MESSAGE DELIVERED: JANUARY 8, 2017
As we continue to ease our way into this new year, and after spending so much time looking toward the BIRTH of our Lord, we now have to change our direction, and begin looking forward to the DEATH of our Lord.
The entire church-year is fashioned around those two events: His Birth, which we just celebrated, and His DEATH, on that cruel Cross, for OUR sins. And of course we also know that His DEATH will not be a PERMANENT event, but just the NECESSARY way of leading to the RESURRECTION!
As Christians, those are the major divisions of the year…the time leading up to the observance of CHRISTMAS…and the time leading up to the observance of EASTER. For us, those are the main focus of the whole year.
The First Advent, which we just observed, was when Almighty God would miraculously become a PART OF His Own Creation…when HE took on human flesh, and came to live among us. And the very PURPOSE OF that Incarnation, was the eventual ARREST, Trial, Crucifixion, and ultimate Resurrection.
Those ALL have to be seen as a SINGLE event…no PART of it can be set aside. Without the BIRTH, there could be no DEATH…without the RESURRECTION, the CRUCIFIXION would be MEANINGLESS. Without the CRUCIFIXION, the RESURRECTION could never have happened.
EASTER is not just a “Sunday Morning” thing. Easter is the entire WEEK, which begins on PALM Sunday, and reaches its Glorious conclusion a week later, with that RESURRECTION event.
In the same way, the ARRIVAL of the Christ-Child in the Bethlehem Stable, was only one of SEVERAL such Arrivals. The Coming of the King of Kings to the Holy City of Jerusalem was another. There HAVE been others, and there WILL BE others.
There was the Coming of Christ to John at the Jordan, to give us the example of BAPTISM…there was His Coming to the WEDDING FEAST in CANA, where He would perform His First PUBLIC Miracle…there was His COMING to His DISCIPLES, walking upon the surface of the SEA, which demonstrated His mastery over the physical ELEMENTS that make up our world…and there was the time when He came to the TEMPLE, with a WHIP He made out of CORDS, demonstrating that WORSHIP was meant to be PURE and HOLY!
Palm Sunday sees Him coming in TRIUMPH, and then Good Friday sees Him coming BLOODIED, and BATTERED, and CONDEMNED to DIE! And finally we see Him coming ALIVE out of the Grave on Resurrection Sunday…seeing Him Coming RISEN, and GLORIFIED.
And then, one day, maybe very SOON, WE will see Him Coming in the CLOUDS…coming to CALL His CHURCH to Him, and after THAT, we will see Him Coming to RULE, and to JUDGE!
But right NOW, we are BETWEEN those events…His coming in the PAST, and His coming in the FUTURE! So, what IF He came TODAY?…just to see YOU? Would you be READY for that? I want to read this poem to you, I know you’ve heard it before, so just hang on because you’re about to hear it again.
“If Jesus came to your house…to spend a day or two…
if He came unexpectedly…I wonder what you’d do.
I know you’d give your nicest room…to such an honored guest…
and all the food you’d serve Him…would be the very best.
And you’d keep assuring Him…you’re glad to have Him here…
that serving Him in your own home…is joy beyond compare.
But, when you saw Him coming…would you meet Him at the door…
with arms outstretched in welcome…to your Heavenly Visitor?
Or would you have to change your clothes…before you let Him in…
and hide some magazines…and put the Bible where they’d been?
Would you turn the TV off…and hope He hadn’t heard…
and wish you hadn’t uttered….that last loud hasty word?
Would you hide your worldly music…and put some hymn book out…
could you let Jesus walk right in…or would you rush about?
And I wonder if the Savior spent…a day or two with you…
would you go right on doing…the things you always do?
Would you go right on saying…the things you always say…
would life continue…as it did from day to day?
And would your family conversation…keep up its usual pace…
or would you find it hard, each meal…to say a table grace?
Would you sing the songs you always sing…and read the books you read…
and let Him know the things on which…your mind and spirit feeds?
Would you take Jesus with you…every place you’d planned to go…
or would you maybe change your plans…for just a day or so?
Would you be glad to have Him meet…your very dearest friends…
or would you hope they’d stay away…until this visit ends?
Would you be glad to have Him stay…forever on and on…
or would you sigh with great relief…when He at last was gone?
It might be interesting to know…the things that you would do…
if Jesus came in person…to spend some time with you.”
I don’t know about you, but honestly, a couple of those lines stepped on MY toes! How would you live your life, if Jesus came to spend a few days with you? And then there’s an old song that Dolly Parton sang, called “WOULD YOU KNOW HIM, IF YOU SAW HIM?” Isn’t that what we’re told in Hebrews 13:2…”Neglect not to entertain strangers, for in so doing some have entertained angels, unaware”? Maybe even entertained Jesus Himself?!
Do you really think if Jesus came to see you, He’d show up with the beard and dress of a first-century Hebrew? Or would He show up clean-shaven and wearing a Brooks Brothers suit? And do you realize how MUCH we NEED such a Visitation?
As we now begin the long process of looking ahead to the Resurrection Event, I can’t help but think how much this NATION needs a Visitation like that…how much this nation needs to be RESURRECTED! And we have such a CLEAR example in the Old Testament, of what happens TO a nation, founded on such GODLY Principles, which then turned AWAY from God.
That’s what Israel did, God’s Own Chosen Race. They turned away from Him, and He PUNISHED them, repeatedly! And now, that’s what WE have done! So how can WE even HOPE to escape the SAME punishment God gave THEM?
We are a nation rooted and grounded on the worship of Almighty God, only 240 years ago. That’s a BRIEF time, in the history of the WORLD, but IN that brief time, we have turned completely away from the God Who first established us, and I don’t care WHAT those who try to REVISE the nation’s history say! If anyone were to READ the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution…or the life-histories of the Founding Fathers…you cannot help to see GOD, all over them!
But now we have KICKED Him OUT…from the SCHOOLS, the WORKPLACE, the MARKETPLACE…and He’s only TENUOUSLY involved in the GOVERNMENT. There are frequent attacks being made to REMOVE the CHAPLAIN, from the HOUSE, from the SENATE, even from the MILITARY!
There are repeated efforts to remove the words, “In God We Trust” from our CURRENCY, and the term “One Nation UNDER GOD…” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
Many times we have looked at the very FIRST necessary step that we must take, to RESTORE and REVIVE America, and it is a SINGLE WORD: PRAYER! The CHURCH must RETURN to the POWER of PRAYER!
God has given us a very CLEAR guideline for restoring a nation, and we read it in 2nd Chronicles 7:14…”If MY PEOPLE, who are called by MY NAME, will HUMBLE themselves, and PRAY…”
And first of all that tells us WHO is responsible for bringing ABOUT that needed revival…and it’s NOT the HEATHENS or the WICKED people of the world…it’s the CHRISTIANS! Those who have claimed the NAME of CHRIST, it is up to US, to humble ourselves and pray.
THAT’S the FIRST step, the SECOND step in national restoration is from the same passage…”If My people, who are called by MY Name, will HUMBLE themselves, and PRAY, and seek My Face, and TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS…” That’s step number TWO, and remember, it’s not talking about the WICKED people of the world. It’s meant for the BELIEVERS…the WICKEDNESS that exists among God’s Own People.
Just like ISRAEL would constantly go seeking after false idols…and so have WE! Maybe with us, it’s NOT a “graven image”, our false idols often take on the forms of…”MORE HOUSE THAN WE CAN REALLY AFFORD”…or a “BIGGER CAR THAN THE NEIGHBORS HAVE”…or that “CORNER OFFICE IN THE EXECUTIVE SUITE”.
ANYthing that you allow to come between YOU, and your worship of God…is, to you, a ‘false idol’. And idolatry WILL destroy the nation. NOT the idolatry of the WORLD, but the idolatry AMONG God’s Own People!
“TURN FROM YOUR WICKED WAYS…” is the NEXT step in restoring a nation. The FIRST step is PRAYER, the SECOND is PURITY, and the THIRD is turning AWAY from your WICKED ways. That doesn’t mean trying to HIDE them, or to just DENY that they exist. It means to ACKNOWLEDGE where we have done wrong…acknowledge that which is IN your life, that you KNOW is contrary to the KNOWN wishes of God, and then REMOVE them!
Let’s take as an example the preaching of PAUL, in the city of EPHESUS. As he spoke, the people came under conviction, and the Fear of God came upon them. When that happened, they IMMEDIATELY CONFESSED their sins, and went to their HOMES, and brought out ALL the IMPLEMENTS of EVIL that they HAD. They BROUGHT those things to Paul, and they BURNED them! The 19th chapter of Acts tells us that the VALUE of the things they destroyed, was 50,000 pieces of silver.
That’s the EQUIVILENT of the wages a “common laborer” would expect to earn, if he labored DAILY, for 138 YEARS! About 5 million dollars! They came under conviction, they TURNED from their wicked ways, and they DESTROYED the evil things they had.
BUT, are the Christians of America willing to do the SAME thing? Remember, I’m not talking about the HEATHENS of America…and I’m not talking about the GOVERNMENT…or the BUSINESS COMMUNITY, ceasing THEIR evil practices…I’m talking about the CHRISTIANS!
There are people who claim the Name of Jesus, but who wallow in the filth of the world. There are people who claim to be Christians, but whose actions and lifestyles are indistinguishable from the people of the world.
Given the nation at large, it is said that 23% of American households are connected to pornography by way of cable TV. But, within the Christian community, the percentage is identical! 23% of supposedly Christian homes are ALSO connected to pornography, via cable TV.
And I’m not talking about just having cable TV in your home. I’m talking about actually subscribing to cable channels that pump filth into your living room!
There are people who will tell you they are Christians, but also tell you there is nothing wrong with abortion…that homosexuals should be allowed to marry…and to adopt children. That it’s okay to pollute your body with alcohol and nicotine…that everybody should be free to do whatever they WANT to do, with no interference from ANYone.
Well, I want to tell you this morning, those people are WRONG! And I would have some serious reservations about just how “Christian” they actually are!
Jehovah God Himself has commanded His people…COMMANDED, not SUGGESTED…that they come OUT of the world…that they be HOLY, even as HE is Holy! Beloved, your spirit cannot soar with the angels, when you are entangled in the things of the world!
And that’s why we began this morning by rereading that beautiful old story about the prophet being sent to the potter’s house. And obviously the POTTER in that story represents GOD…and the CLAY represents US! God HAS a PLAN for every life!…something that He wants US to accomplish.
BUT, He has also given us FREE WILL! So, can you imagine yourself sitting down at a potter’s wheel, with a lump of clay…and wanting to make it into, say, a TEAPOT…but that CLAY has a mind of its OWN, and wants to be a FLOWER pot instead.
So you form a nice little teapot, with a spout and handle…and the clay tries to raise itself up into a tall flower pot instead. The TEAPOT will be RUINED…and the potter will squash it back down and RE-make it into what he wants, and the clay will again try to be what IT wants.
But the POTTER will always have the last word…and since that lump is Unsuitable to what he wants, he will throw it OUT…and start OVER with a NEW lump.
And THAT is how WE, the Christians, GOT here in the first place! The clay God originally chose, Israel, was unsuited to what He wanted, so He has now set that lump aside, and chosen a NEW lump, which is US, but we need to remember, if He didn’t spare the FIRST lump, He will not spare US, either!
The OUTCOME of that story in Jeremiah is that DESTRUCTION is in view…but REPENTENCE is still POSSIBLE! Verse 8 of Jeremiah 18 says “IF…” (as long as the clay has not been thrown away, there is still the possibility of “IF”…) “IF that nation against whom I have spoken, TURNS from its evil, I will relent from the DISASTER I thought to bring upon it”.
I WANT to believe that WE have not yet been COMPLETELY cast aside by God…and that there is still HOPE for America. Even a city as evil as NINIVAH was…whom God intended to destroy…was not COMPLETELY cast aside…and when God sent a prophet of DOOM…doom that was only forty days away…they REPENTED, and were spared!
How CLOSE is America from being cast away completely? Do we have 40 days? More? Less? Nobody knows! But I don’t believe we should behave as if we still have PLENTY of time. Verse 11 says “Behold, I am fashioning DISASTER against you”. I don’t know how much time we have left, but I do know that because we have turned away from God, He IS “fashioning disaster against us”. But He has also given us a way OUT!
“Return now every one from his evil ways, and make your ways and your doings GOOD.” That’s verse 11. From the very beginning, God has separated evil from good…light from darkness…and called man OUT of the evil and dark…but from the very beginning, MAN has wanted to MIX the two.
But that will NEVER work! It will ALWAYS end in DISASTER…in PUNISHMENT. God has very plainly said “Be thou HOLY, as I am Holy”! And He says “Turn from your wicked ways, and THEN I will heal your land”.
And I want you to remember, when God says those things, He is not talking to the HUGH HEFNERS of the world…not talking to the TED TURNERS of the world…the blatantly EVIL people!
He is talking to ME! To YOU! The GENUINE Christians, not those who simply PLAY at Christianity. He’s talking to you and me, and saying that the way to restore the nation, is by finding PURITY among the people of GOD, not the people of the WORLD!
It is US, beloved, you and me, who are called to “HUMBLE ourselves, and PRAY, and TURN from our wicked ways”! It is THEN, and ONLY then, that God “will hear from Heaven, and HEAL our land”. We will either have PRAYER and PURITY, or we will have PUNISHMENT.
And it is the people of GOD who must make that decision, NOT the people of the world. And to those of you who are sitting there saying to yourself “How can I turn from my wicked ways, when I don’t HAVE any wickedness IN me”?
The very fact that you are SAYING that, is the PROOF that you ARE wicked…when God has clearly said “there is NONE that doeth good, no, not one”. And He said “all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God”. And “he that says he has no sin is a liar and the Truth is not in him”…or her!
God is the potter, and we are the clay. Either we will be what He wants, or He will cast us away. Either He will have prayer and purity from us, or He will destroy us.
So my invitation for you this morning, is that FIRST, if you have never given your heart TO the Lord, then will you let THIS be the day of your salvation? Will you ACCEPT the precious gift of salvation the Lord is offering you? Will you claim Jesus as your Lord, and let Him remove all your sins, and make you His own?
But for those who already ARE His. Will you finally get SERIOUS about your beliefs, and acknowledge that we are NOT the people He wants us to be…and quit trying to have it YOUR way, and finally follow what HE wants for you? Will you finally STOP trying to be “conformed to the WORLD, and be TRANSFORMED, by the renewing of your mind”?
What God wants from us is PURITY and PRAYER…what are YOU willing to OFFER Him?