We live in a world of sin. Living in a world of sin is not supposed to be easy.
Jesus' disciples asked Him, What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?
Matthew 24:6-8 is part of Jesus' answer:
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. Fir nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
This is a warning that from Jesus' first coming to His second, the intervening time will include many events. In His Matthew 24 response, Jesus lists a number of things to watch for. Today I want to take a meta-level look at three features we experience in that age Jesus foretold.
We will not read the chapter. You all have your Bibles; you've already read this chapter. But look it over. Open to this famous chapter; refresh your mind. So many signs are here which Jesus foretold. We've looked at them before: earthquakes, disasters, disease, persecution, chaos. Can we look at the features of our age, however, in a different light? Can we list its metafeatures, and look at how God might use them to bring broken hearts to Himself?
The first trait of our age we are highlighting is instability. Not long ago the stock market was throwing record highs. But right after that, there were extreme swings and declines. One of the features of our age is instability. I've had preaching trips to two countries postponed this year, and now, trips within the US. There is a global pandemic. Precautionary measures are being implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, and one way is to limit travel. But implementing these kinds of steps itself even brings instability.
What is the human reaction to instability? It is to search for, to look for, stability. And where do we find stability? From science? From humanism? From secular politics? From buying stuff? Where do we get stability?
Matthew 24:12 says,
and because lawlessness shall abound, the love of many will grow cold.
We come to a time when the better instincts of humanity are entirely unreliable. When people think they evolved from slime, there is no divine image, nothing good to aspire to; we begin to act like slime.
Nation-states historically use bread and circuses to keep the people mentally occupied, entertained, and to keep them from thinking about the injustices and life impositions inevitably flowing from human government. It is interesting how, in the current crisis, those methods aren't available in the same way as in the past. Large sporting and entertainment events have been cancelled. We are in a period of instability.
We also live in a time, we will all realize, of rapid change. Instability doesn't necessarily imply rapid change. By rapid change, I mean rapid transition from one persistent situation to another. We live in that kind of time.
Look at the current crisis. Almost overnight we appear to be changing the way we touch each other, the way we shop, the way we travel or don't travel. For school, children are working via online distance learning. Many workers are also being asked to work from home. Banking people are trying to make their banks run from a distance and prefer you to bank electronically.
Fortunately, this church is set up so that you can return tithe and give your offering electronically. Maybe you should try it out. I understand it is painless!
As students in school we heard about safe, clean, reliable nuclear power that was coming. I recall the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania. It was a partial core meltdown. Chernobyl came in 1986. The whole world was polluted. In 2011 multiple reactor meltdowns occured in Fukushima Japan after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami. The source of those accidents? Design problems, and operator error. Those technological achievements were supposed to be the beginning of a beautiful future. This was change, alright. But the change was, we found out how fallible, how mistake-prone we are. The brave new world that came to after the 1960s theologians porclaims "God is dead" turned out to be deadly indeed.
And so, the things we anticipated would bring us hope were just empty. It turns out that if we hope in the human, we will discover that all that is human is finally, ultimately empty. It is nothingness in pretty plastic clothes. Its glory is illusion. In the absence of a look toward the cross of Jesus, that leaves us the third metatrend: hopelessness.
Many today are engulfed in feelings of isolation and hopelessness? In the absence of faith in God, what is there to replace that kind of meaning for our lives? Cupcakes? Burritos? Kool-aid? Hollywood movies? Pizza? Cats? Endless videos?
None of these satisfy; they never could. Humans are designed for holiness. We are made in the image of God. Even a beautiful sunset does not satisfy. The only thing that can give us hope is the deep and special purpose God built into us when He made us human.
Luke foretells a time with
Men's hearts failing them for fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth (Luke 21:26).
People are afraid. The culture has lost its bearings utterly. And all that is left is notgod. But notgod is notgood. And notgood is not fulfilling. There is no rainbow at the end of the tunnel on this road.
People round us are suffering from loneliness as never before. Drug abuse is ncreasing again. People are harming themselves. It's very strange; but again, it's not very strange. Without Him, what do we have? Then our hope must center in anything else than God, and nothing like that gives hope. All that is human is temporary and failing. Our brightest hopes are not very bright. Even if you climb mount everest, so what? Or if you won the Daytona 500, so what? Or if you walked on the moon, so what?
Openness to Unanticipated Answers
In the face of all this darkness and gloom, where is the good news? Maybe there is an unexpected silver lining here.
When people feel the emptiness of life without God, it can do something important for them. It can help them come to a new awareness of the emptiness of secular answers, and new openness to spiritual kinds of answers.
How many do we know who are going through their own private crises right now, in health, or relationships, or finances? Will they find help apart from God? Maybe in fragments; maybe in a few small bits. But the only real hope they will find is in Jesus.
Who is This Strong Jesus?
Who is this Jesus, this strong Jesus, so needed by this so-delicate world?
What did He claim for Himself?
In John 6:35 "Jesus said to them, I am the Bread of Life." Did anyone ever hear Confucious say that? No. It is the claim of deity.
In John 8:12 "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world." Has any great academic, any great scholar made such a claim? Did Confucious or Buddha or Mohammed say it? No. But Jesus said it. And it sounds like the voice of God on the lips of Jesus.
When will we leave behind the flickering lights of this world and come to the Strong Jesus?
Have you heard of anyone but Jesus say, "I am the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11)? When your feet are slipping down over the brink of Jordan and your heart is beating slowly, it is a wonderful thing to be acquainted with a Jesus who can say, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). Could Buddha say that? Never. But Jesus says to the poor, aging Christian journeying toward the setting sun, "I am the resurrection and the life!" Thank God for Jesus.
To those who are travelling life's highway, the way that is sometimes so hard, the road that is so steep sometimes that we hardly know what to do, then Jesus says to us, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). Christ is for you in life, and He is for you when you are walking in the dark valleys of life. He never forgets you.
But, you say, I am a young person. I have never heard of this Jesus. My parents were not church goers. My family is all broken up. And even my grandparents never talked to me about God even though they went to church. They were afraid of offending my parents or they just didn't seem to know how to relate to me. As far as I have ever heard, this was just a comforting old religion of myths that satisfied my grandparents who didn't really know anything important. Why should I give any attention to these unprovable claims about a man from 2000 years ago?
But let me ask you: Do you realize that this same Jesus warned about our future? That He communicated to us that in the last days, men's hearts would be failing them for fear for the things coming on the world? I mean, look around yourself. Where is the hope?
Do you know that some of the brightest lights today, even among younger people, are deeply afraid that human civilization will destroy itself one way or another? One of the richest people on earth is determined to build a fleet of rockets to colonize Mars. It is because he fears that the human race might easiy destroy itself before he can accomolish his goal. He says we need to become a multi-planetary species so that if something happens, there will be "a backup" of humanity.
I admire his energy and his ability. But even if he is successful, do you know what he says his goal is? It is "To die on Mars, just not on impact."
He wants to retire someday in the Martian colony he hopes to begin building in this decade. That's it. That is his best future, his brightest goal: to finally die on Mars.
But no surprise. That is the highest thing we can aspire to without God. To die on Mars.
Look around. There is a generation that is without God. Who will help them find Jesus? Only someone who knows Jesus.
Only someone like you.
The world is delicate, and it needs the strong Jesus who you know. The world is running out of answers. It needs the answers from the Bible that you know.
The world is failing. People see things failing. And it might be, that some will come to a new awareness in themselves of the emptiness of godless, secular answers, and have a new openness to answers that are spiritual. And if they become at least open enough to consider the possibility of Jesus, then they are a lot closer to the Father's house than they ever have been before.
We live in an age characterized by instability, rapid change, hopelessness. But where else can we go but to Jesus? He alone has the words of eternal life. Where else will we find hope but in pages preserved through the blood of martyrs who would rather burn at the stake than deny Jesus? Where is our faith? We, who live in this tall and mighty age of technology, and engineering, and science, and artificial intelligence--and who now tremble because someone ate some bat soup and now we find ourselves living in the throes of a global pandemic--what will we do for our Master?
Fremont MI SDA church 2020-03-14
Muskegon MI SDA church 2020-03-14