Always be ready – Matthew 24:36-44

In this passage, part of Christ’s Olivet Discourse, Jesus makes a vital point for us.  We must always be ready for his return.

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

I have personally and unscientifically observed two common and unfortunate responses to the thought that Jesus can come back at any moment. 

One is to go completely overboard in end times enthusiasm.  I remember years ago having to comfort a man whose wife had died.  Grief is hard.  His was made worse by the conviction that he and his wife, who were not young, were both going to live to see the rapture of the church.  He has since died as well.  No rapture.

The other unfortunate response, perhaps egged on by views like the one above, is to decide that Bible prophecy is so difficult, obscure or controversial that it’s not worth paying it any attention.  This seems to be more common at present, but it directly contradicts Jesus’ point.

Whether one believes this passage from Matthew is talking about the rapture or not (I personally think it is, which I know is a minority view), Christ wants us to be ready.  He wants us to stay awake (v.42), be ready (v.44) and to watch (Matt 25:13).

The fact that we cannot know when Jesus is coming is not a motivator to not care when he will return.  I believe this tension and lack of clarity regarding his return is designed to keep us always watchful.  Every generation of Christians has every reason to believe that Jesus can come during their lifetime, but we can never be sure that he will.  

Therefore we must always be ready.  Let’s repeat that.

44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus!

Vicarious faith – Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26

Christ’s death for our sins is sometimes referred to as vicarious atonement.  He took responsibility for us when we were incapable of atoning for ourselves.  That is a wonderful fact and an essential concept that is basic to the Christian faith.  If you want, you can read more about it here.

Now we are going to talk about something else — vicarious faith — an idea central to the Christian life.  Needy people are not always in a position to believe.  They may need us to step in for them and take the responsibility upon ourselves to believe.  Our faith can stand in for their faith, our prayers for their prayers.  Matthew 9 shows us an extreme case.

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. … 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

The ruler came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter.  She was dead.  In the house was a lifeless, breathless and certainly faithless corpse.  Her father reached out in faith when she was unable to believe for herself.  The mourners were no help.  Their expressions of grief were interrupted by their laughing at Jesus.  But Jesus did what Jesus does and the girl arose.  I want to exercise that kind of faith on behalf of others.

Looking toward the end result – Matthew 5:3-12

Christ’s beatitudes, those memorable opening words from his Sermon on the Mount, are among the most loved and best known verses in the Bible.  People who never bother to read the Bible quote them.  They appear in all kinds of contexts and sometimes entirely out of context.  Here they are once more.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

What strikes me about them today is their long-term outlook.  Each one points to some activity or condition in the present and what we might call its long-term reward or payoff.  That is, it gives us the “why” that makes each activity or condition worthwhile right now.  Christ’s perspective is nothing short of eternal.

Some of them seem completely improbable.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are those who mourn,” “Blessed are you when others revile you…”  And yet we have on the authority of Jesus that in any of these situations we should count ourselves blessed.

These are the words of the one who brought blessing out of his cross.  Jesus endured that, knowing that it was necessary to accomplish his objectives.  I want to be able to look toward Jesus and look toward the end result of what he might be doing in my life in the same way.  It’s a lot like Hebrews 12:1-2.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

39 Books: Lamentations – New Every Morning

39 Bks Torah Scroll WhiteLamentations – New Every Morning

Sometimes we need to grieve our losses.  What can we learn from this series of Laments over Jerusalem?

 


25 Lamentations.pdf
                25 Lamentations.mp3

Central Streaming: New Every Morning

jeremiah

  • Sometimes we just need to grieve.  Grief is the natural response that all of us have to loss.  The bigger the loss, the bigger our need to grieve.

Lamentation.pdf        Lamentations.mp3

Inevitable Compassion

When things are looking very bad, the one thing we perhaps fear the most is that they will never look good again.  Diving into this bottomless pit of awfulness is is self-destructive.  We have permission to rejoice.  As long as we’re looking to the Lord for help, this worst case scenario will never be true. 

Once again, Jeremiah leads the way in seeing light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel of gloom.  If it was bad, he saw it.  If it was difficult, he endured it.  And he was no superman – he cried and griped often along the way.  But when it was all over and he was right in the midst of a well-desevered lengthy lament, he just couldn’t help but observe the following, leaving us with a profound message of hope: 

God’s compassion is inevitable.

“For the Lord will not cast off forever.
Though He causes grief,
Yet He will show compassion
According to the multitude of His mercies.
For He does not afflict willingly,
Nor grieve the children of men.”
– Lamentations 3:31-33 (NKJV)