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Prisoner of Hope

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Prisoner of Hope

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Prisoner of Hope

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Continuing the vision of God's Feast when we return to our homes and daily lives. An old adage states that "seeing is believing." However, for those who are spiritual, some things have to be "believed to be seen." Vision is the art of seeing invisible things.

Transcript

[Mr. Greg Thomas] Well, welcome to the last service of the 2021 Feast of Tabernacles and the last great day. In a few hours, we'll be leaving this year's Feast of Tabernacles and going back to our homes. In nearly 50 years I've been associated with the faith, I've often heard at the beginning of the Feast, it was asked, “Why are we here?” Well, I'd like to discuss where should we go from here. Since this is the final day that we will be together for the Feast this year.

So as we conclude the Feast this year, I'd like to ask and answer the question, “What does God want me to do? What does God want us to do from this point on?” Here's what scientists now know about the universe because of powerful space telescopes, telescopes we have floating in space, looking at the edges of the universe. Here's what we now know. In the fraction of a second it takes to blink your eyes, thousands of stars will be born, hundreds will explode, millions of new planets will form, and our universe will expand by 300 million miles in diameter. And these numbers only account for the observable universe, not for what could be happening beyond because we can't see that yet, where some scientists believe there could be an infinite expanse of space.

Yet, brethren, what God is doing in the fraction of a second that it takes to blink your eye is nothing in comparison to what He is doing in your life right now. He has two great works on this earth that are very important to Him, far more important than an expanding universe. Two great works I would like to quickly mention so that we can get to the answer of the question that I started out this sermon with.

The first of God's great works is the preaching of the Gospel to the world by His church. Let's go to Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
American King James Version×
and review that.

Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
American King James Version×
God's first great work. "And Jesus came and spoke to them saying, 'All authority has been given Me in heaven and on earth.'" In other words, Jesus is saying, "Nothing can stop you from doing the tasks that I'm going to give you to do. You can stop yourselves but nothing can stop you because I have all authority. I'm with you. And to the end of the age, all authority has been given in heaven and earth. Go, therefore, and teach and preach the Gospel, the good news of the coming Kingdom of God."

And I might add, the complete Gospel also includes not just the fact that there is a kingdom coming, but who the king is. The king is Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for the sins of humanity. That's also part of the Gospel message. "Go, therefore, preach the Gospel, and make disciples." Those two phrases are on our church's heel, preach the Gospel, prepare a people, "And make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even and to the end of the age." Amen. This is what we traditionally call the Great Commission. It's been the assignment of every faithful generation of the church of God since 31 AD and remains our commission today. Yet, God also has a second great work.

Philippians 1:1 Philippians 1:1Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
American King James Version×
, if you'll turn there with me. I believe this was mentioned by Mr. Beam in his excellent sermon.

Philippians 1:1-2 Philippians 1:1-2 [1] Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: [2] Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
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God's second great work. Paul wrote to the congregation of Philippi, "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."

Think of what a loving man Paul was. "Every time I think of you," he says, "I thank God." Do we have that attitude towards our brothers and sisters in Christ as we're working through the week, as we're doing certain things, and we have a remembrance of something that someone said on the Sabbath day or conversation that we had during the week? Thank you, God. Thank you, Father, for providing me with brothers and sisters of like mind for me to share my life with.

Philippians 1:3-4 Philippians 1:3-4 [3] I thank my God on every remembrance of you, [4] Always in every prayer of my for you all making request with joy,
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"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy." You see, the brethren weren't a bother to Paul. He made his request joyfully. When he thought about them, and he remembered them it was remembrances of thankfulness, of joy. Is that how we feel about our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Philippians 1:5-6 Philippians 1:5-6 [5] For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; [6] Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×
"For your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing." Here's God's second great work, "that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it, until the day of Jesus Christ."

Your life. What God is doing within you to serve Him forever in the kingdom of God is His second great work. Everything you experience, good and bad, is used by God for a purpose, and that purpose is to reshape us from the selfish, carnal people that we are as physical beings into caring and loving spiritual creatures in Christ.

God uses a process to slowly transform us into His character and into His likeness. That process is what we call life experiences. Some of them are good and positive. Some of them are very difficult, painful, and discouraging. But when you live in the light of eternity, no experience is wasted. God uses those experiences, good and bad, to transform us into the kind of new creatures that He desires that we are.

It's been said that the two greatest days of your life are the day that you were born and the day that you discover why. When you came into the faith of God, you were given that gift of knowing why you were born. The very meaning of this eighth day helps us to understand the purpose of our calling to serve the multiple billions and billions who will rise from their graves and need patient and loving teachers, ambassadors, coaches, friends, leaders, priests, and other servants who are prepared to serve them. Not just prepared to serve them but prepared to serve them with enthusiasm and joy. Just like Paul said, we read in Philippians 1, that he thanked God upon every remembrance of the brethren. He said that he was joyful. And he made his request and served them with joy. That's the kind of calling that God has given us, the kind of purpose that God has given us. We're going to talk about more of this in the short-term future.

We're going to live in a world that is going to be completely opposite of what we find in our world today. I'll just take one little thing and talk about the difference. In our world today, we use the term greatness, our media emphasizes that certain people are great. In our culture, we build monuments to those that are great. We write down and record in history those that we consider to be great. But what do we find in our culture today? Well, here's who the media defines as great. First, overpaid idolized athletes who play with balls. They're considered great. And when they say something outlandish, it's reported in the media. They're idolized. They're celebrities. Why they must be good. They must be great because we pay them millions and millions of dollars to do what they do. In essence, it's become an entertainment complex. It's not even much of a sport anymore.

When I was a young man, football players in the NFL had to go back to their real jobs when football season was over. They went back to the factories. They went back to the areas where they made a living because then it was pure sport. They played for the pleasure of the game. Now, it's all about entertainment, the complex of entertainment.

Other people who are considered great are actors who stand in front of video cameras and pretend to be something or someone they are not, and we pay them millions of dollars. And every time they cough or sneeze, the media reports what they said as if it's so profound, so important, so enlightening. That's considered greatness in our world today.

We have politicians who are virtually addicted to lying and hypocrisy. We don't have statesmen anymore. We just simply have politicians. A child asks his father, "Daddy, do politicians ever tell the truth?" The father answered, "Only when they call each other liars, son."

And then we have the business elite. They're great. Well, they buy and sell companies, they fly themselves around the world in spaceships. Everything that they say and do is reported with intensity, and the world considers them great. But what God is preparing for in His kingdom are people, yes, indeed, who will be called great. But great will be applied to the teachers and saints who serve in the world tomorrow, those whose character was refined and polished by their life-challenging experiences, those who are destined to care for the billions resurrected as the fulfillment of this eighth day. In other words, you. You are destined to be called great. Oh, not just for a short physical lifetime, but for eternity.

Matthew 5:19 Matthew 5:19Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×
Jesus said, “that whoever does His commandments and teaches His commandments shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” And that's great for eternity, not just for a single human lifetime.

Matthew 20:26 Matthew 20:26But it shall not be so among you: but whoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
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Jesus also stated, "Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave."

So just one simple thing, like the term greatness will be turned upside down from what it is today in this world, as those who God is working with are preparing themselves to serve humanity forever.

Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
American King James Version×
Paul wrote, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

That's what Mr. Myers was talking about today, taking our calling seriously. It's not that we can save ourselves but we need to be moldable. We need to be teachable. We need to be humble and take the role of our need for growth and change and be conformed to the mind of Christ. We need to take that very seriously.

Philippians 2:13 Philippians 2:13For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
American King James Version×
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."

You see, brethren, you bring pleasure to God as He works in your life. Yes, as His children, we don't do everything correctly. Sometimes we make serious mistakes, and sometimes we may even disappoint Him. But in spite of those things, He loves us as a patient Father, takes pleasure in our growth and development like we do our own children. I have seven grandchildren. And they're not perfect. They make mistakes. We've been spending the Feast with our youngest grandchild, 17 months old. He certainly makes a lot of mistakes. He's just a little guy. But in spite of what he does, we love him to pieces because he is our own. And that's exactly how God views us.

Philippians 2:14 Philippians 2:14Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
American King James Version×
"Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,"—a very dark world I might add—"holding fast the Word of life so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain."

So, again, brethren, God is working in our lives in ways that we don't even see or understand. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He has a development plan for your life. And the things that come to you in life are part of that growing and training, that development process. Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×
, if you'll turn there with me. I want to emphasize that God isn't mad at you, God is mad about you. And it is His good pleasure to mold us into the new creatures that He can use for His service towards others.

Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×
"I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."

You know what the challenge is of all of us being living sacrifices? If we're not careful, we can squirm off of the altar. We have our own mindset. We have our own attitudes. We can be willing to be a living sacrifice for a while but then we may lose that desire. We may lose our enthusiasm. And we'll be talking about that shortly.

Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
He says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

So Paul reminds us here that there is something called the eternal law of sacrifice. And here it is. We must give up something to gain what we want in life. The eternal law of sacrifice says that "The greater the value, the greater the sacrifice that will be required." Everything has a price. We pay a price if we want to make things better and we pay a price for just leaving things the way they are. The choice, you see, is ours.

And as we get up shortly at the end of this service, and we rise, and we leave this hall, and within a day or so we leave this community and head back to our homes, we really have three choices that we can make. And I hope you will make the third choice. But we really have three choices that we can make, and only that third choice allows us to be used by God to develop the mind of Jesus Christ. Here's choice number one. We can choose to give up. Now, sadly, every year some individuals choose to make this choice.

This is my 49th Feast of Tabernacles, and probably virtually everyone, I can think of someone who left a previous Feast of Tabernacles excited and recharged to continue in the faith, and then somewhere along that next year, they became discouraged, they became disillusioned. Maybe they were offended, or they were overwhelmed by the cares or the temptations of this world. In a period of time, they cut themselves off from the church and their brothers and sisters in Christ. Their attendance and participation slows down, and then they stopped coming. Those of us in the ministry have seen it many times. As I say, this is very sad. They forget that the value of the one great Pearl of Price was that the merchant was willing to sell everything that he had to purchase that pearl. How about our sacrifice? Are we willing to leave this facility and make personal sacrifices to change our lives for the better to help the church of God propel forward?

So, the first choice we have is we can choose to give up. And I might add, for those who have made that choice, we should pray for them. We should ask God to be merciful to them and hopefully, like the prodigal son in the parable, they'll return home. That would be wonderful. And we should pray for them, certainly. Matthew 24:10 Matthew 24:10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
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, a scripture that is more potent than ever when we think about the cancel culture that we live in today and how so many people walk around with a chip on their shoulder.

Matthew 24:10-13 Matthew 24:10-13 [10] And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. [11] And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. [12] And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. [13] But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
American King James Version×
Jesus said, "And then many will be offended and betray one another and will hate one another." Have you read a discussion on social media lately just about any issue? It turns very negative. People are very divided. They're entrenched in their own opinions and ideas. "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many." And I might add this, these false prophets may not even be of a Christian concept. A new age philosophy can be a false prophet. Human philosophies of how to discover happiness and how to do this, and how to do that can be a false prophecy because people buy into it. They give their lives to it. They get their focus off of God and off of the truth. “So then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold, but he who endures to the end will be saved."

Oh, yes, we can choose to give up, but that's a very poor choice because there is no salvation in us beginning this journey and then simply giving up. Jesus states here that because lawlessness prevails, many lose their love for God or lose their love for their brethren. As the world becomes more evil, some lose their faith in God's promises, and some even begin to doubt the return of Jesus Christ. But brethren, no matter what happens to you, don't give up. Don't quit. Be spiritually grounded and connected to God on a daily basis. Be determined to maintain the calling that God has blessed you with.

Luke 9:62 Luke 9:62And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
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Jesus said, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

So no matter what you may be going through, keep looking up, keep praying, keep studying God's Word, keep that connection with God's people, and keep both of your hands on that plow.

Dr. Randy Pausch was an American educator, a professor of computer science and design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In August of 2007, he was given a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. After the diagnosis, he gave an upbeat lecture to the students and staff of the university. You can find on YouTube, by the way, entitled "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." And he gave it on September 8th, 2007. Dr. Pausch only lived 10 months after this lecture, and he died at age 47, some might say the prime of life.

Here's a statement from "The Last Lecture" regarding obstacles that arise in life to try to slow us down or stop us from reaching our goals. Here's what he said, and think about our calling, think about the obstacles that our enemy throws in front of us to discourage us, to try to get us to stop, to abandon the faith, to give up. Think about that. Here's what Dr. Pausch wrote. He said, "The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are not there to stop us. They're there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough."

Brethren, how badly do we want to be in the family of God? How badly do we want the kingdom of God on this earth? How badly do we want to serve in a world that has universal peace and complete healing, abundance for everyone, joy, happiness, and fulfillment for every inhabitant on earth? How badly do we want those things? So the first choice is to give up.

The second choice and one that concerns me as a church pastor that I've unfortunately seen within the last 18 months is we can choose to give in. Brethren, are we spiritually minded, or have we sold out to the carnal self-interests of this world? Have we begun to focus too much on physical things, physical discussions, physical arguments, physical opinions? We read a few minutes ago from Romans 12 that Paul stated in verse 2,

Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

Another choice we have is to become part of this carnal world in order to conform and kind of fit in. We do this when we become too focused on the politics of this world, on the media of this world and their interest rather than spiritual things. Then we allow their strong opinions and ideas to become our strong opinions and ideas. And instead of leading, we become followers of secular worldly events that causes division in the world, and it causes division in the church of God. 1 Peter 1:13 1 Peter 1:13Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
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. Let's see what Peter told us we should be focusing on.

1 Peter 1:13-14 1 Peter 1:13-14 [13] Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; [14] As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
American King James Version×
Peter writes, "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind." Now, this is a figure of speech based on gathering and fastening up the long Eastern garments. People used to wear what we would call long robes. So in order to get to work and do physical things, they would have to gather up all that material and fasten it so it wouldn't interfere with their legs moving and with their body movement. They didn't want it to interfere with their physical activity, that they would be ready to get to work, they would be ready to do their business. So when it says, "Gird up the loins of your mind," it means get ready for work, get ready for action. "Be sober." Again, this is a precious calling we have, and God can only work with us If we're moldable, and teachable, and humble, and willing to learn. "Be sober, and rest your hope fully on the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance."

In other words, not going back to the way that you were. And what do we find in the carnal world today? What's the world's focus today? Pandemics, arguments about this or that, wars, nations, political disputes, left, right. These are the things that the world focuses on. But we shouldn't be, brethren.

1 Peter 1:15 1 Peter 1:15But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation;
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"But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'" I'm going to read verse 13 here from the New Century Version. "So prepare your minds for service and have self-control." Again, this is verse 13 from the New Century Version. "All your hopes should be for the gift of grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ is shown to you."

Brethren, we are ambassadors for the kingdom of God. We should not participate in anything that attempts to divide the church. Oh, yes, I know we all have our different opinions on masks and vaccines and politics left or right, and other physical earthly discussions, but to allow our opinions to divide us is exactly what's happening in the world. It shouldn't be happening in our congregations. It shouldn't be happening in the church of God. That's what the world does. That's what Satan wants within his church of God. And that is all caused by the fact that we begin to give in and conform to this world's standards, and values, and interests, and we get our minds off the ball, and the ball are spiritual things, and that coming kingdom to this earth.

We should remember that our focus should be on a spiritual kingdom, not in all the stuff that happens in this physical world that we live in today. The kingdom that we will be entering will have unity. It'll have camaraderie. It'll have teamwork. It won't have people arguing about masks, and vaccines, and all the things that so many get wrapped up in today. A good Christian principle is to make the best decision that you can on any of these topics. And then when you've made a decision, just like you would want people to give you dignity and respect for the decision that you've made, you should offer the same dignity and respect for others who have made a different choice than you have. That's the example that we should be setting as the church of God. So that was the second choice. And, again, as a pastor, that's one that I'm concerned with because, in the last 18 months, I've seen things that I'm ashamed to see, frankly, in the church of God.

The third choice we can make when we leave here today, and the one that I hope that you will choose is instead of giving up or instead of giving in, choose to give it your all. Give it everything that you've got! Make your life focus, allowing God to do that second great work in your life. Because as that second great work of His occurs in your life, you are preparing each and every day to serve those billions and billions of people who will be raised from their graves, and you can communicate with them, and love them, and talk with them because as we say in this world, "Been there, done that," you lived a physical life. You knew what discouragement feels like. You knew what it is to struggle to overcome a sin or a problem. You know what human beings need because you've lived it. You've been there. You've done that, and now you can take all of those life experiences that God prepared you with to serve the billions and billions who do not yet know God. Ephesians 2:8 Ephesians 2:8For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
American King James Version×
. Paul writes here again,

Ephesians 2:8-10 Ephesians 2:8-10 [8] For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
American King James Version×
"For by grace, you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship."  See, I told you, you were God's second great work. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

So, again, you see, you too are one of God's great works. His second great work is what He's doing in your life to prepare you for His family. And what Paul is reminding us is that God is working out something wonderful in our lives. Oh, yes, we're human. We'll make mistakes. And yes, we may see and experience some very terrible things. But no matter what we experience or have to go through, please understand that God is always present in our lives, using those experiences to cultivate change and growth in us.

If we are called of God and we live according to His purpose, everything we experience, good and bad, helps to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. When you are a child of God, no experience is wasted. If our attitude is right, God will use any experience to help us to get to where He wants us to go and grow individually because He has an individual development plan for each and every one of us. Even painful events and experiences are part of His grand purpose for your life. You know, a precious stone cannot be polished without friction, neither can we be perfected without challenges, without trials, without those brick walls that Dr. Pausch was talking about. Verse 10 here, I'm going to read again from the New Century Version.

Ephesians 2:10 Ephesians 2:10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
American King James Version×
"God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing."

So God wants us to live the rest of our life doing good works because that's all part of the training process. When we become a new creature, and we achieve God's best for us, excuse me, it means that we begin to look at everything from God's point of view. And God's point of view, when He looks at our life, is that our physical life has three dimensions. Physical life is a test, physical life is a trust, and physical life is a temporary assignment. It's a test because we go through trials and challenges, and we face those brick walls, and it develops our faith, and it molds our character, and it changes us to become more spiritually minded.

Life is a trust because God entrusts us with the gift of His Holy Spirit. And we're responsible for obedience. We're responsible for using that Spirit to develop the fruit of that Spirit. And life is a temporary assignment because this physical life that we hold so dear is just the preface of the book of eternity. We focus so much on this physical life, but if you look at the realm of eternity, this physical existence we have, if we're gifted with 70, 80, 90 years is just the small preface, the first page of a book that goes on forever and ever. But we have an assignment. And that assignment is that God has called us to become like Him.

Please understand that our Heavenly Father is your biggest supporter. He has great favor for all of you. You're not a mistake. You're not an embarrassment to God. He believes in you even more than you believe in yourself. That's how important we are as God's great work.

Psalms 37:23 Psalms 37:23The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delights in his way.
American King James Version×
The Psalmist wrote, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." So a good person, their steps are guided. Their steps are directed by God, "And He delights in his way." Now, let's read the rest of this verse. "Though he fall, he will not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with his hand."

Brethren, when our hearts are right, when our attitudes are right and we live God's way of life, we give Him delight, delight in seeing us change, delight in seeing us grow, and taking our lives to another level. That gives great pleasure to God. And even when we sin and stumble, God is there to cushion the impact of our error. We worship a God of second chances, who is quick to forgive us when we repent and fall short of His law.

And in order for us to give it our all, which is the third choice and the one that I encourage all of you to make, let's remind ourselves of our spiritual profession and calling. If you'll turn to 2 Corinthians 5:18 2 Corinthians 5:18And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
American King James Version×
. Now, many of us have physical callings and careers but then we also all have a spiritual calling and mission. We all have the same spiritual calling and mission. Physically, we may be consultants, like I am, or we may be farmers, we may be entrepreneurs, we may work in a factory, we may do many things physically, but spiritually, we all have the same profession. And this is a profession that we need to cling to, that we need to accept and understand with enthusiasm as we leave the Feast of Tabernacles of 2021.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 [18] And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. [20] Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God. [21] For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
American King James Version×
"Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation," bringing people, drawing people to God, of healing that breach that exists between humanity and God. And through our example, and through the things that we say, and the things that we do in the church and the work that the church does, we have a ministry of reconciliation, connecting and bringing people back to their God, people who have strayed, like we had. Verse 19, "That is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you in Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God."

If there's something that we need to do, as Mr. Myers mentioned in the first message today, if some way there's a sin, something we need to work on, if there's something we need to change to be reconciled to God, please let's do that. And if you need help, seek help. There's no shame in asking for help. Verse 21, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

So why is this so important? Why are we learning to be ambassadors for Christ now? Why should we even do that in this age? Well, it's because that will be our major role in the kingdom of God. In the kingdom of God, as represented by this very day, billions of people will come out of their graves. There will be someone to greet them. That someone will be one of the saints, one of the family members of God, who will be an ambassador to them, a mentor, a coach, someone to begin to guide and direct them through all the confusion and fear. Think of people who died as soldiers in a war battle, and the next thing they know, they wake up and they're coming out of the grave. People who died of cancer in a hospital, and then now the next consciousness, here they are, they're walking out of this grave. You think they're going to be a little confused, fearful, maybe, a little bit of anxiety? You bet. But there will be ambassadors that are there to love them and show them the way.

Ambassadors are positive reflections of the government they represent. It's their job to embody their nation's values, laws, customs, and goals. And we are called to be ambassadors for the soon-coming kingdom of God. Being an ambassador today actually prepares us for a much greater role that we will have as represented by this day. Are we ready for that assignment?

I don't want you to think that the task will be easy. I don't want you to think that God working in our lives as His second great work is going to be easy. There are going to be challenges. There are going to be disappointments. We'll make some mistakes and bring problems on ourself. Our culture will bring problems on us. Satan, the devil, will bring problems on us. So I don't want you to think that anything's going to be easy.

This world is growing darker and more unstable every day. Many people whom I talk with today in the business world are confused, and discouraged, and anxious about the future. But in contrast to this dying world, we can be that ray of hope, that light that we spoke about earlier in scripture, that light that shines to an ever-darkening world. And you know what? As the world gets darker and darker, maybe some people will be called, some people will wake up and understand that they need to get right with their God. Only when it's dark enough can you see the stars. So the darker that it gets, the more some people will say, "I need to know God. I need to have a relationship with God. I need to be reconciled to my God who can help me, who can mentor me, who can teach me."

We have a saying in this world. We say that, "Seeing is believing." Have you ever heard that "Seeing is believing?" But you know what, brethren, that's all wrong from a spiritual perspective. It's not understanding how wrong it is makes us stumble. It causes us problems. It's all wrong from a spiritual perspective. When we have the mind of Christ, believing is seeing, knowing in your heart, being convinced through faith that God's promises are sure, that God truly indeed is working in your life. Believing is seeing. And when we're able to envision the kingdom of God and our personal role in it, that abiding faith, that belief will encourage us even when the going gets tough. And I can assure you, it's going to get a lot tougher than it is now.

Do you ever feel like a prisoner in this world? I certainly do certain times, and I feel like I'm a prisoner in this world. In my lifetime, I've seen so many changes that would make your head spin. You know, Hebrews 11 states that the faithful patriarchs were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. But the world they lived in didn't change a whole lot in their lifetimes. In my one lifetime, I grew up, attended an elementary school where we said prayer to begin the school day. The 10 Commandments were posted in the school.

Today, our religious faith is ridiculed by our very own culture. The founding fathers and their religious faith are mocked. The media is disrespectful towards people of faith and religion. I've seen that in my lifetime. In my lifetime, I've seen a 1973 decision by the Supreme Court that resulted in 50 million abortions, 50 million. That makes Adolf Hitler and Stalin look like amateurs compared to the number of human beings that we've exterminated as a culture. The change in the concept of marriage. I don't even want to go there.

In my lifetime, the so-called gender identity movement, you know. If you decide that you want to sign up for Facebook today, you can go on there, and when you get to the point of them asking you your gender, Facebook gives you 58 options on your gender identity. And then history is being rewritten to support a particular political agenda. Brethren, it's like dystopia.

I'm really happy about one thing, as a young man, I watched every episode ever of "The Twilight Zone." And I'm really glad that I did because having watched every episode of "The Twilight Zone" prepared me to live in America in the year 2021. It's unbelievable simply the changes that you can see in one lifetime in a world gone mad, and it's very easy to feel like you're a prisoner pushed into a corner, bullied, intimidated because of your religious beliefs, discarded because of your religious values.

After both Israel and Judah went into captivity, the prophet, Zechariah, was inspired to write something very encouraging. If you'll turn Zechariah 9:11 Zechariah 9:11As for you also, by the blood of your covenant I have sent forth your prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.
American King James Version×
. The prophet was inspired to offer them a promise of hope when the Messiah returns to set up His Kingdom. They too felt like prisoners. They lost their land. They lost their possessions. They were outcasts in the world, much how we feel often, some of them made very deep and personal sacrifices, and so have some of God's people over the years. Some have lost in the church their jobs, some have lost their family, family members abandoned them. Some have lost their health, some have lost financial stability. Some have made tremendous sacrifices to be part of the faith of God. But here's what the prophet wrote about God's promises. Some Bible commentators say this is actually a prophecy about the church.

Zechariah 9:16-17 Zechariah 9:16-17 [16] And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign on his land. [17] For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids.
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"The Lord their God will save them in that day." That's a promise of salvation, "As the flock of His people," His very precious flock, His chosen. "For they shall be like jewels in a crown lifted up like a banner over His land." Hovering over his land, the people that are considered great, like a wonderful banner, highlighting the truth of God's kingdom. Verse 17 "For how great is its goodness, and how great its beauty! Grain shall make the young men thrive, and new wine the young women." In other words, there will be plenty to eat, plenty to drink, including good drinks, alcoholic drinks. It'll be a land rich and full with abundance. This is God's promise to provide salvation and favor of His people as His precious jewels. Their kingdom will be one of great goodness and beauty.

And now, verse 12. As we prepare to leave the Feast this year, as this service is going to conclude very shortly, and within a day or so, most of us will have left these beautiful surroundings and heading back home. Let us remember what the prophet wrote here in verse 12.

Zechariah 9:12 Zechariah 9:12Turn you to the strong hold, you prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double to you;
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"Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today, I declare that I will restore double to you."

Brethren, as we leave here today and we head back to our homes, let's depart here truly, but let's return to the stronghold of God's Church in our local areas, to the people who love us, to the people who are there of like mind, to the environment that should be one of peace, where we can worship God in spirit and in truth. Let's be sure to meet regularly on the Sabbaths and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let's faithfully support the work of the church and allow God to finish His great work inside of us. Let's remember that we are the jewels in God's crown, His elect, His chosen, destined to serve the future of humanity, instead of being like the people of this present world. People in this present world feel like prisoners of despair. Some are prisoners of fear. Some are prisoners of anxiety.

Let's dedicate ourselves to be prisoners of hope. Remember that in the spiritual realm, believing is seeing. And if we should lose anything because of our faith, if you return home and you lose your job because of your personal views on wearing masks or whatever may happen to you that you may sacrifice, that you may give up for that pearl of great price, it will be restored double because that is God's promise.

Our final scripture today, Isaiah 30:18 Isaiah 30:18And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious to you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy on you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.
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. This is a prophecy about the people of Jerusalem and those who will have been designated as ambassadors, and kings, and priests to serve the physical people of Jerusalem. Let's read about it.

Isaiah 30:18 Isaiah 30:18And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious to you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy on you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.
American King James Version×
"Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you." God isn't eager to punish anyone. God is a patient God. "That He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are those who wait for Him." Are we willing to make that third choice I talked about today? Are we willing to patiently wait for the return of Jesus Christ? Are we willing to do all that we can do to allow God to do His great work inside of our lives?

Isaiah 30:19 Isaiah 30:19For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: you shall weep no more: he will be very gracious to you at the voice of your cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer you.
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"For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; When He hears it, He will answer you."

I remember a booklet entitled "The Answer to Unanswered Prayer." Stop the presses. You won't need that booklet anymore because when people ask God for something, He'll immediately answer them. Prayer will be answered because the whole relationship in this kingdom between the people and their God will be different.

Isaiah 30:20-21 Isaiah 30:20-21 [20] And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not your teachers be removed into a corner any more, but your eyes shall see your teachers: [21] And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
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"And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of afflictions," though the Lord allowed you to receive some correction, yes, you receive some stern training. God did that, indeed. "Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers." At that time, people who teach the commandments of God and are called great will no longer be intimidated, or bullied, or canceled because they believe in God and placed in the corner anymore. There'll be front and center with the confidence of the living God dwelling inside their very being teaching, training, loving, and caring for the people who are resurrected on the very day that this eighth day represents. "But you shall see your teachers and your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left."

There will be a coach, someone there to love them, and guide them, and that someone is you. What a great and wonderful calling we have? Brethren, we have such a great future ahead of us. I encourage you to remain in the faith knowing and believing that God loves you, and He's preparing you each and every day for an eternity of fulfilling service within His family.

You know, the Apostle Paul believed and understood that believing is seeing. When he wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9 1 Corinthians 2:9But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.
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, he said, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”

On behalf of the United Church of God, may the Lord God truly and richly bless you, and may He safely protect you on your journey home. Let's make the right choice. Let's all decide to give it our all.