Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

A Prescription for Such a Time as This

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A Prescription for Such a Time As This

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A Prescription for Such a Time as This

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The theme of this conference, the urgency of the times, and we want everyone to be so doing, to reflect the urgency of the times. We live in the most critical, crucial times in human history. We'll look at the Olivet Prophecy.

Transcript

Greetings everyone. It is a pleasure to be here with you and to speak to all the silver tongued orators that are here. I want to send special greetings to all of you out there listening by telephone and cyberland and also special greetings to the brethren there in Ruston, Louisiana. We miss seeing you today.

As you know a Texan has just moved into the White House and some say that this has considerably lowered the IQ of the state. Reminds me of this new television program that we have–The Weakest Link. Recently, Miss Robot asked a lady what does the “A” and “M” in Texas A&M represent? This is a true story. The contestants stood there for a few minutes. She said, agriculture and mechanics. She said, that is incorrect, it is agricultural and mechanical, and you are the weakest link, goodbye. 

You know, as if the dumbing down of America was not going rapidly enough, we had to import an alien to speed it up. But you know recent graduate exams - the senior exams at Texas A&M - even though President Bush has left the state and has somewhat lowered the IQ - answers to recent senior exams at A&M indicates that we might be making a comeback. On those senior exams, the students at A&M were asked, name the four seasons. They responded, salt, pepper, mustard, and vinegar. They were asked, what guarantees may a mortgage company insist on? If you’re buying a house, they will insist you are well endowed. Name a major disease associated with cigarettes. The answer is premature death. How can you delay milk turning sour? The answer is keep it in the cow. How are the main parts of the body categorized? The body is consisted in the three parts–the brainium, the borax, and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain. The borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels: A, E, I, O and U. What is the fibula? A small lie. What does varicose mean? Nearby. Give the meaning of the term caesarean section. The caesarean section is a district in Rome. What is a seizure? It’s a Roman emperor. What is a terminal illness? When you’re sick at the airport. What is a turbine? It’s something an Arab wears on his head. And what is a Hindu? It lays eggs. 
 

Now, there’s one other story that shows how the IQ is increasing. Three Texans went south of the border, down to Mt. Morris, just below Brownsville for a Saturday night, and they woke up the next Sunday morning; they were in jail. They didn’t really remember what had happened the night before, but they found out that they were going to be electrocuted that day, so they strapped the first fellow in the chair, and they said, do you have any last words? He said, I am a professor of divinity at Baylor School of Theology, and the Lord knows I am innocent, and he will deliver me. So they pull the switch, nothing happens. So they conclude, God must not want him to die. They strap the next guy in. He said, I am a professor law at the University of Texas. I believe in universal justice and the principle of justice will prevail. They pull the switch and nothing happens. He must be innocent. They put the next guy in the chair. Do you have any last words? He says, I am an electrical engineer at Texas A&M, and he says, if you boys don’t connect them two wires, there ain’t gonna be no execution here today.
 

The title of the sermon today, which is also my specific purpose statement, we have limited time, so we’ll have to speed this up. The Olivet Prophecy: The Prescription For Such a Time as This.
 

If you would turn to Matthew 24, when most people think of the Olivet prophecy, they think of Matthew 24, but the Olivet prophecy actually consists of Matthew 24 and 25. Let’s notice the beginning of the Olivet prophecy in Matthew 24. Actually, there shouldn’t be a chapter break, well, you could or could not between 23 and 24. In Matthew 23:37 Matthew 23:37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!
American King James Version×
, you probably see there above that’s where Jesus had just made the statement that…
 

Verse 37. ”O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…”

And in verse 38… 


Verse 38. ”Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” 

And then in chapter 24…
 

Matthew 24:1-3 Matthew 24:1-3 1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, See you not all these things? truly I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone on another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
American King James Version×
. ”And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.  And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.  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?”


So we got when and the signs of his coming and the end of the age. You’ll notice in the first several verses, of course, Christ gives several signs that an admonition to watch, and then in Matthew 25, if you’ll turn now to Matthew 24:51 Matthew 24:51And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
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, and we’ll cover this a little more in a few minutes…
 

Matthew 24:51 Matthew 24:51And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
American King James Version×
. ”And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 
 

Matthew 25:1 Matthew 25:1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
American King James Version×
. ”Then shall the kingdom of heaven…”
 

So, you see, there’s really no break here. The thought continues. The prophecy ends in chapter 26, if you’ll turn there. We’ll see the parameters of it. 
 

Matthew 26:1 Matthew 26:1And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples,
American King James Version×
. ”And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.”


So, it came to pass when he had finished, saying Matthew chapters 24 and 25. Now the time setting of this prophecy, as you see here, two days before he was crucified. If you’ll turn back now to Matthew 21. In Matthew 21, you’ll see a few days before the time of the Passover and his crucifixion he came into Jerusalem, and he knew that his time was near. Well, actually, I think, let’s turn back to chapter 20 and verse 17. 
 

Matthew 20:17-18 Matthew 20:17-18 17 And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said to them, 18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
American King James Version×
.  ”And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him…”


So we see here that he knows that he’s going up to Jerusalem for a specific purpose. In chapter 21, he comes into Jerusalem, and the account is given of the, what the world calls Palm Sunday, probably a Palm Sabbath, in which he is declared to be the King, and then for the next couple of days, he’s in and out of Jerusalem, teaching in the temple, instructing them. To me there are two great imperatives during this period of time that somewhat sets the stage for Matthew 24. Notice Matthew 22, and if I could have written Mr. Antion’s script today, it could not have been more in keeping with what I have to say because they go hand-in-glove, and we did not discuss anything about, at least I didn’t with him, maybe somebody else told him. But anyhow in Matthew 22:37 Matthew 22:37Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
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Matthew 22:37 Matthew 22:37Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
American King James Version×
. ”Jesus said unto him…”

Responding to the question, which is the greatest commandment in the law.
 

Verse 37-39. ”Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

That is a great imperative, overarching, how important is it.


Verse 40. ”On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 

The whole ball of wax hangs on these two commandments. Then in Matthew 23:23 Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
American King James Version×
another very important imperative and summary scripture…
 

Matthew 23:23 Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
American King James Version×
. ”Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” 


The theme of this conference centers on the urgency of the times in which we live. The urgency that Christ had, here he was about to be crucified, and one, he says, the two great commandments, then he says the weightier matters of the law, and then we have the Olivet prophecy. The theme of this conference, urgency of the times, and we want everyone to be so doing, to reflect the urgency of the times. We live in the most critical, crucial times in human history. All the major institutions of the world are in transition: political systems, economic systems, military systems. In both strategic and tactical terms, religious systems, educational systems, they’re all changing. The world is in a technological revolution that pales all other ages into insignificance. The major social structures are in transition, especially the family structure. Well over fifty percent of the children who are born in the US are born to single mothers. Yet people go their merry way, looking for the next thrill, apparently unaware of, unconcerned with the collapse of the values that served to stabilize western civilization for so many years. To me that, I can summarize it, God, country, home, and many people went to church, and they believed in certain principles and values. Notice in Matthew 24:36 Matthew 24:36But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
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, somewhat of a summary statement, they asked for signs of when will Christ come.
 

Matthew 24:36-38 Matthew 24:36-38 36 But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
American King James Version×
. ”But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.  But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.  For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark…”

And so we see that same kind of Hedonistic society today. It says in Genesis 6:5 Genesis 6:5And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
American King James Version×
, at that time the thought and intent of the heart of many was continually upon evil. Here we see in Matthew 24, back just a page or so or a few verses.


Matthew 24:12 Matthew 24:12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
American King James Version×
. ”And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”

Hedonism, pleasure seeking is now viewed as the greatest good in America. It’s often said in recent times, this is one of my sayings, that people today are in one of five places. McDonald’s, WalMart, watching some type of entertainment, or in the hospital and the rest are on the way. All of this is coupled with licentious behavior that would shock the socks off our grandparents if they should rise from their graves to witness children having children, children shooting children, men living with men, women living with women, babies being sucked out of the womb by the thousands, some say millions, rampant alcohol, drug abuse, the gross commercialization of sexuality, just to name a few.
 

In view of all of this, it would seem that the greatest sense of urgency in the church would surely be to quickly preach a warning message to the world, and some think that we would literally preach down the kingdom of God and they quote Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×
, let’s read it…
 

Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×
. ”And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” 


Now preaching the gospel to the world is a very high priority in the United Church of God. In fact, in August of 1999, the Council of Elders developed a statement concerning the preaching of the gospel, and I believe that one of the presentations that is going to be given here during this conference will read the entirety of that presentation. Now some people have leveled the charge that the United Church of God is not preaching the gospel to the world, but when one considers the seeds that are being sown that charge is blatantly false. It is not in keeping with the facts. You can look at this table out here. You can begin to see that that is not true. 
 

The latest run of the Good News magazine was somewhere like 363,000. We have booklets galore, bible study course, advertising in the Reader’s Digest, commercials on television in major media markets, vast exposure on the internet, radio in major media markets, concerted local evangelistic efforts, direct mail, and on and on and on. The subscriber list is growing. To say that we are not preaching the gospel is just, it’s just not true. And surely the preaching of the gospel is one of our highest priorities, but the preaching of the gospel as a warning witness did not seem to be the highest priority in the mind of Christ when he gave this prophecy. What was the highest priority? Now he does mention, it’s almost like in passing, the preaching of the gospel, it’s going to be preached, and it is being preached, and we are really beginning to pick up steam in that area. The greatest imperative in this whole message, we’ll find in Matthew 24:42 Matthew 24:42Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come.
American King James Version×
.
 

Matthew 24:42 Matthew 24:42Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come.
American King James Version×
. ”Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
 

Verse 44. ”Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”


This word “watch” means be attentive, be alert, give heed, lest through indolence and apathy, sudden destruction or calamity overtakes a person. This word “ready” has to do when used a persons, it has to do with being ready for the coming of another person, being ready for the coming of Jesus Christ. So, we see the recurring answer to the question of when. Look at verse 36 again.


Verse 36. ”But of that day and hour knoweth no man…” 

Christ gave that recurring answer. We don’t know exactly when, but he says, be you watchful and be you ready. Now another theme that is in this Olivet prophecy is that of rulership and because of lack of time I’m not going to read each one of them, but let’s notice in Matthew 24:47 Matthew 24:47Truly I say to you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
American King James Version×
.
 

Matthew 24:47 Matthew 24:47Truly I say to you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
American King James Version×
. ”Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.”
 

That person who is watching, that person who is ready, that person who is so doing as you see in verse 46. 
 

Verse 46. ”Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”
 

He will make him ruler and then notice at the end of each one of these parables, Matthew 25, there is reward mentioned along with this rulership. Matthew 25:10 Matthew 25:10And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
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Matthew 25:10 Matthew 25:10And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
American King James Version×
. ”And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready…” 
 

Notice, watch, be ready, be so doing. They were ready, when in with him to the marriage and the door was shut. The parable of the talents has to do with rulership. Notice verse 21…
 

Verse 21. ”His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things…”
 

Then the ultimate reward in the last verse of Matthew 25. Notice Matthew 25:46 Matthew 25:46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
American King James Version×

 

Matthew 25:46 Matthew 25:46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
American King James Version×
. ”And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
 

So definitely the reward is emphasized. As we see here, punishment is also emphasized. The key to understanding this prophecy is really to watch, to be ready, and to be so doing. Then there is an urgent message given. Let’s start in verse 48 of chapter 24. This urgent, urgent warning.
 

Matthew 24:48 Matthew 24:48But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delays his coming;
American King James Version×
. ”But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming…”
 

Now they won’t say it by expressing it orally. How many people are out there on the street corners, saying God’s not going to come back or Christ is not going to come back for a long time. How many of us are saying Christ is not going to come anytime soon? We’re not saying that, verbally. We might be saying that by our actions.
 

Verse 48-50. ”But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;  And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him…” 
 

He won’t be watching properly. He won’t be ready, and he won’t be so doing.
 

Verse 50-51. ”…in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites…” 
 

See this is part of the punishment aspect as well. 
 

Verse 51. ”…there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 
 

Matthew 25:1 Matthew 25:1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
American King James Version×
. ”Then…”
 

When? ”Then.” 
 

Verse 1. ”Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins…”
 

When? When people begin to say…
 

Matthew 24:48 Matthew 24:48But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delays his coming;
American King James Version×
. ”My lord delayeth his coming;  And shall begin to smite his fellowservants…”
 

So when people begin to smite their fellowservants, begin to eat and drink with the drunken, then the kingdom of heaven is likened unto three parables. These three parables hold the key for watching, being ready, and so doing. The kingdom of heaven is likened to three parables that are applicable at all times, but especially when people begin to say in their heart, not verbally, but through their actions, Christ delays his coming. These parables identify the fateful and wise servants, and they instruct us on how to be zealous, how to avoid being lukewarm, instruct us on how to maintain an attitude of watchfulness and to be ready and to have the correct response in view of the iniquity that abounds. 
 

First of all, there is the parable of the ten virgins, which has to do with your spiritual life and relationship with God. You must keep your lamp full of oil. You see what Christ does in this Olivet prophecy, that first of all it’s descriptive. Often times in our preaching, we spend a lot of time on descriptive things. We describe the conditions of the world. Christ describes the conditions that will be extant before he comes again. Then he gives the prescription on how to watch and how to be ready so that that day will not come upon you unawares.
 

How do you keep your lamp filled with oil? I want to notice now, if you want to mark Matthew 24, 25, we’ll be coming back fairly often. John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
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, if you’ll turn there. Of course the bread of life scriptures are here in which Christ says that you must eat and drink of him and then he explains what he means by eating and drinking of him in verse 63. 
 

John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
American King James Version×
. ”It is the spirit that quickeneth…” makes alive ”… the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

So he equates the word of God with the spirit of God. Then you have Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×
.
 

Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×
. ”…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
 

So when you ingest the word of God, you are in a sense ingesting the spirit of God, the words I speak, they’re spirit and they’re life, so what we have heard from the beginning in the church of God is just as applicable today as it ever was. You have to study, you have to pray, you have to obey, you have to be so doing and keep your inward man renewed on a daily basis. You see the ones who are not doing this are to me, in essence going through the motions because you notice here in this parable, we’ll read Matthew 25:1 Matthew 25:1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
American King James Version×
… 
 

Matthew 25:1 Matthew 25:1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
American King James Version×
. ”Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.”
 

Five had oil, and five didn’t. Then the bridegroom didn’t come right away, and they’re all sort of groggy and sort of slumbering, but then there came this knock at the door, then all of them rose up…
 

Verse 7. ”…trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil…”
 

And you can’t give this oil. In all three of these parables, there is nothing that an organization can do. An organization can help and the organization is supposed to feed, one of the imperatives that Christ gave the disciples before he ascended back to heaven, was to feed my sheep. The ministry, hopefully, will help stir up that spirit that is within each one of us, but really no one can put that oil in your lamp, but you. And then the next parable has to do with the talents–five, two, and one. The five and two doubled their’s, the one buried his and even that one was taken away. God has given each one of us a measure of his spirit. He’s given us certain talents, and we are expected to devote these abilities, to do more than is required, to go above and beyond the call of duty and then the third one, the third parable, tells us how to love our fellow man. The feeding and clothing I believe applies both spiritually and physically. Notice here, Matthew 25, when this parable comes to an accounting.
 

Matthew 25:31-34 Matthew 25:31-34 31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
American King James Version×
. ”When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
 

And then what Mr. Antion talked about, that service, that when you do it to the least one of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me. I believe the greatest urgency of the times is for us to learn the lessons of the three parables.
 

In the early 1970s, my wife received a disturbing phone call from the _____ of Memphis, Tennessee. That phone call, it was reported to her that her family had been in an accident, that her nephew had been killed, her brother was in critical condition, another nephew was in critical condition, and that another nephew was hurt, but not as seriously and her sister-in-law. At that time, she turned to me and she said, they really need a minister now and my wife’s family, they were not in the church, but they needed a minister. They just needed someone like Mr. Antion talked about to go hold their hand, to just be there and speak some comforting words or just say we’re concerned or whatever, so I found out, and the good news of the story is, as far as I’m concerned, we do not know the name of this minister, but anyhow, we found out the minister in that area, who was a full-time person, elder, with the World Wide Church of God and called him, and he asked questions, like, well, are they members? And on and on. But the bottom line is, he did not go. He did not go.
 

Now that is devastating to say the least. Now we are talking about Christ centered servant leadership. You see to me Christ centered servant leadership is not just responding to a call like this, in fact, it’s like one of the places where Christ said, when you have done everything that you should do, then that servant might be unprofitable, but you have to go above and beyond. I mean everybody is expected even who would not respond to such a call as that. Well, there are very few people who would not. Now this is not an indictment of everybody. Obviously, it is not, but it illustrates a point that I believe that none of us here, or maybe I can say it another way, there is not a person in this room, who has not been guilty of smiting his fellow servants.
 

So I believe the most urgent message in the Olivet prophecy is for us to do the first works. If you would turn to Revelation 2, the message to the church at Ephesus and surely, this message is applicable to all times. When I read the messages to the seven churches, it seems that this one to Ephesus in some ways is most descriptive of us at the present time in some ways. 
 

Revelation 2:1-2 Revelation 2:1-2 1 To the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things said he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the middle of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and how you can not bear them which are evil: and you have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars:
American King James Version×
. ”Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” 
 

We’ve been down that road.
 

Verse 3-4. ”And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.”
 

Endured! Here we are through all of this. For all these decades. Some of you for near on fifty years. Here you are. 
 

Verse 4. ”Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”
 

Now a lot of people talk about, well, what is the first love? And they talk about that flush of first learning the truth, but I believe that Christ gave the first love in Matthew 24:37-39 Matthew 24:37-39 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
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, where we read. One of the two great commandments, love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and the second like unto it, love your neighbor yourself. On this hang the law and the prophets. It all hangs on this and then, where he said, do the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith, in Matthew 23:23 Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
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. How do you do those things?
 

The kind of Christ centered servant leadership that I’m talking about goes beyond just doing a physical thing. A lot of wonderful physical things are being done, like the announcement to bring the white shirts to the back of the room, so that they can be sent on to another country. There are many wonderful, good works being done, but I’m talking about the Olivet prophecy and what seemed to be most urgent in Christ’s mind at that particular time. 
 

How do you exercise judgment, mercy, and faith? It is the weightier matters of the law. You cannot be reconciled to God without judging yourself and repenting. You know it says in James 2:13 James 2:13For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy; and mercy rejoices against judgment.
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that….
 

James 2:13 James 2:13For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy; and mercy rejoices against judgment.
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. ”Mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”
 

But do you know that ultimate mercy cannot be extended until a person judges himself? Now God can be long suffering and he can pass over, and thankfully, he is long suffering, but before a sin can be forgiven, you have to repent and ask for forgiveness. Otherwise, Christ would be the minister of sin. So you come before him, just as the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee thanked God that he was so righteous. The publican judged himself and said have mercy on me, a sinner. And you know who went to his house justified. And the same is true with love your neighbor as yourself. A kind of love that is sacrificial, a kind of love that in which a person is willing to lay himself before the other person and say, I’m wrong. What can we do? How can we be reconciled? How can we walk together?
 

In Leviticus 19:15 Leviticus 19:15You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: you shall not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
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, you know, a lot of people talk about Matthew 7, ”judge not that you be not judged,” of course, we know that the intent of that is that with what measure or judgment you measure out to somebody else, that will be used against you. And we have to keep in mind Galatians 6:1 Galatians 6:1Brothers, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.
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Galatians 6:1-2 Galatians 6:1-2 1 Brothers, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear you one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
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. ”…if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness…so fulfil the law of Christ.”

As Mr. Antion read in his sermon. In Leviticus 19:15 Leviticus 19:15You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: you shall not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
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Leviticus 19:15-17 Leviticus 19:15-17 15 You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: you shall not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go up and down as a talebearer among your people: neither shall you stand against the blood of your neighbor; I am the LORD. 17 You shall not hate your brother in your heart: you shall in any wise rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin on him.
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. ”Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.  Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour…”

And the correct translation is…
 

Verse 17. ”…and not bear his sin.”
 

Because if you don’t love him to that extent then you bear his sin, and you see not being willing to love him to that extent is equated with hate. You shall not hate your brother because to refuse to exercise that kind of servant leadership is hatred. Notice 1 John 3:15 1 John 3:15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
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. Of course, the context of 1 John 3:15 1 John 3:15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
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is Cain and Abel, verse 12. In 1 John 3:15 1 John 3:15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
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1 John 3:15 1 John 3:15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
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. ”Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer…” 
 

And we’ve just seen from Leviticus 19:17 Leviticus 19:17You shall not hate your brother in your heart: you shall in any wise rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin on him.
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, you shall not hate your brother. You shall in anywise, do whatever you can do. You know one of the things before Christ was crucified, which all of us read not all that long ago at Passover, and the great identifying mark that we talk about. If you’re really my disciple, you’ll be willing to lay down your life one for another, and if you have love for one another, then you’re my disciples.
 

1 John 3:15 1 John 3:15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
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. ”Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”

I believe the first works center on exercising judgment, mercy, and faith with God and all humankind for we’re all made in the image of God. I believe that these three parables give us great insight as to how to do that. Our lamps must be filled with oil. We must use our talents and abilities to the fullest. We have to stir up that which is within us. You know Paul wrote to the young evangelist Timothy, and he said, stir up the gift that is within you. Stir it up! And it has to do literally with make friction. Stir it up! Get it fired up. 
 

I believe that this conference will be a great benchmark. I hope it will. A great turning point in the United Church of God. I believe the greatest urgency in the church of God in any age is to do the first works. That is to exercise judgment, mercy, and faith with God and with neighbor. I believe this is servant leadership at the deepest level. You know the great green-eyed monster, one of the great stumbling blocks in the history of human kind from Cain to the twelve apostles. You know that the twelve apostles on the very night that Christ was crucified, or betrayed, not on the night he was crucified. The night he was betrayed, they got in a dispute over who would be the greatest. That very night that he instituted the symbols, the new covenant Passover.
 

Brethren, as the song goes, God is watching us. We have a precious opportunity. It will not last forever. People speak of the Philadelphian era of the church and some speak of the Laodecian era of the church. The Philadelphians are supposedly filled with great love for the brethren, whereas the Laodecians are lukewarm, view themselves as spiritually superior to others, just like the people who pass by the man in the parable of the good Samaritan. They wouldn’t touch him because the Samaritans were unclean. Many people now believe that we’re in the Laodecian era of the church. But could it just be that we’re yet to see the greatest outflowing, outpouring of this Philadelaphia love that we’ve talked about through the years? That we’re yet to see that in the way that Christ really wants to see it? True brotherly love with emphasis on the first works, truly exercising judgment, mercy, and faith. Truly taking the Olivet prophecy to heart, the prescription. Not just focusing on the first forty or so verses.
 

Could this very conference be the beginning? Historically, we’ve emphasized getting the work done, and we still do, and it’s very important. The works has been defined as preaching gospel to the world, and we talked about that, and I’m surely for that. I know the Council is for it. I know the general conference of elders is for it. I know the membership is for that. Any church that is neglectful in sowing the seeds will surely die on this vine, but I submit to you that you can cover the ground with seed, that they’re spilling over everywhere, but if you omit the weightier matters of the law, you will not reap a bountiful harvest. 
 

Have we ever truly focused on our relationships with each other to the point that it was a priority? More urgent than anything else. Some spin their wheels trying to do the work without ever focusing on the first works. A person or a church that refuses to do the first work will never be used in my opinion to do the final work, herein lies the key to the future. Christ places far greater emphasis on loving him and each other than on “doing a work” out side of ourselves. I’ve read the gospel several times. I’ve taught them several times. I know that it says that. The three parables of Matthew 25 graphically and pointedly instruct us on how to be ready and how to be so doing. So let’s ask ourselves, is your lamp filled with oil to the point that you’re willing to lay down your life for the brethren? Are you using what talents God has given you in serving the brethren so that your talents are increasing?
 

One of the most encouraging things that I’ve experienced in recent times in the ministry is the fact that in the Rustin congregation we have seven young people giving special music. One as young as the age of ten, and by the way, a male. Are you practicing doing the first works and serving whenever you can all those who need your help? There are people who would readily give a large donation to someone in physical need, but would never consider or humbling themselves to exercising judgment, mercy, and faith–far more important matters. Forgiving someone doesn’t cost anything in a material sense, but in the spiritual sense it requires giving up self. It requires becoming a living sacrifice.
 

Tomorrow the members of the GCE will determine whether or not they approve the budget, the operations plan, the strategic plan, all of this is necessary, but I believe that doing the first works and getting our spiritual house in order and getting our hearts right with God and each other is far more important than the budget, the operation plan, strategic plan or any of those other kind of things. I know they’re necessary. The GCE can approve the budget, the operations plan, the strategic plan, but only God can approve our spiritual plan for the future.
 

Let’s notice Esther 4. Esther is sometimes hard to find, it’s just before the book of Job. The story of young Esther, probably eighteen, twenty years old, who had been crowned the Queen of Persia, and a great turning point came in the history of the Jewish people in which the evil Haman had devised a plot to exterminate the Jews. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, heard of the plot and appealed to Esther who now was the Queen. He wanted Esther to go before the King and plead the case for the people of Judah. Esther said, I’m afraid. He hasn’t called me in thirty days, and if I go there, and he doesn’t accept me, then I’ll be put to death, but Mordecai responded to her, and of course, Esther did follow through and the Jews were saved, and I’ll leave you with this challenge here today, Esther 4:12 Esther 4:12And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words.
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.
 

Esther 4:12-14 Esther 4:12-14 12 And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words. 13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with yourself that you shall escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. 14 For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but you and your father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
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. ”And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words. Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.  For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
 

In this conference, you’re going to be given several keys for developing a plan for going on to doing greater things, to developing a spiritual plan. And I believe that we have been called to the church of God for such a time as this.

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