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SEPTEMBER 2005

 

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Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (or age)?

 

Recently, I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop and heard several women talking about the devastation that hurricane Katrina had brought on New Orleans and some of the cities in that area. One of them noted that this year we have had a tsunami in the Indian ocean and now we have had a devastating hurricane in the United States. She then noted the awful nature of the 9/11 terrorism in New York and the ongoing war against terrorism. She asked the other women, “is this the ‘end of the world?’” I would like to have gotten involved in the conversation, but I wasn’t invited so I just listened. I would have told her, “No this is not the end of the world but if you think this is bad just wait. This is just a little foretaste of what the Bible predicts the future will hold for planet earth.”

Some believe that the present church age represents the kingdom of God on earth known as the millennium (Revelation 20:1-6). They believe that the millennium is allegorical rather than literal. I personally do not believe that. If the church age that began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 represents the millennium, then when was Satan bound? Why is every nation that once had reverence for the God of our Bible, turning away from God rather than submitting to God? No, it makes more sense to recognize that there will be a literal millennium in the future preceded by a period of time when God’s wrath falls on this earth for rejecting Him and the Son He sent to save us. Nations that crucified the Lord will be revived and will have to face the Lord that they crucified (Revelation 19:11-21). During the period when God pours out His wrath (Revelation 6:17), there will be famines, earthquakes, disease, pollution, wars, violence, drugs, murders. There will also be a world-wide wicked dictator who comes to power as a man of peace but turns out to be a man of war and cruelty who wants to be worshipped as God. A large portion of the whole earth dies violently or with unusual diseases during this period of time. At one time, this scenario seemed unlikely and we thought we could protect ourselves against such catastrophes but God has reminded us that what He says will happen will happen because He has the power to make it happen.

I know that we like to believe that catastrophes “just happen” and God would not be so cruel as to judge this world for turning away from Him. However, He is going to do just that and that day is likely nearer than we think. The only way to properly prepare for the future day of God’s wrath is to “repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15).” The Lord Jesus died bearing the wrath of God that we deserved. Those who trust Him are “delivered from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).”

No, the end of the world has not come since much of the prophetic plan as it affects the nation of Israel is still future. The day of God’s wrath that precedes the millennium may not be the end of the world but it will seem like it. Many who have rejected the claims of Christ and of God will find it is the end of their world. I am glad I am saved and that true believers are chosen to be saved from this terrible day (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

These recent catastrophes should be seen as a wake up call. God will not be ignored and will not allow us to treat His Son with contempt. How much louder does He need to speak?

 

Week of September 4, 2005

Luke 10:27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

Ephesians 5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

 

Self-love is not commanded in the Bible, rather it is assumed as the basic nature of a person. We men are to love our wives as ourselves as though that is the highest measure of love that a person understands naturally. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, but, like the lawyer in Luke 10, we try to get “off the hook” by redefining who are neighbor is. Obviously, the terrorists who took down the World Trade Center four years ago today, didn’t consider U.S. citizens to be their “neighbors”. Likely, they would have considered their act of terrorism to be an act of self-less love for people from their countries and for people of their religious persuasion.

I believe the greatest obstacle to the true worship of God is love of self. Love of self leads to self-will which makes it hard to submit to God’s will. God wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son according to Romans 8:29. He wants us to become like Christ but we try to make Christ like us. This means that we believe God should like what we like, go where we go and act like we act. In order to be conformed to the image of God‘s Son we have to recognize that naturally we don‘t like what God likes, we don‘t go where God wants us to go and we don‘t act like God wants us to act. In order to trust Christ we have to get our eyes off self and get our eyes on Christ (Isaiah 45:22). We have to quit trusting in ourselves in order to trust in Christ.

Most of us are told that we either have inferiority complexes or superiority complexes. If we feel inferior to others it is because we are concerned with how others view us because we love ourselves. If we have a superiority complex, it is because we are overly confident in our own abilities, and that again is because we love ourselves. Only Christ truly loved others and was not concerned about Himself. Instead He gave Himself for us (Titus 2:14).

Today, many of us claim to be regenerated and to have the new life of the new birth (John 3:7). Yet when it comes to our relationship with God and with others, we all seem to think that what we like should be what God likes. We start our sentences with “I want” or with “I think”. All of us tend to do this. We should be starting our sentences with “the Lord wants” or with “the Bible says.”

I realize that none of us will ever be fully conformed to the image of God’s Son while we are living in this sinful body of flesh. But we certainly should move in that direction after we are saved. We should be more concerned about God’s will than our will. Love of God in our passage should be greater than our love of self . It requires our all. I am glad that Christ died for sinners because I know I don’t measure up to this standard. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to do what was right just because it was right and without being concerned about how our decisions affected ourselves? Wouldn’t it be nice if we really loved God with all our hearts, soul, strength and mind. In actuality, that is the way most of us love self.

Week of September 11, 2005

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill (complete or perfect).

 

Law is so much fun. We spend our time trying to figure out how to meet its demands without actually meeting its requirements. When the speed limit says 55 miles per hour,. we know we can go 60 without being ticketed, so we do it and figure we are “law-abiding.” We know we shouldn’t lie, but when we are selling a product, we let the buyer beware. If the buyer doesn’t ask we don’t tell them about product defects. Keeping the old testament law was like that. Because people were doing what they “had to” rather than what they should have “wanted to” it was necessary to define behavior that met the minimum standard of the law. For example, the Jews spelled out what could be done on the Sabbath without violating the requirement that no work was to be done. The Jews had a whole book of rules that went beyond what was written in the Bible so that the Jewish people could feel good about keeping the law even when they were violating the law‘s purpose.

When the Lord came to fulfill and not to destroy, He may have meant that He was to be the example of what keeping the law meant (and, of course, He was), but I really suspect that He was saying that He was going to teach the real meaning and purpose of the law. He taught that hearts had to be right with God so that motives would be right or else right actions were not really meeting the requirements of the law. That is why, the Lord says so many times, “it was said,” and then He says, “but I say unto you.”

The only people who would even want to keep the law in the way that Lord taught it or “fleshed out its meaning” would have to have a new nature. They would have to be born again. It is unnatural to turn the other cheek or to lay up treasure in heaven rather than on earth. It is unnatural to build a kingdom with those who are spiritually poor (in other words, people who knew that that had failed God) rather than with the religiously proud. It is unnatural to have power you do not use (that is meekness) or to be sorrowful because of sin, rather than justifying your self-righteous actions (which is likely what it means to mourn). No king would normally expect His kingdom to prosper if the administration operated this way. And frankly, I don’t think we are confident that these principles work today either. They certainly aren’t practiced in the business, political or religious world by those that most of us consider successful.

I think I like the law. I am good at rationalizing so I can feel good about bad behavior because “everyone does it” and “nobody really measures up anyway“ and “we have to live in the real world of the 21st century“. However, when I realize that the real meaning of the law as explained in the Sermon on the Mount allows others to see if I really love the Lord and my neighbor, then I realize that only when I am regenerated by repenting and believing the Gospel will I even understand the true meaning of the law. I must trust in the Lord to trust in His standards. Only the Holy Spirit will enable me to put these principles into practice. I am also glad that since the Lord came not to destroy but to fulfill the law, He also came to save and not condemn (John 3:17). Thus, I have a merciful God when I am willing to confess that I fail with regard to the true meaning of the law.

 

Week of September 18, 2005

Proverbs 22:3 and 27:12 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.

 

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of the Gulf Coast. New Orleans, which in large part was built below sea level and is protected by levees, was destroyed by the hurricane. Warnings had been given that a hurricane would do this someday and those warnings were not heeded. When this hurricane was coming, warnings were given that people needed to leave and in many cases those warnings were not heeded either. Many people were not prudent or wise and did not foresee the dangers associated with a terrible hurricane.

People are often just like that with the warnings of the Bible. Judgment is coming on a world that has turned its back upon God. The tribulation period preceding the 1000 year righteous reign of the Lord Jesus Christ will be a terrible time of trial (Revelation 3:10). Judgment will also come at the end of this world’s history when the earth is to be destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10). It will come for the unbeliever at the Great White Throne. There unbelievers will be judged according to their works and not according to their faith and will be cast into the Lake of Fire which is the second death (Revelation 20:11-15). Even John the Baptist warned people to flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7). But have we heeded the warning?

Many didn’t heed the warning to get out of harms way when Katrina bore down because they didn’t have a way to escape nor did they have the money or the means. Thank God, all can be saved from the coming wrath of God. God Himself has made provision for safety in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and He offers that provision as a free gift (Romans 6:23). Some didn’t leave New Orleans because they didn’t think they needed to--they thought they could ride it out. These were not prudent or wise. Not listening to Biblical warnings is also neither prudent nor wise.

On September 24, 2005, a second storm hit the Gulf in another section of Louisiana and Texas. When the warning to flee hurricane Rita was given, people who had observed the mistake of staying behind in the first storm, fled this one. Some left early which was wise. Others waited until the last minute and were unable to leave because the traffic was stopped on the exit routes. Most finally got out but many almost waited too long. Spiritually, we can’t wait to see what happens to others who die without Christ to deal with our own relationship with God. This is a warning without a second chance and where we can‘t learn from experience. Also, if we wait until we are dying and expect to be saved at the very last minute, we may be so cumbered by the problems associated with dying, that we won’t be able to think clearly about our need to be saved spiritually. The traffic may figuratively be backed up.

It is a great thing to know that we are safe from the storm of God’s wrath (John 5:24). When Christ died, He bore that wrath for us. When a warning is given in this life, many people are worried that they may “flee” when there is no need. When it comes to fleeing God’s wrath, using that logic could be costly. If we don’t flee the results are eternal. I am personally convinced that we will lose everything if we do not heed the Biblical warnings to flee by faith to Christ for salvation. And we need to heed the warning now!

 

Week of September 25, 2005