Jesus said in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” I’m writing that because that is where we already stand, regardless of the condition of the world and this country. And I tell you that, because I think, and you might agree, we are at a pivotal, serious, consequential, sort of tipping point in history. We’ve had some hard times with the various wars we’ve fought in American history, and the time in which we live has not been one where we’ve experienced massive deaths like we have in the past. But that reminds me of the false prophets, who said “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace. Before things become the worst they’ll ever be, things very likely will look very good. They won’t look good to God, but they could look good to people with little discernment. You’ve traveled down descents that went from gradual to steep. You see those emergency pull-offs for big trucks. The steepness of our descent has increased and we’re getting to the bottom much faster than when we did before. Those factors that could slow us down have also deteriorated. While we sail at a faster descent down this slope, that doesn’t look or feel so bad to most. The hitting bottom is where you really find out. Let’s not be a factor that increases the speed downward or the descent. We should inhibit it, even if we were far from it.
Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA
A few years ago up in Sacramento I was talking to a man who did not like the biblical truth of one way of salvation. He wouldn’t take one way of salvation unless there were several ways. There is only one way. That’s the truth. I asked the man if he was against there being one cure for certain diseases, because that is often the case. He paused for a very long time before answering, because he knew he was in trouble. If he said, “yes,” then he was a hypocrite. To give him some credit, he said, “no,” and said that did give him reason to think about what I was saying. What I found was that it was just an excuse, not a reason. The real reason is that he likes being in charge of his own life, but that doesn’t sound very credible. If I talked even longer, or even again, we could explore the idea that he isn’t even in charge of his life, because there are so many factors related to the fall that leave him in slavery to the consequences of sin and its curse. Men go looking for the one cure for a disease. This is normal. Billions of dollars are spent by the general public to prolong physical life on average a few years. On the other hand, the public will spend nothing to extend life through all eternity. Men count on this life. It means everything to them, and the next life means almost nothing. Churches and the individual Christians in them take charge of the cure for the second death.
Jesus in the kingdom parable, the parable of the soils, says that “he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). The good soil is the believing heart, someone who is receptive to the good news and is saved through the gospel, which had been sown there. You see from Jesus that every genuine believer will reproduce. In a sense, everything living reproduces. This characterizes a living thing. Jesus doesn’t say why one good ground will produce more than another ground. He isn’t even saying that the plant that reproduces the most was planted on the best soil. I don’t think we should deduce that for several reasons. From the context itself, we know that reproduction will occur only in good soil. We know from 1 Corinthians 3 that God gives the increase and that the sower is irrelevant. For that reason, 1 Corinthians 4 tells us that what is important is faithfulness. We will be judged on faithfulness. You might be faithful and only see 30 and someone who is less faithful sees 100, because he is sowing on more productive soil. We shouldn’t be discouraged by a lack of productivity. We just want to be faithful. So my concern for you is, are you faithful? Fearfulness and faithlessness are unacceptable.
What you think is what you do, so if you want to do something different, you have to think different. Many negative thoughts are not going to contribute toward success in life. I’ve got to battle those thoughts myself. Almost all of our thinking comes from the outside and come into our mind via the senses. To live successfully, you’ve got to choose the source of your thinking, which must be the truth. In the end, success is judged by and determined by the truth. The truth is found in Scripture, the final arbiter of truth. The Bible is the sole authority for what we believe and do. You are off the mark if you don’t follow what God’s Word says. Therefore, to be a success you’ve got to think what the Bible says and to do that, you must feed your mind with the Bible. The problem here is the tendency just to let whatever is out in the world to feed your mind with whatever is in it. It’s easy just to allow yourself to have the world control your thinking. This is living by sight, instead of by faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. We’ve got to control the thinking agenda. You have to choose what you are going to think about, which means choosing to read the Bible, listening to sermons from scripture, and then making the plans to obey all that. You’ve got the ability as a Christian, God’s grace, but you’ve got to want it and be vigilant with it. Will you?
Common in scripture are the words, “be fulfilled,” and speaking of the fufillment of a prophecy. Ezra 1:1 reads, “that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia.” Matthew 1:22 says, speaking of the events of Christ’s birth, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet.” Then there are a lot of those in the gospels, all pointing to Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. People should have expected Him. Do you think this is true? Do you think people should know? There is nothing like it and people don’t know about it. They don’t hear it in school any more, since the public school has removed the Bible. Television doesn’t show a true presentation of scripture. When Hollywood makes a film, it’s trying to pull in an evangelical audience, as in this recent film, Exodus, but it isn’t telling the truth, just attempting to make money with entertainment. Over thirty times we get the “be fulfilled” language in the gospels, testifying to prophecies that authenticate the truth of God’s Word. The story of the world is God’s story. The truth about it is the truth of God’s Word. He tells us and He wants us to tell others. They might now want it, and might not listen, but we’ve got to keep trying. Will we?
You can tell when you believe something. You see your little child crawling toward the electrical outlet and then putting his finger on the socket, massaging it and prodding and poking it. What do you do? You might even run to stop him. You might yell, “Stop!” There is a heaven and a hell and a future kingdom. You believe that too. Right? So what is your behavior, having believed or believing that? Do you do anything? Christians believe and then maybe they don’t believe. I understand there is a difference. You can actually stop your child from being electrocuted. There is an instinct within you, part of your own self-preservation, and your nurturing, to stop a child from putting his finger in an electrical socket. If you warn someone about his soul, you’ve been conditioned into thinking he won’t like it or he won’t listen and he’ll reject it. It seems like a waste of time on the level of digging a ditch and then filling it. I also understand that society sees you as great for saving a child and really, really stupid for not saving one. Society hates you for warning about hell. Nevertheless, you believe, as a Christian, that hell and heaven is real, and the kingdom is real. You believe that. What do you do? Even if you don’t believe they will listen, God wants you to do that, and you believe that too. Right? If we believe, let’s let our behavior show it.
Maybe sometimes you wonder why Christianity can’t be respectable to the world. Why can’t the world just see that the Bible is the truth? What makes this so hard? Why couldn’t God have made it easier for them? Even in Jesus’ time on earth, it would seem, wouldn’t it, that then it would have been clear? Even then, with all of that directly in front of them, it wasn’t clear enough for most. They still rejected the truth. An important aspect or part of our faith, foundational to it, is thankfulness for what God does give us. God is perfection and defines perfection and what we have of evidence about and for Him is perfection. This is how it should be. In a sense, the amount of evidence He provides for us to believe is the amount necessary to find the true believers. You’ve got to want Him. He’s given us the amount necessary for someone who wants to find Him, and really to find Him easily. We know He hasn’t made it too difficult. Everyone knows Him already in their hearts, and if they don’t follow Him and obey Him, it is because they are not interested in Him. They want something different. They are selfish and unthankful is what we see. They have enough, but they want more. Jesus said it is an evil and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign (Matthew 12:39). In other words, someone doesn’t sell out to God, because God hasn’t done enough—that’s wicked.
In Matthew 5:24 in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” When we won’t reconcile with a brother or sister, our worship is hindered. You have to get things settled with one another. A part of this discussion centers on two acts: forbearance and forgiveness. If you have been offended in some way, scriptural or otherwise, you can choose to forbear. You could also call this “turning the other cheek.” It isn’t supposed to be easy to offend a Christian for many biblical reasons, one of which is Psalm 119:165, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” John Bunyan wrote concerning this: “They that have this character of God’s children, will not the stumbled at God’s dispensations, let them he never so cross to their desires, because they have a God to fly unto in all their troubles, and a sure covenant to rest upon.” Forgiveness comes after some confrontation or interaction with the offender or the one offended — this is the reconciliation that Jesus is talking about. When the situation is settled, you forgive. You choose to let it god. Two other concepts come into play here: don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath and put away bitterness. All of this relates to love. You love your neighbor. And it relates to trusting God — all things work together for good to them who love God.
As I typed this, I was thinking of the ability to move, and how we can take that for granted. You know that as we get older, it becomes more difficult to move for various reasons. And usually it’s not going to get any easier. As it becomes more and more difficult, you could become more thankful for the movement that you ever had. These thoughts sent me in the direction of Acts 17:28, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being.” The word “move” translates kineo from which we get kinesiology, which is the scientific study of human movement, perhaps with the emphasis on human muscles. Muscles are a part of our movement, but there is much more to it – the brain, the nervous system, and perhaps something intangible that relates to coordination of all of these things. You’ve heard someone say that “he couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time.” We actually do move in a lot of different ways at one time, which is hard to imagine. Several of my fingers work at the same time, as well as both wrists, and my eyes coordinate with that in reading what I’m typing – all of this while thinking of what I want to type. Yet, it is in him that we move. We don’t move without God. The energy to move comes from God and the source of that movement is from Him. You don’t move without Him. So how will you move and where?
Think about yourself for a moment, all there is to you. As finite and frail as you are, always to a certain degree not in control of your surroundings, you are rather complicated, even if you just start with your body. You could start with the cellular level, your being made up of millions of parts: atoms, molecules, and cells. At the same time, the cells about which you are made, themselves are of irreducible complexity. Living things have fantastically intricate features—at the anatomical, cellular and molecular level—that could not function if they were any less complex or sophisticated. Each cell is as functionally complex as a small city. When magnified 50,000 times through electron microscopes, you see a cell made up of multiple complex structures, each with a different role in a cell’s operation. At any given moment so much is happening within each of your systems, that you could never keep track of all of them. You can’t do anything really about what’s happening on the insides. Each of your eyes have multiple parts dependent on each other one. And then you are breathing and your blood is circulating and your brain is sending messages through your nervous system that enable you to multi-task. When you think of just yourself, draw that circle around yourself and think about who is in that circle, that is a good argument for faithfulness to God.