Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Signs - December 2, 2012 - First Sunday in Advent - Text: Luke 21:25-36
Our text for this morning reminds us of signs and the importance of signs. There are signs such as, when you see the buds on the tree you know that Spring is on its way. There are signs of the changing of weather. There are billboard signs and ads. There are street signs to point us in the right direction. There are many signs we depend on in our world.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. The word Advent means “coming.” In particular the season of Advent is the time we set aside to prepare ourselves for our celebration of Jesus’ first coming, as a baby, born in a stable, placed in a manger, in the small town of Bethlehem.
Yet, much of our focus, for preparing ourselves for our celebration of Jesus’ first coming, is on Jesus’ second coming. This is true because the events of and Jesus’ first coming have brought us to the beginning of our waiting for His second coming. So, how do we approach these events? In our text, Jesus tells us to approach these events by looking at the signs. The signs will help us to know when these future events will play out. So let us talk a little about the future.
One view of the future is what I would call a “doomsday” view. A doomsday view of the future includes prophecies or predictions of the last days and how bad things will be. We see this in the “signs” of what is happening on earth. We see this in the fact that there are wars and rumors of wars, there are nations rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms. It seems like the forces of nature, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, monsoons, wildfires and the like, are more and more working to destroy the world.
Have you ever watched futuristic movies or television’s view of how bad things will be in the future. I would say that 99% of all movies and television movies depict our future and the end of the world in a very bleak manner. The suggestion has always been that art depicts reality and if that is true then what else could we expect from movies and television? Our nature is that we are sinful from conception. According to our human nature what else could we expect except a bleak future.
Why is this bleak view of the future the case? This bleak view of the future is the case, because apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus there is no hope, only despair. Apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus there is only eternal spiritual death. For the unbeliever they only have themselves to depend on and that leaves them only with despair. What happens when a person turns into themselves, looks inside themselves, to find hope? They find more sin. They find sadness and despair. They turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to relive their depression. And it becomes a vicious cycle. The worst of it is the fact that apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus there is only eternal spiritual death and hell.
And to this we want to add what our text says. “25And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (v. 25-26). It does not look good, does it?
But, before we despair, before we buy into the rhetoric of the doomsday naysayers of our culture, I think we should take a look at the future from a Christian perspective. As Christians we may dread, not necessarily the end of the world, rather the way the events are to take place. In other words, as a Christian we know that our future is set, yet while we remain in this world we will have to contend with the catastrophic events that await as this cursed world comes to an end.
As Christians we see the signs of the times and we may have doubts. We might wonder if God is so powerful, why does He not do something? We might rather give into the beliefs of our society than suffer for our faith. These temptations are great and they will only get worse. Just take a look at how many people, even how many other denominations have succumb to the pull and temptations of our society. Too many churches have exchanged the truth of the Bible for the lies of society. What was once considered sin, according to the morals of society and church, is now considered normal and natural and what was once considered normal and natural is now considered sin. It is getting harder and harder to be a Christian in our world today.
But, rather than be dismayed, we take refuge in what our text says. “27And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (v. 27-28). As our Wednesday morning Bible Study came to understand from the book of Job, while things may not always seem fair while we live in this world, while it may appear that the righteous are punished and the unjust are rewarded, the day of Judgement will arrive when God will indeed make all things fair, right and just.
And even more, as Christians we take refuge in the fact that we have God’s promise as we read, “33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (33-36).
This text sounds a lot like our text from last Sunday. Again we are reminded that God’s Word is sure! God’s Word will never pass away. Heaven and earth, our present physical living quarters may pass away, but God’s Word is permanent. God’s Word will never pass away. We have seen this truth in that God has and continues to keep His promises, the promises made in His Word. As He has kept His promises, especially as He has kept His promise to send a Savior, a Messiah in the life of His Son, Jesus, so He will continue to keep His promises, especially His promise to return on the day of Judgement. These are the signs of the things to come and the signs that He will continue to do what He says in His Word.
As Christians we are not to worry about what will occur, rather we are to watch, and pray that our faith may be strengthened so that we might stand firm. Really, there is no other way in which we would be able to stand firm. On our own we would perish. From the moment of our conception we are destined to meet the Lord. So, one question we all need to ask ourselves is the question, “Are we ready to die?” And another question we need to ask ourselves is the question, “Are we ready for Jesus return?” These are the two questions we need to ask ourselves, because either way, at our own passing or at the Lord’s return, we will meet the Lord. As Christians we answer these questions with a resounding “YES!” with the help of God.
As Christians we look with joy to the sure hope of the resurrection and to our being in heaven with Jesus, the Son of Man. As Christians, we may struggle with the events which will take place, especially since these events could well include our own suffering, however, we do not despair because we have the hope and the certainty that because of our faith in Jesus, because of His suffering, death and resurrection, because of His giving His life and shedding His blood for us, we have the certainty of eternal life in heaven.
Today we begin the season of Advent. Why do we begin Advent talking about the end times? Because Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension ushered in the beginning of the end times. We are living in the last days. As incredible as that may seem and probably as much as we really do not believe it, it is true. Jesus’ promise is that He will return, when we least expect it, and just as He kept His first promise to come and save us, so He will keep His promise to return.
We begin Advent talking about the end times because we, as Christians, joyfully look forward and eagerly anticipate the second coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And, unfortunately, very much like the fact that there was only a handful of Israelites who were still looking for the coming of the Savior in Jesus’ day, so by the time Jesus does return there may only be a handful still waiting, anticipating and eagerly expecting His return today. By God’s grace we are a part of that handful.
We begin Advent talking about the end times in order to remind ourselves that we do not live in a vacuum, rather our lives, our short life here on this earth and especially our future lives in heaven, have been determined by the past perfect life of Jesus. Unlike the unbeliever who has only to look forward to a future of despair, we have a bright eternal future awaiting us in heaven with Jesus and all the saints who have gone on before us. The signs are all around us. The Word of God gives us faith, forgiveness of sins and strengthens us in our faith so that we do believe the signs. The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts and through the means of grace continues to work strengthening of faith in our hearts, that is why it is imperative that we make regular and diligent use of His means of grace.
Advent is a joyous occasion to look back and see all that our Lord has done for us and to look forward and see all the good gifts and blessings He has in store for us. My prayer for each one of you is that you will continue steadfast in your faith so that you are ready, so that we might joyously celebrate Christ’s first coming on Christmas morning, and even more so that we might all be ready for His second coming when He will come to take us all to be with all the saints standing before His throne and saying, “To God be the glory.” For Jesus’ sake. Amen.