A few weeks ago my wife and I moved out of our duplex for just two weeks. I know . . . we are idiots. But here is the thing. Our landlord promised to redo the entire duplex—and he did. The real kicker is he decided to increase our rent by only $15 per month. So Tracey and I packed up everything and put it in storage. Then we moved back to the townhouse I rented with Jake (my son/step-son) in South Haven. Both Tracey and I were glad that the lease was still in effect for a few weeks. After the landlord finished the remodel we moved back in. He did a great job! The next weekend we moved Jake out of that Townhouse and into his first apartment. Tracey was so tired of moving she shouted, “I’m never moving again in my entire life!” (Ok, all you who know me. You can stop laughing.)
During the two weeks we lived back in my Townhouse, I drove Tracey to work every weekday. It was a good 45 minutes away. Some days I even drove back to Porter County. On those days I would drive back down to Jasper County one more time to pick her up. That was a lot of time in the car. When I was alone the ride got monotonous. So I would turn on the Moody Radio Station. I often do that. I enjoy many of the sermons. My favorite parts are the interview and Q&A programs.
The first week I was astonished. Everyone was talking about the second coming of Jesus. The talk shows and Q&A shows were flooded with callers and questions. I laughed to myself when the thought came that it must be “sweeps” week at Moody. It is hard to get people who grew up in the 20th century church excited about much. But with eschatology (that’s whet we smert people larned to call it in skool) their ears perk up. Why?
Why are so many people in church so fascinated with this subject? Even Hollywood is investing tens of millions of dollars in a movie starring Nicolas Cage called “Left Behind.” They know the evangelical world is a rich place to mine for dollars. They also know what interests this demographic. They know our interest in the second coming of Jesus. They also are very aware of our propensity to seek out entertainment. (These things are a whole other set of issues we will talk about soon.)
Why are we so fascinated with the second coming? Especially when the way it is discussed (or argued) has very little to do with “How shall we then live?” Maybe that is why. When dealing with this issue we deal mostly with ideas. When dealing with this issue we are not forced to focus on things like forgiveness, humility and sacrificial love. I have never heard any of the proponents of the many eschatological frameworks ever focus on these key issues. Oh, maybe at other times, but not when they are in a heated discussion with someone from the “other side.”
Evangelical Christian argument about the second coming of Jesus is based on who interprets the scripture better than the other. During that first week of long drives, I listened to almost eight hours of eschatological gibberish. Those who thought they had the “right interpretation” seemed to lose all humility. Those who disagreed with the other side seemed to forget all about unity and charity.
Listen carefully please. There is one focus in every New Testament scripture passage where the second coming is discussed. It is always discussed around the question, “How shall we then live?” What the Bible teaches about the Second Coming of Jesus is written to motivate us. It is written to motivate us to live all that Jesus commanded us to do. Even the book of Revelation was written to give hope to a specific group of Christians. This group was suffering intolerable persecution. This open letter from John gave them the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It gave them hope because Jesus is the Victor. It was written to let them know that they were on the right side. This is an important thing to know when you have nothing and your life is on the line. That condition is something very few of us North American Christians know much about. Instead we have the convenience (or should I say curse) to spend our time arguing theology. We spend time arguing the correct interpretation of scripture rather than focusing on “How Shall We Then Live.” That is the purpose of correct theology.
Help me understand. How does a “pre-tribulation” “mid-tribulation” or “post-tribulation” return of Jesus affect your everyday life? Really, how do millennialist or amillennialist points of view help you live out the teachings of Jesus? Frankly the way North American Evangelical Christians look at the second coming is pure intellectual titillation. It is just an intellectual exercise with very little, if any, application of Jesus’ great commission. That commission was simple—go make disciples teaching them to do what Jesus commanded them to do. It was not to go and simply teaching them what the Lord commanded. It was teaching them to DO what the Lord commanded them to do. How did Jesus teach the first disciples to do what he commanded? He exemplified it in his life by living with them.
Straight to the point.
Jesus showed them how to “make disciples.” He did this by the way he interacted with them. Then he simply sent them out to do the same.
In the second week of my long car trips, I happened to be listening to one of my favorite Moody programs. The name of it is “In the Market with Janet Parshal.” In the segment I listened to, Janet was interviewing the head of the organization Voice of the Martyrs. Janet passionately talked about all the Christians who were being martyred in Syria and Iraq by ISIS. She decried the beheadings and families being buried alive. This was sad but was a great lead-in to what was to come next.
The leader of Voice of the Martyrs shared his recent experience with Christian leaders from Syria. He had just returned from a visit in that country. His organization gathered them together for a time of refreshment. Obviously Syria is a country where being a Christian is not an easy proposition. He told how these leaders grappled with the teaching of Jesus. You know the one, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
How in the world where they going to live that truth, that command, with ISIS? Their concern was not over what Jesus meant. It was not over what Greek construction would make this command easier to live. They simply grappled with one question, “In light of this passage, How Shall We Then Live!”
Then he told how these same Christian leaders began to study another passage. This one is where Jesus sent Ananias of Damascus to minister to Saul (Paul). All Ananias knew of Saul was that he was a persecutor of the church. We are told in scripture that Saul was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Saul had authority from the religious leaders to imprison followers of Jesus Christ. And now, in a vision, the Lord speaks to Ananias of Damascus. He tells him to go minister to this guy!
You have to be kidding!
That was pretty much the attitude of Ananias when the Lord spoke to him.
Yet he went and . . . the world has never been the same.
The Christian leaders from Syria began to ask themselves some very hard questions. How do we love these people? Should we really pray for them? What would we do if the Lord spoke to us? What if he told us to go to a leader of ISIS and minister to them?
The final conclusion:
We would rather go and die in obedience than continue to live in disobedience.
Once again notice the questions were not about the theology behind the scripture. It was not about anything other than,
“In light of this passage, How Shall We Then Live.”
Wow! How would you and I react if ISIS came to the United States of America? How would we react if they began to behead Christians and bury our families alive? Recent news makes that more of a potential reality than just a proposition for discussion.
We, in the North American Church have become fat. We have taken in so much of the word. Yet we have really given out little of the life that word was meant to produce. I fear we are like a 400 pound person sitting in an easy chair. We sit in our easy chair listening to music and speakers that make us feel good. In one hand we hold a book entitled, “Jesus Is Coming Soon.” In the other we stuff food in our mouths while hungry people clamor for our crumbs.
Do you think that picture is too harsh?
This I do know. We need to replace at least 50% of the time we spend on theological arguments. We need to use that time for the real actions of disciples of Jesus Christ. We must hold fast to the teachings of scripture. Yet we need to do this not through philosophical constructs that produce argument.
We must hold fast to the teachings of scripture by putting them into practice.
We must hold fast to the teachings of scriptures by living them in real life, with real people, in real situations. That my friends is the only way to “hold fast to the scriptures!” Understanding is good. However understanding is the precursor to living—living in obedience to all the Lord commanded us to do.
You see I am convinced we face our own self made religious barricades. These barricades block us from being the people Father has called us to be. One of them is being so fascinated with the future. The other is our overwhelming fascination with correct theology. We are so fascinated with “being correct” that we no longer allow God’s word to motivate us. We just want to be right. We no longer allow God’s word to motivate us to live with the attitude of Jesus. Most of us do not even know what that means.
I hope to look at more of these barricades in future posts—but first a story.
It is told that one day Martin Luther was out planting a tree. A brother came up and asked him a question. “Brother Martin what would you do if you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow?” Martin Luther thought for a few minutes and then responded, “I’d keep planting this tree.”
Here is the real emphasis of the second coming of Jesus. Are we focused on living our lives in Christ? Are we living in obedience to Christ and his word? Are we praying for our enemies? Do we sacrificially love our enemies and those who hurt us? Are we so busy storing up for the future that we have little time for the needs of people around you? Are we focused on the Kingdom of God and his righteousness? Do we live what we say we believe?
What if you learned Jesus was coming back tomorrow? Would you change what you are doing today? Would you have to change what you are doing today? Would you have to change in order to be living in line with the scriptures you know? Are you preparing for a theological exam? Or are you preparing for a review of your life? Are you preparing for a review of your life based on the question, “What have you done with my Son?”
If you are “in Christ” your sins are forgiven. PERIOD!
Yet you await a day of review and reward.
Is your life a reward you could joyfully lay at the feet of Jesus?
Can you cry out, “Come Quickly Lord”
Will you lay ashes at his feet or crowns of gold and silver?
I pray you will lay crowns of gold and silver at his feet. I am sure we both would be embarrassed if all we had in our hand was a theological exam. We would be embarrassed even if it was one on which we received a perfect score.
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