Why do we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God?
[Robin Webber] I’d like to move right into the message. I have something that I want to bring to you and I’d probably also be remiss if I did not bring greetings first of all from all of our congregations in Southern California. We are one, one Spirit, wherever we are. We think of you and we know that you also think of us as well.
I do have a message that I do want to bring to you this afternoon, one that will deal with history, one that will deal with the Bible, and one that will deal with you . One hundred years ago, in a remote corner of Europe, one man shot another man and history has never quite been the same since. And we live with those consequences down to this day and to this age, that we see that happening even right now while we are here safe and warm and comfortable, do recognize some of the issues and the events that are occurring over in the Middle east right now, which are, to a large part, go all the way back to the results and the conclusion, and some of the activities that happened after World War I.
World War I was unique in that it was a passing chapter in history – it was the undoing of empires. It was the undoing of kingdoms, whether it be the Ottoman Empire, whether it be the Persian Empire, whether it be the Hapsburg, and basically the British Empire would be on basically fumes for another twenty or thirty years before itself changed. One thing about World War I is that it forever obliterated the optimism of Social Darwinism. That may be a term that some of you might not be familiar with, but knowing that Darwin had been sixty to seventy years before that, that it had crept from the thought regarding the beginnings of the earth to man itself in history. And there was this optimism, there was this feeling that man was moving forward, that there was a progress, that man was moving further and further and further away from the thoughts of days of yore of being a cave man, and pillaging one another, punishing one another, killing one another. Certainly those were things that would occur in the seventeenth century, or the sixteenth century, or back in the Roman Empire. That all came to naught on the plains and on the bloody fields, the muddy fields, of Belgium and France, when men recognized that after all that time that men had not really progressed.
The bottom line is simply this: Human nature had not changed. The weapons had changed and civilization was not ready for the weapons that had come their way. It was indeed a reality check. One thought about World War I is that it is often called the “War to end all wars” – that was wishful thinking one hundred years ago because you and I look at the world that we’re in today. There are thoughts that, on that treasured moment a hundred years ago, that on that eleventh day of the eleventh hour in that eleventh month, that the roar of the cannons subsided. You could begin to hear the birds sing once again. You could begin to hear the church bells toll across the plains and through the villages of France and Belgium and Luxemburg. But that was only for a while. What really occurred was just another new beginning towards the next folly of human mischief.
I bring that up because the more that things change, they really don’t change, and here we are one hundred years later, four human generations later, and I’m not here to be a harbinger of ill tidings or bad news – I’m only here to report what I see around the world and there’s a feeling, and the atmosphere that is occurring in this world today. It seems that in one sense, trouble seems to be looming everywhere. To be frank, there’s an uneasiness that is in the air. We look around the world today - we see the situation that’s occurring between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. We see the situation of the battle and the wars between the Slavic cousins of the Ukraine and Russia. We see the situation in the fertile valleys and the mountains of Mesopotamia, in which historic Christian communities that had been there for two thousand years are being wiped out because of what they believe, and who they believe in, people that have been there almost five times as long as America has existed. And all they wanted was peace in a hostile environment in which they were a minority people.
And we recognize now that they are fleeing north, they are fleeing into the valleys, they are fleeing into the mountains. And you know some of the events that have just occurred the last couple of days, where America has tried to give relief to those people. It is a part of the biggest cultural cleansing that has occurred since 1948, when the Jews begin to be evaporated from North Africa and the Middle East, in which there used to be hundreds of thousands of Jews from Morocco to Persia – that in a matter of years evaporated. They were no longer there. And that we are seeing these historic Christian communities now, in Syria, in Lebanon…the cops in Egypt. The Assyrians that are in the Tigris River Valley, evaporated, killed. Sometimes, frankly folks, some of them both in Egypt and in Iraq have been crucified. This is the world that you and I live in.
We recognize also that we see international borders crumbling, melting, evaporating, as hundreds of thousands of people are looking for relief, are looking for a better life, are being pushed north, east, west or south, depending upon what continent you live in, whether it’s Asia, North America or whether it is Europe.
You and I also see a collapse in morality, of basic standards of morality that had been in place for hundreds if not thousands of years that we now see under the pressure of collapse – due to entertainment, due to media, due to the culture that is around us, due to the “twenty four – seven” entertainment cycle that is upon us, that we see a change that is occurring in this world. We have voices that are coming amongst us that were never there before. When our parents and our grandparents were growing up there weren’t the voices that were impacting lives as they are today – you heard the voice of your grandfather, you heard the voice of your grandmother - you certainly heard the voice of your parents. Those were the molding forces that were in our lives. Now we have all of these voices that come in through the internet, and through the social media, and through the different venues and menus that are out there. Please understand, when I say this, I’m not speaking against technology, but am wary of the voices that are there – the multitudinous voices that are there that are changing society, and can also change the church –can change individuals within the church - can also change us in that we can indeed lose heart as a people.
That is why I’d like to address and bring you to a Scripture in the Bible today…Join me if you would in Psalms 46 and Verse 10 and allow what God says to you and to me here, to be loud and to be clear.
Psalms 46:10 Psalms 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
American King James Version× Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! ‘
Verse 11: The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Brethren, with all of these events that are occurring around the globe, much like some of the events and the activities that are occurring in our personal lives, the word of God tells us today to do one of the most humanly difficult things to do, and that’s to be still . You think, “Who me? I’m doing okay.” So God says, “ You be still – stop and listen.” Not to all of these voices that are coming in…the One that’s eternal that has your very best in thought and in mind.
One of the ways of being still is to pray and to talk to God, and to listen to Him. Jesus Christ knew that we would need to have that conversation with God. And He taught his disciples for all ages how to pray. He told us how to begin that conversation to keep our focus, to set our spiritual and mental and emotional GPS to move toward the destination – and towards the destiny that God has in store for you and me. We find that over in Matthew 6 – please join me if you would. In Matthew 6, and let’s take a look here what it says – beginning in Verse 9 - Jesus speaking:
It is interesting when you look at this verse that within this singular verse there was an expectation that Jesus had about His followers, that they would be still, that they would come to know that He is in God and keep that focus, and that they would need to pray. The expectation was always that they would pray, and He said, and this is how you’ll do it:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Verse 10: Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
My question to all of you, and you are a community of faith here in Cincinnati, Christians and disciples, my question is simply this to you: Have you prayed that prayer of recent date? Our Father which art in heaven …we do have a father. All of us, with all of our different backgrounds…we do have a father. That’s what unites us here, and He is in heaven… and hallowed be His name . And He speaks of this kingdom, and that our plea is that it does come to this earth, and that, that will, that perfect will, that perfect paradise that is in heaven, might come to this earth. That’s the title of my message to you today…very simple, Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done .
And further, I have another question for you then, simply this, what has and is the collective role of the body of Christ down through the ages? How they proclaimed that part of that prayer, that God’s kingdom might come and that His will might be done. And not only that this world needs it…we can look around and say “Oh man! Does it ever need to come!” But do we see that need in our lives and our role, that it is not only towards the world, but that to how much, more than ever, as we experience Christianity, how much we, by God’s grace, need to have that role being activated in our life every day. That’s what we’re going to talk about during this message. We’re faced with a challenge in the body of Christ. The challenge is found over in Luke 18:8 Luke 18:8I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?
American King James Version×– join me if you would there – another one of the gospels. Luke 18:8 Luke 18:8I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?
American King James Version×, it is a story that we break into, the one of the persistent widow.
Luke 18:1 Luke 18:1And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
American King James Version× Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
Have you ever noticed how often through the word of God says, kind of a “pep-me-up” and kind of a “pep-talk”, says don’t lose heart! Why does that message keep on coming out through the Bible? Because humanly, even with God’s calling, even with knowing what we know, we can look around and we can lose heart. And so He says in verse 2:
Verse 2: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.
Verse 3: “Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying,
‘Get justice for me for my adversary.’
Verse 4 : “And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man,
Verse 5: ‘Yet because this widow troubles me …she kept on coming…kept on knocking on his desk…would not leave him alone…he said this: because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”
Verse 6: And then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said.
Verse 7 : “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?
Verse 8: “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.
Now comes the comment that I would like to draw your attention to: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
It’s put out there, because of where this world is headed, having rejected the ways of God, from Eden forward. He says a statement, and He’s speaking to the disciples…He’s speaking to the followers, He says “Will that faith be found when I come back to find Myself in men and women – will I find it? Will it be there?” A faith that we do have a father, which really is in heaven and His name, is to be hallowed – it’s different than all of this that we see down below. And that His will, will be done, on this earth as it is in heaven. That He is the one that proclaims through Isaiah, where He says “I have declared the beginning from the end … and I will do it. I will purpose My purpose, and it will be accomplished – I will do my pleasure, and indeed I will do it.”
This is what we have talked about this afternoon. I’m here to encourage you forward, brethren, with all of my heart, just speaking as a Christian to Christian, to bolster you, to encourage you, to remember when Jesus gave His initial disciples that prayer, that He believed it with all of His heart, and He believed it so very, very much that He gave His own life , as we just heard in that Psalm, that you and I might believe in our Father, through Him, that He was the perfect agent of doing His Father’s will, all the way – Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done . Talked about what happened one hundred years ago, and say, you know, the world’s never been the same since. But it really didn’t start one hundred years ago, did it? If we just said it started one hundred years ago, that would have been like walking in the middle of a movie and trying to figure it out – that’s not a good way to figure out a movie, and frankly, movies are too expensive these days to walk in half way! It began millennia ago. And God created something very beautiful and wonderful – it’s a paradise.
It was incredible. It was, and it says, in the exterior like heaven on earth. And He made a man and He made a woman, and He says, “I’m making you for this purpose. I’m making you to have a relationship with Me. And I’m making you to have a relationship with one another, and I’m going to give you a way of life, and it’s going to be beautiful, and it’s going to be wonderful.” And it sounds just like that zone that we heard about during the messages about camp. That’s what camp is like – that’s what the Garden of Eden is like – it’s like a zone. And God said, “Look, right there, you can have it – you can have this tree of life. Now you’ve got to recognize that it’s going to be based upon My revelation to you. And it’s going to be based upon this understanding that I created you – you’re not your own master; you’re not your own creation. And I want to give you this way of life, and I want to give to you, and you’re going to give back to me…I made you; I didn’t need you. But I desired to do this for you, this beautiful life, this beautiful environment. And I want you to be able to look to Me; I want you to be able to worship Me. I want you to be able to love Me, and as you do we will walk hand in hand, and we will talk in this paradise. And you could have it all, but you have to approach it on the aspect of faith, that I really do have your very best for you, even when you don’t have all the answers in your own hands.”
But, and by the way, over here, just to bring to your attention, there’s a tree of good and evil, and you can have everything in the garden, except the tree of good and evil. And the tree of good and evil was there and the tree of life was there. Now, let’s all please remember, around the tree of life, there wasn’t a castle wall; there wasn’t a moat filled with alligators. It was free, it was there, and you know the rest of the story – man made a choice; woman made a choice. And God gave man and woman the greatest gift of all, and yet, the greatest challenge of all, and that was free will – free moral agency . And in giving His special creation this, not just instinct, but free moral agency, He gave us the greatest gift and the greatest challenge to all of us as to what we’ll do with it. And the one thing that God does is He respects the choices that we make – He doesn’t always agree with the choices that we make, but He will respect the choices that we make. And in that He offers two trees , He offered two ways , with two very, very different outcomes.
Now, Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, but even as they were being exited from the garden, and the cherubim were coming to guard the gates of that garden, God made a promise…turn with me, if you would in Genesis 3:15 Genesis 3:15And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
American King James Version×…and for some of you that are new in the word, some of you that are just beginning to attend this congregation, and maybe you haven’t had the word of God opened up right at this spot, is to recognize that we might say that this was the first prophecy that was in the Bible, and it was about Messiah. Even as Adam and Eve were being, in a sense, exited and escorted out of the garden, due to their choices, and mankind was going one way based upon what he and she decided, this is the beginning of our message brethren; this is how we are to proclaim the message of God. And it is always underlined with hope; it is always underlined with the thought of return. The Bible is a book of love, of law; it’s also about the great return – that return to Jesus . That opportunity to choose the tree of life, and here we see a beginning of a prophetic message of, not doom and gloom, but of hope, of encouragement. That in spite of mankind, what we do, God has a plan and a purpose forward. And He says:
Genesis 3:15 Genesis 3:15And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
American King James Version× And I will put enmity between you and the woman, (speaking to the serpent) and between you and your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, (speaking of the seed of Eve – ultimately Jesus Christ , the Messiah) – and notice what it says here: And you shall bruise His heel.”
Now when somebody bruises your heel, or sticks it to you in the heel, you’re stopped for a moment. And yes, Christ was stopped for three days and three nights. But when you bruise somebody’s head, that’s a knockout! And, as the apostle Paul said in Romans 16:20 Romans 16:20And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
American King James Version×that the role of Christ would be to us the head of the serpent.
Brethren, when we look at this and we begin the journey of considering where we are today with what’s happening around us in this world, we look at this and this is the message of hope; this is the beginning of a message of the gospel of good news! That no matter how dark it is, no matter what direction you’re going for a moment, God has a plan and He has a purpose; He has it in the macro sense, and He has it in the micro sense. And we learn a lesson here that as we are conveyers and preachers of the gospel, we must deal with the macro and we must deal with the micro. We must deal with the populations of this earth, and we must touch individuals personally, and recognize that God has a plan for them. He has good news; He has the gospel. And this is wrought and brought out very, very early after this.
Turn with me, if you would, at the very end of the Bible, to the Book of Jude – fascinating verse here in Jude 9 – don’t look for chapters, because there aren’t any. Jude is a very short book. But there’s something very profound mentioned here in the Book of Jude – right before the Book of Revelation. And notice what it says here in Jude 14 – Enoch was one of the preachers of righteousness that was in that righteous line, coming from Seth. And it mentions here:
Jude 14: Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints,
Verse 15 : “to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
The plan of God, the good news that help was on the way. We heard that I think, yesterday or the day before – I’ve been traveling - that somewhere our President, with the situation that’s happening over in Iraq right now with these 40,000 people that are huddled up on a mountain, with individuals that are down below, that seem to be first cousins of the Mongols. To recognize the depravity and calamity and the ideology that is behind them…I am a history major, so I do study these things, and I’ve very rarely seen a breed like this group that calls itself a Caliphate…you almost have to take a leap back to the Mongols, and to recognize that they did to the same area about eight to nine hundred years ago.
Men and women are fleeing for their lives. Men and women and children that deserve nothing more than to live life, and they have had to run for their lives, and/or convert, to another religion. And even if they do they are at times executed. And historic Christian communities that have tried to live in peace in the tsunami of another religion, for over fourteen hundred years, that are now becoming extinct - almost something unheard of since 1492, with the inquisition in Spain, when the Jews and the Moors, were shown the gate, and shown the way, and they were executed. Brethren, this is the world, one hundred years after World War I – the war to end all wars – our world.
But just like our President said the other day, in that airlift…and we’ll see where that goes, and how much that goes…but he said, he wanted to know the message to those people…He said, “I want them to know that help is on the way… help is on the way.” Almost 6,000 years ago in this message to Enoch, God was beginning to say: “Help is on the way.” The only difficulty since that time is, you say, “Well, when is the big help going to come? When is the great intervention going to be?” There was that time when the remnant returned to the land of Israel, and there was that time of silence for four hundred years…they had not heard the voice of God. The Jews spoke of it as being the voice of the angel, but not that direct voice of God. And they had to wait, and they were waiting for Messiah to come. Finally He did come. But so many didn’t recognize it, because they had made God over into their image rather than beholding what He had sent. We’re 2,000 years since then, since Messiah, since Jesus Christ came. And He said that He would return. People said, well when are you coming back, Lord?
And this cry goes up around the world and down through the ages - that cry that comes out of the Book of Revelation: “How long, oh Lord?” And we’ve all said that…I’ve been saying that for fifty years, since I became a person that began to understand the Scriptures, as a young lad of age twelve. We’ve had some of these young teenagers up here today. I, as a young teenager in San Diego, would say, “How long, O Lord? Don’t you see what’s going on down here below?” And that’s always been the situation. And we do not know how long, brethren. I’m sorry to disappoint you, and I hope nobody will walk out on me! It’s always better when people walk out on you, brethren, than walk towards you when you’re speaking!
Well, let’s note Matthew 24…let’s pick this up in Verse 36 – Jesus again speaking.
Matthew 24:36 Matthew 24:36But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
American King James Version× But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
So we look at that verse, and people sometimes continue to look at that verse, and they think, I’m going to study the Bible very carefully and go word by word… but of the day and the hour …well, what about the minutes and the months? Maybe we can do something with that. The bottom line about this whole humorous side friend is simply this: we do not know when Jesus Christ is going to come back . He’s the one that said it, because He said: It would be as the days of Noah…it was unexpected. People weren’t looking out their window for rain, but it did come, and it came upon them. And we notice that.
But I want to share with you, when we’re beginning to consider proclamation and prophecy is simply this, is to recognize that God here basically says, “I alone know.” But can we know a little bit? God says no man knows the day or the hour. Basically He puts up a trespassing sign. And He says, this is My spiritual and intellectual property alone. You will not know the day or the hour when it comes. If you and I knew the day and the hour when Jesus Christ was to return to this earth, what kind of faith would that take? Or would it be through all of our calculations and all of our machinations that we figured out – it would be by our works that we have put down the welcome mat for God, and say: “Well, you can come now! Your timing and my timing coincide!” No man knows the day or the hour.
One thing, when you look at the Bible and how you study the Bible, it’s very interesting, there’s two things verily…there are things where God is very, very loud, and there are things that God is very quiet about. He’s very loud here. He says: This is My decision . Now in speaking about that, we need to understand something though, and that is simply we don’t want to go into the other ditch. He says there’s another ditch where sometimes people will want to set dates and get everybody excited that, “Now I have the latest date and the greatest arrival plan.” You know, we just had all those birth announcements that were mentioned by Mr. Myers…well; did the baby come when you decided what date it was going to come on, unless you had a C-Section? That baby kept you guessing, didn’t it? You did not know the day or the hour, until…whoop! I think we’d better get to the hospital! Brethren there are just simply some things that we need to leave to God. Did you hear me? There are some things that we need to leave to God - part ofJewish wisdom – the thing that they passed down through the ages. And let God figure us out, rather than us figure out God.
But as I said, we don’t want to go to the other ditch – turn with me if you would to II Peter. In II Peter let’s pick up the thought in Verse 3, because herein lies another danger on the other side of the road, or we might call it the other ditch .
II Peter 3:1 Beloved, - and this is how God expressed Himselfto the words of the apostle Peter – Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder).
Verse 2 : that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior.
Verse 3: knowing this first: That scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
Verse 4: and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
God must have fallen asleep – He must be taking an eternal fiesta – where is He?
Verse 5 : For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,
Verse 6: by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
Verse 7: But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by that same word are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men .
There can kind of sometimes be the thought, “Oh, manana – Oh we can just be ‘spiritual couch potatoes’ – we can just kind of ‘rest on our laurels’ – we remember what it was like when we first came into this way and we first began dealing with some of these Scriptures in the Bible, and we got excited and we thought this was it…but you know, I’m well…frankly very mature about the Bible now, so I don’t get excited… we get it. All these other people, they have the spirit and the sense of urgency – been there; done that.” Brethren, that’s not the way to go either.
What is it about human nature that we either want to be on this side of the ditch and know everything, or be on this side of the ditch and be like an ostrich, with its head in the sand, and when you’re like an ostrich with your head in the sand, you know how much of you is exposed to what part! Did I say that in church?? Oops! But that’s what people are doing by being spiritual couch potatoes and think that it can go on and on and on, and become grafted into social Darwinism, thinking that man, of and by himself, can come up with the answers of and by himself. The Scriptures themselves say there is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof is the way of death. And we do know one way that this world is going. And it’s going on its trajectory that is even further apart than what Adam and Eve first incurred in the garden.
Now with all of that, let’s understand something…I want to share this with you. And I know I would speak on behalf of the Council when I say this…I’ve just gotten some looks and attention on the front row: What is Webber going to say on my behalf! The composition of the…he’s listening now! The composition of the Scriptures has not changed. One third of the Bible is prophecy. Hundreds of those prophecies have been fulfilled with the coming of Messiah and with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem – hundreds of Scriptures that alluded to that first coming. But the equation and the composition have not changed and basically it’s been thought that ninety percent – ninety percent of Scripture is yet to be fulfilled in the future. Whether in our lifetime or in the future, God has plans, and they are going to be coming our way.
How then do we approach that thought? How do we deal with this aspect of one-third of the Bible being prophecy and recognize our individual responsibilities as Christians? Jesus spoke to that, because He thought you might have that question on a Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati! Turn with me if you would to Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×:
Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version× “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man .”
Now, can we for a moment break that verse down and see our two-part responsibility, because I’ve often found in my own nature sometimes, and in dealing with others, that we’re either good with one or the other, but we don’t recognize both parts of what’s being spoken here. It says, number one, that we are to watch, and indeed , as pilgrims on this earth, that are not rooted in this age of man, we do keep our eyes up , we do keep our bodies leaning forward , and we do look for that time when God’s kingdom will come to this earth, and we long for it – we yearn for it. We see good need for it in our lives, the lives of our family, and the lives of our community. The lives of these people that are up on this mountain over in Northern Iraq right now. And so we watch , and we yearn, and we sigh and we cry , and we long…and we see that general trajectory of what us occurring. And the need only for Jesus Christ to come back to this earth, at the right time and the right way, and rescue …rescue humanity from itself.
And we have that promise, and that’s the promise that I want to put right out to each and every one of you, brethren, today, and it comes out of the Olivet prophecy, where it says that there’s going to come a time that Jesus Christ is going to intervene, and He’s not going to let humanity die… for the elect’s sake . I remember the first time I heard that and read that in an article from this church – I was twelve years old. And it was during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962. You read it in the history books and you think I’m history - especially young people! I lived in San Diego, California…I don’t know if you’ve ever visited the Harbor, in San Diego, California. If there are two or three places that we’re going to go up in thermal, nuclear warfare… big time …it probably would have been Seattle, it probably would have been San Diego, and it probably would have been Norfolk, Virginia.
And the world stood still for two or three days; the stores were vacated of all of their food. And we, in our naiveté in San Diego in elementary school, were taught how to be…how to, like an earthquake drill…get underneath our desks, if there were nuclear warfare. I think that was a little naïve in thinking! Now that I look back, knowing that I lived eight miles from the Harbor…but it was not the desk that bucked me up. It was not what America might do, or not do; I knew that it was not the end. Because I held on to that simple promise in the Bible…not even a hundred promises at that time, but that simple promise, that God had a purpose, He had a plan. And He was not just simply a first cause , but He was Sovereign; He was God. And He said that this world was not going to end by men; that He was going to intervene. And it gave me hope as a young lad; it gave me encouragement as a young man to recognize that I rested in the hands of my Savior. That’s where I was at age twelve. Some of you were in that same boat in 1960 and ’63 as we were in the heart of the Cold War.
See brethren, sometimes it’s not how much of the Bible that you know, but where God has placed your eyes and placed your heart, and He places that promise, and you grab ahold of that promise, and you hold onto it for dear life, because that promise has been given to each and every one of us. And I’m sure that was the Church of God’s day in this time of paralysis around the world, where the old solutions are no longer working, where societies are breaking down, where the problems don’t seem to go away, but only tend to multiply, and/or there’s always never a victory…there’s just this continual warfare amongst people. And that’s why you and I, when we pray that prayer, “Our Father, which are in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” that we are looking and we are stating that God is not just simply a first cause, but that He is Sovereign in our life, and He is indeed coming back.
Oh yes, indeed, ninety percent of the prophecies that are in the Bible are yet to occur. Yes, and I believe that Mr. Kubic spoke of this last week, that we recognize that there are scenarios’ and names and place and figures that come up in the language of the Bible, whether it be a beast, whether it be a false prophet, whether it be the abomination of desolation, whether it be the seal that God places upon the 144,000…it does speak of the 144,000. None of these things have gone away. And in the United Church of God we continue to speak and to preach and to teach about these things, hopefully that are in the balance of God’s way of life.
That yes indeed, we do need to leave some things to God. But here’s what I want to share with you, the very simple fact, and it is my belief structure, simply this: There are some things that we need to leave to God, but God is also through His Spirit, been able to share a lot of things that are in the Bible that are highlighted, about the names that I just mentioned. And God gives us enough to consider. He will not abandon us; He will pay up a life into the future, and He will allow us to consider and know enough. And then at that right time and in that right way, by God’s wisdom and by God’s grace, that we will come to understand and to comprehend.
Again, going back, sometimes you often notice that old phrase, basically when you hold on; life is basically when you learn that 4/8/6 are 12! One of the first things I…How many of you are twelve years old - anyone here that’s twelve? Good man! When I was twelve years old…what’s your name, buddy? Okay, Andy. When I was twelve years old I learned something…it was simply this: Amos 3. There’s a promise that God gave, He says: “For surely I will do nothing… surely I will do nothing, but I will not first reveal it to my servants the prophets.” God has not called us into a big guessing game – He asked us to walk the walk of faith; He asked us to be alert. But He also, in Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×, He also asked us to pray. He says to watch and to pray . Historically at times, many people within our church culture have been really good watchers, but God also asks us to be just as good prayers’.
I have a question for you, may I? Why does He say to watch and to pray? Humanity, of and by itself, does not/cannot, handle prophecy by itself. We need the guidance of God’s Spirit. And God says to Jesus Christ, watch and pray. What does praying do? Let me share a thought with you, can I? It’s a little bit like, Abraham. Remember when God was going to visit His judgment upon Sodom, and He came up to Abraham, on the plains of Mamre. And Abraham began having this conversation…it’s really a fascinating conversation…you can turn over to it later in Genesis…and God shared His plans with Abraham. He says, “The news out of Sodom has come to me; I’m going to go and I’m going to visit judgment upon it.” And Abraham began to have this conversation…he did the old ten, nine, eight, seven six, five, four, three…he began to bargain with God – he began to bargain with God . He began to say, “God, wonder if…peradventure” - I think that’s how it comes out in the Old King James: peradventure – I like that word: peradventure.
“If there be fifty men, fifty human beings, will you not spare that city?” To shorten the sermon, he went to forty-five, and he went to forty, and the count-down began. And God allows that, and why did God allow that? And why did God ask us to pray and to communicate and to have conversation with Him? Not so that necessarily God will begin to think like us, but that we’ll begin to see things from God’s point of view. Abraham had to once again understand the Holiness and the purity of God’s way of life – the Holiness and the purity . And as wonderful an individual as Abraham was, as a human being, and God through that prayer and that part was helping Abraham see this.
Brethren, that’s what we need to do as we lean forward – we need to be praying as well as watching, to understand how God sees things. We need to be there at His view-point. We need to have His heart. We also need to recognize in this verse, where it says watch and pray that you may be accounted worthy to escape, and to stand before the Son of Man . We read this verse sometimes and we say, we watch and we pray so that we can escape…so it says we watch and we pray that we might be worthy of escape, if that is God’s will, but the goal-line… the goal-line is not just simply physical deliverance. It’s that you and I might stand before the Son of God, in a state of salvation. That by His grace we might be delivered, not only from this death, but that we might have eternal life forevermore.
Join me then, in Luke 12:35 Luke 12:35Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
American King James Version×with this stated…notice what it says here – Actually, would you just excuse me for a second…you didn’t hear me say that! We’re actually, I think we’re going to go to (let’s try something else here for a second.) This is what we call in a sermon…a time out! Yeah, time outs are good – you can regroup! Turn with me to Matthew 24…see, we can have fun this afternoon even as we’re discussing serious things! And laughter is good!
The question comes up, “Who then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?
Verse 46 : “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.
So there comes again – let’s look at that, there are two statements that are made by the Christ: “Who then is wise and who then is faithful?” Who then does continue to say: “ How long, O lord?” And it’s alright to say that! “How long, O Lord…I need deliverance; this world needs deliverance.” And it’s alright then to watch and to pray. And it says here: “ Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household ….what’s he going to find doing?
I’d like to share a thought with you out of history, if I may for a moment…this is by Dr. Martin Luther, who history called the reformer. Martin Luther, five hundred years ago was asked the question…I think it’s profound and I think his answer is just as profound…and I think it’s very biblical. Martin Luther was simply asked this: “Dr. Luther, what would you do if you knew that Jesus Christ was coming tomorrow?” - “ What would you do if you knew that Jesus Christ was coming tomorrow?” Martin Luther said simply this: “I would plant a tree today…I would plant a tree today, even if I knew that Christ was coming tomorrow and would see different prophecies that were to be fulfilled, I would continue to live my life today – everyday, in a special way.”
And actually, Martin Luther’s comments aren’t too far from the Bible, because God is planting something today in each and every one of us. Turn with me if you would, to Matthew 13, Verse 31 – Jesus speaking:
Matthew 13:31 Matthew 13:31Another parable put he forth to them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
American King James Version× Another parable He put forth to them saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,
Verse 32: “which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
So this thought of planting , and this thought of a tree , that God is performing a work down here; He’s not an absentee cosmic- landlord. There is a purpose that is being worked out here below, and has not changed, brethren. And the message of the church has not changed over eighty years. There is a purpose that is being worked out here below by a Sovereign God. And the message has always been this: Even if at times we have stated it imperfectly, that our desire and that our message has been that there is a Father which art in heaven and His name is to be hallowed. And that our whole heart, and our whole desire , and not only speaking to God above, but to an audience that He will call, listens. That His will, will be done – not only just for everybody else brethren, but that that seed, spoken of here in Matthew 13, might be planted in us; that it might grow in us . That it might fill, not only this earth, but first start with each and every one of us, and fill our hearts ; fill our capacities; fill our lives by every thought and every word and every deed. And that’s what it’s all about.
Things haven’t changed, brethren – the message is the same. I see different presenters out here, I see different writers – they’re speaking the same thing. They speak to that which is loud in the Scriptures . Remember that I talked about earlier, there are things that are loud, and there are things that are quiet. And the doctrine of the church for 2,000 years has not changed. The doctrine of the church is based upon this aspect in prophecy, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that Jesus Christ is going to come back to this earth, in God’s time, and in God’s way. He’s coming back as the Sovereign; He’s not coming just simply back as a babe in a manger. He’s not just simply coming back as a suffering servant; He’s coming back as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. And we even know where He’s going to land: Zechariah 14:4 Zechariah 14:4And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
American King James Version×says that He is going to land on the Mount of Olives, and the Mount is going to cleft in two.
That has not changed; that is loud in the Scripture. Now the events that lead up to that, given the apocalyptic terms that I just used, as the centuries go by, and as generations go by, in our lifetime – understanding will change. Our grasp of this will hopefully expand. How we understand it in 2014 may be different with the world events that are circulating around us, than other students forty or fifty years ago. But it doesn’t change. The encouragements I have for all of you…are there any of you out there like me, that no longer use a…I don’t use a GPS. So don’t get on the Freeway with me, because I’m looking at a map while you’re looking ahead! So that’s kind of what Scripture’s like. God gives us a GPS – He says, “Here’s where you’re going. This is the destination; this is the way and I’ll be with you and I’ll be in front of you. And My Spirit will not lead you or guide you to where My grace will not uphold you. And the greater the need, the greater the grace will be supplied.” That’s God’s promise. But, we’re not going to know every dip in the road; we’re not going to necessarily know every curve around the bend. If we did, it would be by our works, and it wouldn’t be by faith.
But God is doing something – He’s dealing with this world in a macro sense and He’s dealing with us in a micro sense. Turn with me, if you would, to Mark 1. Jesus came to this earth to plant, and began to develop the seed of the Father in different individual’s lives. And it says in Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×, it says:
Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×: Now after John as put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
Verse 15: and saying, “This time if fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Repent, and believe in the gospel. Christ did come to plant. God is not reaping everybody at this time; He has a purpose and a plan. But Christ, 2000 years ago, began to plant and to seed the kingdom in people’s lives, and in their hearts. He continues to do that in 2014. It’s very interesting when you see this phrase where it talks about the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the reign of God, and God above knows how much this earth needs that kingdom experience, and that kingdom life in each and every one of us.
I’d like to quote for a moment from the Interpreter’s Bible Commentary on Mark 1:15 Mark 1:15And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
American King James Version×. I think it’s one of the best definitions I’ve ever heard about the kingdom…I’d like to share it with you:
The kingdom is the reign of God. It’s His sovereignty over mind and heart and will. And in the world, it’s Son- ship to God, and brotherly relations with men. It is in the future, but whenever a human life is brought into harmony with the Father’s purpose, it is present. Whenever a life comes into contact with that purpose, the kingdom experience begins – not the kingdom in its fullness. No, Jesus Christ has not landed on the Mount of Olives; no the Millennium has not begun, but yes, when we repent, and when we believe, and when we come to understand that it’s not just the entire world out here that needs God Almighty and salvation, but we of and by ourselves, need to surrender our lives, voluntarily - not like the world in the future – but now, voluntarily, as that seed comes to us, and that calling comes to us, that we experience that Sovereignty of God in our lives. And that we begin to abide by the constitution of the kingdom of God.
Look at Matthew 5, 6 and 7…that’s the constitution of God’s coming kingdom – a part. Of course, the entire Bible is a part of God’s way. I have a question for you – you’ve got to remember I’m an old school teacher, so I ask a lot of questions in class. Have you ever…maybe I’m the only one…you are all looking at me like this is…I’m not going to grade you - this is just pass and fail, okay? It’s so simple. Have you ever looked at the Sermon on the Mount, and just look at that, because it not only deals with the letter of the law, but the Spirit of the law? Have you ever looked at that and said, “I can’t do that – I can’t do that by myself.” If you can, you don’t have to raise your hand – may I talk to you afterwards, out by the restroom – I’d like to talk to you!
The Sermon on the Mount in part, was given by Jesus Christ, to let man know where he is and who God is. And to recognize that we can’t do it without God’s Holy Spirit. We can’t do…we cannot move forward on that Sermon on the Mount until we have repented and said that we believe, and begin to say that, Oh look at this world, and they’re all wrong…but to recognize our desperate state, of where we were before God graced and called and came to our life, and recognize that He gives us a gift…it’s called the Holy Spirit. And when that Holy Spirit comes into our life, something happens. Turn with me, if you would, to Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×– it says:
Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version× “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith (by that belief, by that hope and by that statement that Jesus made in Luke 18: “Will I find faith when I return?” )
Faith not only that God’s will, will come to this earth, for everybody else, but that now, with that as Martin Luther King would speak about in his writings and his speeches, the doctor would often talk about the urgency of now… the urgency of now …now is the time – now is today; not tomorrow – not manana. Sometimes when I talk to my Suzie, I say simply this: that I only live in today. Why in the world would I say that - like I’m really spiritual…like we only have today? Susan will look at me with a “dead-pan face” and say: “No, not today – you only have the moment!” You only have the moment. What are you doing now?
Brethren, in 2014, this is not the time to rest on our laurels. Sometimes people sometimes wonder about the aspect of “What is the message of the United Church of God? Have we moved away from a message of proclamation? What is this message about transformation?” Brethren, we ought not to separate the gospel, because God the Father and Jesus Christ do not. The aspect of proclamation and the understanding of transformation are all a part of the same gospel. It’s all a part of the same good news. Jesus Christ is going to come back and rescue this earth from itself. At the same time, Jesus Christ has come into our life. It is He that lives in us and not ourselves – that King of the wonderful world tomorrow says in the Book of Galatians, that He lives in us today. And as it says in Philippians 4:13 Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
American King James Version×, it says that “Nevertheless, I can do all things … all things , with Jesus Christ in me, and that He will indeed supply our needs.”
II Peter 3:10 - about to conclude here - brethren, I want to show you something here – this is the power point…sometimes people, because they want a segment of Scriptures where God has not …there are people over here that simply want a proclamation to the nation …over here. Then over here –(are you joining me, I’m over this way) then there are people…because it’s got to be really far apart…then there are people that are really into the gospel of transformation – WIIFF: What’s in it for me? You know – being God - over here. Brethren this is wide apart, far apart, from the message of the gospel. The understanding of proclamation and the understanding of transformation are not in two separate theological camps – they are seamless . We find that in II Peter 3 – turn there…if you’re already there, I’m going to join you. II Peter 3 and let’s pick up the thought here in Verse 8:
II Peter 3:8 But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Verse 9: And He’s not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all (all - that’s a whole interesting phrase to consider) all should come to repentance.
Verse 10: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
Verse 11: Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, (theseprojections – these prophecies as it were, of the future – they do not stand by themselves; they’re not a separate theology. It’s not a separate message.) It says then: Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.
Verse 12: Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
Brethren that is why today, your heart, your prayers, your thoughts and your efforts, are behind what this instrument within the body of Christ is doing. And that is why the Mission Statement of our church is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God – that Sovereignty. Will our heart and mind and soul that started with that king of the wonderful world tomorrow, who said: “Father, not My will, but Your will be done.” Why do we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God? Because there’s always the question that comes to each and every one…every disciple that will heed the call of the Father…I’m going to conclude with this. Turn with me if you would, to Luke 9:18 Luke 9:18And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
American King James Version×:
Luke 9:18 Luke 9:18And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
American King James Version× And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
Verse 19: So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.”
But He asked the question that comes down very…not to the whole world, brethren, not to the seven billion people that are on earth today…the question is singular; it’s one on one and it’s very private, and always will be.
Verse 20: And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “You’re the Christ – you’re the anointed; you’re the one that the prophecies are about – you’re it. You are that ideal; you are God’s gift.”
And as we have come to understand through time, that He is going to be that wonderful king of the world tomorrow. Brethren, as we move forward, I may not have an opportunity to speak to you for some time, and it’s always a privilege to be able to share one heart to all of your hearts for a few minutes on this day. My prayer and my thought to each and every one of you, is simply this: Never forget what our Master taught us to pray, because it’s very easy to lose heart, and Jesus Himself said on that night in which He was betrayed, “Do not be troubled.” And He taught each disciple down through the ages, one and all, to remember this, that when it gets a little dark down around here, don’t look around; don’t look at their faces, as He told Jeremiah, but look up. And remember what I taught you, and where to put your focus… “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” And may God above hasten that day and answer all of our questions, in all of our lives - How long, O Lord – how long?”