available Wednesday 9/14/22 by 9:00 am
Start With Love
September 11, 2022
Where do we start?
-Where do we begin when living our lives?
-What must we prioritize?
-what do we do first in good or bad times?
-how do we untangle this worldly mess we are in?
Jesus says we must start with love
-vs 31a “There is no command greater than these”
-We often don’t think to start loving others when we are hurting
-Humanity tries to fix our worldly problems apart from
worshipping our creator- and we are failing miserably!
-The scribes were asking Jesus to weigh in on where to start
-they ranked of all the 613 command in the Law, Old Testament
-365 negative & 248 positive, heavy weight & light weight
-the scribe was asking Jesus to “weigh in” on where to start
Love God wholeheartedly
ONE God- Jesus affirms there is only one God
-Christianity says there is no other god except God
-humanity continues to promote polytheism- a refusal to accept
that people have created false gods to worship apart from God
Love the Lord your God
-supreme authority over all
-God first loved us through Creation, Covenant, and Christ!
with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
-wholeheartedly, your total being, not necessarily a statement
on the different parts of a person’s life
-love God more than self, family, possessions, popularity, power
-1 Jn 4:19 We love because he first loved us
-Ray Stedman quote
-Worshipping/loving God is our first purpose in life!
-We start loving God to solve life’s problems, to find fulfillment in
good experiences and to discover our ultimate purpose for living
Love People like we love ourselves
-Jesus unites love for God WITH love for people
-start loving people in every situation!
-God is motivated by His love for us in all he does
-We must also be motivated by love for others when we make
decisions and take action
Love your neighbor
-the scribes would have excluded most people
-humanity is still trying to excuse exclusive love!
-Luke 10:30-37 Jesus denounces prejudice attitudes, racism
-our neighbor is ANYONE near enough to love!
-love = serving others
-self-preservation is the most powerful human instinct
-note: mental illness twists this natural instinct
-Jesus says we must love people like we love ourselves
-Luke 6:31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same
for them (the Golden Rule)
-We start with love when facing human conflict
-Love for others diminishes selfishness and pride
-loving/serving people is another purpose God designed us to fulfill- start loving people in practical ways the way God S.H.A.P.E.d you!
You are not far from the kingdom of God
-the scribe realized God primarily wants a love relationship with us, and for love to permeate our human relationships
-Jesus commended him, but we don’t know if this man ever
fully trusted in Jesus Christ to save him
How far are you from completely trusting Jesus Christ?
-John 3:16 God showed is love for us first!
-Love God back by surrendering your life to Jesus Christ
-loving/worshipping God is our first purpose in life
How often do you start with loving God and people?
-loving/serving people is another life purpose
Man's responsibility is to respond to God's love, which is reaching out to us on every side -- reaching out in nature, reaching out in the supply of all that is being given to us day by day. We are never to forget that the things we enjoy -- the food, the air, the sunshine, the shelter -- all these material things of life that we need -- come from the hand of God. It is God who gives them. It is God's goodness protecting us, sheltering us, and watching over us that keeps us from being ravished and destroyed by the forces that are at work for evil in our lives. God's sheltering hand is protecting us. So when you think about the love of God, and especially the love that redeems us, the proper and only response of the heart is to love God back with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Mark 12 is where we're at this morning. We're pausing in the middle of some series of messages to talk specifically about the purposes of our church. And we're coming up on October when in 2002, 20 years ago, we actually started to organize what we do as a church family. And we launched in Easter of 2003, and we started to rally around two particular verses of scripture, Matthew 22 and Matthew 28. The great commandment of God - love God love people, and the great commission of God to go make disciples, baptize, teach them and everything I have commanded you. And so, we used those and kind of came up with five particular purposes and we've rallied around that ever since, as kind of our mission and purpose as a church family. Not unlike, very much like, and in fact, every New Testament church in one way or the other fulfills these five purposes, they may say it different ways. They may describe them in three different purposes, but we're all in some way, moving in that direction.
We spell that out more clearly in our discovering membership class that I mentioned we'll be doing again in October. But I wanted to talk about this particular passage and actually, the command to love God and love people was recorded. This interaction with the scribes was recorded in three of the four gospels. It was recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And we're going to look at - Mark's account has a couple of interesting pieces to it in the conversation that Jesus was having with the scribe that I want to bring out. But I want to start with the question, where do we start? In other words, our world's a mess always, has been by the way, but it's a mess. I don't know about you, but I'm a little opinionated. How many here are opinionated? Anybody here? We're all opinionated. Some less than others, but we all have opinions.
And I've discovered that when I go online to look for my opinion, it doesn't help me. Well, it does help me, helps me be more right, and have righteous indignation for those who are wrong, right? I mean, it just gets us. We start talking about it with somebody and our blood pressure rises. It just happens. "You're raising your voice." "No, I'm not, I'm just being adamant in my opinion." Where do we begin? Where do we begin even living our lives in good situations, in bad situations, when good things are happening? Why is it that when things are going really well, people don't think about as much of God. And when things are going really bad, we think about God, but we're more looking to God to be our Santa Claus, to be the fix it. God wants today in a relationship with us in the good and the bad.
I mentioned 9-11, church attendance went to an all-time high the Sunday after 9-11. And it dropped down to the average attendance that it was before 9-11 just a month later. It's like, we needed God to get through the crisis, but now we don't need God. What? We start in every moment of our life with where God tells us to start. I mean, how do we untangle this world mess that we are in? What must me prioritize in our lives? What's more important? God, family church - by the way, God in church and family, I mean, family in church are so intricately; like if you pit family against church, don't do that. We definitely have the priority of raising our children and we've made that a priority. But boy, if you make, like children come first and church comes - no, the church is a part of making family first. It's a together thing. Anyway, that's another whole sermon.
Jesus says, we must start with love. I hope before the end of this message, you will have it ingrained. Where do I start today? When you hear something you don't like, where do you start? Love! When you see somebody you don't like - does everybody like everybody around? Not everybody. You know, you're supposed to love everybody, but you'll always like everybody, right? Love, you start with love. I'm having an argument with you. Start with love in that argument. How do you do that? We'll talk about that. Jesus said there's no greater command than these. No command is greater than this. Love God, love people. We start with love. Humanity tries to fix our world problems apart from worshiping our creator. It starts with something else and then if God works into the equation, it's okay.
Some people are trying to create justice systems apart from almighty God. And I'm just going to say; no governmental agency will solve our world's problems apart from being guided and directed by the truth of God and by God himself, there's a lot of good agencies out there. Don't get me wrong. There's a lot of good things to do out there. But if we don't start with worshiping God and loving Him completely first, we will miss the mark of what He wants us to do.
Everything we're trying to do in this world it seems like is failing miserably because we're not starting with love. In fact, there are particular thoughts that have been developed in the United States. In order to write the wrongs of the oppressors who were truly wicked in the way they oppressed in our nation, the solution in many people's eyes is to rise up a new set of oppressors to oppress the people who oppressed. And it's a system not built on love, but on justice and revenge. Be careful that you do not hit your wagon to a philosophy of thought in our world that is all about whoever's in charge is the person who's right.
Be careful that you don't add to the mess of this world, by trying to advocate for people groups, or for movements in our nation and in our world for a matter of fact, that are trying to simply change the power structure, but never change the heart of the power. It starts with love. Now, the Scribes we're asking Jesus, this question. And in fact, we note in this passage that not only does it seem that the scribe that was engaging Jesus was acting positively towards Jesus, unusual. Most of them hated Jesus. We’re trying to trap Him and trying to trick Him, and eventually were part of the mob that destroyed His life, which they couldn't destroy Him, but they destroyed His body. And God used that as the sacrifice for our sins, but this Scribe was positive. And this was actually a moment where Jesus actually commended the Scribe because in like fashion, Jesus was calling them out from their hypocrisy. He was calling them out from their wickedness, but in this particular incidence, He actually commends the Scribe.
But this scribe was asking a question that the scribes themselves were asking for centuries. What's the greater commandments? They had figured out that there were 613 commands of the law in what we call the Old Testament, that 365 of them were negative. Don't do this, don't do that. And 248 of them were positive. Do this, do that. And then they, not to make it even more complicated; they decided that there were a category of dos and don'ts that were heavier or more important. They were weightier. And then they were those commands that were lighter; not so important or big deal. Jesus kind of turned that all in its head when he hit the Sermon on the Mount when He said, "You've heard it said don't murder somebody. I tell you, if you hate somebody you've murdered them in your heart." He kind of collapsed that whole system and said, bad is bad.
You've heard it say don't commit adultery, but I say to you, if you have lust in your heart for someone in a sexual way, that you are an adulterer just as if you did it. Whoa, he collapses this weightier and lighter sins into... so here's the question. If I were to have a glass of water, I've got my coffee here. I'm going to say - would you ever drink after me if I'd said, Here, take it"? Who here would not care? Said I need coffee, I don't care. See, some of you would do that. I had a coach one time, he says, I need coffee. I says, 'Well, I got mine." He says, Oh please." And I poured some in. Thank you, Jesus. Anyway, pour a cup of hot coffee in Jesus name. A.
But let's just say that - raised your hand; how many drops of toilet water would you let me put in here before you would stop drinking out of my cup? Zero. Yeah, but I just cleaned the toilet yesterday. Probably wasn't used. Anybody? Takers? The coffee's tainted. Some of you said one sip from you and you've tainted it with you sipping in it. If it was a clean cup and he gave it to me, I'll take it. But if you took one drink out of it, I'm not drinking out of it. Some of you said that. One sin makes us what? A sinner. We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So they're asking Jesus to weigh in on the weight to your lighter sins. But the reality is, He's going to boil it down to the greatest commandments, and we're going to see in a moment how all of the commandments fit into, if we've get this right and we get this right, we're going to get the other things, right?
Let me read for us Mark 12:28, "One of the Scribes approached, when he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, 'Which command is the most important of all?' Jesus answered; 'The most important is, listen O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is, love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.' Than the Scribe said to Him, 'You are right teacher, you have correctly said that he is one and there is no one else except him. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself is far more important than all the burn offerings and sacrifices.' When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' And no one dared to question him any longer."
If we're going to start solving our personal life problems, if we're going to start living life to the fullest and live purposefully in a way that's pleasing to God, but is a way that's enjoyable to live. We're going to start with loving God wholeheartedly. Start loving God wholeheartedly. Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy, The Shima, that statement of faith, that was the crux of all the commands of God. Love God completely. And Mark records that he actually quoted the entire portion where it begins with the Lord of Israel. Listen O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. He is one God. He is not multiple gods that get to the same place. You can stack up every God. Other than the God of the Bible, on this side of my podium here, and you can stack God up on this side in terms of there are two categories of gods in the world. There are gods in the world and that is other than Christianity God and the Old Testament, New Testament God I'm talking about here that say to us, we must appease that God, in order to get our salvation. We must do something to earn the favor of that God, which really feeds right into our selfishness and pride.
I can rule my life without anybody ruling it for me. I can earn my way into favor of being right and perfect at the end of my life. I can be in charge of me. You say, "Yeah, but you're submitting to a God." Yeah, but you're submitting to a God that is manmade; that is tapping into your system of thought that you don't have to surrender yourself to a higher being. Every system in the world, Islam included says, you must earn the favor of God, and maybe if you're good enough, you'll get eternal life or whatever it is they're promising. But when you pin down the philosopher and the theologians of any other religion in the world, they will say to you, you have no guarantee that you'll ever get what you're looking for, you hope maybe you will.
On the other side of this podium stands one God and one God alone, and that's the God of the Bible, the one who in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And that one God says, I loved you first, and I gave you opportunity to know me and love me. And all I'm asking for you to do is to respond back to me with love. I'm not asking for your favor. I'm not asking you to earn it. I'm not asking you to work. I am asking you to simply accept my love for you by loving me back. Humanity continues to promote polytheism. They continue to refuse to accept the fact that people were created by the one true God, and that in that alone and our worship of God is perverting the very way in which we're trying to solve our world problems.
There is one God. And he says, you must love the Lord your God. He puts the Lord your God. He puts in the word for authority. That God is a God of ultimate authority. He is the Supreme authority of the world. Now, when you start to create worlds and you start to spin them around this big thing called a sun, and you start to create universes and galaxies, then let's talk about you being God for a minute. But until then, let's bow to the one on who deserves our praise and our love. God first loved us through creation. He gave us this world that we live in. Who gave it to you? What's that joke about says, well, I'm going to start making stuff and start makes it? Yeah, but you need to start, you need to create your own dirt.
God created something out of nothing. We create everything we have out of what He gave us to create it with. He not only gave us creation, showed us His love through creation; He also showed us His love through covenant. And he started a covenant with Adam and Eve. He started that covenant with Noah after he came out of the arc after the flood. And then there's a covenant that he called Abraham out, and so come and I'll take you to a place where I will show you and you'll be a father of many nations. He showed his love and covenant through him. Throughout the Old Testament, there are these covenants. He made a covenant with King David, you will always have someone on the throne. And that fulfillment of that promise He gave to David was actually Jesus, who came from the lineage of David's family, physically.
And now we live in the new covenant, a covenant of grace where Jesus paid the price for the covenant, He fulfilled the righteousness of the law, and indeed, just like he gave us Eden and said live in it and love me. And he gave Noah and Abraham the covenant that said, not because you earned it, but because I simply bestowed upon you my love, I'm giving you an opportunity to grace the world with my presence through you, just love me back. And they did. And then throughout history we see this, and now Jesus shows up and says, for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in him with not perish, but have everlasting life. He's loving you first. Why do I have inscribed in my ring 1 John 4:19, because I know that in my marriage, I know and my wife knows that we love because he first loved us.
Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, wholeheartedly, completely. Now, we can dissect or we made up of four parts in our body, and that's an interesting conversation. And you're welcome to do that this week, as you think about your Bible studies. But as we look at this passage in the most general sense; the emphasis of this is completely love God. We need to love and worship God when we're at work, not just when we're here in the sanctuary. We need to love God and worship him alone in our homes. We need to worship and love God in our neighborhood, when we're mowing the grass, when we're digging ditches, when we're driving trucks, when we're driving down the road, we need to worship and love God completely. We start with love. When we get on social media, love and worship God
Love God completely. Love God more than ourself, our family, our possessions; love God more than our popularity, more than the power that we want to earn or have in this world to influence other people. And I want to just even add to that, that if you are saying that you love your kids, like they're the most important thing to you be careful that you don't put your kids above God. Because whatever is above God, and your love and your focus and your thoughts; that's what you're worshiping. And if you're worshiping your children; not only are you setting yourself up for a lot of yoyos and heartaches, but you're also setting them up to fail miserably because the pressure's too much. No one can handle God status, except God. You can't handle it so don't be trying to be your own little God. People worship you - don't! Don't! Push that aside.
I worship the ground you walk on. That sounds like a wonderful romantic phrase, but guess what? Even if you do that, you need to worship God first, because you'll never be the spouse you know how to be in your home if you don't put God first in your relationship. And by the way, God's not a killjoy. He does not sit there and say, "I have a path for this guy and I have a path for this girl," and they're not even the same. That would be like a cruel joke. Wouldn't it be? As I was talking to Pete and Ashley who came here and declared their vows before the Lord yesterday. They had already been married in the courthouse; they came here to tell the world that they want Christian marriage. They've been baptized, they're moving forward in their faith. And it was just so fun to work with them this past few months and talking with them. And I always use this pyramid of how husband and wife and God as the centerpiece, that when we get close to God, we get closer to one another in our relationship.
When we both get our worship right in our home, we get more right with one another. It's not that simple, it takes time, and I'm not trying to unravel a tangled mess right now this morning, but it starts getting untangled when we start with loving God. Let me finalize my thoughts here by a pastor named Gray Steadman who said, "Man's responsibility is to respond to God's love, which is reaching out to us on every side, reaching out in nature, reaching out in the supply of all that is being given to us day by day. We are never to forget the that the things we enjoy; the food, the air, the sunshine, the shelter," all these material things of life that we need come from the hand of God.
It is God who gives them. It is God's goodness, protecting us, sheltering us, and watching over us that keeps us from being ravished and destroyed by the forces that are at work for evil in our lives. God's sheltering hand is protecting us. So when you think about the love of God, and especially the love that redeems us, the proper and only response of the heart is the love God back with all your heart, soul strength and might. Love God. But then Jesus turns right around, and instead of just stopping there, he goes beyond what was said in Deuteronomy. And he says what actually the Scribes and the Pharisees and all the religious leaders had kind of realized that really this vertical relationship with God, love God, was also completely... I couldn't say it last service either. It was completely tied to our love for other people. Love God, love people. The horizontal, the people we're with on this side of heaven, we ought to love like we love God. We love God. And it flows naturally into - if we're going to love God wholeheartedly, it also flows in that we're going to love our neighbors ourself. Love people like we love ourselves.
He unites love with God, for God, with love for people. We need to start loving God, loving people in every situation. God is motivated by His love for us. If He wasn't motivated by love, you and I would be - what's that Old Testament; we'd be smitten from the earth. I mean, you know how you get, when you're upset with somebody, if you had control of the lightning button, there'd be a lot of scorched earth going around. Wouldn't you? Don't get me... am I the only one that's like, "Man, smite that person. I mean, in Jesus' name." You know, you try to get righteous when you're saying it and you're just getting into trouble as you're thinking it. I mean, you know, we just... we know better, and they don't. What's that Greek word? They're an idiot. I mean, that's just the wrong thing to say. That's just wrong. I mean, but we do this. You're laughing because some of you have said that to the person you're sitting next to. Anyway, that's wrong.
We must, just as God is motivated to not smite us immediately, we must be motivated by love even if we're really upset with the person we're next to. Our motivation, we start with love just as God did with us. "Love your neighbor," he says. Now the Scribes would've excluded most people from who their neighbor was. Luke 10, actually right after this little incident, the guy says, and who is my neighbor? Like, who do I get to not love like I love myself? And then Jesus, again, another Bible study for you to go on your own. Yu can ferret that out to say it was the good Samaritan story. And he took the very person, the half-Jew, the Jewish people that had intermarried with non-Jews, which was forbidden in the Old Testament, and they were basically, there was a racial prejudice and hatred towards that particular group of people.
And he used the Samaritan as the hero of a story to indicate what a real neighbor was. You can go look at that for yourself. But when he basically says, he destroys all the boundaries that we put on this world for how we're supposed to love people and who we're allowed to love and not love. The guy next to you, that's the person you love. The person next to you, that's the person you love. The person in your life, that's the person you love. I can't love a person. In fact, some of us have a better feeling about loving somebody with our money, our resources, maybe even going a mission trip to another part of the world. And we do it much more easily than to just be a missionary in our own hometown and love the people we're around. I'll tell you what; I have fallen in love with the people of Ecuador. Been there five or six times and I go back in November. I love the people there, but you know what? They're easier to love. I don't have to live with them.
Let's just be honest. The people God called you to love or the people that are in your life. Don't go looking to replace the people in your life, replace the attitude. In our church we actually talk about loving in terms of service. And we talk about our shape and how God shaped us, and that we touch on it in our class 101. But really, how we love is really adapted to the way God wired us to love. And that's another whole Bible study in itself. And so, we talk about how one of our purposes is to love people by acts of service, by serving people in His name. Because just saying I love you, but we don't actually solve a problem in those lives or we don't show love in a practical way, that's not really love. Jesus goes to say, love your neighbor as yourself.
Now, I took psychology. That was my major in college. And I know some people, they get psychological on this and say, "Well, if you don't love yourself, you can't love people so you got to love yourself first." I get that. If you have a perverted sense of your love for yourself, if you have an ungodly sense of loving yourself, if you don't love yourself in the way - if you don't see yourself and view yourself the way God sees you and you don't grace yourself with the grace that God gives you, you are going to struggle with this. So that's of course, Jesus wasn't being a psychologist when He said this, the most general sense and the way in which it's written. It basically, He is appealing to the idea that self-preservation and self-love is one of the most ultimate forms and powerful forces in our lives.
Self-Preservation is so powerful that when you're training military personnel, you're training them to go against their self-preservation instincts and run towards the firefight. Firefighters have to train to fight against the natural instinct to run from danger so that they can run into a burning building. Now, some men and women are more wired than others to do that. But generally speaking, the ability and the desire to love yourself is a natural instinct. We are in suicide awareness and prevention month, and I hope and pray that if you're struggling with thoughts of self-harm, that you will reach out to somebody because we want you to know that you are valued and loved, and that God loves you and that we love you. And that there is a pathway towards wellness and wholeness away from what is happening in your mind that is causing you to think that the best form of self-preservation is to jump self-preservation and to hurt yourself in order to relieve yourself of the pain you're going through.
That really, when someone takes their life, they are so fighting against that natural instinct; it's like they're so unwired to their natural instinct of self-preservation that they go into that, not only thoughts of it, but then moving into the action. Self-preservation and self-love is a normal way of living. And if that's not something that's going on in you, you need to reach out for somebody for help. But for the rest of us, where that is, you know, I like what I like, right? You like what you like. Some of you, you sit in the same spot and you love your spot here in the church. And if someone sits in your spot, well, God bless them, but hopefully you'll get there before they do next week because I'm just telling, I mean, I'm just giving you a for instance. We just sort of like what we like. The world be a whole lot better if everybody thought like I did.
Has anybody said that? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the world will be a whole lot better if when I got to the where and where and such and such, they had what I wanted and they did what I asked before I had to tell them twice. They'll get a better tip if I - no, start with love, and love the people like you love yourself. You go into a restaurant and you love that server the way you want to be loved, you're going to have a better relationship and they may not spit in your food. I mean, this is just a suggestion, just a suggestion. Let's get back to the text.
We start with love when facing who in conflict? Love for others, diminishes our selfishness and pride, loving and serving people is what God's calling us to do. Just as we want to be loved and served, we ought to be loving and serving the people in our lives. Love God, love people. Let's start with love. And the Scribe says, "You got it Jesus. I agree with you. In fact, this love God love people, that's more important than the ritual sacrifice in burnt offerings." Let's start with that. And you don't have so many sacrifices in burnt offerings. I mean, religious practice is less important. If we get this right, that flows naturally the right way. Start with love. And Jesus says a very interesting comment to him; "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Huh? See, the Scribe realize that God primarily wants love relationships. He wants a love relationship with us, and He wants that to flow into our relationship with other people. Jesus commended this man, but He didn't say you're in the kingdom. He said, you're not far from the kingdom.
You see, almost is only right in horseshoe and hand grenades. I almost became a Christian. Paul is appealing to a higher authority in politics and the guy who had the right to yay or nay is death. And he said, "Almost thou persuades me" in the King James. You almost convinced me you're right, Paul. But that leader didn't get it. He didn't cross the line. In fact, when you're in a race, the only people who get recorded to have completed the race is if they cross the finish line. And the finish line for finding the grace and the forgiveness and the love of God that saves us forever is putting our faith in Jesus Christ. There's no indication in scripture or history that this person who was talking with Jesus, who Jesus commended and who seemed to be in agreement with Jesus; there's no indication that that man ever put his faith in Jesus Christ to be saved.
He may or may not be in heaven, in other words. We know at this moment he was not in heaven because he was not far from the kingdom of God, but he was not in the kingdom of God. And so my question this morning is, you agree with me, start with love, but have you put your faith in Jesus Christ? Have you crossed that line? Have you told the world you're a Christian through baptism? In October, we're going to have two people get baptized. I welcome you to join that group so that you can tell the world you're a Christian. Not that that makes you a Christian, but that shows the world that you've put your allegiance in the name and the person of Jesus Christ.
How far are you from completely trusting Jesus Christ with your life? Maybe better question is how close are you? How close are you trusting him? A pastor's greatest heartache is to look out and see people, and I know a lot of you put your faith in Him and you said you're a Christian, and only God knows the heart. And by evidence, so many people they give evidence that they are, but I know people that lived a good, righteous, good life, moral life for a long time, and later said that was all me. It wasn't God. And they put their faith in Jesus. Billy Graham, a great evangelist said that there's probably a percentage of people on every Sunday morning of people in the room that say they're Christians, but they really have never crossed the line. They've made an attempt to be a religious person, but they've never built a relationship with Jesus Christ. And so my question this morning is, is that you, is it time for you to cross that line?
Will you put on the connection card I'm committing my life to Christ? Will you come and let me talk with you? Put some people in the back, we'll have some people back there for you to actually talk with and pray through and know for sure that you know Jesus as your Lord and savior. How far are you? You're not close enough if you've not surrendered to Jesus Christ. And then the last question I want to ask those of us who are followers of Jesus, how often do you start with loving God and loving people? How quickly will you start this week with love first?
Jesus Is Coming Again!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
August 14, 2022
We believe in the real and personal return of Jesus Christ
-read belief statement
Why does this matter?
-they thought their loved ones had missed out on Christ’s return!
-we must all consider our appointment with death
-some people avoid talking about death (fear, distracted)
-death to some is popular, a way to escape
(possibly in pain, lacking proper information)
-The Bible says Jesus is coming again
-We must trust the whole Bible, or none of the Bible!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
We do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope
-Christ followers have real hope!
-We follow someone who solved our greatest problem: death!
-1 John 5:11-13 …you may KNOW that you have eternal life
-Yes Christians grieve over death, but with HOPE!
Jesus died and rose again, and so will we!
-John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life…”
What believers experience when they die:
Jesus is coming back!
-This can happen at any time!
-Paul and the Thessalonians anticipated Christ’s return
-Acts 1:7 Jesus tells us not to worry about when
Paul tells us how (vs 16-17)
-The Lord will personally come down
-This will be noisy!
-A shout- a cry, command, announcement
-Archangel’s voice- Mark 8:38
-Trumpet of God- no one will miss this event!!
-The dead will rise first to join Jesus
-No description of how, nature of bodies,
-We who are alive will (also) be “caught up”
-Same word in Acts 8:39; 2 Cor 12:2-4
-Happens along with resurrected dead
-We meet Jesus in the clouds- Mark 13:26; Acts 1:11
-This is where we get the belief in the Rapture
-1 Thes 4:15-17 does not offer a clear timeline
-differing beliefs on the timing of the rapture come from
Multiple verses in the Bible
-Our church believes in the second coming of Christ and the
Rapture of His church, we agree to disagree on exactly
when this occurs in relation to the final judgment of the world
-see our Belief Statement about Last Things
We will always be with the Lord
-Our reunion with Jesus physically is forever!
Jesus is coming again!
Therefore encourage one another with these words
-Every believer should be encouraged by this promise!
-Every unbeliever CAN be encouraged: trust Jesus now!
-1 John 5:11-13
St Joe Community Church
Belief Statement about Last Things
God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.
Isaiah 2:4; 11:9; Matthew 16:27; 18:8-9; 19:28; 24:27,30,36,44; 25:31-46; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 9:43-48; Luke 12:40,48; 16:19-26; 17:22-37; 21:27-28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:24-28,35-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:5; 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 5:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 2; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:27-28; James 5:8; 2 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14; Revelation 1:18; 3:11; 20:1-22:13.
1 Thessalonian 4, Jesus is coming again. Amen. He's coming again. As much as He came, as true as He came to this earth, as true as He died and rose again, as true as He ascended into heaven and people saw Him do that. A multitude of people saw this happen. He's coming again. The Bible is as true about His coming the first time as it is about His coming again that we've not yet known. The Old Testament was full of prophecy that said He was coming. He's coming, He's coming, He's coming. The God of the Old Testament, the same God of the New Testament; there's no difference, no change. The message isn't different. He operated in different ways and seasons, but God was the same when He started in Genesis, all the way when He said, Hey, there's something going to happen. And you can read there for yourself that He predicted. And then all the way through the prophets and all the way through the journey of the Israelite nation, as it foreshadowed the coming of Jesus Christ, that He would die and rise again.
And He did, He came, He died, He rose again, and He was sending into heaven. And just as He said that He is coming again, a second coming, we believe that as a church family. In fact, let me read for us the statement of faith that we all signed that says, this is what we believe about the end times. Last things is sometimes how it's said in doctrinal statements. And there are many scripture verses, and you can find this online. And if you go online to my Bible sermon notes, you'll find it at the end of my sermon notes this morning as well. God in His own time and in His own way will bring the world to its appropriate end.
There's going to be a final moment. I don't know when that is, but it's going to happen. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth. The dead will be raised and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to hell, the place of everlasting punishment. And the righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in heaven with the Lord. Multiple verses attest to that doctrinal statement. And yet - let's just make sure that we know that's a human statement about Bible truths. It is a finite statement. It's something that will pass away, but God's word will never pass away. But it's a way for us to encapsulate multiple verses in scripture for us to come together and say, we're united on this. We're not united on anything other than this, in other words; we're united on this.
And we together believe and agree together on this, where we disagree or we add to, or we say, well, I think there's another series of things that we may have different convictions and there are in this room, but we agree to disagree agreeably -we have the liberty to do that. But in all our beliefs, whether it is this true belief, this doctrinal statement that we all as members believe, or the things that we agree to disagree on, exactly how it's going to happen and eschatology stories of different systems of thought about how that's going to happen. We all operate out of love for one another because we can believe the exact right things and not have any love and it doesn't really matter.
And so this morning, I want to open up for us a passes of scripture that it's not mysterious, but it's a mystery. It's not something that is sort of this fantastical thing that I can't even understand it. We can't because it is otherworldly and the way it's described. And yet, wasn't the resurrection and other worldly thing. Isn't the coming of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, the God man, isn't that another worldly thing? And so too is this topic this morning.
Now, I'm just going to be honest. I had a lot of things on my plate this past week, a lot of things that were going on a lot of moving parts; things that were already scheduled well in advance, a bunch of things thrown in on top of that, and then a bunch of things thrown in on top of that. How many can relate? That's the kind of week you might've had. I'm just flat tired, and on Friday I'm going... I'm staring at this passage, I looked at it, I kind of studied a little bit about it, and I've read this and I was reading all the theologians and I'm trying to go back and get my commentaries. And I'm trying to put together, God, what do you want me to say? And there's this block party coming up. And I thought, you know what? I'm just going to pull out something that's real easy to preach on. I mean, I'm going to... Thank you, Darrell. There's nothing easy to preach on, but there's easier topics. Yeah. Topics I really love to talk about and that's why you let the Bible tell you what to teach, not just your feelings. And I was just going to say, well, I'll just push this off. Not skip it, but I'll do it another Sunday. And I know that Bill's wife Lynette, would've said, "That's going to mess up my journaling. Don't do that." See, she's got her journal down here. I knew. Testify!
And so, I'm staying on schedule and said, you know what? So I buckled down and I'm so grateful I did. And then this morning somebody came up said, man, I'm so glad you did that. And I feel so inadequate sometimes when I'm coming all the time, so many times - God, you've got to just speak through me. And He spoke this morning and it was confirmation that in spite of all of the midnight oil and the things that I was doing to get ready for this, God is in charge of this. And He was in charge of the time schedule. And if you're here today, you are here on the timing schedule of God, not mine. I was gone a couple of Sundays this summer, as somebody who thought you were going to get a new pastor. I don't know. So I was gone so often, somebody's going to put a for sale sign in my front yard. I mean, so I have pushed this off. This is the Sunday when this sermon comes, and it's, God's timing, not mine. And here we are, about the perfect timing of Jesus' return, whenever that is. And isn't this something that people are talking about.
For some, the Christians are like, "Oh, I'm just waiting for Jesus to return. I'm done with this world." How many kind of sometimes are that way? How many of you are tired of dealing with the sin in your life? And you're like, "I'm done. I'm ready for Jesus to come back." That's more me than about the times and the epics of what's going on. Some people are really into a timeline and they say, this is how it is. I always use that wall as if somebody someday, maybe they did have a timeline there maybe. I don't know, I'll go over here. And they have this whole timing of how the events are going to happen in the current geopolitical scheme of things and there's wars going on. And it's horrible. We need to keep praying for Ukraine. We need to keep praying for Taiwan, and we need to keep praying for these hotspots in the world. We need to keep praying for the church in the Middle East, where Christians are being martyred on a regular basis for their faith in Jesus. We need to pray for the church in China that is thriving under great persecution. And we need to pray for the church in America that is not thriving under great freedom to share our faith. Did you hear me? Sometimes freedom isn't always free spiritually. It's a cost.
This topic matters. We need to believe and trust in and look forward to the return of Christ because first of all, the Bible says, so it's going to happen. Now in this particular passage, it seems as though Paul was answering a question that was being asked of the church. They're like, "Hey, we've had some loved ones died. Did they miss Jesus? Because He said He is coming back." They assumed He was coming back. And because they so assumed it was so real to them that He was coming back, that the fact that He was coming back and their loved ones had died before He came back, it was a mystery to them. Are they going to miss it? Is that's it, they're dead and gone and what's going to happen to them? And Paul's trying to answer that for them.
This is in their temper in their first century moment in life, this letter was written to answer a question, but it's also an answer to a question to bring us hope in our circumstances because we must all consider our appointment with death. I jokingly said yesterday, Fair Haven Funeral Home sponsored us. We're going to have them come by, try out the hearse, go inside, sit down in it, lay in it, see if you like it. I mean, just like the show and tell at the police station; how many would've done that? Anybody here morbid enough to do that? Jean would've done it. All right, and we would've taken tons of pictures and said she is nuts. But we do have a picture of one of our elders laying in a hearse. I'm just going to tell you, I haven't shown it to his wife yet. No, we put it online, she said, look at this. And some guy had a used hearse that he... anyway, that's a whole nother story. And he looked pretty comfortable in there.
But we don't want to think about death. We pop into Walmart, we pop into the gas station. We pop into this or that. We pop to see a friend. How many of you pop into the funeral home? We don't. I just pop in. Now, I do. I'm morbid. I have friends over there. They work the funeral home. I was like, "Hey Mark, how's it going? Hey Britain!" I'm good friends with the four guys that own Fair Haven, and so I'll stop in just to say hi, Hey, let's go to lunch. I mean, you know, that sounds very, very sacrilegious, doesn't it? But you know what, it's part of life. But most of you are saying, "No, I don't normally do that." I make a plan to be at the funeral home because I have to think about what, death. And as someone who has lived more years than he is going to, I agree with you. I don't always want to think about that, but we got to. The Bible says in Ecclesiastic 7:2, "It's better to go to the house of mourning than it is to go the house of feasting."
Because if we're just having a party all the time, we're going to get to the end of our life, and did we live it the way God intended for us to? Did we fulfill the plans that He had for us? Did we do what He called us to do while He had us on His earth? Because once we're gone, we can't. We got to live it to the fullest, and not just eat, sleep and for tomorrow we may die; eat, sleep, go to party - party with a purpose. The block party, do the fun things in life with purpose. I'm not saying not have fun. I'm a fun guy. You all are a bunch of bullies. Tell you, that's just not right. I think I am, but I like to have fun. But man, if you just live your life, having fun all the time and you forget, what's really important, you're going to miss a lot of stuff. In a flash, my daughter's a senior, the last one. In a flash I take my daughter to go start her junior year this week at Purdue. In a flash, two kids are married. In a flash, it's gone in a moment. What are you doing with the moment you got? We got to think about the end times because how we end matters as much - it has to do with how we live right now.
And quite frankly, the Bible says He's coming again, so if we believe the Bible to save us from our sins, if we believe the Bible that Jesus died to pay for our sins on the cross, if we believe that He died and rose again, a fabulous story, an incredible story, a miraculous story. If we believe that we got to also believe what the Bible says about His return. He's coming again. He's coming again. And if a church doesn't believe that, if you don't believe that you're saying, I believe part of the Bible, not all the Bible. I'm saying, if you don't believe some of the Bible, you can't believe any of the Bible; it all stands or falls on itself. If something's not true, then God's a liar. Why would we trust God if He lied here and He didn't lie over there? That's a shifty guy to me, I wouldn't trust Him.
I trust Him to be true, and even if we don't understand it, even if we stare at it and go, what is that all about? We have to believe it as a fact, as much as we believe anything else that the Bible says. So let's read 1 Thessalonians 4:13, "We do not want you to be uninformed brothers and sisters concerning those who are asleep so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For we say this to you by a word from the Lord. We who are still alive at the Lord's coming, will certainly not proceed those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from the heaven with a shout, with the archangel's voice and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are still alive who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore, encourage one another with these words."
What is Paul saying here in this brief passage that is concise, it's not all inclusive, it doesn't give every detail, but it gives a lot of detail. First of all, we do not grieve like the rest who have no hope. Every time that I'm giving a funeral for a person who knows Jesus, who's gone home, they have gone home to be with the Lord. And while there's grieving, there's always going to be grieving when someone dies. Maybe not as much for some than others in terms of, I feel comfortable with where they're going. An elderly person that passes away, maybe they've been struggling, whether they be younger or old, they've been struggling with a debilitating illness. Or my grandma, I didn't weep uncontrollably at her death. I had an uncontrollable sorrowful moment when I realized she had so much dementia she didn't remember me. That's when I said goodbye to my grandmother. And so, I was not happy when she went home to the Lord, but I was grateful that she was no longer in the prison of a body that was no longer functioning the way she functioned when I knew her as my grandma.
We're going to grieve. We're going to be sad. That's normal. But we don't grieve like people who say that person I'll never see again. We're going to see him again. I say, see you later. How many have lost a loved one in heaven? You lost them in heaven, really? They're lost. I just absolutely tricked you just now. No one is lost if they're in Jesus. They're found in Jesus and they're forever with Jesus. And somebody asked me, you didn't get into the idea of where they're at before this all happens in this passage. No, I'm not going to. Well, we can talk later about that, but it says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Whatever that means, I don't know. We're not on pause, somehow we're with God, but in some other sense, we are. And there's conversation about that, but the quickest answer is, we're with Jesus when we go to heaven or when we die, but this is something that will definitely happen at a moment that we think not. Jesus died and rose again and so will we.
What does it say in verse 14, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again," and that if could also be a sense we believe, or in other words, of course you believe that Jesus died and rose again. Well, in the same way through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. We will rise again too. When we baptize people in our church, they are baptized, buried in the lightness of Christ, raised to walk a newness of life. We baptized by immersion by simple fact that the word baptism means immersion, but it's a word picture of a death, burial of resurrection. It's a symbolic gesture that I am buried with Christ raised to walk with Christ. Someday I will be buried if I die before He comes again and I'll be raised up just as Christ was raised from the grave. We symbolize that in baptism. We talk about that as a body of Christ. We are resurrected spiritually into a new kind of a person. We're transformed into the kind of person that God intended for us to be when we become a Christian. But there'll be someday when our body will catch up with what's happened already, spiritually inside.
You know when believers die they experience a freedom, a relief from the temptations, a relief from this earthly body. They receive fellowship with Jesus and all the other believers. And there was a man that died that he spoke to our church two different times. I went to see him just before he died at the age of 33 years old, I believe it was. And he's on he's deathbed, and I just had a few moments with him, me and somebody else. And he said, "You know, a lot of people want to go home to be with Jesus; a lot of times everybody said, 'oh, I want to go be with grandma and grandpa. I want to go be with mom and dad that died already. I want to be with my child that died.'" And certainly, I can't even imagine in those experiences what you might feel like, but you know what he said? He says, I'm telling you what; I want to meet personally the one who died for my sins. I want to personally say hi and thank you and follow at His feet and worship the one who bled and died for me. That's who I'm looking forward to seeing in heaven. I'm looking forward to seeing grandma, but I want to see Jesus. He is the king of Kings and He's the Lord of Lords, and He is the most important person in heaven that I ever want to see. And I'll see the others too, but it's because I see Him that I get to see them. Yes, because we all trusted in Him. He's our hope.
He's the resurrection in the life. That's what He said in John 11, "I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will never die." Do you believe this Martha? He's about ready to raise Lazarus, and Jesus, almost like he's asking you, do you believe this? He raised Lazarus. You know, that was such a miracle, that Lazarus came back from death. In that same time period, not only are they trying to kill Jesus, but because Lazarus was a testimony to the power of the resurrection in Jesus Christ, they put a death warrant out for him as well. Let's see if we can kill Lazarus too. There's no indication that I can find in history that they followed through with that. But they were like, he is evidence that Jesus is somebody that is taking our power away from us, and we got to erase the evidence of his power.
This Jesus is the one who has life and death in His hands. Verse 15 kind of describes how He's coming back. Jesus is coming back. He's coming again. Acts 1:9-11 tells us that He had ascended into heaven, all this crowd saw Him; they're gazing up into heaven. Okay, he's gone now, what do we do? He had told them what to do, but they're just standing there. And it's like you got your orientation for your job, and then you're just looking at your boss and your boss's like, "Now go, go do what I said to do." This is kind of the church looking at this fabulous thing of Jesus going up into heaven. And while He was going, they were gazing into heaven and suddenly two men and white clothes stood by them. And they said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven?’" The same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven. He's coming back. They knew that from the very beginning.
And in fact, Acts 1:7, they were saying, 'When you're coming back? When's this going to happen?" And Jesus even said, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the father has set by His own authority." I'm not here to tell you how it's going to happen. And by the way, if Jesus didn't come to tell you how it's going to happen, this pastor not going to tell you how it's going to happen either. I can give you some ideas. I can point you some scriptures, but it's going to happen. That's what I can point to for sure that He's coming back and we must be ready.
Are you going to be ready if He came in a moment? Would you go to heaven or hell? In your trust right now where you're at - I'm not here to put anybody in stark fear, but you need a spiritual reality check is, have you put your faith in the one who can give you eternal life? Have you trusted in the one who, if He came in a moment, He would take you home to be with himself forever? Or are you still waffling, wavering or rejecting? So Paul tells us a little bit how verse 16 and following, and let me just break it down. He's going to come personally. He's coming down. It's him. It's not some mystical mist, you know. And people can have apparitions and ideas and mystical things that they've seen. There's a farmer in Iowa that probably had crop circles that he didn't see the teenagers go in and do that.
I don't know if it's true or not. I don't know. I don't have to believe in crop circles to believe in Jesus and have a life and hope. That might or may not have happened. UFOs - anybody seen something weird? Don't raise your hand. That you're like, I can't explain it. I've seen a few things; I can't explain it, but my faith is not based on that mysticism that I don't know. My faith is based on truth that I do know. And my hope is based on that. Not on something that somebody's told me that they might have thought of that they saw. And again, I'm not here to clarify it or disagree with that person. I'm just saying, I trust in what I know is true, and that is that He's coming again personally.
Oh, and it says here it's going to be pretty noisy; a shout, a cry, a command, an announcement, the archangel's voice. This is also referred to in Mark 8:38, the trumpet of God. Great instrument. We played trumpet in Ball State together; my wife and I did too. That's a great instrument, right. And God's going to blow His clarinet. I'm sorry for any clarinet people. No, He didn't say that. He said trumpet. I'm sorry. His bass guitar, maybe. No, trumpet. Anyway, now I'm stepping on everybody's toes this morning. But it's going to be loud. This is going to be noticeable. Now for the flat air society, they're like, "Yeah, He is going to come one spot where I going to see it." I don't know how He is going to do it globally. I don't know. I don't know how it's going to happen, but it's going to happen. And we're going to know that it happens. We're not going to miss it. Pull a prank on your friend, go to their door tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM and bang on it, "Hey, the rapture happened and we missed it." Don't do it.
Well, I know where I'm going, I don't know about you. We're just fine anyway. That actually happened to somebody and it was weird, so don't do that. But it says here, here's the timing, "The dead in Christ will rise first," be first to join Jesus, "and then we who are alive will be caught up with them together." Now, that, what the Bible says there's a sequence, the dead and Christ rise than us who are alive. But it also, the way it's worded to say, it's a simultaneous - in other words, Paul is addressing a problem that they had in their minds. Did they miss it? No, they're actually going to get ahead of the line. But it's not about who gets there first. We're all getting there together. We're all together going to be caught up.
Again, a fantastic, wonderful moment in this world event of history that's going to happen. And it says, we hear a lot "caught up" same word in Acts 8:39, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. In fact, Paul even used this word, "I was caught up into the heavenly," the third heaven, maybe your version says, and he had a vision from God. Maybe this was one of those visions. We don't know. He didn't quite explain what he learned or even how that meant, if it was an out of body experience, if God actually physically took him up there or not. I don't know. We know Elijah had a chariot come down, pick him up and take him home. That was kind of crazy. Enoch walked with God. He was no more. Walked with God, and he just walked right up into heaven with God. Wow. Wouldn't that be cool?
But you know, those are unique moments in history. This happened. What did Paul mean by that? We don't know what he meant by his experience, but he's using the same word that we are going to have this personal reunion with our savior Jesus. And this is where we get the belief in what's called the rapture. Does your church believe in the rapture? You'll notice that in our doctrinal statement, the word rapture does not appear. You know why, because the word rapture doesn't appear in the Bible. However, the concept of it does. That word meaning - a Latin word, meaning carrying off or a snatching away.
So yes, we believe in that, but we don't use that word because that's not a word - but we can use that word because it's interchangeable; if you want to put it in the terms of what we're talking about here in 1 Thessalonians 4. There's no clear timeline, by the way. Paul does not give a clear timeline. He doesn't say these are the world events that are going to happen when it happens. He just says it's going to happen. And he says we will be caught up with them. We wonder maybe even if Paul even thought that in his lifetime it might happen. There's some conversation about that. Or maybe he might, we, like whoever's alive at the time that it happens, it will happen, will be caught up with the dead in Christ.
Again, Paul isn't overly clear, but it seemed to make sense and it worked well for the people who were receiving the letter. And I think that if we don't make it too complicated, it's going to make sense to us as well as we trust the Holy Spirit and His timing in our life. See, our church does believe in the second coming of Christ. We believe that. He's coming again. That's what we urgently appeal to people; be reconciled to God, connect people with God, connect people with the body of Christ. There is no plan B or C or D. The plan A is the local church. And if you're in a local church, participating in and helping pursue the mission of God, to declare His glory to the whole world, by declaring the good news of Jesus Christ and making disciples and helping them to grow in their faith, that they might go and do the same with their friends and family that we might, all of us, have multi-generations of believers in our lives. Just as we might have children who are physically born to us, it is natural for us to have spiritually born people around us that we've led to Christ and we've grown in Christ. And it is unnatural for any of us to be spiritual orphans or to be spiritually childless.
In other words, who are you telling people about Jesus? And if you aren't, why aren't you because that's what God's all about. Connecting people with God, connecting people with himself, connecting people with the body of Christ. And that's why we say we are pursuing the lost and unchurch. We're unashamed to say we want to tell the whole world about Jesus Christ and we warmly welcome people who want to come in and transfer in and help us to do that who are already follows of Christ. Join us in the mission of what we're trying to do here, that we might see God be honored and glorified, and that we'll see multiple generations of spiritual babies growing up to become mature Christians, to see other people come to Jesus, spiritual babies, mature Christians. And that cycle continues until Jesus comes again, as we await the second coming of Christ and the rapture of His church.
And then it says at the end there, we will always be with the Lord. At that moment, there'll be no separation. Oh, they were clinging to Jesus when He was eating with them and talking with them and teaching them the last things and really investing in them for those several days that He was on earth as a resurrected body person, showing them His wounds, helping them to have clear evidence, evidence that was so clear that most of the people that trusted in Jesus were martyred for their faith. Some were tortured for their faith. There's tradition that most of the disciples died a horrific death because they clung to the fact that Jesus rose again and they were unwilling to renounce it to their peril.
And only one guy we know of that we know for sure was probably John who died of old age, but God used him in his old age to give us the revelation at the end of the Bible and gave us such great wisdom and ministry to the local church as he lived out his old age life, but most others were martyred for their faith. This was such a fact that was true to them. And they were looking forward to the return of Christ. They were looking forward to all that Jesus said was to take place through the church, through them and for the end of time. But even as they anticipated and they saw this separation from them and Jesus in bodily form, they weren't going to be with them, that all ends when it all ends. That all ends when it all ends. We're with Him forever. There's no more separation.
There's no more, well I'm going to go away for a while then I'll come back and be with you. No, that's over. It's done. And we're with Jesus forever, our savior. So Jesus is coming again. He's coming again. Do you believe that? Therefore, encourage one another with these words, don't be discouraged. In fact, I want to read a passage here to just keep us on track with this because some of you, you've got a timeline in your brain of how this is going to happen. "Now, pastor, I heard you say this, but do you believe this too?" Well, I might, but here's what I know. There's a lot that we agree to disagree on. And there's some basic things that I already told you we agree on with unity. And if you don't believe that, then you wouldn't want to be a member here because that's what we believe.
But let me just share a quote from somebody about this idea of the rapture of the church. It's an glorious event that we should all be longing for. We will finally be free from sin. We'll be in God's presence forever. There's far too much debate over the meaning and scope of the rapture. This is not God's intent. Rather, the rapture should be a comforting doctrine full of hope. God wants us to encourage each other with these words. And if you are looking at this as a discouragement, there's only one reason you should be discouraged by it. You're not going to be a part of it. There's only reason you should be discouraged by it, that you do not have hope in Jesus Christ. You have hope in a religious system; you have hope in some kind of a way of living that doesn't include surrendering your life to Jesus Christ. You don't have any hope and you should be floundering and you should be very unhappy about what I talked about today. But if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ - Paul said in Romans, "Whoever puts their hope in Him, will never be put to shame." His grip doesn't slip.
I've walked my toddler children across icy parking lots. And I can remember times when I said, let me hold your hand. I don't want them to hold my hand. It was too weak to hang onto when their feet slipped. And I've told my children this, and I hope you've told your children, this there's things you can't do for kids when they go places and do things and they've got to deal with real life grown up situations. But I've told my kids this and it's a word picture of God's love; there is nothing you'll tell me that ever stopped me from loving you. There is nothing you will ever do that will stop me from pursuing you. There was nothing you will ever do that will stop me from ever wanting to have a fellowship and a love for you. I will always be your father. I gave you my last name because I believe that that's who you were. You are mine. I am yours. And as your father, that will never... You can take away my name from you if you want to legally, but I will never take my name away from you.
Now, some of you, you never had that kind of a father. And it breaks my heart if that's ever the case. But it's a word picture of the father's love for us. He gives us a new name. He gives us a new life. He gives us a new way of living. He gives us a new heart. And I plead with you just as Paul did, I plead with you on Christ's behalf. Be reconciled to God, put your faith in Jesus this morning.
Let's stand together. Our worship team's going to bring one more song to us and help us to come and worship Him in music. But this isn't a time to show off how good we can sing in this room. It's a time for us to get serious with God. Be encouraged by these words this morning. If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, be encouraged that He's got you in the Palm of His hand, and that he's got a purpose and a plan for you, and you're saying, 'Oh, I better be ready for that moment." Well then, maybe it's time for you to surrender and get going with what God's called you to do and stop waiting for something else and go do it.
Maybe for you this morning, it's time for you to stop playing around with this thing about Jesus Christ. Put your faith in Him, or I'll be honest; there's some of you, "I don't have enough information pieces. I'm really confused. I've been given all kinds of other information and I don't know what to believe." Your best step is just to simply say that. Maybe your best step today, yes, put your faith in Christ. But yes, put your faith in Christ like saying I want to put my faith in Christ. Ask the questions. We're going back to school some of you, I don't have to. I'm back in school too. We're all going back to school, and what they say - the dumbest question is the question that you don't ask. There is no silly question. Use the connection card. Connect with us, email us, text us, ask us the questions. But I believe this, is that true? Well, I don't know about this, is that right? But I don't know about this, is this...? Help us help you take that step of faith that God's asking you to take today.
Full worship service
B: Bible book