimes it doesn't go as you plan. You bring a pen. A shiny piece of memorabilia. You hold up your Smartphone to show your capabilities for a quick photo.
And they ignore you. They move along with their bodyguards right past you as if you don't exist.
It's much different than the kind and loving boy-next-door he plays on TV.
In today's reading from John 12, a group of Greeks come looking for Jesus. He was like a celebrity at the time. Famous for his teachings and his miracles. I'm sure they were super excited to meet him. But maybe...it didn't go quite like they planned.
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Can you imagine? The Greeks meet this celebrity who begins talking about death. A strange metaphor about a seed implying his death and the death of those who follow him. Then, the promise of eternal life.
A little strange.
But what was stranger was what happened next.
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Incredible. Remember this is before the days of the microphone and hefty sound systems. In fact, it's before the days of electricity in general. That means that trickery is right out.
The voice from heaven WAS REAL.
More importantly, it meant that what Jesus was talking about was real. God was giving his divine seal of approval to everything that Jesus had said and did!
This means that YES, Jesus would die. YES, Jesus' death would be a payment for sin. YES, he would rise again. YES, those who put their faith in him as their Savior would have eternal life too!
Just as a seed planted into the ground grows up, produces more seeds, and produces more plants, so would Jesus' death and subsequent resurrection produce more seeds of faith and more living plants. So Jesus' would go into the ground, but then he would spring us. His resurrection would then sprout seeds of faith that grew up into eternal life!
BOTTOM LINE: His death and resurrection means that you too will live eternally!
I guarantee this was not what the Greeks expected from this celebrity. Maybe, all they wanted, was a handshake and a selfie.
But Jesus gave them so much more. He gave them hope.
He gave us hope.
PRAYER: Dear LORD, help me to see you as more than just an important historical figure. Teach me to see you as the divinely sent Messiah. My true, one, and only God. Help me to put my trust wholly and firmly in you. Amen.
Integrity. HighTower. Bluefin. CreditKarma. Transcendent One.
Those aren't the names of super heroes. They are financial companies.
I know because now that my wife and I have all of our student loan paid off, we think it's wise to start investing.
Jesus thought investing was wise too. He said so in a parable. But, since it was a parable, it's fair to say that this had less to do with making a physical fortune and more to do with making a spiritual fortune. Check it out:
Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"
It's a harsh punishment from the master. To throw the servants out into the streets. But it's understandable. He's firing his guy because his guy didn't do any work for him. He simply took what was given him and hid. He didn't use it.
Wouldn't you expect the same thing for the fast food employee who was left to clean the walk in cooler, but three hours later hadn't started because he didn't want to make it look worse? The parable makes sense from an earthly perspective.
But parables are earthly stories with heavenly meanings. There is more to it here.
God is the master and we are the servants. He has given all of us gifts to serve him. These gifts range from monetary to musical, from administration to athletics!
But remember this is spiritual. God's goal isn't that we put what we have to work for the growth of our own kingdom, but for the growth of his kingdom. In every case God provides the correct combination of abilities, talents, responsibilities, and opportunities, so that all of us can be of real service to him in his kingdom.
This means you too!
God has given you exactly what you need to serve him. So...PUT IT TO USE to grow his kingdom.
Jesus used everything he had for you. He didn't just use his gifts to serve himself. He used them to serve you. He used his perfect life to earn eternal life. He died an innocent death to pay the price for your sins. He used his Almighty power to defeat rise from the dead to prove his victory. He used his loving promise to hold out for you the joys of heaven through faith in him.
Jesus didn't bury these talents in the ground. He put them to use. He wanted to grow in his kingdom. He wanted to add someone.
He invested in you!
Isn't it worth investing in Him?
PRAYER: Lord, thank you for all of the gifts that you have given me. Help me to recognize my talents and gifts and to use them for service in your kingdom. Please give me strength to serve you. Amen.
The other day I was waiting for somebody to pick me up at our apartment.
I was certain that they wouldn't come for a while though, so I was on the couch in my Green Bay Packer Zubaz sweatpants lounging and eating a bag of chips.
Then, there was a knock at the door.
I brushed off the chip crumbs and hobbled embarrassedly to the door. I opened it a crack and told him I'd be out in a few minutes. I ran to the bedroom threw on some jeans and hustled outside.
Good thing he wasn't in a hurry, because I wasn't ready.
Jesus told a similar parable:
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25)
One needs to understand the way things worked in first century Jewish weddings. The virgins were basically bridesmaids and they weren't yet at the wedding celebration. They were waiting for the groom to come and pick them up. In order to make it easy for the groom to identify them, they would carry lamps (think torches) that were fueled by oil. When the groom saw these lamps, he would know whom he needed to bring to the wedding.
The wise ones made sure they had enough oil to be ready. The foolish ones did not and they missed out on everything!
The way Jesus takes us to his heavenly banquet works a little differently. It has nothing to do with oil and fire and everything to do with faith in his Son, Jesus Christ as our Savior.
But faith isn't just something where you close your eyes, clench your fists, and think "I believe" as hard as you can. It's not something that you "earn" once and then have for the rest of your life. Faith needs to be fed. Just like those lamps needed oil to stay burning so our faith needs fuel to stay burning.
Only the fuel isn't kerosene. It's God's Word.
How are you at keeping your faith burning? Do you run to God's Word on a daily basis? Do you take advantage of opportunities to hear His Word at your church? Do you have a Bible study you attend? Or devotionals sent to you on a daily basis?
There is nothing more important.
Sometimes we get to thinking: "I need to go to exercise, make breakfast, go to work, drop the kids off at softball, get a haircut, and read two hours worth of blogs on Facebook or my day isn't complete!"
Yet there is often something conspicuously absent from that list. Let's rethink that. If you don't remember to feed your faith, your day isn't complete.
Your faith needs to be fed the nutrients of God's promises, the vitamins of God's guidance, and the assurance of God's forgiveness. Why go a day without it?
Jesus could return at any time. Repent and turn to his Word. He will create a burning fire in your heart. The Holy Spirit will feed your faith. The Lord Jesus Christ will personally come and escort you home to heaven.
Even if you're wearing Green Bay Packer Zubaz Pants.
Right before it storms, the clouds get really dark. It gets a little colder. The birds stop chirping. The wind picks up.
In today's lesson Jesus tell about signs that the end of the world is cominng. A whole lot scarier than a simple storm. Check it out:
1 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end
is still to come. 8Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
That sounds scary.
False Christs. Wars. Rumors of Wars. Earthquakes. Famines. Persecutions against Christians. Family members hating family members because of Jesus. It certainly doesn’t sound pleasant
But that’s not all. The truth is that these things are already happening. Check out the long list of people who have claimed to be Christ in the Wikipedia article here. Go to CNN and read about wars in the Middle East and rumors of wars in Crimea. Check out this website that tracks earthquakes as they happen here. Besides the economic famine in America, take a look at the results of famine in Africa here. Take to the blogs to read about Christians being ridiculed in the Western world and thrown into prison in the East. Don't miss this article about Christians who were killed during worship just yesterday!
Then there’s that last one. Family members hating family members. I could give you a link of Facebook posts from people who are upset with me for spreading the message of Jesus. But you don't need to read about my life for proof. You feel it on a daily basis. From long distance relatives. From people within your own home.
This sounds so scary. Why would anyone want to be a Christian during these times?
Listen to the end of verse 13 again: The one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Because our Savior Jesus Christ is real. He defeated our sin. He destroyed death. He conquered the devil. He thwarts all imposters. He is the God of war. Earthquakes and famines don’t scare him. Persecutions affect him none. He can take anything angry scientists, vicious bloggers, and vitriol governments can hurl against him.
And so can you.
In Jesus, you will be saved. He will hold you firm to the end. He is our Mighty Fortress! Unlike those temple walls that came crashing down in...Jesus will never crash. His church will never fail. It will remain firm – solidly on Christ until we reach the peaceful streets of heaven.
Suddenly, in the strong arms of Jesus, life doesn't sound so scary anymore.
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, bear me up. Keep me firm in faith in the midst of very scary things. Help me to cling to you through devotions, Bible readings, and time in your word. Keep me from neglecting church where I am built up by songs, hymns, spiritual songs, messages of your love, your Word, and prayers from my friends in Jesus. Jesus, be our foundation. Hold us up until the end. Amen.