Forgetfulness – Part 2: Missing the bus

Mention ‘The End Times’ to Christians and you will get one of two reactions: a low groan — ‘here we go again’ or a heated all-night debate. I believe this is a large part of our ‘forgetfulness’ problem with regard to the Return of Christ. To cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the end-times are everything; even to greatly-blessed ministers like John MacArthur the focus on his pre-millennialism theory can be OTT. Satan can cause the best of us to read far too much into the — mostly symbolic —numbers in Revelation to find out the date that Jesus clearly states ‘no man, no angel, not even I know’ (Matthew 24:36). Superstitious nonsense that people fall for – even the elect (Matthew 24:24). Revelation is an amazing and joyous book, more about Jesus than anything else; yet our obsession with these matters seems to kill it to the point where it becomes entirely unprofitable. Some people make it seem like the whole gospel itself is hinged on the thousand years or the number of the beast… Where is Jesus? Where is the cross?

Taking a leaf out of Paul’s book

Paul’s advice to both Titus and Timothy (young pastors) was to discourage talk over such matters, that we are never likely to resolve:

“Stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” (Titus 3:9).

“Command certain people not […] to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk.” (1 Timothy 1:3-6).

That is not to say that we should not eagerly look into these things and work out our stance on these issues. Yet there is doctrine that is surely so much more important than these things — which can so often be divisive red-herrings and unprovable from Scripture. Instead we should look into what is profitable and honouring to the Lord — how about adoption, your privileges in Christ, the trinity, Jesus’ deity, etc.? — be a Berean (Acts 17:11) and check what your pastor says lines up with Scripture!

What should we do?

All the while we’re squabbling over the finer-points of the End Times in our hermit-holes, people are dropping into hell in their hundreds and thousands, every day. There’s a world dying out there!! For crying out loud brothers and sisters! Let’s get out there with the Gospel before it is too late and Jesus does return. God, in His infinite sovereign mercy has given us a role in the salvation of souls —as ambassadors of Christ  (2 Corinthians 5:20). I fear I, and perhaps others too, will have a lot to answer for on the day of judgement — ‘Why didn’t you warn people? I gave you friends, neighbours, colleagues and family to witness to, I gave you gifts to use for the work of My church; I told you to ask for more of My Spirit and I would give it you. Did I not tell you to go out into all the world and make disciples of all the nations?’

What will we say? What are our excuses now? ‘Oh I’m too busy with life’, ‘I don’t like talking to people’, ‘I’m not gifted in that way’, … There once was an atheist who said that one big reason he does not believe is because, if what the Bible says is true, Christians would be out warning everybody all the time and they’re not… — why believe a book about a man, if His followers don’t even seem to believe it?

The most selfish thing we can possibly do is not to share Jesus. The Casting Crowns song ‘Love you with the truth’ puts it brilliantly. Why has God let the world go on so long, considering His people were ready way back in the first century for His return? It’s because we know exactly when the world will end: when the last soul is saved, when the last of His flock is brought safely into the fold.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

What love!

On the last day, we will be saved ourselves yes, but won’t we miss out on so much more? Daniel 12 (see Matthew 25:21 too), speaking of the End Times, says:

“At that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” [emphasis added] (Daniel 12:1b-3).

The last part is often termed, ‘the soul-winners’ promise.’ Are we soul-winners? When was the last time we pointed someone to Christ? Let’s all cut the lukewarm cold-hearted worldly two-faced ‘Sunday Christianity’ baloney that seems to define us and pray that He will give us a glimpse of Christ, draw us closer to Himself, fill us with His Spirit and give us opportunities to witness of the Messiah. Let’s truly ‘Love our neighbours as ourselves’. What is more important than doing the Good Lord’s work?

A hymn we sung on Sunday encapsulated this brilliantly. I was only going to quote the last verse – but reading it again, I couldn’t bring myself to cut any of it!

May the mind of Christ my Saviour
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of Christ dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of Christ my Saviour
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me,
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

Forgetfulness – Part 1

‘Hiya Josh! Haven’t seen you in a while. How’re you doing?’ said a friendly voice, near at hand.

‘Hello!’ I returned enthusiastically, before turning to give the speaker my full attention to see who it was addressing me. Oh dear… It rang no bells; no names. Yikes, not again! I had not even a faintest idea of who it was. Of course, in the interest of politeness, I had to wing it; duly continuing a friendly conversation whilst trying to work out who on earth this person actually was. But by the end I was still none the wiser.

I’m sure we’ve all had something of this experience. Whilst amusing, it’s happened to me a scary amount of times… Forgetfulness seems to be intrinsic to human nature.

Are we forgetting something very important?

How about a spiritual spin on this though?

I was challenged recently by a passage I read…
I’m getting married this Summer and went through 1 Corinthians 7 (which is an excellent chapter on marriage, relationships and singleness), when something Paul wrote struck me pretty hard. The passage goes on for the first twenty-eight verses with Paul essentially replying to some key questions on these matters posed by the church at Corinth. In the twenty-ninth verse however, there is a sudden change — I’ll quote it with the preceding verse so you can get a flavour of the context:

“But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:28-31).

There’s a real sense of urgency in Paul’s writing here — as if Jesus’ return is imminent. This is the real issue here, not marriage or singleness, as important topics as they are. If Paul, writing over 1900 years ago had that sense of urgency, how much more should we! Our attitude should be one of constantly looking to the skies awaiting the glorious return of our risen Lord, who is ‘coming back to take you to be with me’ (John 14:3b). I love how many of the older hymns invariably include this longing for His coming; which we so easily seem to pass over because we do not walk so closely with Him. I believe that we are in danger of forgetting the return of our Lord Jesus. When He comes calling for us, will we know who it is talking to us? or will we be clueless and forgetful like I was…? How well do we know Him? Will we know His call, like sheep their shepherd? Will we be ready to leave all and go with Him? ‘When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8).

In our modern Evangelical/Reformed circles we seem to have largely forgotten the Return of the King. Despite almost twice as many chapters of the Bible describing the Second Coming as the first — it’s hardly preached on, it’s not really studied; it barely gets a mention — yet the Second Coming is surely one of the most important things we need to know about Jesus Christ!

Looking to Home

Where should our focus be?

In John 14:1-4, Jesus says:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Isn’t this the most glorious thing! ‘My Father’s house’. HOME. The home of Christ and His flock. Sweet rest, at last.

Paul writes:

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. […] Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

[…] For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Are we ready to leave at a moment’s notice, as the Israelites on the night of the Passover, staff in hand? Are we prepared to leave all and go with Him to our new home?

Or are our minds set on planning for earthly things? My fiancée and I are planning for a wedding and preparing for marriage; ultimately however, we are all planning and preparing to leave this world. This earnest eager urgent expectation is something I believe we are seriously missing today — where is the desire to go out and warn the dying world? I fear we are seriously lacking here. I love meeting new Christians, they have so much buzz and joy of the Lord about them, so much hunger for Him and a burning desire to see their friends saved. By contrast, us ‘old guard’, as it were, can be so dull and senseless at times. Lord Jesus, please help us! Heavenly Father, we are weak, hear us! Holy Spirit, work through us, revive us!

“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. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 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? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

Be Active Christians

Josh recently did an article on prayer, which was well received. This article follows on from this. Josh correctly noted that prayer is essential; I think any Christian can agree with this. However, not all of us are prayer warriors, and we all have a different role to play in the church (Acts 6:2-4). Secondly, praying is all well and good, but you need to be active. This is what this article is all about; being an active Christian, i.e. faith without works is dead!

Active

My church moto, or verse for the year comes from 1 Peter 4 verses 10-11. It reads:

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

I think these are such powerful verses that need to be in the heart of every believer. We can pray, yes, but then we need to follow it up with action. There is always a danger of praying, doing nothing, and then moaning why nothing has happened. We also should never leave service to others, because we are ALL called to serve — woman, man, adult, teenager — if you are a believer then you should be using the gifts GIVEN to you to give grace to others. It is such a vital thing to do, but the church, in general, fails at it so much. We are all caught up in the world, or we are too shy, or we are self-doubting.

The New Living Translation makes verse 10 more understandable when it says “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another”. God has given us these gifts that we have, and we all unique, no one Christian is better than another, each gift is from God and therefore is so valuable and precious. We are then to use these gifts to serve, to be active, whether that is in our church, leading a service, welcoming people, doing teas and coffees, or collecting hymn books after a service, the list goes on. I am sure your church has many needs, why not see if you can fill some of those needs.

I do feel that in many churches, it has become a one man band, that the role of pastor has been perverted and misused. A pastor is not the church leader, and he certainly shouldn’t be doing everything in the church. Rather a church is a community; it needs to rely on the people, on the congregation, on its members to function properly. A church is a community where believers come together to worship and serve Christ; it is more than a service, and it is more than a sermon, it is the people, so look to serve and help, do not leave it to one person!

By being active, by serving others as though it were Christ himself, by being active in our own community, we give glory to God, who has entrusted us with these gifts and responsibilities to be his stewards and servants here on earth. God has given all to us, He has given us his grace, surely we should give what we can to people around us. This also is not just about Christians, this is about the communities in which our churches are based. It is about those whom we come into contact daily. We may pray, but do we shine? Are we just saying prayers to show off? Are we being active Christians, or are we being academic Christians? It is great to know more of God, but that isn’t just limited to reading the Bible, by living out the Bible, so to we learn.

We often take evangelism as preaching, and that just isn’t the case. Just by living out our faith is a great testament, whether it’s the small things, helping your neighbours in your road, setting up a free drop-in café in your building, giving out water when the temperature rises or help families who are in crises, any of things are us serving our local community. It is us being hospitable; it is us living out the gospel. Preaching has its place, but we are certainly not all preachers, and have all our gifts that we can use in just helping our local community.

Divine balance

As everything with this blog, we always urge a balance. Just being ‘busy’ for the sake of it is pointless; just to make us feel like we’re doing something to dumb down our consciences, so to speak. It’s important to get this right. Mary and Martha — Martha was the one running around ‘active’, whereas Mary just sat under the word. When we are being active Christians, the main purpose is to Glorify God, and to follow what he says, and that is to serve.

We need to of course, always pray that God shows us his will and his path for us. But do not be afraid to step out in faith and become an active Christian. Stop leaving it all to other people stop putting other things before your service to the church. The Church is an amazing fellowship, and it is a community of believers, let us break down the old image of the church, of a building, of a sermon and make it what it is meant to be, a community of believers, meeting together, serving one another, and the Lord.

One little thing that we can use to remember this (although we shouldn’t have to be reminded!) is use the acrostic PAL. May we be praying Christians, may we be active Christians, may we be loving Christians and be proper PALs to the lost!

P — Pray

A – Act

L – Love