What Now?

Quick Review

Three sermons have led up to this final talk in my "What" series:

  • "What Went Wrong" — Where we learned that what originally went wrong up in heaven and was tragically repeated down here on earth by its original human inhabitants wasn't some arbitrary rule being broken. Instead, there was a breakdown of trust that has been repeated by Adam and Eve's progeny throughout the millennia.
  • "What Was Tried" — Where we took a dispensational view of God's dealings with man throughout history and learned that (a) anything that depends on man fails miserably; (b) our Lord doesn't give up on us rebellious earthlings; and (c) it's not about us, it's about God…
  • And last week's, "What Finally Worked" — Where we found how the successful treatment fit the disease…that the Father, to heal the breakdown of trust that has plagued the human race since our original parents listened to that cursed serpent…sent His son, who showed that truly God is worthy of trust. How do we know that? Because the Son manifested the Father (John 17:6), is "image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4), and is the "exact imprint of his nature" (Hebrews 1:3). As Jesus assured Philip, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). When we look into the face of Jesus we see the glory of God…that what His enemies have said of Him are lies and what He has said about Himself is the truth. In Jesus we see a God…the God…that can be trusted.

How Soon is Soon?

Of course, so much more was done on the cross…finite words cannot adequately explain the infinite…but we enter this final sermon confident that when Jesus cried out, "It is finished" (John 19:30) He spoke accurately…and truthfully.

Yet I stand here and you sit there.

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

But "It is finished" is pretty easily explained…Jesus did finish what He came to earth to do…so there is no disconnect between His words and our reality. However, sometimes it can be complicated for a Christian 2,000 years after Jesus' ascension to hear:

  • James say "the coming of the Lord is at hand" In James 5:8.
  • Peter say "the end of all things is at hand" in 1 Peter 4:7.
  • Paul say "the Lord is at hand" in Philippians 4:5, assure the Romans that "the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" in Romans 16:20, and tell the Corinthians that "the appointed time has grown very short" in 1 Corinthians 7:29.
  • The writer of Hebrews speak of "the Day drawing near" in Hebrews 10:25.
  • John's state He was recording "the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place" in Revelation 1:1.
  • Jesus Himself saying "I am coming soon" in Revelation 3:11, Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:12, and Revelation 22:20…that "this generation will not pass away until" "they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" in Matthew 24:34 (looking back to Matthew 24:30)…and that there were "some standing [there] who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" in Matthew 16:28…a kingdom preceded by "the Son of Man…[coming] with his angels in the glory of his Father" (Matthew 16:27).

Yet I stand here and you sit there.

What Gives?

What gives?

I'm not going to try to individually explain every one of those verses…that would take more than a single sermon…but one of the main things to take into consideration is that many of those words were written or spoken before God's dealings with the Jews were complete…Jerusalem had not yet been destroyed by the Romans. Also, "coming in the clouds" can mean a coming judgment instead of a physical appearance, and when Jesus speaks of the end times in Matthew 24 He also appears to be mixing what happened in AD 70 and what happens at the very end. Ultimately, each verse must be separately explained in its own context.

And I suspect what is more important to us is the answer to the question, "If 'it is finished,' then why am I standing here and you sitting there?" Which leads me to my first response to the question, "What now?"

Be Patient

Remember how I said James said "the Lord is at hand"? Let's look more at that verse and the one before it in James 5:7-8:

7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

And James isn't alone in using the word "patient" in connection to Jesus' return. Peter, who I quoted in his first letter as saying "the end of all things is at hand" (1 Peter 4:7), has some amazing words in 2 Peter 3:1-10:

3 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Now, Peter's "patience" is about God, and James' is about us…but are they connected?

"What gives?" with God's delay in His return is that our Lord "is patient toward [us], not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."

And my first answer to the question, "What now?" is…

Be patient, for the Lord is patient.

I know that can be difficult. Every newscast is a reminder of just how interminably far from perfection our world has fallen, and every loved one who precedes us into the grave makes us want things to wrap-up so we can rejoin them in God's glory. We react like John in Revelation 22:20:

He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

However, we can learn from God's answer to Habakkuk when that prophet was concerned about when Babylon was going to finally get what was due them:

And the LORD answered me:

"Write the vision;

make it plain on tablets,

so he may run who reads it.

For still the vision awaits its appointed time;

it hastens to the end—it will not lie.

If it seems slow, wait for it;

it will surely come; it will not delay (Habakkuk 2:2-3).

Just like the judgment of Babylon…the Second Coming may seem slow…but "wait for it"…it "awaits its appointed time…"it will surely come; it will not delay."

Think I am misapplying Habakkuk in principle to Christ's return? How about these words from Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:13-16?:

13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

"The appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" will be "[displayed] at the proper time…or, as Peter describes in Acts 3:21…a "time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago."

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:24-25).

Be patient, for the Lord is patient.

And, I for one am thankful for that…because if God pulled the plug on this rebellious planet as early as humans might have wanted, I wouldn't be standing here before you. 🙂

Trust God

Hopefully my second answer to the question, "What now?" doesn't require any proof given what we've seen in the first three sermons. However, before I provide it let's turn to John 14:1-3:

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

The first of those verses just as readily could be translated, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust God; trust also in me."

And you have to admit Jesus proved that both He and the Father were…that both He and the Father are…trustworthy, didn't He?

My first answer to the question, "What Now?" was:

Be patient, for the Lord is patient.

My second is:

Trust God, for God is trustworthy.

He has prepared a place for you…if not, would He "have told you that [He goes] to prepare a place for you"?

He "will come again and will take you to [himself], that where [he is] you may be also."

And as a little side bit of advice…if you find trust difficult, then cry out like the father of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9:24:

"I believe; help my unbelief!"

Trust God, for God is trustworthy.

Be Faithful

For my final answer to the question, "What Now?"…

Remember the verses we read in Habakkuk? If we had gone one more, we would have been blessed with:

"Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,

but the righteous shall live by his faith (Habakkuk 2:4).

Unlike Babylon with a puffed up soul, we…the righteous live by their faith. Which, of all things, leads me to a tidbit told by my favorite president, Ronald Reagan:

And I can't help but tell a story I heard the other day about faith.

Fellow fell off a cliff. And as he was falling grabbed a limb sticking out the side of the cliff. And looked down 300 feet to the canyon floor below and then looked up and said, “Lord, if their's anyone up there, give me faith. Tell me what to do.” And a voice from the heavens said, “If you have faith, let go.” He looked down at the canyon floor and then took another look up and says, “Is there anyone else up there?”1

I said to "trust God, for God is trustworthy"…but ultimately true trust is visible, isn't it? As James so aptly wrote:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:14-18).

With the verses from Habakkuk I added one more at the end. Now…before I give you my third response to "What now?" I'd like to add a couple to the ones I shared that Paul wrote to Timothy:

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:11-16).

Are you a man or woman of God? If you have claimed the name of Jesus, you are…so…

Fight the good fight of the faith…avoid what is wrong…do what is right…"keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." Because, "If you love [Jesus], you will keep [his] commandments" (John 14:15) "and by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments (1 John 2:3).

My first answer to "What Now?"

Be patient, for our Lord is patient.

My second answer to "What Now?"

Trust God, for God is trustworthy.

And my third answer to "What now?":

Be faithful, for our King of kings is faithful.

Face of Jesus

Of course, I could given so many other answers to "What now?"…but if I go on much longer you all might be praying for the Second Coming of Jesus just so that I stop talking. 🙂

Remember how I said, if you have trouble trusting God, to cry out, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

Let's wrap up looking at a time a disciple had a little trust problem walking on water:

And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." 29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:28-31).

Peter started off trusting Jesus…showing quite a bit of faith…but He took his eyes off his Savior and instead looked at the wind…and I suspect the water.

And Peter started to sink.

But, our Lord is faithful…is trustworthy…and He "immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him."

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).

Be patient, for the Lord is patient.

Got a problem with patience?

Look at the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Trust God, for God is trustworthy.

Got a problem with trust?

Look at the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Be faithful, for our King of kings is faithful.

Got a problem being faithful?

Look at the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Summing it All Up.

Come to think of it, I can sum up my entire answer to the question, "What now?" the same way I wrapped up my sermon "What Finally Worked."

Look directly into the face of Jesus Christ, and never look away!

Footnotes

1From the two CD set, Well…There You Go Again: The Humor that Shaped America. Available at Amazon.com: http://amzn.com/B0030BF6JQ


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