As most of you know, I was traveling last week to a pastor’s conference in California and while I was on the trip I came into contact with a lot of people as a matter of course. And from time to time as I traveled to various places and waited in line at airports or car rentals or wherever, people would out of a sense of friendliness would speak hello and say something about the weather. And I found myself reflecting that perhaps the most common topic of conversation today is that of the weather. It is a rather innocuous way of making small talk with someone that you may not know very well, or because you want to fill an awkward silence between someone you are next to and have nothing else in common to talk about. I think the reason we like talking about the weather is that it is a safe conversational topic. We all know that proper social etiquette requires that we don’t speak of anything too serious in polite conversation. We have been warned that we should avoid talking of politics or religion, for instance.
And that is understandable to a certain degree. Sometimes there may be a place for banal conversation. But I don’t quite understand people’s fascination with the weather. Especially in a place like Los Angles. I saw a monitor in the airport showing the weather forecast for the next five days in LA and it said 71 degrees every day for the next week. But yet they still want to talk about it. The weather seems to predominate the news nowadays. They have an entire network on television that is all about the weather. And even on our local television stations news programs more time is spent on the weather than almost all other considerations. There could be wars going on all over the world, and every kind of scandal going on in Washington DC, and yet all of that can be eclipsed by whether or not they think it may rain the next day.
It really should be disconcerting that people’s lives are filled with trivial things like talking about the weather, or entertainment or sports and yet we studiously avoid talking about what is really important. There is nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves if they are kept in perspective. But I’m afraid our fascination with these trivial subjects have taken precedence over focusing on what is really important.
Perhaps that is why Jesus uses an illustration of discerning the weather as a metaphor in His sermon about the judgment of God. At first glance, it seems like suddenly Jesus throws a couple of unrelated illustrations in at the close of His message that don’t really seem to have much relevance to what He has been preaching so far.
If you look back in this chapter at the beginning of Christ’s sermon, we see Him using one illustration after another to build a case before the crowd that there is coming for every man a day of reckoning with God. A day when the thoughts of man will be revealed. When what was whispered in the back room will be shouted on the housetops. There will be a day of judgment as He illustrated with His parable of the rich fool who laid up so much treasure here on earth that he needed to build more barns to hold it all, and yet failed to plan for his death and the subsequent judgment of his soul.
The theme of Jesus sermon up to this point has been to present one scenario after another to show that man needs to be concerned first about the kingdom of heaven and emphasizing the fact that what a man has done in response to His knowledge of God will be required of him at the judgment. Jesus goes on to allude to this coming judgment as a judgment of fire, which will burn up those things that can be burned up, leaving only what is eternal. He says that this judgment will divide between those that have accepted Him and those that rejected Him.
And then suddenly in the midst of this message Jesus starts talking about the weather. In an agrarian community, the weather would have been a familiar topic. And so Jesus says in vs. 54, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way.”
Now that was sort of common knowledge. You didn’t have to be a trained meteorologist to be able to know that in that country, as well as in ours, weather typically moves from west to east. And even though they didn’t have the radar maps and computer models that we have today, still they would have taken note of the fact that when clouds appeared on the western horizon they usually brought rain and storms as they moved east. And again, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to notice that when the wind blew out of the south the air got warmer, and when the wind blows out of the north the weather gets colder. This would have been pretty elementary stuff for most people in that day who could not depend upon flipping on the TV at night to hear the weather forecast.
So what’s the point that Jesus is making? Well, look at vs. 56, Jesus continues; “You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?” In other words, you can deduce the upcoming weather from analyzing the characteristics of the sky and the wind, but you can’t discern the signs of the times, which are just as obvious.
And I think it’s interesting that Jesus calls them hypocrites. At first, we might wonder what is hypocritical about lacking discernment. After all, earlier in the chapter we saw hypocrites being defined as someone who hides their sin, while pretending to be righteous. So why call these people hypocrites? Well, the answer is that Jesus is saying that they are choosing to believe a lie so that they can continue living in sin. This form of hypocrisy denies the truth and believes a lie. Jesus is saying that they have had ample evidence that He was the promised Messiah and yet they had chosen to disregard it. They chose to believe a lie because they loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. John 3:19
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”
Look at Rom 1:18 for a moment which says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”
What that passage is saying is that God’s wrath is coming upon all men because they have rejected truth and loved sin. Listen, Paul isn’t just talking hypothetically about a few reprobates out there that have turned away from the truth and indulged themselves in gross sin. But he is talking about the nature of all mankind. As he said in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” This is the curse of the fall, that all men by nature reject the truth of God because they love their sin. It’s the characteristic of all of us, that at one time we rejected salvation. We liked being our own master and lord, to be the captain of our destiny, so to speak. And it comes naturally to all of us.
But ever since the beginning, Paul says, God made it clear to men that their was a God by virtue of the creation, of the stars, the heavens, the earth and it’s produce and all the wonders of creation, all of that order, all of that precision, all of that creativity, all of the wonder of creation illustrated that there was a God. And furthermore, Paul says, creation alone was enough to reveal to men the invisible attributes of God, His eternal power and divine nature. And yet Paul goes on to say that men rejected that revealed truth about God and substituted instead something out of their own imagination. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie because their deeds were evil. That is the hypocrisy. That truth was available and yet they said it wasn’t and so therefore they claimed immunity and the freedom to do as they wanted.
Jesus says that is why they were hypocrites. They had not only the benefit of all men by the wonders of creation, but they had the additional benefit of witnessing the life and words and miracles of Jesus Christ and yet they still rejected Him. In spite of all that He was, in spite of His teaching of which they said, “Never a man spoke like this man spoke,” in spite of His miracles which numbered in the hundreds and were indisputable proof of His deity, yet they called for more signs as the reason that they still did not believe. But it wasn’t for a lack of signs. Many people had believed and had less signs than they did, but Jesus said it was because they wanted to continue in their form of religion without the fruit of it. They wanted to claim citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, but they were not willing to renounce the kingdom of darkness.
And so they are by their rejection of Jesus bringing upon themselves the judgment that they rightly deserve. Jesus speaks of this coming judgment again by means of another illustration starting in vs.57, “And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent.”
What Jesus is illustrating here is someone who has done wrong against someone in his community, and so they send the magistrate to arrest him and bring him before a judge who will announce his sentence and his punishment. And Jesus says, why wouldn’t you try to settle with the one who you defrauded before you go to court? Why wouldn’t you try to make things right with him on your own? You know you sinned against the man. You know you’re going to have to make retribution for that sin. So why not do what is right and reconcile with him on your own. Why wait for the court to come after you? You’re just going to make it worse on yourself.
The parallel here should have been clear from the context of His message. The parallel is this. We have all sinned against God. We have defrauded Him who made us for His glory by denying Him and serving ourselves. We had the truth revealed in creation, we had the truth revealed in Jesus Christ, and yet we rejected the truth because we loved our sin. Jesus says, you have time right now to go to your Heavenly Father and ask for forgiveness. You have time now to reconcile with God. But there is a day coming, and coming soon, when your reprieve will be up. And when that day comes, it will be too late then to try to work out a deal. God will judge you by what you have done in response to His Truth. When that day comes, every man will give an account for himself before God. Every man, every woman, every teenager will stand before God and give an account for what he or she did with God’s truth. And on that day, God will test every man’s work by fire, and what is of earthly wood, hay and stubble will be burned up. But that which is eternal will endure. Those that are found wanting will be cast into the Lake of Fire and their punishment will be eternal torment.
How are we then to apply this message? What should our response be? I know what my response is. On that day, when I stand before God I don’t want to be ashamed. I don’t want to be found lacking, having determined my own version of what I think life is all about. Having lived a life according to what the world said was important and finding myself wanting in the day of judgment. The Bible says that there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death. I don’t want that to be my judgment. I don’t want to be ashamed when I stand before God.
The good news is that Romans 1:16 tells me how that is possible. It says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” That’s the good news, that is what the word gospel means. That there is salvation available to every one that believes in Jesus Christ. That means that if we believe in Jesus Christ, and accept by faith the righteousness of Christ which is offered to us, we will be saved from that wrath which is to come. The wrath we so rightly deserved.
Because the gospel tells us in 2 Cor. 5:21, that “God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” This righteousness which we receive by faith is the only way we might stand before God unashamed. And this gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful in that it is able to accomplish that transaction for everyone who confesses their sinfulness and their need for a Savior.
God has provided reconciliation through Jesus Christ. God wants you to settle out of court and the way you settle is to make peace with Him through His Son, through faith in Christ, whom God made sin for us that we might be made the righteous of God in Him. God punished Him, the just for the unjust, that we might be brought to God. Grace is available. Forgiveness is available. Freedom from sin is available. Freedom from punishment, the hope of eternal life, escape from judgment. You can settle with God out of court. If you don't, you'll get to court and you will pay in full down to the last cent.
I would close by asking you this simple question. Have you personally accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Have you called out in faith and repentance to God and asked Jesus to take your life and make it clean? Sometimes I think that some people come to an intellectual acknowledgement of the gospel, they more or less see the truth in it, and they more or less see the value in it, but they have yet to call upon God and ask Him to come into their life and change it. To forgive them from sin and give them the righteousness that has been procured by Jesus Christ. I hope you will honestly examine yourself and see if you have actually called on God to save you.
Today, this is your chance. 2 Corinthians 6 says that “Today is the acceptable time of salvation.” And Isaiah 55 says, "Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call on Him while He is near." Don’t wait until it’s too late. The Jews had no idea when Jesus warned them that the judgment would come upon the nation of Israel within their lifetimes. In just 30 years the Romans would destroy the temple and kill thousands upon thousands of Jews, scattering them into the far corners of the world, displaced from their homeland and everything that they held dear.
God’s judgment is coming on the entire world. The signs of the times point to His imminent return. It could be any day. I hope you will call upon Him today and make peace with God. I hope you will know the peace that comes from forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
While I was away this last week, for some reason I found myself thinking a lot about my own mortality. And while that may sound depressing, it really wasn’t. It actually was a time of confirmation, that I was doing what God wanted me to do. And as I think about my mortality, I know that I want to use the time that I have left in the service of the King. I decided I would rather die for something, than to live for nothing. And what nobler cause to give my life for than in service to Jesus Christ.
One thing that might have contributed to this sense of mortality was some conversations that the key note speakers had during a question and answer period during one of the sessions. These were some of the highest profile religious leaders and thinkers of the conservative evangelical movement. And what came out of those talks was that they were seriously concerned about the future of the church in America as we know it. There are precedents in the courts already established that if applied to our situation, and there is mounting pressure from our enemies for them to do so, that can effectively shut down churches all across America. They may never shut down the preaching of the gospel completely, but what we have taken for granted in terms of the church in America may be but a memory in just a few short years. And as Christians we may find ourselves in the midst of a persecution that rivals that which happened to the Jews in AD 70.
Folks, we need to make the most of the time, because the days are evil. We need to discern the signs of the times and make the most of the opportunities that we have today to do the work of the kingdom. Romans 13:11 says, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”