SermonsDiscover the Joy of Leaving Laodicea Behind
The expectation for our future, as a Nation and as the church, are grim indeed. We are going to face some very tough times, and have to navigate some very rough waters, especially for those of us who live in the United States.
During the Tribulation, the Bible teaches that Israel will stand alone. No longer will we be her protector. God will fill that role. In fact, the US is not even a minor player in the end times scenario. Look at Ezekiel 38 and 39 if you need convincing. The prophetic future of the US is almost non-existent. Something must happen to us to bring us down to the point we can no longer protect Israel. Can you see it coming?
Just look around.
As we begin to see the darkness come over our land and persecution confront the church in ways unimaginable just a generation ago, it is well past time for each of us to understand and embrace the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit like never before. As Appollo Creed said to Rocky to shake him from his fear, “There is no tomorrow!”
And Appollo was right. There is no tomorrow. The time for spiritual preparation is today. Actually, it should have been yesterday, or last week. The time for fervency towards our Lord cannot be put off any longer. The well-worn excuses about family responsibilities, career advancement, and the general business of life seem trite at best, and will mean nothing when persecution comes. And it will come. Most assuredly it will come. The Scriptures promise persecution.
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution – 2 Timothy 3:12
That is, of course, unless you aren’t particularly interested in living godly in Christ. Then you may be pretty safe, right up until the time you take the mark on your hand or forehead. But that’s another issue for another time.
When we think of Jonathan Edward’s 70 Resolutions or a church mission statement, we know they are comprised of our bedrock values. So it is the same with each of us when we attempt to put on paper what we value most about God. For me, the choice was simple.
In addition to His grace and mercy, His abounding love and forgiveness, the one attribute that I cling to the most about our Lord is His sovereignty. Yes, the Almighty is sovereign! Lord over all!
He is the Supreme Ruler.
He is the Creator.
He is the Final Arbitrator.
He is All in All.
There is nowhere to go beyond God.
He is Sovereign!
In this message, we begin a deep journey into the prophetic words of Christ found in Matthew 24. Why? Because we are truly living in the last of the last days and it would do us well to see what our Lord has to say about the events that precede His coming. And we will especially look at the first sign Jesus told us would point to the beginning of the end, deception. That’s right, deception is planáō in the Greek and means “to cause to wander, to be led astray, to mislead, to seduce, to cause to err.” Or, simply put, good old-fashioned deception.
Which raises just a few questions.
How are we being deceived today?
And, if we are being deceived, how would we know?
Are there other places in the Scriptures that warn us against deception?
What kind of deception can we expect?
And what was the specific focus of the deception Jesus spoke about?
How Important is the Coming (and Present) Deception
To see how rampant deception is in our society, and as a sign of the end, look at how many times Jesus spoke about it in Matthew 24:
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” – Matthew 24:5.
“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” – Matthew 24:11.
And how powerful will that deception be?
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” – Matthew 24:24.
Did you catch that? If it were possible (and we know that it’s not), even the elect, those chosen and sealed by Christ, would be deceived. It’s gonna be bad.
Who Do You Trust?
One final question regarding trust and deception. Ask yourself this one question: Who do you trust? If you’re honest, your answer may shock you.
Unfortunately, in our walk with the Lord, Chaucer’s ancient adage proves true: Familiarity Breeds Contempt. It breeds contempt in the form of apathy, laziness, indifference, lack of honor or respect and, finally, of misplaced love. It seems to be the curse of Western Christianity that wants for nothing save the things that matter.
What can we do when we find our relationship with the Lord boring at best? What happens when, to quote the classic song by the Righteous Brothers, “we’ve lost that lovin’ feelin'”? What happens then?
How can we recapture what we have a hard time even remembering? We find the answer in the Lord’s letter to His church in Ephesus.
Familiarity Breeds Contempt
The church at Ephesus, when John penned the Revelation, was only one generation removed from the life of the Lord. They were a hard-working bunch of committed believers who had a resume and doctrinal purity that would be the envy of almost any church today.
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary” – Revelation 2:2-3.
In fact, they worked for the Lord to the point of sheer exhaustion.
“I know your works (the results of employment, duty, business, something to be done), your labor (to toil to the point of exhaustion, the labor which demands the whole strength of a man exerted to the utmost to accomplish the task), your patience (to remain under, to bear up under), and that you cannot bear (support, stand) those who are evil (bad, worthless, wicked, vicious, harmful, bad in heart, conduct, and character). And you have tested (tried, to prove either good or bad) those who say (affirm, proclaim) they are apostles (messengers, sent ones) and are not, and have found (by examination, search, or inquiry) them liars (false); and you have persevered (to bear up under patiently) and have patience (to endure, to remain under), and have labored (to be fatigued, worn out, weary, faint) for (what) My name’s sake and have not become weary (faint from constant work).”
I get tired just reading all that they did. But, like the church today, they had missed the most important part of their relationship with Jesus. The relationship!
“Nevertheless (in spite of all this) I (Jesus) have this against you, that you have left (to forsake, quit, abandon, desert) your first love ( agapē)” – Revelation 2:4.
Sobering words. The Lord said He is “against” them… even after all the good they had done. How could that be? And what can they do to right their sinking ship?
It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things. Sometimes it is painfully hard.
“Remember (to call to mind, to keep on remembering) therefore from where (why, how) you have fallen (to fall off or from, to fall away, to fail, to be without effect, in vain); repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place— unless you repent” – Revelation 2:5.
Do You Remember?
It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things. Sometimes it is painfully hard. Consider the following questions to help begin the process of remembering:
There comes a time in each of our spiritual lives when the Lord brings to us His divine interruption that always comes with a choice. And that choice, other than obedience, seems to focus on our willingness to let Him move us into an area that we are totally unfamiliar with. Or will we choose to remain where we feel safe and comfortable? The choice is either to follow Him into the deep or remain in the kiddie pool holding fast to our water wings. And as always, the choice becomes a matter of faith, of trust.
After all, we sing songs about Him being a “good, good Father.” Do we really mean it? Or is that just for church?
The question or choice is simply this:
Are you in? Or are you out?
If you look at the major faith personalities in the Bible, you will find every one of them had to ask themselves the same question. Every one of them was faced with a choice that comes with a set of troubling questions: “Do I continue in the course that seems right to me? Or do I trust I actually heard from the Lord and go in a direction totally unfamiliar to anything I’ve ever done or known? How much faith do I really have?”
We call these moments Divine Interruptions.
In this message, we’ll look at these interruptions from the vantage point of:
James and John and Peter and Andrew
And finally, Hosea.
A Personal Note
And I will share with you the divine interruption I received this week while preparing for this message from Jude. In fact, in the weeks to follow I will share more about the changes the Lord has brought in my life regarding what His will is for me and this ministry. And I rejoice in that. Why? Because He has simply answered a prayer I have prayed for almost two years in a most profound way.
When it comes to revival, personal revival, we are somewhat hamstrung by the reality that many in the church today have no idea what that even looks like. Think about it. It’s not like you can pick up the phone and call a mature Christian saint who is at the top of their game spiritually, and has been for years, and ask them to mentor us in personal revival. It seems, at least in the West, that those people are few and far between if they exist at all.
And this is to the shame of the church… and to each of us as individuals.
So we’re back to the main question.
What Does Personal Revival Look Like?
In this message, we’ll look at a few Scriptures that describe to us what true, Spirit-led, personal revival looks like. Some of the passages we’ll examine are Psalm 119:25, 37, and 40, along with a few of the kingdom parables (Matthew 13:44-46). We then look at Philippians 3:7-8, and a few other passages, and conclude by asking just a few questions.
What is worth selling all you have to acquire?
What is worth everything you are?
What is the thing you value the most?
Have you asked the Lord to show you things in your life that are worthless and deceitful and are causing you to sin and grieve the Holy Spirit?
Or are you too afraid of what He might say?
What will you do if He shows you what must go?
Is the promise of living your life more alive and more abundantly than you are now worth more than holding on to what we are convinced brings lasting joy?
Will you ask Him right now to reveal it to you?
But as we shared last week…
The greatest need for the church, and for our fractured nations, is revival. No, not the kind of revival we have been satisfied with over the last two generations: the hired evangelist that comes once a year to preach all week to half the congregation of a church, salvation messages to people who are already saved. That’s not real revival. It’s a cheap second. A knock-off.
So what is real revival and is it even possible?
The First and Second Great Awakening
Real revival has taken place on our shores, but it was several centuries ago and has become known as the First and Second Great Awakening. It was spurred on by the preaching of Charles Finney, Wesley, Whitefield, and many others, who faithfully preached about the conviction of sin and the need for repentance and conversion. In fact, the results in the communities where revival took place were remarkable.
But note this, modern, manufactured feel-good meetings are not true revival. In fact, they are a cheap substitute for something Spirit-led and ordained by a sovereign God.
In 1932, William Sprague took upon himself to research the Great Awakenings in our nation and wrote a book titled, Lectures on Revival. In his book, he quoted many ministers who had experienced, first hand, the Spirit-led move of God on this land. One of these men was Francis Wayland, a Baptist pastor and president of Brown University. Wayland described the true revival he had experienced as follows:
As the Christmas season is winding down, it would be appropriate for us to look at the greatest gift we have ever received from the greatest Person we have ever known— our Lord, and to give Him praise for that wondrous gift. And for me, I find that gift revealed to me in Colossians.
Let’s look at this gift together.
No Longer Alienated and Enemies of the Lord
The Scriptures say that I, and all who are called by His name, are no longer “alienated and enemies” of the Lord. Look at this marvelous gift found in Colossians 1:21-22:
And you (your name), who once were (past tense) alienated (apallotrióō – to estrange, alienate entirely) and enemies (echthrós – hatred, hostility, enmity) in your mind by (what) wicked works, yet now (present tense) He (Christ’s actions) has reconciled (apokatallássō – the restoration of a relationship of peace which has been disturbed) in the body of His flesh (how) through death, (why) to present (paristánō – to cause to stand near or before) you (your name) holy (hágios – set apart, sanctified, consecrated, a saint), and blameless (ámōmos – unblameable, without spot or blemish) and above reproach (anégklētos –unreproveable, not merely unaccusable but unaccused, free from any legal charge) in His sight (presence, before His face).
But there is more. He keeps us from stumbling and presents us faultless before His glory. Amazing. Read it yourself in Jude 1:24.
Now to Him (Christ) who is able to keep you (your name) from stumbling (áptaistos – falling), and to present you (your name) faultless (where) before the presence of His glory (how) with exceeding joy (agallíasis – extreme exultation, exuberant joy),
And how do we respond to this incredible gift? Read the next verse.
To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
I pray you will begin the next year with the same praise and passion for your Lord that you ended the last one. And you can do that by realizing what a great God we serve and what a great gift He has given us in His Son. Will you join with me in exalting His Name?
One of the major failures of the church today is to downplay the place of Christ when we come together to worship. Yes, you heard right. We, hopefully unknowingly, often relegate Christ to the back pew or the second chair. And who do we elevate in His place? Usually the pastor or, often, the worship leader.
And when we come together as a church we have a tendency to preach on the “what’s” and “why’s” of the Scripture and seldom the “how’s”. Think about it. We know we are commanded to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” ( ), but are never told exactly how to do that. Did you ever wonder why?
We are commanded to “walk according to the Spirit” ( ), yet are never instructed on how to do that. We know what it means and why it’s important. But for some reason, our pastors fail to take our hands and show us exactly how to accomplish this command. Why?
Is it because practical Christianity is not in vogue today? Or could it be we have become a church made up of those who can tell us what to do but have never experienced it themselves? Are we more like cowboys driving cattle from the rear than a shepherd leading from the front?
What are we to do?
Seven Things the Church Failed to Teach Me
Recently I was reading a blog that shared these seven things the author said the church never taught him. And I couldn’t agree more. Consider the following:
- How to practically live by the Christ who dwells inside me.
- How to practically learn how to hear the Lord’s voice beyond “pray and read your Bible.”
- That church-as-we-know-it is drastically different from church-as-God-would-have-it.
- What the gospel of the kingdom is and how radically it can alter a human life.
- How deep the tentacles of the world system go and how to break free from them.
- That God’s presence is extremely subtle most of the time.
- How to find Christ in the Scriptures, including the entire Old Testament.
So in 2019, I have committed to teach the church I pastor the “how’s” of the Christian faith and to answer these, and other, practical questions about living for Him. Will you join with me as we explore the breathtaking view of our Lord together?