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Entries in Vigilance (2)

Tuesday
Nov102015

Jesus Reveals The Future- Part VI

Luke 21:29-38.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 08, 2015.

Today we will finish this chapter and return to the events of the last days of Jesus leading up to the crucifixion.  I plan to pause our study through Luke for the next 2 months and then pick it back up next year.

Having finished his revelation of the things that are in the future, Jesus ends with some final instructions regarding how that should affect their minds and lives.  It is important to recognize the difference between receiving information from the Lord and having that rightly impact our lives.  We must not only hear the Word, but we must also recognize the imperatives that the Spirit of our Lord is pressing to us.

Instructions From The Lord

Jesus starts his instructions with a parable regarding vigilance.  Several times he commands us to watch, look, and see the things that are happening around us and within us.  Thus earlier he commanded his disciples not to fear and not to be deceived.  Both involve the things that we may or may not see.  The people of God are called to be a vigilant people as opposed to those who are spiritually sleeping, drunk, or dead.  The first thing he points them to watch for involves all the signs and events that he has prophesied.  It is not enough for us just to know that he believed these things were coming.  We need to be a people who watch for these things.  On one hand we watch for the things that fit the descriptions that Jesus gave.  But on the other hand we make distinctions based upon what he said.  Thus we know that some things were going to happen in the first century, other things were going to be indicative of the whole age of Gentile domination, and then some things would be indicative of the end of this age and the Second Coming of Jesus.  Part of our watching is coming to a better understanding of what Jesus was saying.

Jesus gives a parable of budding trees.  It mentions a fig tree but then adds “and all the trees.”  Sometimes a fig tree is used as a metaphor for Israel.  However, in this passage it is a picture of all the things Jesus prophesied (some of them having to do with Israel).  When a tree begins to bud then we know that summer is near.  Although we may think this a no-brainer, there is a subtle point being made.  We have dates on the calendar such as June 21 and September 21 (depending on the year) in which we declare the beginning of summer and its end.  However, our experience with this period of time called summer is not always the same.  Sometimes it comes late and sometimes it comes early.  Trees have a relationship with the earth and sun that is different than us.  They are more sensitive to the things that can go undetected by us.  Thus a tree buds when it has a certain amount of energy and nutrients from the soil and sun.  We can make educated guesses at when that will be, but nothing can take the place of seeing the trees and plants responding.  Thus the difference between computer models and real life cause and effect cannot be made clearer.  Those who watch the world and make their guesses as to when the times of the Gentiles will end and the Second Coming will occur have often demonstrated the inability we have as humans to sense spiritual things clearly.  The signs and events that Jesus has revealed are intended to be like buds on a tree.  They help us know that the Kingdom of God and the Second Coming is near, or not.  Clearly, Jesus is not referring to the spiritual aspect of the Kingdom of God that the disciples had already entered into.  Rather, He is pointing forward to the Millennial Age when Messiah will remove the wicked of the earth, depose its wicked kings, and hand the kingdom over to the saints.  What has happened spiritually will come into being politically at the Second Coming.

Next Jesus makes a statement that “this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.”  If this was the only information we had, it would seem that Jesus is pointing to the disciples and saying this generation (the one that exists now).  But when we look at the same account in Matthew 24 it is worded a bit differently.  “When you see all these things, know that it is near-at the doors!  Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”  Here the generation being referred to is a generation that will see “all these things” in the future.  So here is the rub.  If all the events of Luke 21 happened in the first century then they were the generation Jesus was talking about.  However, I have made the case in the last 5 sermons that not everything happened.    In fact, the genius in how this prophecy is written can be seen in how the people of every generation will still operate with a characteristic of vigilance and it would do them in good stead.  Thus the first century believers saw many of these things and were prepared to avoid the wrath of God poured out on the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

Yet, there are still some things that have not happened.  Matthew 24:15 mentions an Abomination of Desolation that did not occur in the first century.  There are some creative attempts at connecting this with events at the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem, but they are forced at best.  Matthew 24:14 mentions the Gospel being preached in “all the world.”  This also would not be the natural understanding of what happened before 70 AD.  Yes the Gospel spread greatly into the Roman world.  But the universal need of the Gospel requires a spread throughout all the nations literally.  Notice that it says all things that are written would be fulfilled (vs. 22).  This sets up many passages, such as Zechariah 14, that were clearly not fulfilled in the 70 AD destruction.  The times of the Gentiles ending and the Second Coming of Jesus did not happen in 70 AD.  Again, there are some creative attempts to say that Jesus came back spiritually.  But that is not what this prophecy predicts.  Lastly, we have not seen a convergence of the sun and moon darkened with stars falling to the earth.  See last week’s sermon for more on this.

Up to verse 34 Jesus is talking about our vigilance regarding the things in the heavens and on the earth.  But at verse 34 he begins talking about our vigilance regarding ourselves.  Believers must be watchers of their own souls as much as they are watchers of the times around them.  The word translated “take heed” in the NKJV has the idea of turning your mind and inspection upon yourself.  Thus we talk about introspection.  There are many temptations and fears that can sidetrack a believer from following Jesus.  If a person is not careful and does not watch themselves they will fall into sin and into its consequences.  If left unattended, these things can even jeopardize the soul of a disciple of Christ.  We only need to think of Judas to recognize this.  Jesus warned Peter, James, and John, when he asked them to pray with him on the night he was betrayed, that they needed to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41).  The love of God and the blood of Christ do not absolve the believer from vigilance over their soul.

Jesus points out that our hearts can become weighed down with sin.  The picture is of a person who is overly burdened and cannot follow where the Lord is leading.  Hebrews 12:1 touches on this same concept, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  Whether we think of the analogy of an animal that is so loaded down they can’t move, or of a runner in a race who is wearing boots and heavy clothing, both instances demonstrate that we will not be able to do what Jesus wants us to do, or go where he wants us to go.  Jesus mentions two specific sins and a general category.  They are: carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life.  The word translated as “carousing” is a reference to the state of mind of a person when they are drinking alcohol.  It involves both the giddy feeling of euphoria and the attending horrible pain of a hangover.  In both cases the mind of the person is messed up and not focused on Jesus.  In the first all inhibitions and ability to work well are overwhelmed by a false sense of well-being.  This false well-being takes the place of seeking our well-being in Christ.  Thus it is a form of idolatry.  In the second situation our mind is filled with pain and suffering to the point it is unable to deal with anything else that the Lord may have for us.  This cycle of drinking to feel good and then not feeling good has sidetracked many a person from being a faithful servant of the Lord.  The second sin translated “drunkenness” goes hand in hand with carousing.  It is a clear reference to the person who drinks too much alcohol and becomes intoxicated.  Believers are not commanded to be teetotalers, but they are commanded not to be drunk.  Both of these issues can be seen as spiritual metaphors.  The lusts of our flesh can become the directors of our pursuit of well-being.  The consequential cycle of dramatic highs and crashes, shipwrecks the faith of people in the way of Christ.  This leads us to the general category of the cares of this life.  Jesus referred to this in the parable of the soils.  He warned that the cares and worries of this life can suck up all the moisture and nutrition of our life and choke out the Word of God.  Thus a person does not grow in becoming like Christ and instead grow in becoming like the world.  All of these are like weights on our heart and must be jettisoned in order to follow Jesus.  It might be better said that the Christian life is one of learning to prune the things we need in order to continue following Christ.  This is a process that will not end as long as we are in this flesh.

The consequence of dilatoriness in the battle against the lusts of the flesh can lead to being caught unaware by the Day of the Lord.  Now the problem here is not that a person has sinned.  But that they have quit watching over their soul and have become like one of the drunkards.  Just because you have the label of Christian does not mean that your heart is really following after Jesus.   Several parables that the Lord told refer to servants who doubt that the master is coming back and begin to take advantage of their position in his “house.”  They end up receiving the same judgment as those who were his enemies and never a part of his house.  The Lord is coming back to judge the wicked of this world who reject him as Lord.  Yet, he will also judge the wicked servants of his house who have rejected him in their hearts.  Thus Jesus uses the picture of a snare or trap in verse 35.  The world and “Christians” who are following their flesh will be surprised at the coming of Jesus.  They will both be caught up in the judgments and wrath of the Lamb of God.  All traps have bait that the thing being trapped wants.  In this case both those who never follow Christ and those who only pretend to do so are trapped by the lusts of their own mind and body.  God has warned us for millennia that those who go after the lusts of the flesh will reap destruction.  Thus we begin to understand another side of the distress and perplexity experienced by those who see the wrath of God coming upon the earth.  They are trapped by their desire to do it any way but the way of Jesus.  The world is headed into a trap that it will not escape.  Do not listen to the songs of the singing sirens.  They call mankind to take hold of its “evolution” and become the gods it was destined to become.  This will lead to inescapable judgment and destruction.

Finally Jesus tells us to pray for ourselves.  Technically watching and praying are concepts that are tied together in the Scripture.  They are two sides of the same coin.  Yes we ought to pray for one another.  But a prayer life begins with a person who sees the assault of sin upon their own heart and has established a communion with Jesus regarding what is seen there.  Only then are we able to rightly pray and intercede for others.  A prayer of introspection concerns itself with being ready for the Lord’s return.  Regardless whether he comes back or we die, we know that we will have a day of accounting and this should be a daily concern of our prayers.  In fact, Jesus uses the phrase “counted worthy to escape…”  This is not talking about meriting our own salvation.  Only those who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ are worthy.  However, our response of faith to Jesus must demonstrate works that are worthy of true repentance.  In other words, “Don’t be deceived.  God is not mocked.  Whatever a man sows that will he also reap.”  If we sow to our flesh we are going to reap destruction.  But if we follow the Spirit of Christ and sow to it, we will find life.  Our pretense will not be over looked by him who can see all things of the mind and heart.  Thus we want to be able to stand before Christ as an accepted servant, rather than to fall as an unworthy servant who is cast out into utter darkness.  Many who think they should be accepted will be rejected in that day.  It is no mystery.  Christ has made these things abundantly clear.

Let me end by reminding us that God does not intend His wrath to be poured out on His people.  1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  Also, Revelation 11:18 says, “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.”  Like He has often done, and like He did in 70 AD, the Lord pulls out the righteous before He brings down His wrath.  Thus He will do in the last days.  At some point Jesus will rapture His bride before He pours out the wrath of God upon a world that hates him.  Today is the day to choose what side you will be on.

 

Jesus Reveals Future VI Audio

Tuesday
Feb262013

Instructions to the Flock

In 1 Peter 5:5, we move from talking to the elders to talking to the “youngers.”  If God puts elders in authority then those who are not elders need to submit to that authority.  Submission has been a big theme in Peter’s letter.  It started back in chapter 2 when he told the believers to submit to the human governments.  Then he spoke to slaves about submitting to their masters.  Next he spoke to wives about submitting to their husbands.  He even mentions that, after the cross, all angels and spiritual authorities are submitted to Christ.  This last “submission” is for the Church body to its leaders.

Remember that the definition of submission is this: taking your proper place under a proper authority.  This definition hinges on the terms proper.  It is the Word of God that makes something proper.  Thus, we are not called to submit to everything or one that purports it is an authority.  But when we do recognize proper authority, even then, we submit to it in the proper way.  Thus it does not call for the Church body to become slavishly obedient to the whims of Church leaders.  So let’s look at what Peter has to say here.

We Should Submit To The Elders

I recognize, again, that submission has been abused by leaders.  Thus the virtue of submission requires us to use our minds and listen to God’s Word.  Submission to godly leadership does have boundaries.  They are not God and can take unscriptural positions.  However, as a virtue, submission recognizes that I too am a sinner in need of restraint.  Thus it is only proper that God should place proper authorities over me in appropriate ways.  Leaders should not be telling members who to marry.  But we should listen when they remind us of the Scripture’s injunction to not marry unbelievers.  They are the elders who have a more mature spiritual wisdom and understanding.  I am the “younger” and not just in age.  Those who are not put in leadership should carefully follow those who have been put in leadership as a child should listen to its parents.  Again, this is within Scriptural bounds.

The term “likewise” is used to point us back to the elders.  In the same way they are to submit to Christ’s calling on their life, so we too must submit to it.  How were they supposed to respond?  They were supposed to respond willingly rather than being forced into it (vs. 2).  They were supposed to eagerly serve with pure motives rather than for dishonest gain.  They were supposed to serve as examples rather than “lording” their authority over the Church.  Thus the body of Christ also needs to submit willingly without being forced.  We should be eager to submit with pure motives rather than for dishonest gain, i.e. manipulating.  We should be quick to follow the “right” examples rather than those elders who fall into coercive tactics.  When both elders and “youngers” properly respond to the Lord this can be a beautiful environment where God speaks to us in his Word and confirms it with the leading of elders.  This environment is a protective environment that keeps us spiritually safe.

The Church Should Be Mutually Submitted

Here Peter moves beyond the elder / flock distinction and speaks to the Church as a whole.  The overall or general atmosphere of the Church should be defined by mutual submission.  But under what authority do we submit to one another?  First, we do so under the authority of God’s Word.  But second, we do so under the authority of the demands of Love (i.e. God’s nature).  In love we learn to humble ourselves to serve and to be served.  Elders are simply to lead us in this area of mutual submission and growing in the Truth of Christ.  We need to listen and be led by the “commands” of love.

Next Peter says that they should clothe themselves with humility.  The word used here is one of a servant tying an apron around them.  Humility must be the “uniform” that we tie on ourselves.  It identifies us as one of Christ’s flock.  It is symbolic of the time when Jesus tied on a towel and washed his disciple’s feet.  If we serve without a humble mind it spoils the service.  But, those being washed have to humble themselves, too.  Peter was quick to tell the Lord he couldn’t wash his feet.  But Jesus told him if he didn’t wash Peter’s feet that Peter would have nothing with the Lord.  Oops!  “I take that back, Lord!  Wash all of me!”  We can be too quick to say that we don’t need any leadership.  However, it is God’s wisdom and we should not reject it.  To reject it is to jeopardize our position in Christ because we are rejecting the very Word of Christ.

Peter then quotes from Proverbs 3:34.  Believers ought to humble themselves beneath the “Mighty Hand” of God because God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.  The word resists here could better be translated as “sets himself against.”  If you walk in pride God sets himself against you.  Hmm… I wonder who will win?  Like the angel in the way before Balaam, God will stand against us if we walk in pride.  But if we humble ourselves he will be quick to give us grace.  Thus his hand is called mighty.  It is powerful in judgment to those who in their own wisdom walk in pride.  And, it is powerful in grace to those who are humble.  Which would you rather receive?

Final Instructions To Believers

On top of being submitted to the elders, Peter asks the believers to put their daily concerns upon the Lord.  When we carry around our “stuff” all the time, it leads to increased anxiety.  The picture has been used of rolling your burdens upon the Lord like the people in the middle east loaded up a camel. Let God do the heavy lifting of those daily concerns that tend to weigh us down.  When we do this we are enabled to help each other.  Can you imagine a worker showing up to move your furniture, but he has a 100 pound pack on his back and is holding an arm full of groceries?  If he is going to be any help at all he will need to unload himself first.  Peter shares this concern in the same vein.  We must learn to roll our burden onto Jesus if we are going to be able to help one another.  How do we do this?  First we do it through prayer.  When we talk through our anxieties and then ask God for his help, we begin to unload ourselves of much weight.  However, it also involves faith.  We need to trust that he really is caring for us.  This doesn’t mean he simply has emotions about our situation, but that he is also actually taking care of us.  We can talk to him about it, ask for help, and then quit worrying about it.  This unloading process is too often avoided in our lives.  It causes much pain and grief in our lives and the lives of others.

Next he tells them to be watchful over their souls.  This involves sobriety, i.e. not being drunk on the pleasures of this world.  And, it also involves vigilance.  The watchful shepherd is standing at attention, watching both the sheep and the hills for sign of trouble.  We need to take our spiritual condition serious and not get caught up in living life to please our flesh.  We have an enemy who is an equal opportunity eater.  Like a lion he will eat anything that isn’t ready for it.  So take your stand against the enemy.  Like David of old, do not rely upon your own wisdom and strength.  But, rather, rely upon the power and might of the Spirit of the Lord.  He can only devour those who are not sober and vigilant.  “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.”

Final Thoughts

We can get so worried about the things of life that we forget; it is God who takes care of us.  Perhaps you are worried about all the things you shouldn’t be, and not worried about all the things you should?  Let the Spirit of God speak to your heart and correct you in this area.

Also, God has given us all the instructions we need to outwit the devil’s schemes.  We just need to trust him.  Godly leadership is a part of that.  Don’t settle for saying it doesn’t work.  Find a place where there are elders who trust God and are caring for the souls of those who attend that church.  You won’t always agree with them.  But humble yourself and let God use them to help watch over your soul.  In doing so you are thwarting the work of the devil in your life.

 

Instructions to Flock Audio