We are currently walking through life in the year 2015.
There are computers that we carry around in our pockets.
There are innocent people being shot.
We are booming in materialism and striving for popularity.
There is lots of anger, and bitterness, and bombs.
The world is changing.
Some people are physically suffering. Some people are being suffocated by a shallow culture.
We are far from Eden.
Today, I want to talk to my fearful fellow American. The one not yet in deep, in-chains-kind-of-suffering.
You’ve probably felt guilty for not being the one persecuted. Or because you can’t relate to people that have had guns rest on their foreheads. You’ve probably wondered if you would ever be strong enough to go through something like that. You don’t wish for hurt in your own life, but you do wish that you could somehow make these people feel your deep compassion wherever they are. We feel guilty because there are people dying on behalf of passionate obedience, and sometimes all that looks like for us is a minor pang from vulnerability.
Listen: I feel guilty too. Because, although the world seems like it’s spinning out of control, my day to day life has not yet changed. The terrorists have fought to enter my mind, but they have not yet physically came near.
But at the end of each day, we can’t let guilt be our gift to humanity.
The world needs more than our well-worded debates and guilt-ridden faces.
We need more Christians acting like Christians.
God has placed us in our environment for a reason. You have an extra room in your house for a reason. You have more than one winter coat for a reason. You have a mattress for a reason. You have food in your cupboards and money in your pocket for a reason. If you live in a tiny little city apartment, that is not an accident. If you live in a two-story home in the middle of nowhere, that is not an accident either.
It’s not our job to find what the reason is right now. It’s not our job to solve the big picture of His plan. It’s our job to serve Him where He has us in this moment all the while knowing that He has both our big picture, the world’s big picture, and first and foremost His Kingdom in supreme control.
I. We cannot be silent.
He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. –Daniel 11:32, ESV
Christians, I don’t know how we are going to make a difference in this ugly world.
But there is too much needless suffering.
Staying silent looks so good. The deceiver whispers pretty lies of how good silence looks on us.
But staying silent is by no means our commission.
Staying silent is not brave.
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
II. We must study the only Word we know is the pure and living truth.
Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. –Proverbs 30:5
When you ask a politician a question, their eyes might shift. Their words will be rehearsed – whether they hold truth or convey a lie.
People distort views of every good and sacred thing.
Our hearts have been shattered because someone didn’t give us the words we desired. Or, our hearts become shattered because they gave us all the right words but didn’t uphold their promises.
But the Word of God is the only thing we can count on, no matter what.
We must cling to words of promise that will not return void. We must memorize words that give rest to the weary and security to the heartbroken. We must know the gospel, and keep on learning it every day of our lives, in order to share it with people that do not yet know.
III. We must learn how to pray.
But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldy people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, even the garment stained by the flesh.
–Jude 1:17-23, ESV
This kind of prayer that we need in this new stage of life is not going to be tidy. We should not pray because it is the second answer to every Sunday school question.
We don’t need to memorize prayers filled with empty phrases that sound pretty to shout from the rooftops.
We must learn how to uphold a conversation with the living God on behalf of our world with our bedroom doors shut.
We must pray that members of ISIS would hear the good news of the gospel and come from darkness to light. We must pray for our enemies and we must pray for our families.
We must learn how to pray and become so reliant on the Holy Spirit that even a garment that reeks of the world grieves our heart. We ought to be so devoted to Christ, and so full of His truth, that we have enough energy to help the drowning ones around us.
This is true faith that builds up and this is how we keep ourselves in the love of God — it starts with prayer.
IV. We must care about people more than we care about stuff.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. –1 John 5:21
All idols do is fool us into believing we can fill ourselves.
But we can’t, and we just suffocate ourselves with sex and money until we don’t recognize ourselves anymore.
But by saying no to idols, it does not mean that we deny their existence.
They look good and fulfilling, until we immerse ourselves into their lack of power to heal our wounds.
This is when we must realize that God is more important than idols, and people are more important than projects.
This might mean adding things to your life, but it might mean creating margin in your life and saying no. All so that we can give generously of our time, resouces, and love.
Because, if we are bowing down to an idol of any kind, we cannot look our neighbor in the eye or be the Light he needs to see in the world.
V. We must get angry about all the right things.
Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. –Isaiah 5:25
The LORD will not be angry forever.
But He is angry.
So, Christians, take not of this: people will remember us.
Don’t let them remember us because we fought over red cups and how tight our clothes should fit.
Let them remember us because we saw that there are almost 30 million modern day slaves in the world and we’re working to do something about it.
Don’t let them remember us by our old-fashioned ways alone and our unwillingness to have an honest conversation about sexuality.
Let them remember us by calling attention to the desire for sex that is good, and holy, and sacred within the context of marriage that God happily gives. Let them remember that we knew what God created to be holy, and in return did our best to keep it holy in our own lives.
Don’t let them remember us for picketing outside of abortion clinics or not being humble enough to get dirt underneath our fingernails.
Let them remember us well by showing every one that walks into our lives the reason we always choose life, and hope, and let us show them the God that brings us to our knees in awe-full worship.
We don’t want to be known for being angry about all of the wrong things.
VI. We must be known for our love and we must meet together.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. –Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV
Christians are widely known as judgmental and close-minded. It’s time that we are known for our love — and for loving each other well.
People see hate all the time and all day long. They’ll notice when two Christians fight to reconcile relationships. They’ll take note when Christians step outside of their own orbits long enough to reach out to their brother standing right next to them.
It is of most importance that we don’t quit meeting together. We must be meeting as a body of Christ. We must be meeting one on one and in groups. We must be praying together and building each other up even when it’s painful.
This is the time to put more names in our calendars than events. Community trumps individuality. Our lives are not meant to be made of lists, but of people.
I believe that we will not know how to stand alone if we have never gathered the strength from standing together. We need each other.
VII. We mustn’t be afraid.
So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. –Matthew 10:26-28, ESV
There is no thief like fear.
Be careful, but do not be afraid. It is not godly or somehow superior of you to sit around and worry.
This world is a scary place. But rebuke your timidness in the name of Jesus. Because in His Presence is power and freedom.
The body is just a body. But our souls are in the hands of God.
If you’re going to be afraid, be afraid of the One who can destroy both.
Don’t let anyone else, who isn’t even worth your fearful thoughts, steal your joy.
We’re incredibly sad, but we’re not afraid. –Bob Goff
VIII. We must keep fighting. We must stay faithful.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. — Hebrews 12:12-13, ESV
Hebrews 12:8 says that if we are without discipline, we are illegitimate childrens and not sons.
It’s time we stop fooling around.
It’s time we get serious.
It’s time for the married people to stay married.
It’s time for the single people to either stay single forever or to raise their standards.
It’s time to take whatever we are struggling with and whatever our life holds — addiction, idols, depression, the weight of responsibilies, every light and momentary affliction — and surrender it to God.
It’s time to lay everything we’ve got out on the table and realize that it was never ours in the first place. At first, you’ll go through withdrawals. Or you’ll wonder how he could make something awful into something beautiful. You’ll wonder how he could use you when you’re working on such a small scale. You might be lonely and you might feel empty. But He will satisfy you, if you believe that He can. He will use you wherever you are, once you stop performing for the world’s applause.
It’s time we stop pretending that we can be our own parent, and let Him Father us.
It’s time we transform our guilt into actions that lead into a lifestyle that lead more people — wherever they’ve been — into communion with Christ.
IX. We must get ready.
For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. –Matthew 24:27, ESV
We have not a clue when Jesus is coming back. God is a patient God. But we do know that He will come when the whole world has heard the saving name of Jesus. We do know that whether he comes in one month, or decades, or even centuries from now, that He will come.
So we have to live like we believe it.
We must strengthen one another.
Test your faith. Make sure you know how to stand.
There will be false teachers that will come and try to fool us into believing that they know what they’re talking about. Teach your brothers and sisters how to look for them, and abstain from entertaining their ideas.
We’re not excited that there has to be a judgment. But there will be one.
Get excited that someday soon, Jesus is going to come back to earth once more and make everything sad come untrue. The Kingdom of God will be satisfied, jubilant, there will be no evil in our midst anymore, and we will be lacking in no good thing. The Bride will finally start forever with her Groom.
Let all the people say amen.
X. We must know our God. We must let Him refine us and love us.
And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'” –Zechariah 13:9
Following God is not an easy walk in the park — it’s an earnest prayer in the garden.
There will be fire, and refinement, and the last final test.
We will call upon the name of the Lord, and He will answer.
He will answer and suddenly our completion will come and He will receive all the honor and the praise.
He will answer and the eternity that He has been residing in, we will finally enter. We will take up residency in our eternal address that He has prepared. We will know what Eden truly felt like.
He will answer, we will see the final big picture, and we will be eternally safe. We will be safe in the actual Presence of the God that came down, contained His glory in a human body for over thirty years, died a humiliating death, and came back to life in victory so that we could be His people.
And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filfthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Aplha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexual immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.
–Relevation 22:10-21, ESV