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Friday, October 30, 2015

Jesus' Promised Return

Jesus' Promised Return

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." (Act 1:9-11 NKJV)


The belief that Jesus will one day return to earth has been a central tenant of the Christian faith from it's very inception.

In this passage we read that even at the Ascension of Christ... while the disciples are still looking up into the sky... two men—two angelic beings... remind them that Jesus had promised that He would return again in the same manner in which He left.

He was received up into a cloud... and He will return upon the clouds... just as He said!

In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (Joh 14:2-3 NKJV)

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Mat 24:30 NKJV)

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. (Mar 13:26 NKJV)


You know... it's interesting to note, as a side note... that the birth of Jesus was foretold to Mary by the angel, Gabriel (Luk 1:26-38)

An angelic host declared His birth to the shepherds (Luk 2)
Angels ministered to Him after His temptation (Mat 4:11; Mar 1:13)
Two angels pronounced His resurrection to the women at the empty tomb (Joh 20:12)
The angels of God are at this moment, ascending and descending upon Him (Joh1:51)
… and now, because the only way to gain heaven is through Jesus... then He is symbolized in that ladder between heaven and earth that Jacob saw in his dream at Bethel... that the angels of God ascended and descended upon (Gen 28:12)...

These two angels remind us of His promise... that He would return one day...

And very soon... His return to earth upon the clouds of heaven and in His power and glory (Mat 24:30), will be shouted from the heavens by the voice of an archangel...

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1Th 4:16-18 KJV)


* * * * * * * * * *
The idea that the Messiah would come to earth and establish an earthly kingdom in which righteousness is it's founding hallmark is seen throughout the OT...

We read in Jer 23:5... "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. (Jer 23:5 NKJV)


But even in the Gospels... and here, in the book of Acts... just before Jesus ascends into heaven, the disciples ask if He was bringing about the Messianic Kingdom at this time...

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? (Act 1:6 NKJV)

And Jesus' response was... that the times and seasons aren't for us to know... but to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit... so that they could become witnesses (or, heralds) of the risen Christ.

Then, 10 days later, on the Day of Pentecost, the Church was born. Since that time... throughout the NT... and unto this very day... the Second Coming of Christ has been a major topic of concern among believers.

Just a cursory look through Christian history makes it abundantly clear that every generation since Jesus' ascension into heaven... has believed that they were the generation in which He would return.

I have felt from the moment that I became a believer that I would live to see Jesus return in the clouds. I still believe this with all my heart.

And there are many other Christians that are just like me. I'd venture to say that most... if not all... who are in this place today believe as I do... that we are the generation which will see our long awaited Blessed Hope (Tit 2:13) come to fruition.

And as Paul said earlier... we comfort one another with these words...

But there are many Christians... and many churches today that downplay the doctrine of Jesus' return because they're afraid to be lumped in with “those fundamentalists”.

But far from being just some obscure detail of Christian theology... the Second Coming is an intensely practical doctrine...

Because when one truly believes that Jesus will return... and that, very soon... it should produce some changes within us. Four of them specifically... and I'll begin with...


SPIRITUAL ALERTNESS

There are several times in the Scriptures where Jesus, and the apostles tell us that we should remain active and alert for Jesus' return.

If you have this hope in yourself... you will not only continue in your service to your Master... but you will also do those things that are necessary to purify yourself in preparation for His arrival...

Because this hope we have is a living hope... not a dead one... and when the Master returns, we all should want to be found doing shouldn't we?

None of us want to be found to be lazy... or slothful...

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1Jn 3:2-3 NKJV)

Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. (Mat 24:46 NKJV)


Jesus also told us that while He tarries... we are to...

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. (Mat 24:42 NKJV)


And in order to emphasize His point, He tells us in the following verses...

But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Mat 24:43-44 NKJV)

I can remember once when I was going to school at Wayland... the apartment I lived in off campus was burglarized and some things were stolen from me. After discovering that someone had been in my apartment and done this... I felt real uneasy... like I have been violated...

That day... I went around the house with a handful of 16 penny nails... and nailed windows shut. I also nailed a back door shut... and I installed a new front door lock and deadbolt. I did everything I knew to do to make myself feel safe once again.

Others may get an alarm system... or put a stack of cans in behind the door... get a gun... or a dog...

When we become a victim... we tend to gain a sense of urgency... which is kind of weird because it's happened... we can't prevent what's already occurred!

But anyway... we still try to prepare and make ourselves ready in an effort to prevent it from happening again...

But... when we don't feel any urgency... if we really don't think it'll ever happen to us... we may let security slide... as I did... and then when it happens—behold... I'm surprised... violated... and angry... but it's done... I can't change it.

In the same manner... the Christian who truly believes that Jesus is coming back... at any time... should be ready. They should be living their lives in a state of perpetual preparedness.

Keeping a careful eye out against the temptations this world throws at us... so that we don't become entangled with them...

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Rom 13:11-14 NKJV)

We should keep in mind that this day may be the last day that we have to tell someone about Christ.

It may be the last opportunity we have to forgive... or to repent.

Do you really believe that Jesus is coming again? Then take heed to His words... Watch therefore...” “...be ready...

* * * * * * * * * *
Another change that should occur within us is...


MISSION URGENCY

Knowing that the world will end—and that it could be very soon—this knowledge should kind of rearrange our priorities... shouldn't it.

But so many of us live our lives as if tomorrow will be the same as today... as it was yesterday... and the day before that... and on... and on... and on...

We begin to act and think like the scoffer that Peter speaks of in 2Pe 2:4...

and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. (2Pe 3:4 NKJV)

Or the evil servant that Jesus spoke of in Mat 24:48...

But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,'
(Mat 24:48 NKJV)

If we say we believe that Jesus is coming back... yet live and act as if He isn't... then we're living in contradiction with ourselves and the Word of God... and we need to get back on track.

Because... our mission is urgent. Jesus has made a promise that He would return... and “God, who cannot lie” (Tit 1:12) will keep His promise.

It's as sure to happen as the sun is going set this evening. But the things is... when it does happen... when Jesus does return... there will be no more chances... no more opportunities... Or, to use another expression... “The fat lady has sung!”

Because at that point, the eternal destinies of everyone you know and love will be set. The unbelieving neighbor you never shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with... will have no more opportunity to believe and be saved.

That good friend of yours that you talk with all the time about things you have common interests in, such as golf... football... cooking... or quilting... gardening... but you could never bring yourself to talk to them about Jesus... will be committed to everlasting flames...

I'm just as guilty of any of this as anyone else. I need to practice what I preach and get that sense of urgency also...

Not only should we have that Spiritual Alertness and get ourselves ready for Jesus' return... and then stay ready...

But we also need to have a sense of Mission Urgency... Our mission is to make disciples... so we need to “get busy” working that mission...

Because the time is short...

But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. (1Co 7:29-31 NKJV)


When the Master returns... I would much rather have the talents He's given me to invest, bring in some return... and hear the words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” (Mat 25:23)

Rather than keeping my talent buried and hearing, “...You wicked and lazy servant...” (Mat 25:26 NKJV)

* * * * * * * * * *
Knowing that Christ will return soon, also gives us...


POWER TO FORGIVE

When someone does us wrong. When we get offended by something someone says or does... we tend to long for justice, don't we.

As Tim Keller put it... “We run to the judgment seat and help God mete out retribution.”

But we were never meant to sit in that seat, were we?! I shudder to think what this world would look like if that were my seat...

However, we do tend to crawl back into that seat from time to time... and the more we see of the wickedness of others... the less we see the wickedness in ourselves.

The knowledge that Jesus is coming back... and that He... who is the only truly righteous judge... will actually judge in righteousness and set all things straight... well, that gives me not only the power to stay away from that seat, because I know He's “got it”...

It also gives me the power to do what He told me to do... and that's to forgive others...

"But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. (Luk 6:27-31 NKJV)

How could I possibly do any of these if I remain filled with anger against the injustice being done to myself and others... and refuse to get off the judgment seat?

How can I possibly love the Muslims who are rampaging through the middle east right now... murdering, raping, enslaving, and pillaging?

How can I pray for these same people who are infiltrating Europe and pretty soon, America... disguised as “refugees”... when I am absolutely sure that they're only going to bring what they're doing in the middle east to our own streets?

Well let me be blunt about this... I CAN'T. It's just not in me...

But... it IS in the Holy Spirit! “...for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Php 2:13 NKJV)

God is the one who is at work in me. He is the one who not only gives me the desire to pray for and forgive when I can't... (to will...)

But He is the one who also gives me the ability to pray and forgive... (to do...)

* * * * * * * * * *

And knowing that I can give it ALL to Him and when I do, He will not only give me the desire... but the ability...

I can also have...



HOPE IN SUFFERING

Jesus promised that He would return, and that when He did... “...they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven. (Mar 13:26-27 NKJV)

And because we have this promise, we know that the suffering we experience in this life... won't last forever.

As Cornelius Plantinga says, “The return of Christ is good news for people whose lives are filled with bad news.”

So... if someone you love just died of cancer... if your marriage just dissolved... if your body is racked with pain...

Jesus is saying to you, “There is reason to hope even in the midst of the darkest days of your life. Lift up your eyes—I'm coming back... and it might be today.”


Invitation


Paul's Kind of Prayer

Paul's Kind of Prayer

Introduction:

You know, I've been a Christian for many years now, and in the course of my Christian walk, I've learned some things about this life... things to do... things not to do...

That's all part of “growing up” in the faith, right? God's ultimate goal for all those who believe is that they become “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29)... that we be “transformed into the same image, from glory to glory” (2Cor 3:18)

This would be that process that's called... “progressive sanctification”, where we become more like Jesus each and every day.

In other words, when we believe on Jesus, unto salvation, we are “saved”. We are “sanctified” (set apart for the Lord)... that's our position in Christ.

However, there is also what's known as “progressive sanctification”, which describes the Christian's daily walk... “being conformed to the image”... “from glory to glory”.

It's a process that we have to go through because we live in this world and have to deal with the struggles, temptations, and other things that life throws at us.

We walk... sometimes run... at times stumble or even fall... we get back up... learn from our failures and by that we grow... and start that process all over again...

When Paul wrote to the Philippians and told them to... “...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Php 2:12 NKJV), this is what he was talking about.

Now, I've said all that to say this... that as Christians... there are things that are expected of us to do... and maybe most of them, we really want to do... such as prayer.

We need to pray because we have a relationship with God... right? I mean... it's hard to have a relationship with anybody, if we never speak to them... right?

We are also expected to pray for each other. And again... we really want to pray for each other because we do “love the brethren” as we read in...

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1Pe 1:22 NKJV)

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” (1Jn 3:14 NKJV)

When we “love one another” ( Joh 15:12, 17), we should truly desire only the absolute best for them. And because of this... we pray...

But, if you're like me at all... I find myself stumbling through prayer... not really knowing what to say or request on behalf of my brother... so I end up saying something along the line of...

Lord, bless them.”... “Watch over them.”... “Lord be with them.”... I tend to stick to generalities and stick with the same things... the same requests... for the vast majority of people I pray for.

And I feel like my prayers end up being lame... repetitious... and even though I may truly mean what I'm asking God for... I still feel like I'm going about it all wrong...

Am I the only one that does this? Am I the only one that has noticed this?

* * * * * * * * * * *
Well, I was recently required to reread Paul's letter to the Philippians for a class I'm taking... and I noticed something throughout this letter that I hadn't really noticed before... or maybe I just hadn't thought of it in this way before... but...

Paul really knew how to pray!

You see... Paul had a very great love for the Philippians... (while it's true that he loved the believer's everywhere) the Philippian church was different.

Just a quick reading through this letter will give you a sense of the closeness he felt toward them... and when we look back at his history with them...

Making converts... being thrown in jail... miraculous demonstration of the power of God which led to the conversion of the Philippian jailer...

We see many hints at the great love and concern he had for these people... and the very special place they held in his heart.

And because of this love for them... Paul prayed for them... all the time! And throughout this letter we see his heartfelt desire for them and their progress and growth in the faith.

He starts out by telling them... I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, (Php 1:3-4 NKJV)

He thanks God every time he thinks of them... and every time he thinks of them he prays for them with joy in his heart...

And as I look at the rest of this letter, I see that Paul gives us several ideas on how we should pray for each other... a checklist if you would... which I'd like to present to you now.

This is by no means a “comprehensive” list It's only a guide, since I'm limited by time constraints... but Philippians is a short letter and when you read it again yourself...I'm sure you'll be able to add to this checklist...




Prayer Checklist:

for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, (Php 1:5 NKJV)

___ For their “fellowship in the gospel...”
  • Pray for their mutual “participation” or “partnership” in the gospel...
  • That they do what they can to support it and spread it amongst those who haven't heard...


And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Php 1:9-11 NKJV)

___ That “love may abound”, “in knowledge” and “discernment”...

  • That their love for God and one another would continue to grow greater and greater
  • That it would be a love that's not an empty sentimentalism or blind...
  • But rather that it be based upon truth and discernment... (understanding)
  • Because the more we know of God and Christ... the more we love them... and the more we will love others who are theirs also...

___ That they “may approve the things that are excellent”...

  • Approve” in the original language was used to describe the assaying of metals or testing of money for authenticity
  • Excellent” means “to differ”
  • That they be able to test and validify things that are different... distinguish between what's right and wrong...
  • To know the difference between what's true and genuine and what's false
  • That they don't just love indiscriminately all things, but that they be intelligent and discerning...

___ That they “be sincere” and “without offense”...

  • That they remain genuine and “sun-tested”
    • Dishonest pottery dealers in the ancient world would till cracks in inferior products with wax before glazing and painting them... making worthless pottery appear better than it really was...
    • (Sort of like what people used to do with “bondo” and selling used cars that had been wrecked...)
    • But the way the buyer could test the pottery would be to hold it up to the sun... which would make the cracks filled with wax obvious.
  • That they be without offense means that they be blameless
  • Sun-tested... and full of integrity...

___ That they be “filled with the fruits of righteousness”...

  • The could also be translated “filled with the fruits that righteousness produces”
    • We don't have to worry about hanging plastic fruit on ourselves... we will produce fruit!
    • Anyone who “abides” in the Vine... will produce fruit!
  • In other words... we pray that they be filled with good works!
  • Just as fruit grows up and springs forth from a small seed...
    • Our fruits spring forth from that incorruptible seed of grace that's planted in our hearts...


Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. (Php 1:27-28 NKJV)

___ That their “conduct be worthy of the gospel”...

  • That they behave as citizens worthy of the gospel...
  • Not only are we to walk morally and uprightly in this world, if possible, giving no offense to anyone...
  • That we act according to wisdom toward those who are outside the faith...
  • And that they conform to those rules and laws that have been imposed on us by those in authority.
  • To act as good citizens when obedience doesn't cause us to act contrary to God's commands to us...
___ That they “stand fast in one spirit”...

  • That they continue firmly grounded in the faith, not wavering...
  • Just as a wrestler stands fast... his feet firmly planted and not moving...
  • Just as the 300 Spartans “stood fast” at Thermopylae against 150k Persians.

___ That they be of one mind striving together for the faith”

  • That with unity in heart and mind, they continue to “struggle along with” each other toward the common goal of the gospel of Jesus Christ...
    • Sergio... asking me to help... when I pointed out that we have some doctrinal differences, his response was...
    • We don't have to agree (on all points)... we just have to 'finish His work'” (Joh 3:34) “We can let the Holy Spirit do the rest.”
    • Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecc 4:12 NKJV)

___ That they be not in any way terrified by your adversaries”...

  • Knowing that though Satan is a roaring lion... Christ is greater still...
  • That they not be terrified by anything in the world... because Christ has overcome the world...
  • Not terrified of false teachers, or persecutors... because our Lord has declared the end... from the beginning... He is the one who's in control...
  • What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31 NKJV)


fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Php 2:2-4 NKJV)

___ That they be “like minded”, “same love”, “one accord”, “one mind”...

  • We are to be in unity—this is not “optional”, but is a command that's repeated throughout the NT (Rom 15:5; 1Cor 1:10; 2Cor 13:11-13; Php 4:2; 1Pe 3:8)
  • This tells us that we are to “think the same way” – that there isn't to be any schism's, contentions, or strife among us in the Church, but that we work together in unity of the faith, and toward the same goal... which is the salvation of souls.

___ That they do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit”
  • Staying away from strife and factionalism... partisanship, or rivalry...
  • Putting away pride and the desire to put ourselves first
  • Not doing things for an “empty glory”...

___ In “lowliness of mind... esteem others better”
  • Thinking of ourselves as low... humble... and shabby... in comparison to others
    • And isn't this what we are to do on a daily basis? Build up the believers—putting them first?
    • Honestly desiring only the absolute best for them—even if it comes at our expense?
  • In true modesty and humility—having a low estimate of our own importance
    • As Jesus taught concerning the seating arrangements at a meal...
    • Take the low seats because it's far better to be asked to move up... than it is to be asked to move down...
  • Valuing others as more spiritual, knowledgeable, closer to God—not only a better person... but a better Christian than ourselves

___ That they look out for the interests of others”
  • Lifting others up and watching out for their interests... when they can't watch out for themselves
  • Even when we get no profit from doing so
  • We do this because we truly love them.


Do all things without complaining and disputing, (Php 2:14 NKJV)

___ Serve the Lord and others without complaining and disputes...
  • Served the Lord, church, community without grumbling or arguing... (murmuring and disputing


holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (Php 2:16 NKJV)

___ That they hold fast the Word of life
  • As a light house warns ships of approaching rocks... we as Christians, living holy lives... are to guide others... showing them how to escape the dangers that lie ahead
  • And guide them into safe harbor... rest... in Jesus Christ


Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. (Php 3:1 NKJV)

___ That they “rejoice in the Lord”...
  • Realizing that our joy rests not in the circumstances of life, but in the unassailable and unchanging relationship we have with the Sovereign of the universe!


Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! (Php 3:2 NKJV)

___ That they keep a careful eye out for false teachers
  • Standing guard against those wolves who would enter the sheepfold and steal away the sheep


Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:13-14 NKJV)

___ That they “press on” in the faith by... “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead”
  • Knowing that we can't let a bad past bring us to inaction any more than we can let a good testimony cause us to “sit on our laurels”
  • We are to “keep on keeping on” as we used to say in the 70's...


Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Php 4:8 NKJV)

___ That they remain positive and focused on the goal...
  • In a world that glorifies evil and wickedness...
  • A world that focuses almost exclusively on the bad things that happen around us...
    • And I have to admit that sometimes I think that one reason so many bad things continue to happen so frequently is because it gets the attention
    • That what we focus on is what we get!
  • But in the face of all this... we are to remain focused upon the good things...
    • Reread the passage...


And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Php 4:19 NKJV)

___ That God supply all their needs...
  • What better prayer could one end with?
  • Knowing that nothing is lost in this life by doing good...
  • But that it will be repaid abundantly...
  • Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." (Luk 6:38 NKJV)




Invitation: