Monday, November 11, 2013

Jesus' prophecies Have A Purpose

This is my first sermon, preached on Nov.10, 2013. It is on Luke 21:5-19

      I was born poor, my parents were divorced when I was 4 or 5, and I grew up in a neighborhood that if it wasn't the projects it wasn't far from it. I remember a time when I was bout 12 or 13 years old, it wasn't to long after my father had died. I was sitting on the front porch of the apartments we live in and I see the guy who lived across the yard pull up in his shiny gold Cadillac and get out with 2 women dressed in gold shimmering dresses, wearing fur coats, high heels, and gold hanging from their necks and ears. He was always dressed in flashy suits, and would flash money around to anyone that would look. He had it all, money, power, women, a nice car, anything a man could ask for. He noticed me looking at him and asked me if I liked what I saw, and of course I said yes. He told me I could have everything he had, maybe even more if I went to work for him. I would see my mother leave for work at 4:00 AM and not get home until 6:00 or 7:00 PM, working hard and still not making ends meet, struggling to pay the bills, put food on the table, and clothes on our backs. So, I went to work for him, and as you probably have guessed by now those promises he made didn't come true. What I got was a life of crime, drug addiction, and a lot of violence.

     Not all false prophets are religious, some prophesy about earthly things, like money and power. That is why Jesus warned His disciples to beware of the false teachers who would come. He knew just like the temple's beauty hiding it's ugly secrets, the false teachers with their appearances, methods and teachings would hide their true motives, like spiritual bankruptcy, hypocrisy, oppression, and rejection of Christ and the Gospel. Jesus tells the disciples in Vs.8,Watch out that you are not deceived for many will come in my name claiming I am he and the end is near. Do not follow them. You see, Jesus is the real prophet and the difference is Jesus' prophecies have a purpose. I am not saying that the false prophets don't have a purpose, but Jesus' purpose and intentions are pure. He isn't just saying these things with the intentions of being in the spotlight or manipulating people to His advantage. Jesus' purpose is a loving one, love for the soul, love that desires to warn people of the realities of life in a sinful world, as well as to prepare them for what comes next.

     I think a false narrative that people believe is that by becoming a Christian that automatically means that life will get easier, they will be happier, healthier, and more successful in earthly ways. They take God's promise in Romans 8:28, to work good in all things for those who love Him to mean physical,  worldly blessings instead of spiritual blessings, which is Jesus' primary concern and promise for our lives.  So, the problem comes in when expectations clash with the reality of life in a sinful world, at which time the theology of prosperity minded Christians come into question and they find themselves evaluating their faith, Was I not a good enough Christian, or maybe even evaluating God, what kind of God would make these promises and not deliver. Questions that don't recognize the realities of life, even for the Christian in a sinful world. This is one of the key reasons Jesus has in making his predictions in our text for today. Jesus' prophecies have a purpose.

     I believe it was Tuesday of Holy Week, just 3 days before Jesus would die on the cross. As He and His disciples were leaving Jerusalem for the night, the disciples looked back and found themselves awestruck by the sight of the temple, saying to Jesus, Look, Teacher what massive stones, what magnificent buildings. But, Jesus shocked His disciples with His response. As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another, and everyone of them will be thrown down. Why would Jesus prophesy such a thing? Because Jesus' prophecies have a purpose. He wanted them to understand the realities of a sinful world.

     Like many others, Jesus' followers hoped the Messiah would be an earthly King, wipe out the Romans, and set up His royal throne in Jerusalem. They knew Jesus had the power to do it, they had seen his many miracles, like the most recent one of raising Lazarus from the dead. He could make life on earth easy and cushy. Look at those buildings Lord, wouldn't your throne look great in that golden temple? But, Jesus cut them off, He had not come into this world so the people would have cushy comfortable lives before they go to the grave. He came so all that trust in Him can burst out of the grave like He did and live with God in heaven. Jesus' prophesies have a purpose. So he told His disciples, I want you to understand the realities of this world. Sure, you can enjoy it, there will be good times, happy times, but there will also be problems and pains. Nations will rise against nations, kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events. In vs. 16-18 Jesus says, you will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death, all men will hate you because of me. But, not a hair on your head shall parish, by standing firm you will gain life. Doesn't that sound a bit contradictory? Let me read the again. Some of you will be put to death, but not a hair on your head will parish, stand firm and gain life. What does that mean?

     When I was about 18 my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I watched it slowly take her life. Little by little she withered away until she slipped into a partial coma and was bed ridden. Her hair had fallen out, her muscles tightened and shrank pulling her arms and legs in until she was in a permanent fetal position. I gave her water with a cotton swab, they fed her with tubes and gave her drugs to make her comfortable. Finally that day came, after a 5 year battle my mother left this world. Some would say she lost her battle, but Jesus says she won. Where she is at now, she can walk, run and play. She can do her favorite thing, sitting under a shade tree drinking iced tea and watching her children and grandchildren play. I see her sitting under that tree watching the granddaughter she never met grow into a fine,confident, faith filled young lady, she can watch her son finally come to the Lord and grow so much in his faith that he can stand up here and preach this sermon today, because not a hair on her head has perished. She stood firm against this sinful world, she stood firm in her faith when she could so easily lost it, and she gained life.

      So while the Lord provides for all your daily needs, like food, clothes, income, and even the air you breathe. He also provides what you need to enter into His Heavenly Kingdom, where not a hair on your head will perish. He provides trusted, well meaning people in your life to support you with guidance and even correction. As you gracious and merciful savior, He took your sins off your record, off your shoulders, and off your conscience by placing them instead on His Son on the cross. So regardless of when or how your life leaves this sinful world, not a hair on your head will perish, because your soul will live with Him forever in perfect, blissful, Heavenly joy. But, until that day comes there will be a lot of garbage in this world to deal with, But Jesus' prophecies have a purpose. They prepare you for the bad and give you the strength to deal with this sinful world Jesus' prophecies prepare us for this because they show us the big picture, the eternal picture, that while the reality of living in a sinful world is challenging, especially for Christian who is constantly forced to choose between carrying the cross for Christ and laying down in the comfort of spiritual obscurity, the reality of faith that stands firm is eternal life through the grace and mercy of our Awesome God........Amen