SermonsDiscover the Joy of Leaving Laodicea Behind
As we begin to look more into the idea of being a faith prepper, one of the key elements to understanding our position in Christ is to try to get a firm grasp on our union with Him. After all, it seems the most common phrase in Scripture regarding our position is “in Christ” or “in Him”. But what does that mean? And what kind of union with Christ does that phrase imply?
Let’s put on our theology hats for just a moment and look at the two types of unions spoken of in Scripture about Christ.
First, our union with Christ can be seen as a federal (head) or covenantal union (called Federalism). Romans 5:12-21 shows each of us as being in Adam before salvation and in Christ after salvation. And God established Adam as a representative or federal head of the human race. If Adam continued in righteousness, we would also have been considered to have continued in righteousness, being in Adam. But if Adam sinned, we too would be considered as also having sinned, being in Adam. This is where we begin to understand original sin.
If Adam sinned and fell by the transgression of God’s command, then we would also be considered to have sinned in him and Adam’s sin judgment and subsequent death would pass on to each of us. And, as we know, Adam did sin and death was passed on to each of us. This is the proof of our identification with Adam.
As we begin to grow in our life with Christ and actually, without reservation, take His Word and His promises at face value, we will inevitably come face to face with the limits of our faith. After all, there is only so much we can believe today and, if we are growing in our faith, there will hopefully be more we can believe tomorrow. But right now we live in today and today we must begin to prepare for tomorrow. That is why His disciples cried out to Him and pleaded, “Lord, increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5).
That’s the essence of being a faith prepper.
So let me ask just a few questions. What is the shortest way to get from where you are in your life of faith right now and where you want to be? Or, what can you do to increase your faith? Just like everything else in life, increase comes from repeated use and exercise. So you must exercise your faith and, unfortunately, that is done by having your faith tested.
No pain, no gain.
There comes a time in each of our lives when we have to ask ourselves some tough questions, especially as we see the coming darkness growing over our land and the church. And for many, that day of self-examination and questioning is today. Consider the following:
What are we to do when we see the darkness rapidly encroaching on everything we hold dear?
How do we raise our children in this deeply divided and hostile environment?
How are we to remain light in the coming darkness?
Where do we find our strength for the journey?
Where can we go for our encouragement and motivation to stand strong, come what may?
What is going to happen to all we know and love if things keep getting darker?
How can we become, today, the believers we need to be, seeing all the chaos around us?
The answer is simple. It is now time to put everything aside and begin to prepare for what lies ahead. No more denial or sticking our heads in the sand. It is now time to become a faith prepper.
When we come to the Lord’s table, often we spend little time in spiritual preparation to meet with our Lord. But this is His table and He has offered to each of us, regardless of our sins and failures, the blessing to come and dine with Him. Remember His words to His disciples?
Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).
With “fervent desire I have desired.” Can you feel the intensity in His words? This is something Jesus was passionate about, something that He truly wanted to do. And it involved each of us.
When we look at the Revelation, we should be shocked by the reaction of those who see Jesus face to face. First, John. And then the twenty-four elders. Look at the reaction of John:
After John hears the loud voice of the Lord, “as a trumpet”, and sees the seven lampstands and the seven stars and the “One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band” – John is so overwhelmed that he “fell at His feet as dead”. Dead. John had reached his ability to function and all his systems had shut down.
Have you ever responded like that when you encountered the Lord Jesus? Have you ever known anyone who has? And, if not, did you ever wonder why?
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.
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.