Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Judgment or Grace?

 Scripture readings from Mark 13:24-37 and 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 are found at the end of the message.

Message             Judgment or Grace?        Thomas E. Williams
            The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!  You remember Chicken Little.  An acorn fell on his head and he paniced and started declaring that the sky was falling.  Before long he had Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey all convinced that he was right and everyone was running for shelter.

            How many Chicken Littles have come and gone?  I don’t know for sure.  Hundreds or thousands I’d guess.  I did a quick research on the World Wide Web and found the following:
  1. In the 1530s, Anabaptists assumed control of the German town of Munster and hailed it as a New Jerusalem awaiting the return of Christ.  Jan Bockelson declared himself the "Messiah of the last days," took multiple wives, issued coins that prophesied the coming apocalypse and in general made life hell for everyone in the city.
  2. 666 is described as the "mark of the beast" in the Bible's Book of Revelation. So it was no surprise that Europeans worried as the year 1666 approached.
  3. William Miller began to preach about the world's end, saying Jesus Christ would return for the long-awaited Second Coming and that Earth would be engulfed in fire sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. When that end didn't come, Miller changed the date to Oct. 22. When Oct. 23 rolled around, his loyal followers explained it away yet again.
  4. The Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society, founder, Charles Taze Russell, had previously predicted Christ's invisible return in 1874, followed by anticipation of his Second Coming in 1914.
  5. Pentecostal pastor William Branham claimed he met with seven angels who revealed to him the meaning of the seven seals from the Book of Revelation, leading him to predict that Jesus would return to Earth in 1977. 
  6. Harold Camping's prediction that the world will end Saturday, May 21, 2011, is not his first such prediction. In 1992, the evangelist published a book called 1994?, which proclaimed that sometime in mid-September 1994, Christ would return and the world would end. Camping based his calculations on numbers and dates found in the Bible and, at the time, said that he was "99.9% certain" that his math was correct. But the world did not end in 1994. Nor did it end on March 31, 1995 — another date Camping provided when September 1994 passed without incident. "I'm like the boy who cried wolf again and again and the wolf didn't come," Camping told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1995. "This doesn't bother me in the slightest."
  7. Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, which was the best-selling nonfiction book of the 1970s, predicted that the world would end sometime before Dec. 31, 1988. He cited a host of world events — nuclear war, the communist threat and the restoration of Israel — as reasons the end times were upon mankind. His later books, though less specific, suggested that believers not plan on being on Earth past the 1980s — then the 1990s and, of course, the 2000s.
  8. Edgar Whisenant published a book in 1988 called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, which sold some 4.5 million copies. Whisenant once famously said, "Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong." When 1989 rolled around, a discredited Whisenant published another book, saying the Rapture would occur that year instead. It did not sell as well, nor did later titles that predicted the world would end in 1993 and again in 1994.
  9. Y2K. For months before the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 2000, analysts speculated that entire computer networks would crash, causing widespread dysfunction for a global population that had become irreversibly dependent on computers  
  10. David Koresh led his Branch Davidian sect to its doom in a compound near Waco, Texas, in 1993. How did he do that? He convinced his followers that he was Christ and that they should hole up at what was called the Mount Carmel Center to prepare for the end of the world.
  11. A New Age belief cites 2012 as the year humans will undergo a physical and spiritual transformation, while some people predict that sometime that year, Earth will collide with a black hole or a planet named Nibiru. But perhaps the most popular belief is attributed (falsely, many scholars argue) to the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar from the ancient Mayan civilization. Interpretations suggest that the fourth world, in which we live now, will end on Dec. 21, 2012.

            When will the world end?  I don’t know.  But it seems that all I have to do to build a following of Henny Pennys, Ducky Luckys, Goosey Looseys, and Turkey Lurkeys is use some unsound science or theology and shout it with enough conviction. 
            I’d want to set the date just far enough into the future so that word had time to spread and more people could ‘tune in’ to my message.  And, hey, I could get lucky and the world would end when I predicted and no body would be around to laugh at me.

            There is so much interest in end of the world prophesies that all manner of books, movies and TV shows have been written about it.  And if you really want to see how wide spread the belief in the end of the world is, go to the web.  There are not only prophets making predictions, there are people preparing for it.  There is a whole sub culture of people who call themselves “Preppers”.  They are survivalist types who want to be ready for the ‘coming chaos’.  There are sites where you can buy packages that contain a years worth of freeze dried food, water, first aid kits, ammunition, and seeds so that you can plant your own post-apocalyptic gardens.

            Now understand that I am not belittling them, I believe in a certain amount of preparedness.  I live in a Recreational Vehicle, a fifth-wheel trailer.  My wife and I have an emergency to-go bag with some clothes, our meds, bottles of water and food bars.  We change the contents as the seasons change.  There have been times when the weather reports were indicating that it would be unsafe in our RV.  We took the bag and sought shelter in a safer building.  If our home was destroyed by the storm we had a few necessities with us.  But is it really necessary or possible to prepare for the end of the world?

            Our scripture readings both speak of the Day of the Lord, the day that Jesus comes in the clouds. The sun and moon will be darkened. Stars will fall from the sky and heaven and earth will pass away on that day!

That sounds like the end of the world doesn’t it?  Can we be prepared for it?  Yes, and Jesus tells us what to do.
35Therefore, keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.  37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."
            And why are we to watch? Paul tells the Corinthians and by extension us:  Because in every way we have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind--6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among us--7so that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8He will also strengthen us to the end, so that we may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
            As Christians we should be prepared by keeping ourselves right with God.  We ARE SAVED.  That is done!  Now we need to keep our will in line with God’s will.  We need to be about doing what God intends for every believer to be doing.  And that is spreading the Good News that Christ has come, Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.
            As Christian we should be seeking the end of THIS world and the full realization of the Kingdom of God.  There is nothing to fear in this world’s end, for it is a broken world.  Only by its passing can the new earth and the new heaven be revealed. 
            So what if the stars fall and the sun and the moon are darkened?  We will have the light of Christ as a physical presence in the world.  I will paraphrase the message that the angels gave the shepherds at Jesus’ birth,  "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today there has returned for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
            So often I've heard the phrase "The Coming Judgement" said with fear and trepidation.  I say you to we Christians have already been judged and found innocent by the grace given as a gift of God through Christ Jesus.  What we have to look forward to at the end of the world is the handing out of our rewards.  It is grace not judgement for us at the worlds end.  So rejoice, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

- - -

New Testament          1 Corinthians 1:3-9  
3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind--6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you--7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

*Gospel:                  Mark 13:24-37                
24"But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory.
27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.
29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  32"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.  35Therefore, keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.  37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."

Bible readings are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible

No comments:

Post a Comment