Sunday, December 9, 2012

The End?

A friend of mine commented that he’s read there is a spike in gun sales, partly fueled by fears of an impending end of the world.  He wondered if people were really that stupid.  But fear can do strange things to our thinking.  And our fallen nature leans in that direction, anyway.  Look at what I mean:

1 Thessalonians 5:2 (KJV)  For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
 
The Mayans have a calendar that ends this month, December 2012.  And the verse above says Christ’s second coming is going to be a surprise.  In fact, that’s reiterated in 2Peter 3:10, in greater detail.  I’ve sometimes used one of those to verses to point out that we don’t know when He’s returning.  The church has been saying for 2,000 years that Christ’s return is imminent.  We’ve even had modern day radio evangelists name dates that we’ve all seen come and go.  With our perceptions impaired by our sin nature, we seek to know the unexpected.
 
Men know that, somewhere along the line, this is all going to end.  Just like God reveals Himself in His creation, He’s left clues that even non-Christians can recognize.  The Bible gives lots of clues, too.  The problem comes from how we deal with those clues.  Every time people point to the wars and rumors of wars and all the other things as proof Jesus is returning in our lifetime.  And then it doesn’t happen, but all the clues do return as even greater horrors, “proving”to the next generation that this is it!  He’s coming tomorrow!  Once again, it doesn’t happen.  Let’s look at another verse.
 
Revelation 3:3 (KJV)  Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
 
Notice the similarity?  Except, that verse suggests we’ve been given enough information to properly recognize the signs.  If we don’t pay attention, Jesus’ arrival is going to surprise us and it’s not necessarily going to be in a good way.  If we are paying attention, we’ll be ready when He comes.  But consider where this verse is in Revelation.
 
The book of Revelation has letters to seven churches, each representing a spiritual situation or condition.  This verse is from the letter to the church of Sardis.  Sardis was a center for commerce, technologically advanced for that time period, a first world location of Biblical times.  The Christians of Sardis were corrupted by the worldly influences.  Right there, we can see a parallel to today’s first world economy and thinking.
 
The first world church of the western world has become segmented and segregated, with far too little love for the brethren.  Some are so focused on the blessings of having things, health, avoiding turmoil that they think anything wrong in those areas comes from a lack of spirituality.  When the Bible says otherwise.  Others are so busy policing the doctrine of others that they have no time left to love the brethren or experience the joy of the Lord.  Some focus on doing things for Christ, instead of recognizing that what He did is enough.  And, if it’s really us doing it, instead of Christ leading us, it’s never going to come close to being sufficient.  They all miss that the two great commandments give us the only priorities we need.  Love God, love people, do that in that order.  Everything we need and everything we need to be comes from those two commandments.  With that in mind, let’s get back to the subject at hand.
 
Most people in the western world have grown up hearing some of the talk about the signs of the end times from the Bible.  And there are other spiritual cultures who have predicted the world ending, including the Mayans.  To the Mayans’ credit, they never said the world would end, just that something major would happen.  The end of the world stuff came up by present day people mixing other things with that.  Perhaps they’re proving that too much knowledge is a bad thing.  But all of this combines to show all of us how little we know.  That breeds uncertainty and fear.
 
If we think back to our childhood, the things we feared the most were all related to the unknown.  The things we could imagine were far worse than they ever really turned out to be.  That fear doesn’t change much with adulthood.  We just change what we worry too much about and how we exaggerate that out of proportion.  Think about the spike in gun sales.  It’s based on fears that take our future to some level of horror that we may never see.  It’s also based on assumptions that the guns will help solve the problem instead of being part of the problem itself – inbeleivers fighting each other.  And it’s based on thinking that has no assurance, because those individuals are Christian in name only or people who don’t have Christ in their lives at all.  And that’s where the two great commandments come in.
 
If we truly love God, that’s because He first loved us, according to 1John 4:19.  Recognizing how great His love for us is, we’re going to want to shout it to the rest of the world.  The joy and appreciation of how great a gift we’ve been given compels us to share it.  And who do we share it with?  The Bible says it’s our neighbor.  There’s nothing to suggest that our neighbor has to be a fellow believer.  God is going to give each of us the opportunity to come to Him or to be the best believer possible until we each get to the point where we aren’t going to grow in the right direction anymore.
 
1 John 3:16-17 (KJV)  Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
 
In one sense, our fellow believers are our brethren.  But this passage refers back to “the world” of John 3:16.  Our neighbors are our brethren.  God would that all could have the option to believe and follow Him, gaining the right to remain with Him for eternity.  But God also won’t violate our free will.  We can still choose correctly or wrongly.  That’s where you and I come in.  Having been bathed in God’s love for us, we get to be spiritual fountains gushing that love out to others.  We become the tool God uses to give the rest of mankind all the information they need to decide wisely.  And, if they choose incorrectly, they’ve been given the chance to correct wrong thinking and have chosen against that change.  So, the results of their decisions are up to them.
 
The one thing God wants us to do is share the Gospel in love.  That gives others either the chance to follow God or grow in Him.  God never forced that on us and He doesn’t expect us to force it on others.  But evangelism and discipleship are the natural outgrowth of the love given us by God.  God loves us, we love God, we love others.  Because of that, we communicate what God has done for us.  That’s the whole package. 

It’s up to God and the decisions made by those we talk to, whether they choose rightly and grow or not.  The results are beyond our control.  We don’t condemn anyone and we don’t save anyone.  But “the love of Christ constraineth us;”  (2Corinthians 5:14) to share His love for us with others.  It’s His work in us, not anything we drum up from our flesh.  And there’s a recognition that the fear and turmoil come from elsewhere, other than God.  We’re given the privilege of battling the spiritual forces that try to prevent men from “being all they can be” in God’s kingdom.

What joys and privileges have you been given to share with others?

2 comments:

  1. Good thoughts, though I would submit that the current church "age" is more representative of Laodecia - ("people's rights") The Church in general is neither cold nor hot, but rather lukewarm.

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  2. I'd agree with you 100%, except I think we've gotten beyond Laodicia. First world nations have replaced spirituality with commerce and success. Sardis idolizes the blessing instead of the blesser.

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