The greatest challenge to all of us in the twenty first century is to keep God relevant in our lives. How can we do that?
It's an amazing experience every year to come in and see how quickly ABC finishes. How quickly the graduation weekend arrives. You talk with young men and young women you've known for, in some cases a lifetime and they're shaking their head about "where did the time go?" It's a phenomenal experience. Life returns to normal very abruptly for some. One young man that I've known since he was just a few years old I asked, "Where to from here?" and it was basically, a trip across the country, and into college classes next week. For some of you, it's the start of your college career. For some, you've taken a break in between, and you're back to the latter half. For some of you, this was a rite of passage, so to speak, after you'd finished college, before you begin your working career. And for some of you it was the dream of a lifetime in more senior years, and for you it's a return to a local congregation.
What challenges will you face when you return? Considering the range of backgrounds and personalities in each ABC class, there are always a variety of challenges that lie ahead for ABC graduates. But there is one that every one of you will face, and that's the one that I'd like to focus on this afternoon. You've just finished a literal immersion course in biblical instruction. In seven months, you've been exposed to more biblical instruction than most people will receive in a lifetime. For those of us old enough to have gone to Ambassador College, in your seven months you got a lion's share of what we got over a four-year period. Walking away tomorrow afternoon or tomorrow evening, or if you linger and you leave the next day or two, and you go back to wherever it is you're going, I'm sure for many of you it's going to feel like that you've been on a double espresso Starbuck for seven months. And you walk out and you go cold turkey off caffeine. Its "where did life go?" and "how did it come to such a screeching halt?" In that setting, one of your greater tasks as you leave here, and as you leave, as I said, a literal immersion course in biblical studies, one of your challenges will be the challenge of keeping God relevant in your life. It can sound like a hyperbole but I genuinely believe that the greatest challenge of the twenty-first century for all of us is going to be the challenge of keeping God relevant. I'd like you to consider a couple of realities. I'm going to occasionally give you a scripture that you know well, not require you to turn there. Let me give you a couple right now. You can simply jot them down I don't…there are some scriptures, so well known, that I don't think it's always necessary to turn.
We're told in Ephesians 6:12 Ephesians 6:12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
American King James Version×that…we wrestle not (against) with flesh and blood…but we wrestle…against principalities (and) powers…that are invisible - that we can't see.
We are reminded at the very beginning – it was fascinating as I listened to the selections the chorale sang, to hear scriptures from today's sermons threaded through some of the songs – in Genesis 3 as the serpent is introduced as a character in the plot with Adam and Eve, it makes an analytical statement that says the serpent was more subtle than (all the) beast(s) of the field. It was referring to his cunning; it was referring to his tactics.
Our battle in life is not against what we can see; it would be tremendously easy, comparatively if it were. But the battle that we fight in this life is against things that we can't see, we can't feel, we can't smell, we can't hear, we can't, by any of the bodily senses, sense. And yet, they're just as real as any of us sitting in this room. Tactically, the chief adversary, who lives in that invisible world, invented stealth. Today the military powers of the world pride themselves in the ability to create stealth weapons. Well, they're only 6,000 years behind the times. The author of stealth was a being described in Genesis 3:16 Genesis 3:16To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.
American King James Version×who was described as the most subtle of all beings. He never attacks head-on what he can attack from the rear. It is never his style to be overt when he can be subtle. His greatest tool is cunning.
In that setting, let me give you an illustration of making something irrelevant. I'm old enough to have been a child of the super hero comic book era. And I cut my teeth on every conceivable kind of super hero both currently known and not currently known that you can imagine. The Supermans, the Batmans, the Captain Marvels, the Green Lantern, Plastic Man, the Fly, and on and on, and on it goes. And as a child, your mind wraps around all of these phenomenal abilities that these creatures have. Before the days of television, the hair on the back of your neck would stand up every evening when the Shadow was introduced, and his powers identified as some ability to make himself completely invisible to the people around him. Satan has done all the super heroes one better. He has made himself irrelevant. Completely known, in that sense -completely visible, simply irrelevant.
It is a far, far more sophisticated objective. In 50 years time, we in our western sophisticated society have moved from the time where this particular being was known, identified, recognized and in a sense that you'll understand – respected. Just like you respect a rattlesnake, a lion or some other being that can harm you. In 50 years, we have moved from there to the opposite position. I remember as a child the simple fact that every time you picked up the Sunday funnies, and literally at that time this is without exception, he was there within the funny papers as an object of humor or one of his subordinates. How many times the little being over here with a halo over his head was saying "Don't do that, don't go there, you shouldn't" and over here with a set of horns and a forked tail and a pitch fork saying "Go for it, go for it, that's okay, nobody will know the difference" One of the cartoon strips when I was a child was called "Hatlo's Inferno". And there was a cartoonist named Jimmy Hatlo that every single Sunday, he had one of the large single-frame cartoons about what was going on in hell.
Over a long enough period of time, if you trivialize something you will eventually reach the place where people both become comfortable with it, it becomes a part of popular myth, and in enough time, it even becomes antiquated. A point is reached where you see the being, and you smile, and you shrug, and you grin, and you continue on because this is a part of folklore. It's a part of cultural myth. As that goes on over an extended period of time the point is reached where the being, who first became a cartoon feature, later a part of antiquity simply becomes irrelevant. You and I live in a world where the western sophisticated world, by the majority do not even believe in his existence. What greater capacity for stealth can you have then to be able to walk freely among society, enter the lives of people, and simply not even be seen as relevant?
That's the dark side; let me give you the light side. You already have evidence, in fact you have substantial evidence already at hand at how the process also works in making the ways of God irrelevant. From the time that Jesus Christ was on this earth, preaching, living his life, ascending, sending his disciples out to continue that work – from the time that He did this, it only took 400 years for the cornerstone of His ministry to become completely irrelevant. By the time of Augustine, the core of Jesus Christ's entire mission and message had dropped out of relevancy in the Christian world. Simple reality, because many of you have grown up in other faiths prior to being called into the Church of God, the mechanics are very simple and all of us understand it. If I have an immortal soul that never dies, the soul whose consciousness continues on despite the termination of physical life, it has to go somewhere. If, upon the end of my physical life it either has to go up to a reward in heaven or down to a fate in hell – of what relevance is waiting for the return of Jesus Christ? It has no place. Is it known? Absolutely. Positively. Is the theology understood? Absolutely. Positively.
If you were to walk through every major biblical encyclopedia on the shelves today, study under the article " Kingdom of God" or some relevant subject, I dare say it would be impossible to find a theological reference that would not acknowledge the biblical veracity of the teachings of the Kingdom of God. And then simply shrug the shoulders as it were and get on with relevant life. Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, under the article " Kingdom of God," contained a statement in one paragraph that contained so many superlatives in support of the Kingdom of God, that it is hard to read it and grasp it without stopping to comment on its content. So I will read it and stop and comment on its content. And yet the authors of this particular encyclopedia, in terms of their theology, do not really see the relevance of the Kingdom of God in terms of day-in, day-out practice. It's an irony – no lack of knowledge, no lack of acceptance of its place in scripture, no relevance to their mission, their teaching, their theology.
Quoting from the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, article entitled "The Kingdom of God," and as I said I will have to stop three or four times in this paragraph because of the magnitude of what it's saying. " The idea of the Kingdom of God is the central idea of the whole dispensation of revelation." What he just said was, the idea of the Kingdom of God is the central thought of the entirety of the word of God, from the first word in Genesis, to the last word in the book of Revelation. The entire dispensation – from the time it starts, when man comes on this earth, until the time it disappears into the dimness of the future following the coming down of the Holy City – New Jerusalem, and God Himself taking residence on this earth. Continuing the quote, "the Kingdom of God is the end, and motive of all divine revelations and institutions." The Kingdom of God is the end, it's where everything is going, it's the motive, it was the reason for every divine revelation and institution. There wasn't anything that God instituted since man has been on this earth that was not heading in that direction. It was the motive that God had when He created man. The Kingdom of God is the end and motive of all divine revelations and institutions of the old and new covenants. There is no place in the old, and there is no place in the new covenant where the Kingdom of God was not the focal point. "yea…" continuing the quote, "yea…" I need to read the whole sentence. " The Kingdom of God is the end and the motive of all divine revelations and institutions of the old and new covenant, yea of the creation and promise from the beginning." And yet it took man 400 years to make it irrelevant.
By the time Augustine wrote his great works, he was able in the then Christian world to minimalize the Kingdom of God, and reduce it to the dusty shelves of theology. The very first of the songs of the chorale sang of the destination. The lyrics that they sang repeatedly in that first choral anthem once more made the point within our circle that is where we're going, and that is where we're headed. You will leave ABC and you'll go back to local congregations where that is still as valid and as real and as important as it ever was but you will step back into either an academic world or a work world where it has no relevance.
Consider if you will, Matthew 6 and a couple of significant scriptures. Both of them in the Sermon on the Mount. One of the great challenges, not just for ABC students returning home but for every single one of us as Christians, is to remind ourselves in a world that is highly materialistic - we live in the most materialistic age that we have ever seen in modern history. We have greater wealth, we have greater mobility, we have more luxuries than man, at any time, could imagine. I have mentioned in the Portland congregation once again, not too many weeks ago, a reality check. A reality check where I said "do you realize that every single solitary one of you, no matter how modest your income, eat better than all the kings and queens of this earth over history?" The variety of delicacies that you have available to you at any supermarket so far transcends what the kings and the queens of the richest empires of the earth had available to them that they could not imagine how you live. Not the rich among you - the normal among you. We live virtually in a surreal world, prospered and blessed completely out of balance with all the rest of time. And unfortunately, it has head-turning power. Christ's word to His disciples is even more relevant today than when He spoke it to His disciples. He said in Matthew 6.
Matthew 6 - As He was concluding the Sermon on the Mount, he had talked to them about all the cares and worries of the world – the need for food, the need for a job, the need for clothes, the need for protection, the need for safety. And He said, "You worry about all of these things because you're normal and you're human." He said, "I want you to keep one point of reference ever in front of your eyes"
Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×- He said "…seek first the kingdom of God and His" - that is God's – "righteousness," seek that Kingdom, and seek to live in a fashion commensurate with that Kingdom, and I will be with you to take care of the physical needs.
That is totally backward from the world that you and I live in and that those of you who have immersed in ABC will be going back to. One of the great challenges in keeping God relevant lifelong, is to always keep God in the place that verse 33 has put Him. If He is first, if what He stands for is first, if what He believes is first, miracles are the common among the children of God. There's not an individual within the Church of God with any tenure at all that cannot describe to you the inexplicable blessings that have come that have no rationale. Interventions that have been given that did not seem possible. It is a part of Christian life – "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and I will help take care of the rest." As Jesus Christ was speaking earlier in this same chapter, if you go back to the beginning part, you will remember that the disciples said "Lord would you teach us how to pray?" And He said, so to speak – it's assumed in there that "I would be happy to." He gave them an outline, a prioritized outline, and He said "the very first thing that you do is always remember the greatness of God." Now he put it in these words:
Matthew 6:9 Matthew 6:9After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.
American King James Version×- (KJV) "…Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name." All He is saying there is, always remember the phenomenal greatness of God. And when you have that firmly implanted in your mind's eye, the next thing following that is what? "…Thy kingdom come."
You know I give mankind a great deal of credit for tenacity. Man slogs along through life with all sorts of problems, ever optimistic that one day he will find a solution to them all. "I will find the solution that will end all war, and I will find a solution that will end all hunger, and I will find a solution that will end all disease, and I will find the solution that will end all prejudice." And as he goes along, he continues to move backwards, smiling all the way, that he's going to solve it. The only solution to those things is the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is beyond man's capacity to find the solution to war. He is incapable of finding the cure to all diseases. He is incapable of ending all prejudice. He cannot control his environment to the place where he can end famine. God can, and God will. And He will do so by the advent of His kingdom. If you are to keep God relevant in your life, that Kingdom has to be at the front of your life. If it moves away from that place, the relevancy of God begins to dim.
If you were to move 1,400 years forward from the time that I referred to earlier, you'd come to the 1800's. Probably the next greatest blow to the relevancy of God took place in its more crystallized form within the 19th century. The advent of Darwinian evolution and those who followed in his steps brought about, as it were, almost a rabid desire to find a way to remove God as relevant to man's physical life. Evolution is not totally about, in some cases you can wonder even if it's primarily about, a scientific study as much as it is about removing God as someone, who by inference has jurisdiction in my life – has reason and cause to tell me how to live. If you take the step from evolutionary thinking to humanism, they will tell you very pointedly, "I make no room for any God to tell me how to live or to set the standards by which I should live." And it's a very short step between the two. We've arrived at the place in our world, our western sophisticated world, where very few intelligent people, as society sees intelligence, attribute to a God, the creation of the material universe. In general, to ascribe to God the creation of the material universe is to simply brand yourself as somewhat pathetic, uninformed, ignorant, opinionated, or worse some pejorative adjective. We're not in a world that wishes to dialogue about that possibility. We're not in a world that wants to discuss it. We're not in a world that even wants to acknowledge that it's a viable alternative. We all read the same newspapers, the same news magazines. We watch the struggles between anyone who tries to bring into the public forum any form of acknowledgement that the hand of God is involved in the creation of the material universe. And it is fought tooth and nail. It is fought in the highest courts, banned from the schools, banned from the public forums, banned wherever it may be banned.
Mr. Kilough and I were driving from downtown Cincinnati on Thursday, I believe, and we were driving down the…there was a detour on US Highway 50 so we had to take the US Highway 50 truck route. We went by a very austere, large, gray, stone building, and we were both wondering what it was, and I looked up and there it said Cincinnati Water Works, an imposing old building. Mr. Kilough was pondering, he said "You know, I remember seeing the water works in Sacramento and written, engraved in the stone of the building was a verse from Ezekiel that talked…and it was probably from the millennial side of Ezekiel, the Kingdom end of it out past Ezekiel 40 where it talked about waters flowing forth and bringing life."
We engaged in a dialogue as we were going along, I said, "I remember being on the campus of the University of Michigan standing in front of a very imposing central building on the campus, and reading the scripture across the top of the building – both marveling at the beauty of the scripture and marveling at it's complete irrelevance to the students who were walking around beneath it. In a sense, the only thing that amazes me is that we have not arrived on the doorsteps of ancient Egypt and ancient Greece where you always knew when the new…when the new philosophy came in because they knocked the noses and ears off of whosever statue was there before them. I'm surprised we haven't gotten the jackhammers out and simply just tat-tat-tat-tat-tat, taken all of the scriptures off the front of public buildings." Not sure when that might come next, but you wonder "how on earth do you tolerate those things that have been carved there? Why don't you simply scrape them away, fill them in, paint over them or jackhammer them off?"
Turn back to I Peter 1.
I've subscribed for the last couple of years to the Smithsonian magazine, I thoroughly enjoy some of the articles and at the same time, every time I open a new issue, I put on my filters. I do the same with National Geographic, Scientific American; I do the same with Readers Digest. It doesn't matter what it is – I pick up something, I put on the filters. Every so often, I'll see a television program on Nova or the History Channel – interesting subject – put on my filters. Because I know the minute I turn it on, where it's going to go. And it isn't going to go where God lives. That unless I put on a strong filter, I am simply allowing a steady stream of indoctrination in a direction that I'm not going - and that I will never agree with.
I Peter 1:13 - Peter writes... uses an interesting metaphor, he says "Therefore..." verse 13 this is because of the world in which we live, he said "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, (and) be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
When is the grace that God has in store for you going to be delivered? Revelation isn't about the book, it's about the time when you actually see Him with your eyes, and when you see Him you are not supposed to be flesh anymore. Because in less time that it takes for you to blink, you won't be who you are now in terms of composition. You'll be immortal, imperishable, incorruptible – but He said between now and then " gird up the loins of your mind." You've all seen the biblical robes that went down to the ground. It's a simple matter that it's a very difficult task to run in one of those. The men of the day wore a belt. They referred to it as a girdle, but there's simply no difference between the girdle of that day and a belt of today. And if you realized or thought or apprehended that you may have to make quick motion, you simply reached down to the ground level, picked up the skirts, tucked them in your leather belt, so that now, fundamentally a kilt length garment would not impede your ability to run.
Robinson's Word Pictures in commenting on this particular verse, he was going through the various Greek words, and he took the word for mind and he said the word for mind that appeared here is an old word for the faculty of understanding, of seeing things through…or seeing, excuse me, let me do that again…the word mind, the Greek word for mind, according to Robinson's Word Pictures, is an old word for the faculty of understanding of the ability to see through a thing. The comment that I made to you about The Smithsonian was made because I can see through The Smithsonian. I watch the eyes light up and a nod here and there as I went through the list of places where you have to be careful. It's simply acknowledged from your perspective "yeah, I have to watch out for that." I like to know about nature, I think God's creation is absolutely phenomenal. I hate to see the way it's packaged and the way it's marketed
Romans 1 - If there is one place in all the Bible that I consistently come back to as my resting place for vigilance, the place that I come back to think about relevance, it's Romans 1 - especially when it comes to the natural sciences and the physical universe.
In Romans 1:18 Romans 1:18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
American King James Version×, Paul writing to the most sophisticated people of that day, said "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Verse 19 - "because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them."
You know there is a difference between something being visible and understandable, and something being accepted. He said they are capable of putting two and two together and coming up with the same conclusion that you are, but they don't want to. Because what may be known of God is obvious – manifest – because God has shown it to them. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen." They're understood by the things that are made. Even God's eternal power and Godhead should be obvious according to Paul by looking at what exists around us.
In fact, so much so, that Paul cuts them no slack. He says, "They are without excuse." It's fascinating to see quotations from some of the most rabid of the evolutionists. It is the old axiomatic – "you can't, you know, convince me. I don't care if you have the facts. My mind's made up." Paul said the same thing. He said, "You know right from wrong, you know what should be. You do know that this can't just happen. You don't want to accept it." To accept that all of this didn't just happen requires a willingness to be in subjection to somebody, some thing. When a man says "I will not be subject to anyone." He said the end result in verse 22 is:
Doesn't matter how many doctorates you have behind your name, doesn't matter how high your IQ. It does not matter which academic societies you belong to. Paul made a very simple statement. He used the term "suppress" or "hold down the truth." Robinson in Robinson's Word Pictures makes another very interesting comment about the phrase "suppressing the truth" or "holding down the truth." He said, "Truth is out in the open but wicked men," so to speak, "put it in a box and sit on the lid and 'hold it down in unrighteousness.'"
If you don't pry the lid off, nobody is going to do it for you. If you don't pry the lid off and look in it on a regular basis, the society in which we live will make God irrelevant in all of the natural sciences. They're not going to assist you; they're not going to help you maintain that relevance. You have to do that.
There is something that has been in the developmental stages during the last couple of decades and will probably, in hindsight, come down as the 21 st century's greatest contribution to creating irrelevance. If I were to try to look down the road and prognosticate where a historian a hundred years from now would be as he looked back in a religious sense on this century, my guess would be, in terms of what did this century contribute to creating irrelevancy, I would say the contribution of this century would be to remove the relevance of God from modern customs and ceremonies. Evolution was a product of the 19 th century. Heaven, hell and the immortal soul were in full blossom by the fifth century. Our contribution is probably going to come in the realm of removing the relevance of God from modern customs and ceremonies. In fact, if you follow news closely, you will already have seen test cases that demonstrate that. This is a…this is a perverse illustration, but one that you will all recognize, as all of us here in this room do not recognize Christmas as a Christian holiday.
We do understand that in the world around us it has been treated with great reverence by the religious as one of the two great religious holidays along with Easter. We've reached the place in test cases in certain societies where Christmas, in a system that says "we do not commingle religion with public education" begins to make allowances for the celebration of Christmas in that setting on the basis, the legal basis that Christmas is a secular holiday. Doing as much flying as I do, and quite frequently on the airlines that serve the Cincinnati area there are movies played I…I remember some time last year, one of the movies…I have no recollection of what the movie was – I think Hugh Grant was in it, it was in a Christmas setting. I watched the movie with fascination as all…the entire movie centered around a Christmas observance. And I marveled at what I was watching because in the entirety of this movie there was virtually nothing religious about the observance of that day. It was one of the most classically secular observances of a formerly religious holiday that I had ever seen depicted visually or in print. We're moving in that direction. We're moving in that direction very nicely. Christmas has evolved from being a time when people paid great reverence to who they saw as their infant Savior to a place where it's all about gnomes and elves and sleighs and reindeer and presents and singing and drinking and partying and very little room for the relevancy of God – even though it's a wrong setting.
II Timothy 3 - I don't know how often you look at the Apostle Paul as a prophet, but in terms of prophets, Paul in the New Testament setting is about as good of a prophet as you're going to get. He has some phenomenal prophecies.
II Timothy 3:1 - The Apostle Paul says "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come." He said "we are going to have perilous times at the end of the age." What is he talking about? World wars? Famines? Diseases? No. The first of the perils is that men will be lovers of their own selves. They will be totally and completely into "me." Lovers of money…you know, it's hard to separate "loving me" and "loving money" because money really helps me love me more. Boasters…and I don't need to go through all of these, but it is all about "me." And, you know, the more I elevate "me," the less place there is in my life for God. And I can elevate myself to the place where I am so significant and so important that God isn't relevant at all.
Every one of us who is a pastor in the Church of God, if we've been in that position for any time at all, have literally performed dozens and dozens and dozens of funerals and weddings. I still remember the first funeral I performed. Scared me totally out of my shoes. Young and green and inexperienced. I also remember the nature of it, and over the years since then, what a transformation funerals have taken. Not too long ago, in one of my congregations, we buried a very active deacon. He was so full of energy, you couldn't tie him down. He was retired, but he didn't look old enough to be retired. When you asked him how things were, he said, "They're so good, if they got any better I wouldn't be able to stand it." And you never saw him without a smile. He was coming in from haying last summer, twilight time, came out of the hay field, let his wife through the pasture gate, she went up to the house, he latched the gate, she noticed he wasn't there, she went back, he had died of a massive heart attack at the gate.
The children are not in the church. As the daughter talked to me about the funeral, her comment was, "I don't…I don't want any scriptures, I don't want…don't want any preaching – don't want any scriptures. I want a celebration of life." Over the years, it's been interesting to watch funerals move from being a point in time where people soberly acknowledge the frailty and the temporary nature of life to an activity that tries to move as far away from that reality as possible. This is not stated in a way, nor is it stated to provide an implied message. To note the passage of a notable person, to honor their accomplishments, these things are not wrong. But I have watched the complete migration in many cases, since I also attend funerals outside the Church of God for family members who are not in the church. I've been to many of those, where I was not the officiant, I was simply a guest. And you watch…you watch the movement from a time when people should stop long enough to realize, "I'm only here for a short time, and when that time is over, unless somebody raises me from the grave – that was all there was. If I live three score and ten - by reason of strength – four score, or beyond that, it is still but a moment in eternity, and I'm not there anymore."
The hope of the resurrection, it's inextricable connection with the coming of the Kingdom of God has always been where the death of good people leads. If it leads no further than a celebration of their life, what a hollow, empty event it is. Because God said through His apostles that eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor could the mind of men comprehend what God has in store for him. And, if the accomplishments of this small, little spot in time is the biggest thing that you can see at the death of a human being – what a myopic view. This is a time, in terms of celebration or ceremony or solemnity where God's relevance needs to always be there.
It's interesting to watch exactly the same thing on the wedding side. There is nothing more beautiful than the point in time where a young man and a young woman absolutely, totally in love with one another, choose to start a life together with hopes and dreams and all of the excitement that's a part of that. But embedded in all of that is the fact that God, when man was made, saw in human beings what an absolute joy and beauty it would be if there was more than one gender. If there were men and women. And that each could totally, completely fall in love with the other, and He said, "You know what? In all of that beauty and excitement is one of the best illustrations that I can give of what it means for the Church of God to one day meet Christ." He said "I can't get humanity closer to what it will mean for us to one day meet Christ than through the creation of male and female to marry." And so every time we read a wedding ceremony, we go back to Ephesians 5 and we make the point that all of this physical arrangement of men and women – loving, cherishing, caring, adoring one another is symbolic of the relationship with Jesus Christ.
When all of our ceremonies remove God, God has reached the ultimate point of irrelevance. He's not a part of physical science; He's not a part of material creation; His plan is no longer the destination. He's a side note or a foot note to celebrations and ceremonies. Not a lot left. I've touched some of the large ones this afternoon. There are others. We live in a very, very artificial world. The false sense of security that we have from famine and from food shortages that have been created by both modern farming and marketing lull us into a state of oblivion that few people break. Once in a great while, something like Katrina hitting New Orleans, as an illustration, bring everybody very abruptly and quickly into the reality that all of this chain is very tenuous. And if you fracture it there's no life net and no support underneath. But it allows us to go day by day through life without realizing the relevance of God and that when we say "Give us this day our daily bread," that He keeps that very, very tenuous net underneath us. As I said at the beginning of the sermon, one of the greatest challenges that you may have as you leave ABC, may simply be keeping God relevant in the midst of a world that has marginalized His name. They've marginalized His office. They've marginalized His power. And I'm being kind to say marginalized. They've marginalized His works, and they've marginalized His teachings. In closing I'd like you to turn to one scripture that demonstrates how critical it is for all of us to keep God relevant in our lives. That scripture is well known to many of us. Matthew 24. But I don't know how often you've looked at this particular scripture, that we're going to read, through the eyes that I hope I've provided for you this afternoon. One of the very well known scriptures from the Church of God.
Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×- "And unless those days were shortened…" we know the beginning of Matthew 24, it's the question from the disciples "tell us the signs of the end of the age and of your return" and as he walks through it He comes to a pivotal scripture that says "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would (will) be saved;but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened."
This world…I don't know how often you stop to consider a simple reality. This world will be saved from extinction because of a few people referred to by God as "the elect" exist. In the framework of the sermon this afternoon brethren, consider a simple realty; at the end of this age, all mankind will be spared extinction because a small band of people considered God relevant. And in return, God considered them relevant.