Sunday, October 19, 2014

How to live in the last days; Luke 21: 28-38

 At the beginning of the hippie movement in 1965, a rock and roll band by the name of the Who wrote a song called, “My Generation” that helped define the age.  If you were part of that generation, then you knew at the time who the band was talking about.  It meant anyone younger than the age of thirty.  One of the most famous lines of the song was, “I hope I die before I get old.”  I guess thirty was considered old at that time.  But I doubt the band members feel the same way today.

But even though they had a sense of who comprised their generation, the lines became blurred as the hippies grew up and the movement expanded.  Today that generation is still around, having lived twice as long as they said they wanted to live. The point being, that the idea of a generation is kind of an indeterminate designation.  Though it is widely accepted that a generation is about 40 years, no one can say for sure when a generation begins and when it ends.  There are still people living today, for instance, who were part of the generation that lived through WW2. 

The point that I’m trying to make is that when Jesus uses the phrase “this generation” in vs. 32, we’re not really sure exactly what He means.  Because generation can mean people living during a general time period or it can mean people who are closely related in age.  My view, and one that I think is widely shared among Biblical scholars is that generation in this passage refers not to people closely related in age, but related by an age.  People living in a certain age, or an epoch, a time.

And that principle is born out by the question of the disciples which prompted this whole discourse.  It’s found in Matthew’s version, chapter 24, vs.3, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”  As I pointed out last week when we looked at this, I think the key to understanding this passage is that there are three ages presented in the Bible.  There is the ancient age, from creation to the flood.  That age lasted 2000 years and came to an end with a world wide flood which destroyed all  life on earth except for those saved on the ark.  And then there was a second age, which was the Jewish age, from Abraham to the Apostles.  That age lasted for 2000 years as well and came to an end with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem and Israel.  Millions of Jews were massacred and the remainder dispersed, chased from one country to another, living without a homeland.  And the third age mentioned in chapter 21vs. 24 is the age of the Gentiles. We are living in the age of the Gentiles.  This age has lasted 2000 years as well.  It began with the trampling underfoot of Jerusalem by the Gentiles in 70AD and I believe it’s nearing the end as signaled by the Jews retaking Jerusalem in 1967 and living once again in the nation of Israel.  I believe that 6000 years of human history is fast approaching it’s climax, which is going to end with the destruction of the earth. 2Pet. 3:7  “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Now with that understanding  it is possible to interpret this passage in a sort of sytematic way.  But let me say as a caveat, that the phrase “this generation” is the source of a great deal of debate in theological circles.  It has put at war various groups from differing camps within the eschatological debate that has been going on for almost a hundred years.  And I don’t intend to get involved in that war this morning.  I think it is impossible to be that dogmatic about a passage which obviously was intended to be somewhat obscure.  So rather than focus on different viewpoints of end time theology, I would like to focus our attention on the point of it all.  What was Jesus trying to say?  What message was He trying to convey during these last hours with His disciples?   I think that is what is important, and not trying to figure out the day or the hour of our Lord’s return, which Jesus says is not our privilege to know. In the parallel account in Mark 13:32 Jesus adds,  "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

So what is the main point that Jesus is trying to make?  I believe that the context of this message, known as the Olivet Discourse, is a message concerning the end of the ages.  I believe that it is clear that Jesus is trying to warn His disciples about the impending judgment of Israel, and how they are to live in the last days.  They were living in the last days before the destruction of the temple, the last days of Israel as a nation, and the last days before there would be a great massacre and persecution of the Jews.  It happened within their generation.  It happened just as Jesus predicted within the next 40 years. 

And I believe Jesus message was intended as a warning for future generations as well.  We are living in the last days of the age of the Gentiles.  We are living in the last hours before the great tribulation, and in the last days before the judgment of God is poured out upon the earth.  So I believe that the message that Jesus gives here is a message which I have titled, “How to live in the last days.”

The way that I have decided to present this last section is to identify some key phrases or thoughts that are strung through these verses to give us something to hang onto as we consider how we are to live in the last days.  And here is what I have extracted from this passage as to how we are to live in the last days;  we need to straighten up, lift up, look up, keep our guard up, sober up, lighten up, wise up,  pray up, and listen up. 

Now let’s  look briefly at each of these.  The first is straighten up.  Jesus said in vs. 28, “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up…”  What things is Jesus talking about?  Well, it’s obvious that He’s talking about the persecution, the distressing signs in the heavens, the fear from natural catastrophes that will take place and so forth.  It stands to reason that in order to straighten up you must first have been bent over or knocked down. 

So although in these last days we may get knocked down, we don’t stay down.  I like how Paul talks about it in 2Cor. 4:7-11 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”  We can straighten up in the midst of tribulations or persecutions or hardships because we know that we have a higher calling, that there is a greater purpose to our suffering, so that  even in the midst of all of these trials we are manifesting Jesus Christ to the world.  That knowledge should make you straighten up.  Paul said in Phil. 3:10-11  “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  So straighten up. 

Secondly, Jesus says when these things begin to take place, lift up your heads.  Listen, when the world starts getting you down, you have to take your eyes off of the world. Take your eyes off your circumstances and lift up your eyes to heaven.  Psalm 121 says, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.” 

And I’m going to stretch that phrase to include lifting up one another. Gal. 6:2 “Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”  Listen, that is the purpose of the church, to bear one another’s burdens.  To help hold each other up.  To come to the aid of those that are hurting, or wounded.  Lift up one another.  Encourage the weak, the faint hearted.

Thirdly, look up.  Vs. 31 says, "So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.”  Jesus gave an illustration to help the disciples understand what He meant.  He said when you see a fig tree starting to bud then you know that summer is near. I don’t know about you, but I love summer.  Especially when I was a kid, but I feel like the older I get the more I like it as well. I just can’t stand winters anymore.  So every year, I used to eagerly watch for the trees to start to bud.  Because once I saw that happen, I knew that summer was near.

That’s what Jesus is talking about.  There is no mystical message about fig trees here.  It’s just when you see these things happening, be joyful.  Look up!  Jesus is coming back soon!  It’s almost time for the consummation of the Kingdom of God.  You know what He’s talking about?  He said in vs. 27 that the Son of Man will come in the clouds with power and great glory.  What He is saying is “Look up!”  “I’m coming back soon.”  Looking up means to live life with the expectancy of Jesus’ imminent return. 

Jesus could  come back today.  Folks, how differently would we live if we had a real expectation that Jesus could come back today?  Maybe early tomorrow morning.   What would you do differently if you really believed that?  I think one of the most poignant things that I have read was some transcripts of telephone calls from victims of the Twin Towers bombing.  As the buildings were going up in flames, as people were dying all around them and they knew death for them was imminent, those people made phone calls to their loved ones.  They wanted to take those last minutes to reach out to their families.  I think if we lived with the expectation of Christ returning in the clouds in judgment and power and glory with all His angels, I think we would get serious about reaching some of our loved ones with the gospel. I think we would make some phone calls.  I think we would visit some people.  I hope so.  I hope that when He comes He would find us about the business of the Kingdom of God. 

Fourthly, how do you live in the last days? Straighten up, lift up, look up, and fourthly, keep your guard up.  Jesus says in vs. 34, “Be on your guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.”  We need to live in these last days on guard against the schemes of the devil.  We need to guard our hearts and minds against temptation.  Peter said in 1Pet. 5:8 “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 
Listen, make no mistake.  You are living in enemy territory.  The devil is your mortal enemy.  He wants to distract you, capture you, trap you in some sin, and ultimately to destroy you.  So be on guard.  Be vigilant.  Keep close watch over your souls.

Fifthly, sober up. “Be on your guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness…”  Listen, I’m not going to try to tell you that you can’t have a beer or a drink and be a Christian.  But I am going to tell you this: the Bible makes it clear that we are to be sober.  We are living in the last days.  We are living in a critical time.  Our enemy is fighting  harder than ever, knowing that his days are short.  And so God tells us 8 times in the NT to be sober.  That means circumspect, calm, collected, using sound judgment at all times.  We already saw that we are to be on guard.  Do you think soldiers on guard should drink? Obviously not. 

Peter said in 1Pet. 4:3 “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.”  Dissipation, by the way, means wasting your resources, squandering money, talents or resources by living for pleasure.  Dissipation is wasting the grace of God by living for pleasure.  That is not why Jesus bought us with His blood.  Our freedom is not for licentiousness.  We need to sober up. 

Sixthly, we need to lighten up. “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life…”  The worries of life.  I’ve said it before many times, some things aren’t necessarily sins in and of themselves, but they are weights which hinder us and slow us down. Heb. 12:1 says,  “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”   What weights are keeping you from running the race to the fullest?  What weight is holding you back from really living fully for the Lord in these last days?  It may not be a sin in and of itself, but if it’s keeping you from living out God’s purpose in your life then you need to get rid of it.  Lay it aside.  You’re running a race.  You’re almost at the finish line, and some of you are trying to run with a lot of baggage that is slowing you down. 

Jesus gave the familiar parable of the soils in Luke 8:14.  He said, "The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”  Lighten up, let go of the worries, riches and pleasures of the world so that you might bring forth fruit.

Seventh, we need to wise up. “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.”  Did you ever set a trap?  I trapped once or twice when I was a boy.  My dad always warned me to be careful because I could lose a finger setting the trap.  The spring was so powerful and the jaws of the trap slammed shut so fast that it was very dangerous. 

Jesus likens the last day, the day of judgment coming like the jaws of a steel trap, slamming shut the door before you can react.  Jesus said that His coming will be like the lightning flashing in the evening sky, lighting up the sky from one end to the other in an instant, in a blinding flash.  Jesus said in Matthew 24 that He is coming at an hour that you do not expect.  Peter said He is coming like a thief.  It won’t be announced.  Jesus talked about the sudden destruction that is coming.  The trap is that those people who have succumbed to the allure of this world, to dissipation and drunkenness and drugs and debauchery will suddenly find themselves mourning at the sudden appearance of Christ in glory.  Wise up. Don’t be caught outside the door.

Eighth, how do you live in the last days?  Pray up.  Vs. 36, "But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."  Listen, you won’t be able to stand in that day if you are not leaning on the strength that God supplies.  We need to be prayed up if we expect to be able to stand up in the last days.  Ephesians 6 is the chapter which describes  the armor of God.  And in all the armor we have only two pieces of equipment that are offensive, that are weapons.  One is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  And the second is prayer. 

Eph. 6:18 says,  “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” To live in these last days we need to pray all the times in the Spirit.  We need to be praying for one another all the time.  We need to pray for our children all the time.  We need to pray for our wives or husbands all the time.  Paul said in the next verse to especially pray for him that he would be given the words to say.  We need to pray for our pastor all the time. 

Listen, I don’t dare think that I am holier or more righteous than any of you simply because I am a pastor.  I’m just like you are.  I bleed, I get sick, I get disappointed, I get tired, I even get backslidden sometimes.  But one thing I think I do have that perhaps you don’t have.  And that is I am the subject to a special strategy of Satan due to my position to destroy me, to destroy my family, to destroy my testimony, to tempt me to be unfaithful to the gospel. I know my weaknesses, and I know how hard Satan is trying to defeat me.  Because if he can cut off the head, he can kill the body.  I covet your prayers.  We need to pray up.

Finally, number 9, we need to listen up. Listen up. Vs. 37 “Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet. And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him in the temple to listen to Him.”  You want to stand firm in the last days?  Then attend to the teaching of God’s word.  Don’t neglect coming to church.  Don’t neglect coming to Bible study.  The word of God is truth.  The word of God is life.  The word of God is eternal. Jesus said in vs. 33, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” The word of God is our strength.  The word of God is our comfort.  The word of God is sufficient for every need. 2Tim. 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”  You could translate it better, “so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 

Listen, I am all for private devotions.  I think everyone should have a quiet time and study the word of God on their own.  But I want to impress on you the necessity of corporate worship.  But it’s not just a time to get together and listen to a speech and maybe hear some songs.  But God has called preachers to teach the word, to rebuke, to convict, to encourage in ways that don’t always come out of your personal Bible study.  When we study our Bibles we tend to gloss over some areas and dwell on others that happen to appeal to our interests at the moment.  But a God called preacher is going to preach the word of God in such a way that will exhort you to action, that will convict you of sin, and build up the weaker elements of the body. 

Paul exhorted a young preacher by the name of Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”  I’m afraid that time has come.  It is the last days, and such a great deception has occurred that if possible even the very elect would be deceived.  False prophets have risen.  Church’s lamps have gone out.  Christian’s love has grown cold.  And people have turned away from the truth and turned aside to teachers that tickle their ears with stories and jokes and nice sounding platitudes. 

If you are going to live in these last days for the Lord, then you need to come together with the body of Christ and strengthen one another, fellowship with one another, and submit to the preaching of the truth of God’s word from a pastor who has been appointed and annointed to preach the gospel. 

Well, there you have it.  We are living in the last days.  Christ is coming back soon.  It could be today.  Maybe tomorrow morning.  Let’s live like it’s our last day on earth.  Let’s be ready when Jesus appears like lightning in the clouds, with all the angels of God with Him.  On that day, the whole earth will be shaken, and every eye will see Him, and all who have not trusted in Him will mourn.  Let us be ready.  Let’s pray.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The end of the age, Luke 21:8-28

It seems to be a characteristic of the human condition that people are more interested in knowing the future than knowing the past.  People might line up at a carnival in front of a fortune teller’s tent, but not many would line up for a show about ancient history.  Yet there is an old adage which should be very familiar to all of us; “those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” 

Actually, I learned while researching that quote that the original statement was made by a philosopher named George Santayana, and it goes like this: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I didn’t remember that, but I think the sentiment is the same.  Those that don’t learn from the past, or can’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it. 

Today we are looking at a passage of scripture which we call predictive prophecy which has two parts to it, a part that is past, that is, it’s been fulfilled, and that which is yet future.  We should be able to learn from past prophecies that have been fulfilled. Predictive prophecy though means that means something that is predicted to happen in the future.  Not all prophecy is predictive.  Not all prophets tell the future, or prophesy about future events.  Being a prophet of God means first of all that one speaks forth the truth of God.  In that sense I might be considered a prophet, or to have the gift of prophecy or engage in the act of prophecy.  But predictive prophecy is another facet of prophecy that isn’t necessarily given to all prophets.  I don’t have the gift of predictive prophecy, and I don’t think it is a gift that is given today. I believe it was given to Christ and to His apostles as sign gifts.

By the way, there is an interesting injunction given in the Bible in regards to those that prophesy in a predictive manner.  There is no room given for error.  If one errs in their predictive prophecy, if the event that they speak of does not come to pass,  the Bible says that such a one is not actually a prophet of God at all, and should be stoned to death.  Now that is an OT injunction, and unfortunately in those cases we are no longer under the law.  I think it would clear the air significantly if we were able to practice stoning false prophets according to that standard today.  Because there are a great deal of false prophets masquerading in the church, pretending to be able to tell future events, and they are offering a false doctrine that leads people astray.  And yet their prophecies are consistently wrong, and naive people continue to follow them.

In this passage we are looking at today, known as the Olivet Discourse, Jesus is speaking predictive prophecy.  And as such, it is one of the most amazing prophesies that has ever been recorded.  Because we have the great advantage today of seeing a large portion of this prophecy as having been fulfilled.  That fulfillment should serve to bolster our faith.  And it should also serve as a warning to those that are unwilling to learn from the past, that they are doomed to repeat it.  Because I believe that there are two major parts to this prophecy, one that has been fulfilled, and one part that is yet to come.  And if we don’t learn from the one which has past, then we are going to be condemned to repeat a similar judgment  when the one comes in the future.

Now I will say at the outset that I go into this passage with some hesitancy.  To use another famous quote, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”  I don’t want to make foolish assumptions in exegeting this prophecy.  Jesus said that angels long to look into the things which are to come, but of the day and hour only God knows.  Paul referred to the end time as a mystery.  Jesus said in Acts 1:7 “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power.”  So I don’t want to presume to know too much.  Many, many men a whole lot smarter than I am have spent years studying these texts in search of the correct interpretation of this passage.  And yet there is still a great debate in theological circles regarding how to correctly interpret this prophecy. 

My view, and I think a number of conservative theologian’s view, is that it is a two part prophecy as I indicated.  One part has been fulfilled, and yet perhaps  has overtones for events still to come.  And one part is unfulfilled, and is still in the future.  Unfortunately, even though many theologians may agree with that statement, that doesn’t solve every problem.  There is still plenty of room for disagreement even within those parameters. 

So I tread lightly in eschatological debates, and I tend to focus on what is clearly presented rather than focus on those things which are purposefully presented as vague or indeterminate.  I believe that if God wanted us to know everything that was going to happen in sequential order then He would have easily done so.  One thing I have learned from a verse by verse preaching of Matthew and Luke for over 5 years combined is that Jesus Himself was deliberately vague on many occasions.  And Scripture, especially predictive prophecy, is often deliberately vague. It’s often written in allegorical, figurative language.  I don’t know why.  God has His reasons.  So I will focus on what I can be clearly understood and trust Him with what I cannot understand. 

Now all of this Discourse stems from the questions asked by the disciples after Jesus announced that the temple would one day be destroyed and not one stone left upon another.  They asked in vs. 7, "Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?" 

Now to help understand this passage, you need to look also at the parallel accounts found in Matthew and Mark’s gospels.  Each of them includes or leaves out certain details of Jesus’ message that others include as they present their portraits of Christ.  So to get the complete picture, you need to look at all three.  Matthew adds an important element to their initial question in Matthew 24.  He adds, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

That phrase “end of the age” is important.  Unfortunately the KJV uses the phrase, “end of the world.”  But the Greek word for world is cosmos, and the word for age or epoch is ion.  So the correct translation is not world, but the end of the age.  And that distinction helps us to get a better handle on how to understand what Jesus was talking about. 

The key though comes in considering the context which prompted their question.  What prompted their question was Jesus statement in vs. 6 that the temple would be destroyed.  Their question follows that statement by saying, “when therefore will these things be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?  That’s the context for Jesus’ answer.  So it’s a mistake to start interpreting these comments according to some eschatological format without keeping in mind the question that Jesus is responding to.  He is responding what sign will be given when the temple is going to be destroyed.  And then in addition, He will respond to the other question tacked on to that in Matthew’s version which is “and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”  So there are two questions, and so Jesus gives two answers. 

The first answer to the question regarding the destruction of the temple is found in verses 8-24.  The answer to the second question regarding His coming and the end of the age is found in verses 25 -36.  Now another key to help us understand this is found in vs. 24 which says concerning the Jews, “and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” 

So because of time constraints this morning I am going to give you the Cliff notes version of interpretation, which is that there are 3 ages presented in the Bible.  There was the ancient age, the time before Noah up until the flood.  That lasted approximately 2000 years.  Then there was the age of the Jews starting with Abraham up to the time of Christ.  That was approximately another 2000 years.  And then as indicated in vs. 24, there is the age of the Gentiles, which has lasted about another 2000 years.  I happen to believe that the end of the age of the Gentiles is very soon.  Perhaps in our lifetime.  Six thousand years have past, and three ages have been instituted and are now drawing to a close.  And I believe the coming seventh millennium symbolizes the time when Christ will come back and rule the world, as a new heaven and new earth, for eternity.  It is the eternal rest that was promised by the symbol of the Sabbath, the seventh day. 

So the ancient age ended with destruction of all human flesh.  It ended with the flood.  Then after that God instituted a second age; the age of the Jews which started with a promise to a Abraham that he would have a son, and that from his seed would come a nation, and from that seed would come one from whom the whole world would be blessed.  That second age, the age of the Jews would also come to an end, just as the first did.  The ancient age was evil, they rejected God, they co-married with demons, they were exceedingly wicked, and so God brought judgment upon the whole earth save 8 persons. 

And the second age of the Jews was evil as well.  So Jesus predicts the judgment upon the age of the Jews.  He prefaces it by saying that the temple, which was the center of Judaism, the center of Israel in the capital city of Israel, Jerusalem would be destroyed.  And so up through vs. 24 Jesus is describing the judgment upon the temple, Jerusalem, and the Jews because they rejected the manifestation of the  Son of God and put Him to death.  History tells us that this judgment happened just as Jesus predicted just about 38 years after His death, in 70AD. 

Then in vs. 25 through 36, Jesus predicts the future judgment upon the world, all the nations, which is categorized as the end of the age of the Gentiles.  In this last judgment, Peter says that the world at that time will be judged by fire. 2Pet. 3:3-13 “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,  and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’  For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water,  through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.  But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Now that’s the overview.  Let’s look then at some of the details of the judgment of each of the last two ages.  As Jesus begins in vs. 8, He is addressing particularly the 12 disciples who are with Him on the Mount of Olives a couple of nights before His crucifixion.  He primarily wants to prepare them for what is going to happen after He is crucified.  And so He begins by saying, “Don’t be misled. Don’t be fooled by people running around claiming that I have returned.  Or that the end of the world is at hand.  Beware of false teachers who will come after My death and try to mislead you.” 

And Jesus is rightly concerned because He knows that it is going to be a long time before He returns in power.  He knows a lot of things are going to happen which are going to rock the faith of the church.  He says in vs. 9 that there are going to be a lot of wars and disturbances, but not to be terrified by that, because the end does not follow immediately. It’s going to be a long time.  Rome would go through tremendous political upheaval in the next 35 years or so.  Emperors would be assassinated one after another sometimes within the space of just three months.

But remember, though this might sound like He is talking about events today, He is actually addressing their question regarding the destruction of the temple. He goes on to say that nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes and plages and famines and terrors and great signs from heaven.  Again, that sounds like something out of Revelation that we would ascribe to modern day events.  But vs. 12 makes it clear that He is still speaking to the disciples in regards to the destruction of the temple and the end of the Jewish age.

And historians tell us that many of those things did happen prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.  For instance, there were comets that were seen in the sky such as Haley’s comet during the reign of Nero that caused great concern among the people of that day.  There were famines.  There were earthquakes and there were many uprisings and wars.

However, if you flip back over to Matthew’s version and look at vs. 8 you will see that Jesus adds, “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”  There is still a ways to go before the end of the Jewish age. 

But in vs. 12 once again Jesus turns His attention back to His disciples.  He wants to prepare them for what they are going to suffer for His name.  You can almost put parenthesis around vs. 12 through 19.  This is His message of assurance to His disciples in particular.  It is not a blanket statement for all Christians.  It is spoken specifically and was specifically fulfilled with the apostles and His immediate disciples. Vs.12 "But before all these things, (before the destruction of the temple) they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake.  It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

Now a reading of the book of Acts will show you that the disciples did in fact suffer those things. We know that all of the apostles lost their lives as a martyr except for John.  Many other disciples were executed as well, such as Stephen and James.  But we need to understand that Jesus is using an expression that not a hair of their head will perish as a metaphor which is underscored by the next line, which is by your endurance you will gain or save your souls.  In other words, though they may lose their life here on earth, they will never die, but they will be saved, secured in the presence of God.  In a sense, they will not lose even a hair of their head, even though some would have their head cut off, because their soul was preserved complete through Christ. But you can put a parenthesis around all of that because He clarifies it in vs. 12 by saying that “before all these things”, these things being the destruction of the temple, you will be arrested and persecuted and some of you killed.

Now back to Jesus description of the judgment of Jerusalem.  He says in vs.20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city;  because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people;  and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” 

What is really interesting in this prophecy is that Jesus warns His followers not to do what was the normal thing to do when a foreign army comes upon a city.  They lived in or around walled cities which served as fortifications in times of war.  The people that lived in the open or on the outskirts of town would flee to the city and they would close the gates against the invaders.  And so the attacking army would besiege the town, many times for months until the town ran out of food and surrendered or overrun.  The Romans developed a lot of specialized equipment for this type of warfare such as battering rams and catapults that would hurl huge boulders into the walls to try to break down the walls or gates.  But Jesus warns His disciples to not seek shelter in the city.  He warns them that when the city is about to be surrounded by armies, flee instead to the mountains and get out of the city, because the vengeance of God is coming upon Jerusalem.  All God’s prophecies of judgment against rebellious Israel will be coming down on them.  And so Jesus warns His people to flee the city.

History records that this is exactly what happened.  But though a few Christian Jews escaped Jerusalem, most of the other Jews acted as was their custom.  They ran to Jerusalem.  And when the Romans under General Titus in 70AD finally broke through the walls and overran the city as Jesus had prophesied, 1.1 million Jews were massacred.  Those that survived were scattered across the Middle East.  They were taken captive.  They were hunted from one nation to another.  They lost their homeland.  They lost their temple.

Josephus, the Jewish historian, wrote in detail concerning the siege of Jerusalem.  He wrote of the hardships of the long siege and the famine within the city that led to cannibalism among some of it’s inhabitants.  And he wrote of how the marauding Roman soldiers set fire to the temple, and the gold plates that covered the outer walls melted and the gold ran down into the crevices between the stones.  So the soldiers pried the stones apart in order to get at the gold.  As Jesus had prophesied, not one stone was  left upon another.  The Jewish temple was destroyed.  The sacrifices ceased.  The priesthood dissolved as the Israelites suffered for 2000 years in the dispersion.  And as of 70 AD, the city of Jerusalem was trampled underfoot by the Gentiles for almost 2000 years.

The most amazing thing concerning this prophecy is that in our lifetime we have seen the Jews return to the land of Israel in 1948.  Then after the 6 day war in 1967, the Jews retook half of the city of Jerusalem.  Jesus said that the time of the Gentiles would begin with the trampling underfoot of Jerusalem.  So it would stand to reason that the end of the age of the Gentiles comes with the Jews coming back into the city of Jerusalem.  We could argue that the Jews do not have complete control of it yet, but the fact that they are there after being scattered around the world for 2000 years is a fulfillment of prophecy that is simply astonishing.  I believe it indicates that the age of the Gentiles is about to come to a close.

And in that regard, let’s look quickly at the end of the age of the Gentiles.  I believe that starts being described for us in vs. 25.  But once again, we are well served by Matthew’s version which helps us to see that there is a transition in the prophecy.  Jesus is giving us a telescopic view which goes from the end of the age of the Jews to the end of the age of the Gentiles, or nations. We see the mountain ranges of the prophecy, but it’s not clear due to the telescopic nature of the prophecy the intervening time between the events.  Matt. 24:21 "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” 

Now here we see similar language as that which Jesus warned would be happening at the end of the age of the Jews.  False prophets misleading people would arise.  It happened after Jesus was crucified during the time of the apostles.  And  2000 years later it will be characteristic of the end of the age of the Gentiles.  You definitely get the sense that this time there is an escalation of what happened earlier.  That is why I said we must learn from the past in order to keep from making the same mistakes in the future.  Because now Jesus says the deception is going to be so complete that if possible even the very elect would be deceived by their signs and wonders. 

By the way, there is a fast growing church denomination in the Charismatic movement today that has heralded the fact that they will be known by their signs and wonders. They use that exact language.  It’s called the Vineyard and they are really growing on the west coast.  I wonder if they have considered what Jesus said here concerning those that mislead by performing signs and wonders as being a characteristic of false prophets.  I hope none of you will be misled by such things.

So back in our text in Luke Jesus says this coming judgment at the end of the age of the Gentiles will not only be characterized by false doctrines and deception, but in vs. 25, "There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,  men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory.”  Matthew adds to that  in Matt. 24:29-31 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”

So the end of the age of the Gentiles will also be the end of the ages. A great tribulation will precede Jesus coming back suddenly in the clouds, with a loud trumpet.  And the dead in Christ will be resurrected first from the grave and we that are alive will then be caught up to be with the Lord. We are living in the last days.  Jesus is coming back soon.  Every eye will see Him, and those that rejected Him will mourn. 

But there are some here that I’m sure are thinking that it’s been 2000 years since Jesus lived, and things continue just as they always have.  They see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem and it doesn’t faze them.  They see the miracle of the  Jews go back into Israel after 2000 years and it doesn’t faze them.  They see the rise of false doctrines and the escalation of wickedness on the earth and it doesn’t faze them. They continue on with their lives eating and drinking and living like they want, just as the people did during the age of Noah, in the days before the flood.   For those of you that think that way I will remind you of Peter’s words, written 2000 years ago in 2 Peter 3:8, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,  looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”

Jesus said back in our text in Luke, “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Folks, the end of the ages is at hand.  The gospel of Christ has been preached to all the  nations.  God has been more than patient, not wanting any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. Today is the acceptable day of salvation.  Christ is coming back.  He is coming with judgment upon the wicked, upon the rebellious, upon the unbelievers. Those that have rejected His rule over their lives He will cast into outer darkness into the Lake of Fire.  This earth and all it’s works will be destroyed by fire.  But those that have suffered here, waiting in faith for the Lord’s return will be saved.  They will be preserved forever.  Not a hair of their head will be harmed as God will preserve their soul.  So when you look around you Christian, and you are hated by everyone because of His name, and you are persecuted, and you are bent over under the burden of tribulations, listen to these words!  Straighten up!  Lift up your heads!  Because your redemption is drawing near!  Jesus is right at the door.  He is coming soon.   Amen.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

God has left the building, Luke 21: 5-7

Today in our popular culture there seems to be a fascination with apocalyptic themes.  Movies and books like Hunger Games or Maze Runner are set in a post apocalyptic world.  All sorts of movies have been made which feature an end of the world scenario, where atomic blasts, or great floods or swarms of zombies end life on earth as we know it.  It’s a popular topic right now.

And it’s happening on the religious front as well.  Harold Kamping of Family Radio caught the world’s attention with his prophecy that the rapture would happen on May 21, 2011.  Some of the biggest religious themed book sales have been from the Left Behind series.  A new version of the movie is out now featuring Nicholas Cage.  According to an article I saw on Fox News the other day, Hollywood now sees the rapture as  viable subject matter that has found it’s way into several new offerings.  The world seems to be fixated on end of the world scenarios.  And a lot of things in the world have contributed to that, such as the Middle East conflict, the AIDS epidemic, the birth of the atomic bomb, and various epidemics such as the ebola virus that has so many people worried today.  And not the least of all these reasons is the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948, and then their takeover of part of Jerusalem in 1967.  What makes this astonishing is that for 2000 years the nation of Israel did not exist.  And now within most of our lifetimes, we have witnessed it’s rebirth which seems directly tied to end time theology.

The most often requested book of the Bible that people want me to study through is the book of Revelation.  I could probably pack our Wednesday night Bible study at my house if I would just announce that I was going to study Revelation.  I will tell you right now that I have no plans on doing that any time in the near future.  However, I am going to start to teach today the Olivet Discourse which is Christ’s direct teaching on the end of the age, His final message.  We will just present an overview or introduction of this today, and we will probably take another couple of weeks or so to go through it.  So perhaps if you will make a point of being here it will help you to develop a Biblical context of eschatology.  We are not going to answer every question.  I personally don’t think we can answer every question.  Paul himself called it a mystery.  But I do intend on doing my best to exegete Christ’s message that He gave in response to the disciples questions concerning the end of the age. The question of when will these things be, and what will be the signs of the end of the age?

For today though, I want to start by putting this in context by reminding you of my message last week.  Last week we looked at the end of chapter 20 through the first four verses of chapter 21.  And if you will recall, the main point of my message was Christ’s rebuke against mindless religion.  He had challenged the priests and religious leaders to answer a question concerning the Messiah, who they all claimed to believe in, by contrasting certain passages in the Bible with their theology.  And they couldn’t do it.  They didn’t want to consider what the Bible said if it countered what they practiced.  They had built a religion that they were comfortable with, that gave them a certain measure of power, that provided them with money and prestige, and they were content with that.  In fact, more than that, they fiercely protected their position and all the religious trappings that went along with their doctrine.  So much so that they were ready and willing to kill the Son of God because He threatened their religion.  So I proposed last week that they had a mindless religion.  It wasn’t based on the authority of scripture, it was based on a long tradition of rituals and teachings and interpretations that had over time corrupted their religion.  It no longer saved.  It no longer had the power to deliver.  It was an empty, false, mindless religion. 

Then if you remember the scene changes as Jesus sees the rich people coming into the outer court of the temple and giving their offerings.  They gave them in such a way as to be noticed.  It was done with fanfare.  But Jesus noticed a poor woman who only had two cents to her name and she gave all that she had to live on to the temple.  She gave her entire financial worth to a religious system that was false, that was empty, that could not do anything other than rob the poor people that were coming there hoping for some sort of deliverance. 

Now that is the setting for our passage today.  Jesus declares judgment against this mindless, false religion that dupes and takes advantage of people, and He declares judgment against the Godless temple and all that it represents.  As Jesus and the disciples are walking out of the temple, the disciples point out the beautiful architecture and the gifts and so forth that adorned it, Jesus says to them in vs. 6, “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” 

Now for the disciples, this must have been a shocking statement.  It must have been almost impossible for them to comprehend what He was talking about.  And to illustrate that I need to give you  a brief description of the temple.  The temple was a massive building that dominated the skyline of Jerusalem.  It was 500 yards wide by 400 yards wide.  Some of the huge stones used in the construction were as long as 67’ and 7.5’ tall by 9’ thick.  So it was a massive building, 5 football fields long, built upon the temple mount which was known as Mount Moriah, or Mount Zion.  As you entered Jerusalem you ascended up to the temple.  And as you ascended the sun would reflect with a blinding glare off of the temple which was made of  white stones and covered in gold plates.   

So the disciples, these simple Galilean fishermen,  were obviously awestruck by the grandeur and magnificence of the temple.  But to really understand the significance of the temple you also need to know a little of the history of it.  As I said, it was constructed on what was believed to be Mount Moriah.  This was the mountain where Abraham took Isaac to offer him on the altar.  This was the location of the great first temple which King Solomon had built over a 1000 years earlier.  It had been destroyed by the Babylonians but then had been rebuilt by Zerubbabel 500 years before Christ.  Then Herod the Great had begun a major renovation of the temple which lasted 80 years and which was almost finished at the time Jesus and the disciples are there.  So there was a thousand year history associated with it.

So not only was it important architecturally, and historically, but also socially.  The temple was the religious epicenter for all of Israel, and for all the Jews scattered throughout the Middle East in various countries. It was the Mecca which Jews would travel to from all the Gentile nations at certain feast times.  It was the only place where sacrifices could be offered.  It was the headquarters of the Levitical priesthood and the high priest.  It was in every way, the center of Jewish life, religious, judicial, governmental, social and economic.  But more importantly than that, it was considered the house of God. I remember well when I was a kid being rebuked by some church lady that I shouldn’t run or make loud noises or whatever because I was in the house of God.  I never quite understood that.  I lived right next to the church in the parsonage, and so I was quite familiar with the building.  And I knew that God was too big to be confined to that building, or that the physical elements were somehow sacred.

But for the Israelites,  the temple literally was the house of God. It’s Biblical name in the Hebrew language meant house of God.  The temple was the architectural equivalent to the tabernacle that Moses built which traveled with the Jews as they went to the Promised Land.  It was comprised of various courtyards, starting with the court of the Gentiles, then the court of women, then the sanctuary, and inside that the Holy of Holies which was where the presence of God was. 

So in every respect the temple represented so much to the average Jew that he could not imagine Jewish life without it.  He could not imagine that God would allow the temple to be destroyed.  It was just incomprehensible.  So we have to understand the significance of the temple, to understand the significance of what Jesus is saying.  When Jesus declares that there will not be one stone left upon another, it is not just the destruction of a religious edifice, but the destruction of an entire religious system, an entire way of life.   

See, Jesus is pronouncing the judgment of God upon the temple as a symbol of all that Judaism represented. Judaism, as I have said, was a mindless religion.  They had replaced the true meaning of the scriptures with the Talmud, which was their interpretation and application of principles and rituals which governed their religion.  It was never inspired by God.  And yet it had replaced the authority of God’s word.  The Talmud was the authority.  It was the traditions of the rabbis and religious leaders.   So their religion was mindless, false and empty. 

And not only was their religion empty, but their temple was empty.  God had left the building a long time before.  I don’t know when the Holy of Holies stopped being filled with the presence of God.  But I would suspect that it was around the time that Herod the Great took over the renovation of the temple.  In the Old Testament law, the prescription had been to tie a bell around the ankle of the high priest when he went into the Holy of Holies once a year so that if he was sinful in the presence of God, then when God struck him dead they would hear that the bell was no longer tinkling.  They used to tie a rope around the high priest so if that happened they could pull him out by the rope.  Because no one could go in there to get him out without being killed.  But some historians say that when Herod rebuilt the temple he defied the Holy of Holies.  But in any case, the priests themselves had become corrupt.  By this time, the office of the high priest was a political appointment of Rome.  And so these corrupt, sinful priests officiated at the temple, even to the high priest going through the rituals in the Holy of Holies, and yet none of them are stuck dead.  Why?  The answer is that God had left the building long before. 

I can’t help but make the association with many churches today.  Many denominations in America were founded in times of true revival by true believers.  And certainly the Spirit of God was present.  They taught the Word of God.  They were sanctified, holy people worshipping God in Spirit and in truth.  But through the years, as godly men died off and new ministers were hired according to popular vote, by how entertaining of a speaker they were, and how nice their personality was, regardless of their doctrine or lack of it, at some point in many of our churches today in America God left the building.    They are still going through the motions, they still have plenty of people attending, still have plenty of religious activity, but God has left the building.   All that’s left is just mindless religion and Godless temples of religious enthusiasm.  And I would suggest that God’s judgment is coming upon the apostate church in a similar fashion as it came upon the temple. I would remind you of Peter’s warning in 1Pet. 4:17  “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

So we must understand that Jesus is declaring that not only will the temple be destroyed, but that the system of Judaism is coming to an end. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD as Jesus prophesied by Titus who sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.  One of his soldiers set fire to the Holy of Holies and it spread to all of the temple.  Josephus records that the gold plates which covered the outside of the building melted and so they pried apart all the stones in order to get at the gold, leaving not one stone upon another as Jesus had said. Without the temple there can be no sacrifices.  The sacrifices and offerings ended in 70AD.  The system of Judaism ended in 70 AD.  The Levitical priesthood ended in 70 AD.

We’re going to look in the next couple of weeks at more detail in regards to this prophecy and the destruction of Jerusalem.  But what I want you to understand today is something that the disciples could not understand at this point.  And that is that as Jesus was pronouncing doom upon the temple He was also announcing deliverance.  Jeremiah 31:31-34 says,  "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,  not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.  "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

Jeremiah was talking about  a new day that will come when God will not be worshipped externally in rituals and symbols and temples, but inwardly.  God will dwell not in temples made with hands, but in the temples of our bodies, in our hearts.  When Jesus offered Himself as the final sacrifice on the cross, old things passed away, and all things became new.  The temple and sacrifices and priesthood were done away with.  What had only been  pictured in the old covenant was now  realized in Jesus Christ, and so the old picture was no longer necessary because the reality was present.  Jesus was now the high priest, eternal in the heavens, ever living to make intercession for us.  Jesus was the Lamb of God, offered as the final sacrifice for the sins of the world.  And by faith in Him, faith that He was the Son of God, faith in His efficacy to be the atonement for sin, we are forgiven for our sins. And because we are forgiven of our sins we are holy, whereby we are made holy temples of His Spirit who dwells in us. 

That is the essence of the new covenant that does away with the symbolism and ritual of the old.  Having been forgiven, made holy and made temples of the Spirit of Christ, who has written the law of God upon our hearts.  That is, we have new desires, new appetites, new life through the Spirit who lives in us.  That is how we are able to know the Lord, to have communion with God.  We no longer need a high priest to intercede for us with daily sacrifices.  Our high priest was the perfect, final sacrifice and now lives to make intercession for us.  His Spirit dwells in us so that we have perfect communion with God because the indwelling Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Listen, this is a simple message today. I want you to be fully cognizant of the great privilege that we have in Christ Jesus.  We who were outside of the covenant, Gentiles who were unable to enter the temple, now have access to the Holy Spirit, because we have the Holy of Holies in us.  On the day that Jesus was crucified, just two days from the Olivet Discourse, the veil which separated the Holy of Holies from the sanctuary was rent in two, from the top to the bottom, signifying that a new way was opened up to God.  It was opened up to every race, every people of every nation.  God opened up salvation from being the provenance of the Jews, to being available to all who would call upon the name of Jesus and believe in Him.  The plan of salvation was given not just to a nation, but to the church, made up of people from every nation and every tongue.

But not only do we have a great privilege as the old temple system is done away, we also have a great responsibility as we are the recipients of the new covenant.  1Cor. 6:19-20 says,  “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”  See, just as the presence of God dwelt in the old temple, so the presence of God dwells in our temple.  We are the body of Christ.  The church is the body of Christ.  His Spirit dwells in us that we might do His will. 


That is the purpose of our salvation.  That is why we are here on this earth.  To be the body of Jesus Christ. To be the physical manifestation of Christ to the world. To do the will of Jesus Christ.  He has saved us.  He has forgiven us.  He has purchased us.  He has sanctified us by His precious blood.  So that we might be holy, temples of God, guided by His Spirit, to do the will of God, to live out the law of God, to bring glory to God, and to cause men to glorify God when they see our good works. 

I would just ask you a question in closing today.  Are you going through the motions in a mindless religion?  Are you worshipping God in some church building that God left a long time ago, simply because it is tradition, it’s something you are comfortable with, something that you have grown accustomed to and don’t want to break away from?  Every week I quote Jesus who said, “God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” 

In light of what we talked about this morning, I hope you realize that verse means that if you do not have the Spirit of God living in your temple, then you can’t worship God.  If you don’t worship Him according to His truth, then you can’t worship God.  God is not mindless.  God has given us His word, and for those that are saved, He has given us His Spirit.  And now the Spirit leads us by His word, and directs our hearts that we might obey Him and do His will. 

Do you have the Holy Spirit living inside you?  I’m not asking if you have had some sort of spiritual experience that you think might be attributed to the Holy Spirit.  I’m asking if you have received the promise of the Holy Spirit as a result of becoming a holy temple of the Lord.  Does your life, your interests, your desires, your actions reflect that He has written His laws upon your heart?  Listen, the way to God has been opened up by the blood of Jesus Christ?  Forgiveness from sin is available for all that will trust in Him.  God will transfer your sins to Jesus and His righteousness to you so that you may be holy.  And having been made holy, we are then a temple of the Holy Spirit who will guide and control our lives.  If you believe that and want forgiveness, then it’s available to all who will call upon the Lord.  He is ready and able to save all those who come to Him in faith.

I’m going to close by reading Heb. 10:16-25 as both an encouragement  and an invitation to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.   "THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM," He then says,  "AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE."  Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.  Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,  by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;  and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,  not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”