What’s the Difference?

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Today’s post is about the difference between the Catholic Church and what we do today at Rock Brook Church. Before we begin, we want to be clear that we are not protesting anything. This post is not to cause division, to force anyone to change or to make anyone angry. We just want to help bring clarity to your Christian life.

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me… May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”  John 17:20, 23 NLT

God’s love for you is amazing. It’s long enough to last forever, wide enough to be everywhere, high enough to cover your mistakes and deep enough to handle anything. Jesus prayed that we would experience that love.

If you have ever experienced how much God loves you, it changes everything.

Jesus prays here that we would be unified. So before we talk about differences, let’s start with the similarities.

The Apostles Creed is a way for us all to be unified. We all unite around the Apostles Creed and have for almost two thousand years. This is a statement the early church leaders wrote to help people remember and state what they believe.


Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.


We believe this creed and Catholics believe this creed. Everything centers on Jesus Christ. When it says, catholic it doesn’t mean Roman Catholic. When the word “catholic,” is not capitalized, it means universal. The word “Church” means all believers, the body of Christ. Another way to translate that is to say, one holy Church.


Five Differences Between the Roman Catholic Church and Rock Brook

Now let’s look at Five Differences Between the Roman Catholic Church and Rock Brook. There are many, but these are probably the most helpful for today.

1. The Bible is our sole source of authority.

It is not that way for the Roman Catholic church. It’s one source of authority and is greatly respected, but you can see, from their faith statements, their doctrine in the Vatican II document says,

“In order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, “handing over” to them “the authority to teach in their own place.”

Pope Francis is the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s a line that goes all the way back to Peter who the Catholics refer to as Pope Number one. They reference him as Pope number one even though Peter never claimed that title.

One day, Jesus asked the disciples, who do you say that I am?

“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:16, 18

Catholics believe that Jesus was building His church on the rock of Peter. Non-catholics believe He was building the church on the rock of Peter’s answer, that Jesus was the Messiah.

There is a big difference on how you interpret this particular line. Jesus calls Peter the rock because he gave this answer as Jesus being the Messiah. Peter became the first leader of the church in Jerusalem.

So in the Roman Catholic church, the Pope can change things. They can add rules or remove rules and change things as they feel led. We, as Rock Brook Church, do not go to tradition or opinion or committee on truths that are clear in scripture. This is God’s word, Catholics trace the Papal line back to Peter whether Peter wanted it or not.

As we read about Peter and what God used Peter to say in scripture, it doesn’t seem like Peter would be comfortable with what the Catholic church has done to him and for him. We know from scripture that Peter was the leader of the first church, but infallibility, you don’t find that in scripture.

Catholics have the pope, the papal office and sacred tradition and decide to do things differently. Having a priest isn’t even in the Bible. Here’s a big reason for the difference in the Vatican II document.

“Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.”

Catholics follow rules that aren’t in the Bible and every good Catholic would admit that. It’s the result of their view of the church’s authority in the daily life of the believer.

Things like Ash Wednesday, Lent and not eating meat at certain times, priests not getting married, the doctrine of purgatory, infant baptism, eternal virginity of Mary, infallibility of the Pope are not in the Bible. All of these examples occur because they take tradition, the church office as well as the Bible as an authorty.

Our authority comes from God’s Word alone.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

2. We believe in the priesthood of all believers.

Catholics still lean toward an Old Testament system of worship. There is still a railing between the altar and the congregation in most Catholic churches. Only the priest has access to give you the sacraments and do the things of the priestly office.

In the Old Testament, the priest was the one who spoke for people on behalf of people on their way to God, there was a special place in the tabernacle and the temple where only the priest could go and offer sacrifices for the people.

The moment Jesus died, the veil that separated that holy place in the temple from everyone else was ripped in two from top to bottom. In other words, God was ripping it in half. Through that action, God was telling us that we don’t need anyone to speak for us any longer.

We can know that it now means there is no special cast or group of people who are called clergy and elevated to a higher position than the lowly people in the pew. Catholics believe there is a priestly office and only they can administer the sacraments.

In the book of Acts, as the church is getting started, it was the disciples who started the church. They’re fishermen and tax collectors and the Bible says unschooled and ordinary men. Even Peter was not theologically trained person. Peter was just a fisherman who spent three years with Jesus. Take a look at Peter’s own words in scripture.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Nowhere in the Bible do you find the words clergy or laity. That’s why we allow any believer and member at Rock Brook to help baptize, serve communion, pray, visit the sick, share Christ or lead worship. One of our slogans around here is, “Every member, a minister.”

The New Testament gives us a leadership structure for the local church. We’re a spiritual body that’s being led. We’re a spiritual family, and just as in a family there’s leadership, there is leadership here. A pastor means shepherd, but that does not mean that they are to take the place of your own relationship with God. Pastors here are to equip and empower and shepherd people in their own relationship with God and their own acts of ministry and service.

The big problem with the priesthood scenario is that Jesus told us not to put people in the place of our own relationship with God.

“And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” Matthew 23:9

If you put your faith in a human, they are going to disappoint you. Don’t put any pastor on that pedestal. We’re seeing the disappointment that it causes. The reason the abuse in the Catholic church is so prevalent in the news is because they’ve spent years concealing it and hiding it. Now they’re being forced to address it.

The admittance from the Pope of things we’ve already known, like instances of abusive Nuns or child abuse and sexual abuse, their bringing it to light is important, and the steps they’re taking are important. An Arch Bishop was not too long ago defrocked in the U.S. and that’s never happened before. Accountability and consequences are important.

Just the same, the abusive power of pastors in protestant churches damages the kingdom of God. It’s wrong when anyone does these things. It’s not a Catholic problem. It’s a human heart problem. We all need to fall at the feet of Jesus and His mercy and ask Him to heal our hearts.

The Bible calls us to honor, respect and follow our leaders and pastors. But it also is clear that there is no hierarchy any more. The veil has been torn. We all have equal access and equal responsibility for our faith.

3. We admire Mary, but we don’t pray to her.

Mary is a great example of someone who was fully devoted to God. Maybe the greatest example of faithfulness. In Catholic teaching, she is elevated to a place of special sainthood and called the queen of heaven and the eternal virgin. She is someone who receives our petitions. If you want to get the attention of the Son, some would say go through the mother. So the Hail Mary closes with the words, “Mother of God pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death.”

Why does Mary need to pray for us? We can appreciate the respect Catholics give the Saints and Mary, often times, however, it can unintentionally get in the way or distort our attention on Jesus as our central focus.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.”  1 Timothy 2:5-6

Catholics believe this also, but the view they have of Mary puts her in a place that gets in the way of the relationship we can have with Jesus. We don’t need to go through Mary or have her pray for us. She was a great example of a humble servant and a great example of faith, we should honor her greatly but we don’t need to go through her to get to Jesus.

4. We believe those who put their trust in Jesus Christ are immediately in the presence of God after death.

From their church traditions and their reliance on other books they’ve attached to scripture, Catholics have developed the doctrine of purgatory. A place of cleansing in preparation for heaven.

The very idea of Purgatory and the doctrines that are often attached to it (prayer for the dead, indulgences, works on behalf of the dead) fail to recognize that Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay the penalty for ALL of our sins. To limit Jesus’ sacrifice to only paying for sins committed before salvation is to say Jesus’ death was not a perfect, complete, and sufficient sacrifice.

There’s not even a temporary punishment needed, because Jesus’ sacrifice was enough. We believe that God, Jesus and scripture teach us that we are justified by faith in Christ alone and that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. When we die, we will go straight to heaven to be in the presence of the Lord.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”  Luke 23:43

There is a certain group of Christians who believe that when you die you just stay in the grave and sleep until Jesus comes back and everybody is raised and goes to heaven. But it’s not in the Bible and Jesus didn’t say to the man next to him on the cross, “You’ll be with me in purgatory.” The word “purgatory” is not in the Bible. That was just tradition. Being in the presence of God is immediate and assured.

“…to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV

Because of the perfection, completion, and sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are immediately in the Lord’s presence after death, fully cleansed, free from sin, glorified, perfected, and ultimately sanctified.

5. We trust in God’s grace alone for salvation.

A major reason why the protestant reformation happened in 1517 was the growing conviction between some key Catholic scholars that other things needed to be added on to keep you saved. They’d read scriptures like this…

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”  Romans 3:20

That’s saying you can’t be good enough. All the law does is show me I need a Savior.

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Titus 3:4-5

Catholics also believe this, but it can be confusing, because of the sacramental system, confession and all the things that salvation is maintained through the sacrificial system.

Some people think it got emphasized to the point that there was nothing left except the perpetual sense of unworthiness and having not done enough stuff and you try to get rid of it by going to confession, Hail Marys and prayers of absolution. The other side is full of people who would say they have been to enough masses to last for awhile. The big difference for us is that we trust in God’s grace alone for salvation.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9

You can’t possibly absolve your own sins. They’re too great. The wages of sin is death, you can’t solve the death problem. If we were grading on the curve, we’re probably getting in. But there is no curve between death and life.

God sent His Son so that whoever believes would not die, but have everlasting life. It’s a free gift to everyone who needs it. That’s what grace is.

Can you imagine how God feels, as our heavenly Father, when he sees us running around hoping that we’re doing enough to be loved and chosen and accepted by Him when He’s already created you, bought you and adopted you? Those adoption papers were filled out on a cross so we could be in a relationship with him.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on “Living For Eternity?” What will you remember most from the series, “What Time Is It?”

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Read: Matthew 16

There are many different church backgrounds represented at Rock Brook, including Catholicism. This weekend we talked about what unites us with and what distinguishes us from the Catholic Church.

There are many things we have in common with catholics. For instance, our fundamental belief in Jesus Christ expressed through the Apostles Creed.

There are also real differences. In this message we discussed five five differences between the Roman Catholic Church and Rock Brook. One, the Bible is our sole source of authority. Two, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. Three, we admire Mary but we don’t pray to her. Four, we believe those who put their trust in Jesus Christ are immediately in the presence of God after death. Five, we trust in God’s grace alone for salvation.

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  Matthew 16:16, 18

Application

  1. What has been your experience, if any, with the Catholic Church?
  2. Were there any believers close to you when you were growing up?
  3. What stood out to you in this message?
  4. In John 17, Jesus prays that his followers will be one. How can we better experience unity with other Christians even though we may disagree on some areas of the faith?
  5. When did you realize you needed God’s grace to be saved?
  6. What’s you favorite verse about God’s grace and salvation? (John 3:16, Romans 6:23, Romans 3:24, Titus 3:4-5, Ephesians 2:8-9) There are so many to choose from. Which one could you memorize to have ready to quote back to the enemy when he causes you to doubt your salvation?

Tell Someone Else

How can you share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ with others this week? Is there a catholic in your life you can better relate to and celebrate your common ground together? Has this message better equipped you to share God’s grace with that person?

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Week 4: How Do I Live?

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Talking about the End Times and trying to figure out what times we are currently in can cause anxiety. Each generation has experienced events that make people think the end must be near. Some even give their life to Christ out of fear because of these events. But, this is the wrong prospective of Jesus and Christianity. Jesus isn’t just a fire, life and health insurance policy. If we are believers in Jesus Christ, we don’t have to live in fear. Rather, the end times can be a message of comfort, hope and purpose. Today we want to look at what this purpose is and how we can live for eternity.

“(The men of Issachar…) understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” 1 Chronicles 12:32


Understanding What God is Doing Now

1. God desires everyone to be saved

There is a verse you are probably familiar with. It seems as we become more familiar with a verse, we tend to just glance over it. Let’s break down this verse and really take a look at what it says.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Sonthat whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal lifeJohn 3:16  NIV 

Despite how ugly the world can look at times, especially now, God loves the world! He loves it so much he gave it a very precious gift – His son. He loves people that don’t agree with him. He also loves people that live differently than He wants them to live. There are some people in this world that have done some really awful things, but God still loves them. That is good news! God not only loves you He wants to save you, He doesn’t want us to perish.

2. God has a plan to reach the world

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have not heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who bring good news!’” Romans 10:14-15  NIV

God turns whoevers into somebodies

When “whoevers” believe they become a “someone”! God’s plan to reach the world is to use us. If you are a Christian, you are part of the plan.

“Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” Acts 1: 6-8 NIV

The disciples ask Jesus the question, when are you going to reign as King? This is the same question we are asking today, Lord when are you going to come back? But notice Jesus’ response – He doesn’t want us to get too wrapped up in His return and trying to figure out the end times. Instead, He wants us to focus on being a witness to what we have heard about Jesus and to testify what He has done in our lives and the lives of other believers.

That is what a witness does, they give a testimony – this is what I saw, heard and experienced. God does not ask you to save anyone. You can’t. We couldn’t even save ourselves, why would He then expect us to save others? This takes a lot of pressure off. God has already done the saving, our part is to be a witness. We get to tell unbelievers about the free gift of salvation and how to receive it.

The disciples got the privilege of kicking the plan off in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. We, the Church, get the honor of finishing the plan to reach the whole world!

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20

3. God is waiting until the completion of His plan to return

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14

This is an incredible passage that actually has more to do with believers than it does unbelievers. God is waiting for us take the message to all nations. Then the end will come. When the verse refers to nations it is specifically talking about people groups. There are 195 countries in the world but there are over 16,000 people groups that make up these countries. There are multiple factors that determine people groups such as language, culture and geography.

Out of the 16,000 plus people groups it is estimated that 250 plus are an unengaged, unreached people group. This means they have no missionary, no bible and no church.  If we want Jesus to return then we have to take the Gospel to all people groups.


Living For Eternity

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. Two men will be working on the construction site; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be working in the office; one will be taken, the other left. So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” Matthew 24:37-44 NLT

As believers we need to realize what is going on. We need to keep watch and be ready. But, what happens to a lot of us is we get complacent and distracted. We get our priorities out of whack. We start to focus on our wants and our own agenda. It is very easy to get to a place of thinking if this one thing would go away then I will do what God wants me to do. If this one thing would happen it would free me up and then I will do what God wants me to do.

But this life is not about us, it’s about Jesus. He wants everyone saved, He wants us to reach the world, and He is waiting on us, the Church, to complete the plan. The people in Noah’s time didn’t realize what was going to happen because they were caught up in their own lives.

What Should We Do Now?

Let’s take a look at some verses out of 1 Peter chapter four. The book of 1 Peter is a letter written to believers who are experiencing hardship. These believers thought they were living in the last days. They were experiencing extreme hardship and persecution. In fact, some of them were living in their last days because they were being executed for being Christians.

1. I should think clearly so I can pray

“The end of all things is near. Therefore, be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” 1 Peter 4:7

Worship, God’s word and prayer are the things that realign our minds. The Bible says when we renew our minds then our actions will follow. Many of us don’t feel like God is present and don’t see answered prayer in our lives because we do not pray with a clear mind.

Many of us are living our lives with the mindset that my problem is big and my God is small. When we worship and we are in the Word we can pray from a different perspective.

My problem is small, and my God is big.

We need to be able to think clearly so our prayers align with God’s plan and purpose. For instance, do we pray that our kids’ ball team will win the game? What about the parents that are Christians on the other team? They are praying their kids’ team will win. If we are praying God’s agenda, we might pray something like this:

“God, win or lose may my family be a witness of Your love to the other parents, coaches and umpires at this ball game.”

“Win or lose open up an opportunity for me to share the Good News.”

2. I should focus on relationships

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”1 Peter 4:8-9

While these believers are facing extreme hardship, they are encouraged to love each other deeply. We need each other. We need people that can come alongside us with a clear mind and pray for us, correct us, and support us as we work on becoming the people God has called us to be.

The verse says love covers a multitude of sins. When we make mistakes we need to show loyalty to one another. We don’t air our sins and grievances for the whole world to see. The Bible says if you have something against a brother or sister leave your gift at the altar and go make amends. It also says we are not to take a brother or sister to court. We are not to be letting unbelievers settle our differences.

Should we sweep things under the rug like its no big deal? Absolutely not! God didn’t sweep our sins under the rug like they were no big deal. Jesus paid a high price for our sins. Grievances need to be taken care of with people who love you deeply and are a part of the problem and solution. That small group of people around you can help you get realigned with God’s plan and purpose for your life.

3. I should make a difference

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

Serving is an act of worship. When we serve others, God gets the glory!

God is the gift giver. He not only gives you the gift of salvation, but when you become a believer, the Bible says He gives spiritual gifts. These spiritual gifts are to be used to fulfill His plan and purpose. We live for eternity by serving others with the gifts God has given us.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on “Making Sense of Revelation”?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Spend some time in the word. If you have the time, consider reading the entire book of 1 Peter. It would take about 20 minutes. If you don’t have time for that in the group, read the verses below.

The book of 1 Peter is a letter to encourage Christians that are suffering and experiencing hard times. These Christians probably thought they were in the last days, in fact many were living their last days because of persecution.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength Go d provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 4:7-11

Application

  1. Growing up, how did your family react to suffering, hard times and difficult seasons of life?
  2. How do you react when faced with a difficult situation, stress, hard times or suffering?
  3. What’s one idea from the message that really stood out to you?
  4. What new things did you learn about how you should live for eternity?
  5. How do you feel about what God is doing now and your role to fulfill his plan?
  6. Read Matthew 24:14. Share your thoughts.
  7. Worship, prayer and being in the word helps us to be clear minded so we can align our life to what God is doing. How are you doing in these essential habits? What can you do to improve?
  8. What are ways you can deepen your relationship with those in your small group? Have you ever thought about starting your own small group?
  9. How are you making a difference? Share what Dream Team you serve on. If you are not on a Dream Team share what is holding you back from serving?

Tell Someone Else

How can you share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ with others this week?

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Week 3: Making Sense of Revelation

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Today let’s take a look at a book of the Bible that is all about the end times, Revelation.

“The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”  Revelation 1:1-3 NIV

Once you know how to read this book, you can take it to heart and it will build your faith. What we learn from the very first statement is that this is all about Jesus Christ. It’s a revelation from Jesus Christ. It’s a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is how we know God and how we know God’s plan.

Jesus said that, if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the plan. If you find me you have found the way to life, the way to truth.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.”   Colossians 1:15-16 NLT


Revelation is written by John, who was the last living of the original Twelve Disciples of Jesus. After the resurrection of Jesus, Judas, who betrayed Jesus, took his own life. The other ten, besides John, died the death of martyrs. Ten of the original Twelve Disciples were willing to be tortured and killed for their faith because they were so sure of what they saw. They saw was a risen Jesus after he died on the cross.

About 62 years after the resurrection of Jesus, the year was about 95 A.D., John was living when an emperor said, “I want all of you to worship me as Lord and God.”

John had seen God, and knew this wasn’t him so he decided he was not going to worship this new emperor. He was then punished, exiled and made a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos, in the Mediterranean Sea.

We can break down the revelation he recieved into five sections. These five sections help us see Jesus. The full name of the book is The Revelation of Jesus Christ.


1. Jesus is the alpha and omega. (Revelation 1-3)

John had this vision and he starts talking about the return of Jesus Christ. Not the first return of Jesus, when He comes back to snatch away believers. He’s talking about what’s called the second coming of Jesus, the first time He comes for His church and this time He comes back with His church.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'” Revelation 1:7-8 NIV

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet. In our language He would have said, “I am the A and the Z.

“His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars…”  Revelation 1:14-16 NIV

How did He hold seven stars in His hands? When you read through Revelation, you will find lots of symbolism for many different reasons. One reason is it was also a way to hide the truth from enemies. This apocalyptic literature was used so that those who were enemies wouldn’t destroy the book. Because if you don’t know the rest of the Bible, these things don’t make much sense.

Another reason symbolism and pictures are used is because it’s transferable. A beast is a beast to every generation. It has emotional power. Also, symbolism is valuable because John is seeing things in the future that he doesn’t completely understand.

If you want to study the book of Revelation, take a look at this resource by Tom Holladay. He will walk through the book of Revelation in his Drive Time Devotionals

“and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword…” Revelation 1:16 NIV

The double-edged sword is actually the Word of God according to Hebrews. Out of His mouth comes the Word of God, a theme we’ll see over and over again.

“His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” Revelation 1:16-17 NIV

Jesus had a special love for John. Yet when Jesus returns, John doesn’t see Jesus as a buddy. He sees Jesus as the alpha and omega. He falls on his face in worship as though dead.

“Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'” Revelation 1:17-18 NIV

He took on death and the grave, went to hell and came out with the keys. The grave could not hold Him down. All kings have graves, but not the King of kings. Now, that King holds the key to life. It’s the gospel.

2. Jesus is the Lamb of God (Revelation 4-5)

Twenty eight times in Revelation Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God who is worthy to open the scroll. In chapters 4 and 5 we see that God is on the throne and in His hand He holds a giant scroll that is sealed with seven seals. It’s the final declaration of all that is to come and all that is to happen to all the people of the earth.

To look in that scroll, you have to break the seals and you have to have the authority to do so. You must be worthy to open the scroll. An angel asks, who is worthy to open this scroll? Everybody looks around Heaven and they can’t find anyone worthy.

“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders… And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”  Revelation 5:6,9 NIV

This would have been incredibly powerful imagery for John’s readers because they would have remembered John the Baptist saying, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” They would have thought back in that culture to the temple system, how they had to bring a lamb to sacrifice to cover their sins. 

All the way back in the Old Testament we see a foreshadowing of the New Testament cross of Christ, the Lamb of God. So when John says, “I saw the Lamb of God who was worthy to open up the scrolls,” everyone there is filled with a sense of hope.

3. Jesus is the righteous judge. (Revelation 6-18)

In Revelation 11 it talks about how the The Temple in Israel will be rebuilt. Right now, in Jerusalem on the temple mount, there is a muslim mosque — the dome of the rock. It’s one of the most holy sites in all of Islam. God tells us that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt there.

In Revelation 13-16, this is where the Antichrist comes to power and institutes the mark of the beast. This is where you’re tracked and have to buy and sell through that mark. The word Antichrist is synonymous with the Beast. John uses the word Antichrist in his other writings. Here the Antichrist is killed and raised to life. He imitates the death and resurrection of Christ to get people to follow him.

Then in Revelation 16, the Beast, the Antichrist, mobilizes all the armies of the world to move against the nation of Israel. The Bible describes the massive armies moving in and it turns from a material war to a spiritual war. A war against God.

Jesus Christ returns with the host of heaven just in time to save the nation of Israel and defeat the Antichrist in the the Battle of Armageddon. As you read chapters 6 through 18, remember Jesus is The Righteous Judge and He issues three different judgments that are issued upon the earth:

  • The Seal Judgments (Rev 6, 8:1-2)

This is about the Four Riders of the Apocalypse. When the moon turns to blood red and lots of blood is shed from war and about a quarter of the world’s population will die from famine, plagues and wild beasts.

  • The Trumpet Judgments (Rev 8:2-9:21, 11:15-19)

During this judgment, you’ll see hail and fire mixed with blood fall from the sky and poisonous locusts. A third of the vegetation is destroyed, a third of the water contaminated, a third of the sea creatures die, a third of the light is lost and a third of the world dies; this is a bad time.

Now, all during this time, God still gives people the chance to repent of their sins. There is still grace even in the middle of these judgments.

  • The Bowl Judgments (Rev 16:1-21)

Here is when sores will appear on people with the Mark of the Beast, water turns blood and everything and it dies. The sun scorches people, devastating earthquakes hit and 100-pound hail falls from the sky.

And if you’re like a lot of people, you don’t like this part! If you’re thinking this isn’t fair… well, it is. This is justice. This is one of the reasons we turn to God. Is because he is just and we want to be spared. Judgment and anger are not the opposite of love, hate is the opposite of love. The final form of hate is indifference. Jesus is not indifferent, that’s why he went to the cross to justly pay for those who would believe and be forgiven.

And this is the time in history where God says, I am now through Jesus judging the world for its sinfulness, and an angel affirms it for John.

“Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: “You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged…” Revelation 16:5 NIV

4. Jesus is the King of kings (Revelation 19-20)

He’s the King of kings and Lord of lords. He’s the President of presidents and the Prime Minister of prime ministers.

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of GodThe armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”  Revelation 19:11-16 NIV

5. Jesus is the bridegroom (Revelation 21-22)

Which means we are the Bride. In the last two chapters of the Book, we see Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride. The Bible teaches us this principle that Jesus takes us, the Church, His Bride, to the Heavenly City. 

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…” Revelation 21:9-10 NIV

Jesus the Bridegroom comes back for us the Bride, and takes us to the New Heaven and the New Earth where there is no crying and no mourning and no pain. In fact, this New Heaven and New Earth doesn’t even need a sun or a moon because in verse 23 it says:

“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” Revelation 21:23 NIV

Yes, you get to belong to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. What is this King saying today? What is He saying at the end of the Book of Revelation? The same thing He said from Genesis through Revelation.

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17 NIV

Jesus said, “I am the Living Water, if you taste of me you will never thirst again!” You may be so spiritually parched, you’re thirsty, you’re searching for something and you know it! You’ve spent your lifetime searching, there’s got to be something, somebody, somewhere, something that fills this emptiness inside.

The Spirit says, “Come, whoever you are, wherever you are, taste of the Living Water and you will never thirst again!” Some of you may think you are not good enough. But God tells you to come as you are.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’” Revelation 22:20 NIV

What do we say in response?

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” Revelation 22:21 NIV

You see, this book ends with grace and unmerited favor. That’s why when you read the Book of Revelation in light of who Jesus is, if you’re a Christian, you don’t need to be afraid because He’s coming soon and He is good; the Alpha and the Omega, the Lamb of God, the Righteous Judge, the King of Kings, the Lord of the Lords, and the Bridegroom to take us His Church to be with Him forever.

May the grace of God be with God’s people forever and ever. Amen.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on “God’s Vision For Your Future?”

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Spend some time in the word. If you have the time, consider reading the entire book of Revelation. It would take about 45 minutes. If you don’t have time for that in the group, read the verses on the outline.

The book of Revelation gives us five attributes of Jesus: He is the alpha and omega, He is the Lamb of God, He is the righteous Judge, He is the King of kings and He is the bridegroom.

“He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”  Revelation 22:20-21

Application

  1. Growing up, what was your family’s view of the end times?
  2. Before reading or hearing about the book of Revelation, what were some of the themes or things you were already aware of?
  3. What’s one idea from the message that really stood out to you?
  4. What new things did you learn about Jesus?
  5. How do you feel when you read about God’s wrath and judgment in Revelation?
  6. How can the second coming of Christ be a source of hope for you instead of a source of fear?
  7. Who is Jesus to you?

Tell Someone Else

How can you share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ with others this week?

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Week 2: God’s Vision for Your Future

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What Time Is It? 

It’s a question many people are asking as we look at world events of natural disasters and terror. Technology is advancing quickly and powerfully, nations of influence are turning away from the truth and Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.

So people are asking, “What time is it? Are we nearing the end?”

Last week’s post was about the simple truth that Jesus is returning. He’s coming back for His people. We are not forgotten or forsaken. We are on the winning side and being faithful to God in the midst of our doubts, trials and troubles, matters.

After Jesus returns, God tells us that certain things will happen. We will face judgment and spend our eternity in one of two places.

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”  Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV

So in your future, you have an appointment with death and an appointment with judgment. If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a reward in Heaven. If you are not a believer in Jesus, you face suffering in Hell.

Let’s start in the last chapter of the last book in the Bible, Revelation 22.

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”  Revelation 22:12-13 NIV

There is a judgment, a reckoning coming for each one of us. If you are new to Christianity, don’t miss this, we do not get into Heaven by doing good things. The only way we enter Heaven is through our faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t get into heaven because of what we do for Christ. We get into heaven because of what Christ did for us.

As a Christian, it’s important to know that your good works do not qualify you for Heaven. It’s also important to know that your good works determine the rewards you receive in Heaven.

The Judgment Seat of Christ.

This judgment happens right after the return of Christ for the Church. At Christ’s return the dead in Christ will rise from the grave and the believers who are alive at that time will be raptured.

Dead believers bodies will be resurrected into new, glorified bodies. While living believers bodies will be changed into new, glorified bodies.

Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed — in a moment, faster than an eye can blink, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will be changed.”  1 Corinthians 15:51 ISV

At Christ’s return, we call that the Rapture, the dead in Christ are raised and the living are transformed. Then, those believers will be judged at The Judgment Seat of Christ. If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, that’s you.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV

The Judgment Seat of Christ is a judgment for Christians only. At this judgment you’re not judged for salvation or damnation. You’re salvation has already been determined by your faith in Jesus Christ. The Judgment Seat of Christ is a judgment for rewarding you for the good works you have done on earth.

The Greek word translated as “judgment seat” is the word “bema”. The Bema Seat is not the seat where the judge sits to issue a verdict of guilty or innocent. The Bema Seat was where the judge would sit to issue awards after the Greek athletic games. The Bema Seat held the judge who rewarded people for how they ran the race.

Imagine Jesus Christ rewarding you for your faithfulness on earth. This judgment is actually a very joyous occasion for believers. This is where Jesus Christ will, hopefully, say to you, “Well, done! Good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

At the Bema Seat, runners were rewarded with crowns of olive leaves. The judge would place crowns of olive leaves on their heads. 


Incorruptible Crown: Run a Faithful Race

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”  1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV

Runners in the Greek games would do their best trying to win. They go through extensive training, discipline their bodies and practice self-control. They do all of this so that they can win a wreath of olive leaves, a crown that is going to wilt and whither and dry up.

The crown we receive in heaven is imperishable. It is not subject to decay. It’s enduring and indestructible.

“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NIV

Paul doesn’t run without aim. Who’s in control of you? Are you in control of your body or is your body in control of you? Paul says I discipline my body and make it my slave, so I won’t be disqualified. Disqualified doesn’t mean you don’t get into heaven. It means you don’t win this crown.


Crown of Righteousness: Love His Returning

This is the crown for those who long for Christ’s return.

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”  2 Timothy 4:8 NIV


Crown of Life: Those Who Suffer 

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”  James 1:12 NIV

Those who are martyred or killed for Christ or endure great hardships for Christ receive this crown. There are other crowns, other rewards identified in Scripture. For Christians, how you live on earth determines how you’ll be rewarded in Heaven.


In the future, there are two judgments and two resurrections. The first is the resurrection of those who are in Christ. They are judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you’ve trusted in Christ, you’re in that group.

The second resurrection, the second judgment is for non-Christians. If you haven’t trusted in Christ, you’re in this group. That’s known as the resurrection of the dead and the judgment is the Great White Throne Judgment

This judgment takes place before God establishes the New Heaven and the New Earth. It doesn’t determine your rewards in Heaven, it determines your level of punishment in Hell. If you trust in Jesus Christ, you don’t have to go there.


What Will Heaven Be Like?

John had a vision of heaven in Revelation 21 that gives three specific descriptions of what Heaven will be like.

“I saw a new Heaven and a New Earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away.”  Revelation 21:1 NIV

1. God will establish a New Heaven and a New Earth.

Notice that our final destination is not just Heaven, but a New Earth. That’s why whatever you enjoy on earth, you’ll enjoy on the New Earth and the New Heaven. The only difference is there won’t be any sin.

The New Earth will be just like the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Even walked in the cool of the day with the Lord and experienced uninterrupted fellowship with God in paradise, before we ruined it by falling for the Devil’s temptation.

Whatever you love about earth, Heaven will be similar but indescribably better. Think about your favorite place, your favorite moment. Take your best moment on earth and realize that Scripture says:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard what our God has prepared for those who love Him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

2. You will never suffer again.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'”  Revelation 21:4-5 NIV

For those of you who hurt right now, in the New Heaven and in the New Earth, there will be no more pain, no more suffering. You will never, ever suffer again! 

3. You will live with God forever

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.'”  Revelation 21:3 NIV

It’s as if God is saying, “Finally it’s done, it’s restored. It’s back to the way I created it, to the way I wanted it to be.”

Our finite minds cannot comprehend the glory of that promise. We can’t even handle God in His purest form. But on that day when we’re raised to new life, when we’re in our immortal bodies clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we can walk in fellowship with God just like in the Garden of Eden before the fall and the way God intended it to be.

This all starts with you standing before Christ at the Bema Seat. You stand before the One who was crowned with thorns and He welcomes you with a Crown of Righteousness into the Heaven that He’s prepared for you.

Here’s the problem, most people today believe that Heaven is the default destination. Most people today believe that when people die they go to heaven unless they have done something really, really bad. The Bible clearly tells us that heaven is not the default destination. Hell is the default destination.

We’re not all headed to heaven, we are all headed to hell when we die unless Christ intervenes on our behalf.

Jesus said something very sobering to all of us in Matthew 7.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  Matthew 7:13-14 NIV

There are a lot of people traveling on the broad path that leads to the true default destination, Hell.

The Final Judgement: The Great White Throne

Christians will not be judged here. This is a judgment for non-Christians, for non-believers. How you live as a believer matters and how you live as an unbeliever matters as well. This is how John describes the Great White Throne Judgment.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”  Revelation 20:11-12, 15 NIV

If anyone’s sins are not covered by Christ, if they have not responded to the grace of God and are judged by their works alone, their name is not written in the Book of Life and they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. That is the default destination.

Now, you may be thinking this is not fair of God to send people to Hell. Let’s talk about what’s really not fair. Have you ever known someone who hurt someone else severely and they were not held accountable for their actions? What happens when you see that take place? When someone does some horrible injustice to someone else and there are no consequences, we think someone should have to pay for that.

That’s exactly what happens at the Great White Throne Judgment. God takes all of the sin from all of history and says, “There will be payment for the sins that were not covered by the blood of Christ.” Not only is that fair, that’s what we call justice!

What’s not fair is when those of us who are Christians, stand before the One who was crowned with thorns and He gives you a crown and lets you into heaven. Because really we all deserve the Lake of Fire. The only reason we don’t wind up in the Lake of Fire is because Jesus took the punishment for our sins upon Himself.

He was innocent, we are guilty, yet He paid for our sins on the cross. It’s not fair that many of us are rewarded and get to go to heaven. It’s not fair that that His blood covers our sins and that He suffered on our behalf.

The Gospel means good news. So when Jesus puts a crown on your head, thank God that He’s not fair. That’s why we should want to live a life worthy of His rewards.

It’s not that you’re trying to gain access to heaven, you’re already accepted because of your faith in Jesus. But out of a response to everything that Jesus did, you want to live a life not for our own pleasure, but for His eternal glory.

Those of you who are Christians, would you say, “Yes, I want to give in His name, I want to serve, witness and make a difference in His name. I want my life on earth to bring glory to Him in eternity. I want my life here to be worthy of the rewards in Heaven.”

It’s time to make a decision to pursue those rewards.


Check Back

Check Back on your discussion from last week.  How has the promise of Christ’s return affected how you lived this past week?  Did you find any comfort, make any preparation, or change your focus in light of this truth?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read: Revelation 21:1-5, 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Revelation 20:11-15 and Matthew 7:13-14

Application

1. What is one idea from the message that really stood out to you? Why did this idea grab your attention?

2. Knowing that one day you will be judged and rewarded, what changes might you need to make in your life today?

3. Is there any pain in your life that you’re ready for God to bring to an end?  What is it?

4. How does it make you feel knowing that God wants to live with you forever?

5. Why do you think so many people choose to take the broad road that leads to destruction?

6. What one thing you will do this week as a result of something you learned from this message?

Tell Someone Else

Who is someone that you would like to encourage regarding the hope of a reward for the good works that they have been doing?  Maybe you could write them a note of encouragement this week!

 

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Week 1: Jesus is Coming Again

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Many people are asking if we are at the beginning of the last days or even at the end of the last days before Jesus returns. The Bible clearly states, in fact these are the words of Jesus himself, regarding the day that it ends…

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36 NIV

Anyone who has predicted it or is trying to sell you a book on it, they don’t know. Even Jesus says He does not know the time. Jesus is seated at the right hand of his Father with His white horse ready for His return, but he’s waiting on his Father to give Him the go ahead.

What do we do in the mean time? We have circumstances in our world today like earth quakes, nature and terror. This feels like it’s a unique generation. There is a verse in 1 Chronicles that gives a shout out to some people who can be a good example to us today.

“(The men of Issachar)… understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” 1 Chronicles 12:32 NIV

These men did two things: they understood and they knew what to do. We can look to scripture to help us understand the times in which we live, and help us know what to do right now. We don’t need to be scared, idle or confused. We need to understand the unique generation and know what to do.


Jesus Is Coming Back

One of the fundamental pillars of our faith is the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. Some generation is going to be the end times generation. Someone is going to be alive on the earth when Jesus returns. 

Acts chapter one shares some about Jesus’ life on Earth. It states He lived for 33 years, was crucified, buried, rose again, and spent 40 days appearing unexpectedly to people in His glorified body. Then, 40 days after the resurrection, He ascended into heaven.

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'” Acts 1:9-11 NIV

This event happened at the top of the Mount of Olives. There’s a mountain and on the side of it is a garden of olive trees which is the location of the Garden of Gethsemane. Most of the pictures you’ve seen of Jerusalem are taken from the top of the Mount of Olives. That’s where Jesus ascended and where He will be returning. We may not know the day or hours, but we do know the season and the signs. 

“’There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’” Luke 21:25-28 NIV

This is exciting! This makes some people so nervous, scared or protective and some a little grumpy. But the Bible tells us to lift up our heads because it means our redemption is drawing near. We could be the generation that sees it.


Every generation has made a case they were the ones. It’s a healthy thought to have because even if it’s not the end time generation, it’s our end times. We don’t live forever. Any moment we could be standing before the Lord, either through death or rapture. We need to live like He’s coming back today.

There are some unique things happening that other generations didn’t have. It’s not just signs being fulfilled but all of them fulfilled at the same time. That’ll be the generation that sees the return of Christ. Here are three examples:

  • Worldwide satellite technology  (Revelation 11)

It’s important to the end time era because in the very end of the tribulation there will be two witnesses (most scholars believe these are Moses and Elijah) that are going to come back to preach then will be murdered by the antichrist and the beast. Their bodies will lay in the street for three and a half days and every nation will witness it at the same time. The whole world will witness it. That couldn’t happen without the technology for us to see something in live time that’s happening somewhere else in the world. 

  • Worldwide financial technology (Revelation 13)

There’s a part in the tribulation where the antichrist is going to get everyone to agree on a one world currency in a show to make people think he’s bringing the world together. The way you will buy and sell will require you to take the mark of the beast. With this mark either on your forehead or hand you’ll have the ability to buy and sell. We’re seeing more and more companies around the world put microchips in people’s hands. That’s on the brink of what this is talking about. 

  • Worldwide evangelism (Matthew 24:14)

Jesus’ states this gospel will be preached in all nations. That’s not the 193 geographic boundaries. It’s the word ethnos or people groups. There are 17,000 of those. A few thousand of those now are still unreached which means they don’t have a clear gospel witness, church, missionary, or Bible in their language. Experts who study this topic say that in 1970 there were 1.2 billion Christians. Now in 2019, there are 2.4 billion Christians. This means in the last 49 years the number of Christians in the world has doubled. More people have come to Christ in the last 50 years than the previous 1970. Out of 193 nations the Gospel is growing in all but 20 of them. The United States is one of the 20 where it is not growing. 


We ought to be excited by this news, not scared by it. Below we will see a passage of scripture in which Apostle Paul writes to a church explaining what will happen during the end times. 

“According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.” 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4

“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6


What Jesus’ Return Means for Us

1. Jesus’ return comforts us.

Many of us would agree that at some point we will be let down by this life on Earth. But, it’s not all about the here and now.

“According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 NIV

This tells us we shouldn’t use the end times to scare one another or criticize one another. Rather, we should use them to encourage one another. Sometimes when people think about this topic they get fearful, inward focused and grumpy about the condition of the world. Yes, these times should strike the fear of God into you. Fear of God is a good thing. But a healthy fear of God is going to result in wisdom and an outpouring of God’s Spirit, and God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear. He gives a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.  Let’s let this result in being more generous, to live life to the full and to leave a greater legacy. Look up. Be confident. Not that everything works out great here, but that we get heaven. Heaven is better! Be comforted. 

2. Jesus’ return prepares us.

God doesn’t want you to be in the dark about this. There are over 300 references in the New Testament about the return of Christ, 216 out of the 260 chapters in the New Testament and 23 of the 27 New Testament books mention it. God has a lot to say about it so we should be emboldened by it and be prepared for it.While there are many who will be shocked when all this happens and Christ returns, we won’t be shocked. 

“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ These are the unbelievers. I don’t have to worry about that. Things are fine. No worries. destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escapeBut you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. ” 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4

3. Jesus’ return focuses us.

“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6

Those two words. Awake and sober. Let’s be awake. Too many are sleep walking their way through life. Paul says, come on wake up. Don’t fall into the traps, let’s have a wake up call. Let’s be sober. Sober doesn’t mean grumpy. If the idea of Christ’s return makes you meaner, you don’t get it. Sober means clear headed. A sound mind and sound judgement. Let’s be focused. Are we living in the last days? Well, yeah. You’re living in yours. Everyone else is living in theirs. It should change the way we live. 

There are four things we can do to help focus our attention:

  • Live for Heaven
  • Stand for Truth
  • Preach the Gospel
  • Prepare to meet Jesus 

Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. What do you think you’ll remember most from the series “Helping Friends Through Tough Times” and the messages on helping friends through discouragement, death, divorce and parenting?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Spend some time in the word. Read 1 Thessalonians chapters four and five.

Will Jesus return soon? He is coming back. It’s not by accident or oversight that the Bible does not define the “time” of the end. What it does describe in great detail is what our lives should look like as we live out our days on this earth. Perhaps we should take a lesson from God’s Word and focus on what He focuses on!

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”  Acts 1:9-11

Application

  1. Jesus’ return comforts us. How does it comfort you knowing that one day Jesus will return and ultimately make all things new and right?
  2. Jesus’ return prepares us. How might you live differently really believing that Jesus return is imminent? Are you living your life to the fullest with Heaven in mind?
  3. Jesus return focuses us. How can being consumed with predicting the time of Jesus return distract us from God’s plan for us? What does it mean to be eternally focused?
  4. Is there a verse from the outline your group or family would like to internalize and memorize this week?

Tell Someone Else

A person is the only thing we come in contact with that is eternal. Be intentional about developing relationships that will help you stay focused on what really matters.

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Helping Friends Through Tough Times : When a Friend is Discouraged

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Today we are closing out this series of posts on friendship by looking at how to help a friend who is discouraged.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit drains one’s strength.”  Proverbs 17:22 ISV

Notice the word “drains.” That’s the danger of discouragement. It drains your strength. No one wants to go through life that way, but the harsh reality of life can bring us to discouragement.

Health issues, marital problems, difficulties with our kids and job worries bear down on us. So there is a serious need to look at how to handle discouragement.

What do you do when life drains your strength?

We all face different types of discouragement. Discouragement brings a sense of hopelessness that reveals itself in many ways. When we are discouraged, we eat more, sleep more, isolate ourselves, we shop more, watch more TV…

Now if you struggle with discouragement from time to time, you are not alone. You’re just humanSometimes life is hard and we hit low spots and dark days.

Our problem isn’t checking into Discouragement Hotel, it’s when you start paying monthly rates. If you’re discouraged today or you have friends who are discouraged, there is good news.

Discouragement often stands at the door of spiritual growth. 

When we hit our low spots, when we get discouraged, we are often about to see God do something great in our life. In the Bible, God used people who were very discouraged, in amazing ways. 

Read the Psalms of King David. He had incredible highs and incredible lows. You don’t have to look far to find a discouraging Psalm. 

“My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sin. I am bent over and racked with pain. My days are filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me and my health is broken. I’m exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.” Psalm 38:5-8 NLT 

“I’ve cried out to you day and night. God, hear my cry. My life is full of troubles and death draws near. You have thrust me down to the lowest pit, into the darkest depths.”  Psalm 88:1-4

In the midst of discouragement, God can use you in incredible ways like He used other people that we find in scripture. Here are three other people that God used in great ways even though they faced significant discouragement: 

  • Moses: Numbers 11
  • Elijah: 1 Kings 19
  • Jonah: Jonah 3

Let’s look at one scene in Moses’ life right after God delivered the Israelites from slavery. God had done so many amazing things, yet the people began complaining to Moses and he’s had it!

“Moses heard all the families standing in front of their tents weeping, and the Lord became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. And Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why are you treating me, your servant, so miserably? What did I do to deserve the burden of a people like this? Are they my children? Am I their father? Is that why you have told me to carry them in my arms—like a nurse carries a baby—to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep complaining and saying, ‘Give us meat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! I’d rather you killed me than treat me like this. Please spare me this misery!Numbers 11:1-15 NLT

If you look at the biblical characters of Moses, Elijah and Jonah they each have a breaking point.

  • Moses said, “I’d rather you kill me than treat me like this.”
  • Elijah said,  “I’ve had enough Lord.  Take my life!”
  • Jonah said,  “Just kill me now, Lord.  I’d rather be dead than alive.”

Out of this kind of desperation comes hope. If you’re down and discouraged, you’re at the front door of God using you, of God doing something in you and through you. There is hope on the other side. You may need to help a friend remember that as well.


We get discouraged for different kinds of reasons:

  • Physical reasons: exhaustion, chronic pain or low blood sugar
  • Emotional reasons: loneliness, grief, or abuse or childhood trauma
  • Spiritual reasons: guilt from unconfessed sin in your life

There are a thousand circumstantial reasons for discouragement, but there are some that are very common and most of us can relate to. Let’s be prepared for these in our lives and in the life of our friends.


Warning Signs To Look For

1.  Fatigue: Consumed by activity

“The load is far too heavy!  I’d rather you killed me than treat me like this. Please spare me this misery!”  Numbers 11:15 NLT

Moses realized the load was far too heavy. Imagine Moses’ life, he was the help desk for two million people.

In all three of these cases with Moses, Elijah and Jonah, physical exhaustion was a factor. So how tired are you? How worn out are you? If you are feeling tired and fatigued, there is a great prayer in Psalm 6. 

“I am worn out, O Lord; have pity on me! Give me strength for I am completely exhausted.”  Psalm 6:2 TEV

If you battle with discouragement fairly regularly, you might want to look at your physical condition. There is a direct correlation to physical exercise and a reduction in discouragement. Physical exercise reduces discouragement.

A good diet, exercise, a good night’s sleep can go a long way toward relieving discouragement. If you have a friend who is discouraged, take them for a walk, do something active, do something to build them up.


Every activity you are involved in is either draining or replenishing. Every relationship can be draining or replenishing. Take a minute to think through your activities and friendships to make sure you aren’t getting the draining and replenishing out of balance.

If all of your activities and relationships are draining, you are going to face constant discouragement. If all of them are replenishing, your life is going to lack substance and meaning because you are only soaking it in.

You need to be giving out and taking in. The questions you can ask yourself are, “What kind of friend am I? Am I always taking from my friends or am I pouring into them? What kind of friends do I have? Draining or replenishing?”

The key is to strike a healthy balance between giving out and taking in. If you are discouraged, it probably means you are out of balance in that area.

2.  Fear: Consumed by worry

“Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people?”  Numbers 11:13 NLT

If you have teenagers in your home, this could be a good memory verse for you. If you study Moses’ life you’ll find that Moses worried about a lot of things. Moses often assumed responsibilities that God never intended him to have. God wanted Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but He didn’t say that Moses had to provide for them.

What are you worrying about that is really God’s responsibility? It’s not to say that you should go through life and never worry.  There are just some things you ought to worry about less.

When you’re discouraged, you become consumed by worry. Worry gives birth to fear. Worry is like a dirty sponge that wipes away your joy and leaves a residue of fear. 

 3. Frustration: Consumed by unmet expectations

“Why are you treating me, your servant, so miserably? What did I do to deserve the burden of a people like this?”  Numbers 11:11 NLT

Moses had some unmet expectations. He expected God to treat him a certain way and that treatment wasn’t happening. Moses had given up a life of position and authority in Egypt, he sacrificed everything to lead these people and he expected the Israelites to not complain, but Moses had no such luck. 

Unmet expectations lead to frustration.

Maybe you have unmet expectations. Your marriage isn’t all you hoped it would be, your friendships aren’t as deep as you would like them to be or your career isn’t going where you thought it would. You had great dreams for many things. Now you have unmet expectations. 

When you have unmet expectations, you can wind up focusing on the person who let you down. People will always let you down eventually. Because we’re all sinners, we’re not perfect. Instead, put your faith in Christ. 

Unmet expectations consume our thoughts. It blocks our vision so we can’t see the big picture. Oftentimes, that’s what discouragement is.


Fatigue. Fear. Frustration.

Could any of those be why you move in and out of discouragement? Do you see any of those warning signs in a friend?

No matter what the cause of discouragement might be, Jesus offers what you need to break out of that discouragement. You need the hope that Jesus Christ offers. When you have a friend who is battling discouragement, they need you to point them to the hope of Christ.


The Hope Jesus Offers

1.  Jesus offers us power we don’t have.

When we are fatigued, tired or consumed by weariness, Jesus offers us a power that can keeps us going. When you have issues, problems and situations you can’t handle, it doesn’t matter how physically strong you are, you need a power that is greater than your own. 

God’s answer to your personal energy crisis is His power. 

You get His power when He fills you with His presence. With His presence comes His power.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13 NIV

God promises to fill you with His power. There are so many people who have asked Jesus to come in their life and forgive their sins, but don’t feel His power.

If you feel like you live a powerless life, you may be missing the key word in Romans 15:13. TrustAnother word for trust is depend. To depend on Him. 

Do you know someone who struggles with spring allergies? When the trees start blossoming in the spring, they are miserable! The solution is to get the allergy medicine out. Now these little pills only work when you depend on them. If you leave them on the kitchen counter, nothing happens. You can carry the whole box with you and it’s not going to do anything. You have to depend on it. You have to use it.

The same is true with God’s power. When you say “Yes” to God, His power is completely available to you. But most of us don’t depend on Him, because we keep depending on our own power, on our own wisdom, on our own way. 

We all want God to save us so we can go to heaven when we die, but we don’t access His power by depending on Him here. Depending on Him would mean we have to do what God wants us to do and not what we want to do. 

If you are going to beat discouragement, then you need Christ’s power in your life. 

“… I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”  Colossians 1:29 NLT

Why would God give you His supernatural power to pursue your own way instead of following His way? Why would God power you up to be disobedient? It just doesn’t make any sense.

God offers you His power to fulfill His purpose for your life.

“I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.”  Philippians 4:13 TEV

2.  Jesus offers us promises we can depend on.

When you live a life of fear and worry, the only way out is by depending on God’s promises. There are over 7,000 promises in God’s word. Depending on those promises is what gets us through. 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Hang on to that promise. Every day you trust in something, you trust in someone. Why not trust in someone who’s not going to let you down? Someone whose love will never fade, never disappoint. 

3.  Jesus offers us the perspective of His purpose

Frustration comes because we are just looking at the small picture. God can give us a bigger perspective. Jesus offers the perspective of His purpose in the midst of our problems.

When you’re in the middle of discouragement, there’s always a bigger perspective. God says “I love you, I will never leave you. I want to use you, fill you and give you my power. I’ve got a good purpose for your life.” 

Whatever circumstance you or a friend are going through right now, God has a bigger plan. His bigger plan will not disappoint. 

“And this expectation [salvation] will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”  Romans 5:5 NLT   

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28 NIV

When you’re discouraged and focused on the small picture, look upIf a friend is discouraged, encourage them to look up, because God has a bigger picture. The bigger picture is filled with hope. 

The thing about hope is, it is really attractive. Hope draws us to Christ. When we show the hope of Christ in our lives, it is attractive to other people. Jesus wants your life filled with hope and overflowing with hope, especially when life is tough.

“… My purpose is to give life in all its fullness!”  John 10:10 NLT

We don’t know what the future is going to bringBut there is one thing we know that no one else can offer that Jesus Christ can offer you. He offers you a life filled with His power instead of a life of fatigue. He offers you a life filled with His promises instead of your fears. He offers you a life filled with His purpose instead of frustration. As you receive God’s power, promises and perspective, God wants you to pass it on to other people.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. What do you remember from your discussion about how to be there for a friend who is dying?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Application

Discouragement Warning Signs:

Fatigue: Consumed by activity

  • In Numbers 11:15, what does Moses ask for?
  • What kinds of situations or events lead us to feel desperate like Moses?
  • Why do you think Moses continues to plead with God during his despair?
  • What does David tell the Lord in Psalm 6:2?
  • What kinds of things do people do that cause them to be fatigued?
  • How might we notice in ourselves and in others the symptoms of fatigue that could lead to discouragement?

Fear: Consumed by worry

  • Read Numbers 11:13. Why does Moses cry out to God?
  • What are ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed with worry in an imperfect world?
  • When too much worry overshadows our joy, how can this distort our perception of problems?

Frustration: Consumed by unmet expectations

  • What is Moses asking of God in Numbers 11:11?
  • What was the difference between what Moses expected and what was happening?
  • How does knowing that God creates imperfect people help us accept others who do not meet our expectations?

The Hope Jesus Offers:

Jesus offers us power we don’t have

  • According to Romans 15:13, when God fills a person with joy and peace, what is the result?
  • Instead of letting God fill us with joy and peace, what do people tend to fill themselves with in order to feel better?
  • In desperate situations, why do people often wait until they are physically exhausted before turning to God for hope?
  • In Colossians 1:29, whose power do we depend on to work within us?
  • Why do we often follow our own will when we know there is more assurance in depending on God’s power?
  • How can we be more aware of the power that lives within us when facing challenges?
  • Read Philippians 4:13.  Where do we draw strength to do everything?
  • Why is it appealing to feel the power of doing more ourselves rather than tap into God’s power by trusting him?

Jesus offers us promises we can depend on

  • According to Isaiah 41:10, why should we not fear?
  • Although the Bible tells us we should not fear, why do we?
  • What are some common fears all people experience?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 1:20. What does Paul tell us about the answer to God’s promises?
  • When God does answer our needs, why are we not always content with his answer?
  • Think of an example of how God has said “yes” to your needs though the request may have seemed impossible.

Jesus offers us the perspective of His purpose

  • What does Romans 5:5 tell us about our expectation of salvation and what God has given us?
  • What are examples of places we tend to put our trust, expectations, and faith rather than with God?
  • When we focus our faith on ourselves or others rather than on God, what are some likely consequences?
  • What promise does Romans 8:28 give us regarding those who love God and follow his purpose?
  • What are some ways we could focus on God’s purpose for our lives?
  • How does an experience of seeing God’s purpose in our lives affect our perspective?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you share this message of Jesus’ hope with? Who can you be praying for that is in the middle of a discouraging time?

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Helping Friends Through Tough Times : When a Friend is Dying

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There are two experiences that absolutely everybody goes through – birth and death. Only a fool would go through life unprepared for what you know is inevitable.  Most of us have had people in our lives die suddenly and unexpectedly. Those deaths may have caught us by surprise. But surprise or not, death is coming for us all.

“No one can live forever. All will die. No one can escape the power of the grave.” Psalm 89:48

In one sense, we can be glad that we die because we don’t want to spend eternity on a broken planet. If we’re going to live forever, we don’t want to live in a place where there’s sin, sorrow, suffering, rape, murder, corruption, dishonesty, jealousy, gossip, and pain that make our lives tough. God wants you to one day move on from this fallen place and live with Him forever in heaven. God wants you living in a place where there is a joy and happiness.

First, we need to recognize that people react differently to death. But, there are five stages of grief that are common to everybody. Those stages include: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. We need to understand how people go through these stages. These stages were first identified by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross fifty years ago in 1969. However, thousands of years before Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, King David talked about the same five stages of grief in the Psalms.


The Five Stages of Grief: How People React to Death

1. DENIAL“This isn’t happening to me!”

Denial is actually a form of fear. Anything that you are afraid of you tend to deny. When people are afraid of death they deny that they’re dying. David was afraid of dying. As a result you live in denial because you don’t want to admit that you’re afraid.

I am frightened inside. The terror of death has attacked me.” Psalm 55:4 NCV

2. ANGER – “Why is this happening to me?”

When people realize they’re going to die they get angry. They get angry at God, doctors, their family, and themselves. David says it like this in Psalm 39,

“I was overcome with anger. The more I thought, the more troubled I became; I could not keep from asking: ‘Lord, how long will I live?” Psalm 39:3-4 TEV

This is a typical question of someone who has just found out they’re going to die. The anger stage is the questioning stage of dealing with death. The questions are really unanswerable. Why me? Why now? Why this? What for? They’re not going to get the answers to those questions.

3. BARGAINING – “I promise to … if you’ll let me live.”

In this stage you fill in the blank of what you will do if only God would let you live a little longer. You start trying to make deals with God in order to keep on living. But it doesn’t work because you can’t bargain with God.

“You can never pay God enough to stay alive forever and be safe from death.” Psalm 49:8-9 CEV

4. DEPRESSION – “I just don’t care anymore.”

When people come to this stage in dealing with death, they say “I just don’t care any more! What’s the point? I’m going to die. Why bother? Why make the effort? I give up.” They go through a period of depression.

“I’m at the end of my rope, my life is in ruins. I’m fading away to nothing, passing away.” Psalm 109:22-23 MSG

5. ACCEPTANCE – “I’m ready for whatever happens.”

“I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands.”  Psalm 31:14-15 NLT

Not everybody goes through the stages in this order. Nor do you go through them once and then you’re done. Instead, you sort of swirl around in all five of these. But the goal is to keep moving and making progress working through them.

The most common problem in dealing with grief is getting stuck in one of these stages. You’ve got to keep moving through the process until you come to complete acceptance. It’s important to understand these stages because you need to help them your family and friends deal fully with each of these stages and then help them move on to the next stage. If you don’t understand these stages you might pull away and detach yourself from people when they are angry, bargaining or depressed. David complained about the distance that people give to those who are dying.

“My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance.” Psalm 38:11 NLT

Fear and anxiety cause distance in relationships. Most people feel awkward around people who are dying. It reminds us of our own mortality. We don’t know what to say so we just stay away. Thankfully, there are seven things that we can learn to do to give our loved ones COMFORT when they need it most.


How to Comfort Someone Who is Dying

C – CONFRONT MY OWN FEARS

Before you can help anybody else you’ve got to deal with your own fears. Exposure to death exposes the hidden fears in us. You’re afraid you’re going to say the wrong thing or make matters worse. As a result you don’t do anything. To put some of those fears to rest, it is almost impossible to mess it up. This is far bigger than you.

For those of you who haven’t been around somebody dying, death is really quite ordinary. There’s nothing spooky, weird or wicked about it. Contrary to television, there are very few Hallmark moments when people die. Their heart rate and breathing slows down and eventually stops. That’s about all there is to it. One moment they’re here and the next they’re not. The biggest mistake you can make with somebody who is dying is simply not to be there.

O – OFFER MY PHYSICAL PRESENCE

Your physical presence is the greatest gift you can give someone who is dying. When people are dying they struggle with the fear of abandonment and the fear of dying alone. You don’t have to say anything profound or necessarily even be talking to them. Just get in the same room with them. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just simply be in the room. You can hold their hand or put your hand on their shoulder assuring them of your presence. Also remind them that God is with them. God has said He will never leave them nor forsake them.

“Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me.” Psalm 23:4 NLT

When God is near you lose your fear.

M – MINISTER WITH PRACTICAL ASSISTANCE

Do whatever they need done by running errands or help in practical ways. When someone is dying they usually don’t feel good. They’re often in pain. David says this in Psalm 38,

“I’m burning with fever and I’m near death. I’m worn out and utterly crushed. My heart is troubled and I groan with pain.”

What do you do when somebody’s in that situation? You do whatever you can do. You offer practical assistance to relieve their pain. It’s the little things that show love. The Bible says,

“Encourage those who are timid, take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

This important because another one of the biggest fears that people have when dying is the fear of losing control. Control is being taken away from them more and more. One of the ways you can minister to people who are dying is to give them choices. Every time you give them a choice you give control back to them. So even when you say something as simple as, “Would you like your slippers on or off?” You’ve empowered them. Every time you give people a choice you give them a little bit of power back.

F – FORTIFY THEM WITH EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Carry each other’s burdens, in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

The law of Christ is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. We should also pray for them and with them. Praying with them gives them emotional support. You can pray whatever they say, just mirror it back to God in a prayer. When the person who is dying says, “This really frustrates me….” You pray, “Lord, Susie’s really frustrated by this.” When you take whatever they say and turn it into a prayer to God you are lifting their burden. When somebody is sick, sometimes they’re too sick to pray. They don’t even have the energy to pray. When you turn their thoughts into a prayer, you are interceding for them.

O – OPEN THEM UP WITH QUESTIONS

When people are dying they’re carrying an enormous emotional load. You can help them open up so they can get off their chest all the heaviness they’re carrying about their impending death. Ask open ended questions, questions that can’t be answered by a simple yes or no. People ask questions all the time that we don’t know the answer to. For example: Why me? Why now? Why this? No one but God knows the answer to those questions. But the truth is, they don’t need the answer to those questions, they need comfort. An explanation doesn’t provide comfort.

What they really need is just to talk it out. When you get asked an unanswerable question by somebody who’s dying, rephrase it and ask it back to them. If they say, “Why am I going through this?”, you don’t know why, so instead of answering that question rephrase it back to them, “What does dying mean to you?” Then wait for them to answer. This way you have gotten them talking. Ultimately, the question is not the question. The question is a symptom of something deeper they need to get out.

R – REMEMBER THE FAMILY HAS NEEDS TOO.

This is where you can really be a friend to other people. If you’ve got a friend who is ill and they’re dying, you can really help the whole family, not just them. Sometimes as a friend you can say things that the family can’t say. Sometimes you can ask questions the family can’t ask. Sometimes you help move relationships toward healing. Remember the family is moving through these same five stages of grief.

T – TURN THEM TO JESUS

When someone is facing death we want to turn them to Christ so they’ll spend eternity in heaven. That is the hope of our faith. Jesus came to take away your fear of death by dying on the cross to pay for all your sins, then being resurrected to show that there is life after death. The Bible says this in Hebrews 2:

For only as a human being could Jesus die. And only by dying could He break the power of the Devil, who has the power of death. Only in this way could He deliver those who lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” 

God doesn’t want you to be afraid of dying, He wants you to look to the hope of heaven.

We need to help those who are dying to do the same. When someone’s dying we want to encourage them to do what David did.

“Death itself stared me in the face. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord.” Psalm 18:5-6 NLT

Have you ever done that? You can’t offer to other people what you haven’t received yourself. If you haven’t settled the issue of your destiny you are gambling with your eternity. If you were to die tonight are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven?

If you don’t know the answer to that question, it can be settled right now. There is a prayer written below that you can pray in your own heart. You can say it aloud or quietly in your mind and God will hear you.

Dear God, you are God and I’m not. You sent Jesus Christ to be my savior, so I must need to be saved. I need You to forgive the things I’ve done wrong in life. I need you to help me to know the purpose you created me for. I want to begin a relationship with you. So as much as I know how, I ask you to come into my life. I want to learn to trust you. I want to learn to love you. I want to learn to love other people the way you want me to. So I ask you today with humility and honesty to please save me as I put my trust in you. I pray this prayer in Jesus name. Amen


Talk It Over

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

In this lesson, we’ll offer some solid, proven ideas, based on the fact that, when they’re dying, everyone needs COMFORT.

CONFRONT MY OWN FEARS

Read Genesis 3:10. Why was Adam afraid of God? Dealing with a friend who is dying causes us to confront our own mortality, and that makes us uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say or we fear saying something stupid that could make the situation worse. How can we overcome that fear in order to minister to our dying friend?

Share a time when you felt good about words of comfort spoken to a dying person, or of regret for words of comfort left unspoken. By the way, what do you think Jesus would tell us to do with our regret?

OFFER PHYSICAL PRESENCE 

What is the source of David’s comfort in Psalm 23:4?

In this modern age of cell phones, text messages and emails, why is a physical hug more meaningful than comfort given from a safe, electronic distance?

Two of the greatest fears when people are dying are fear of abandonment and fear of dying alone. Even holding the person’s hand or touching their elbow can help. Discuss other ways you can comfort someone feeling these fears.

MINISTER WITH PRACTICAL ASSISTANCE

In Psalm 38:7, 8, how does David describe his affliction?

When people are dying they often fear losing control. That’s why offering a dying person a choice—even in a small thing—brings them comfort. What are some small tasks you can do for a dying person?

FORTIFY THEM WITH EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Read Galatians 6:2. What are we to do for one another?

One way to give emotional support is to pray for the person. Don’t know what to pray? Pray back what the person says. For example, if they say, “I’m worried,” then pray about their worry. How you would pray for a person who is in pain? What are other practical ways you can show emotional support?

OPEN THEM UP WITH QUESTIONS   

What does Proverbs 20:5 encourage us to do with another person?

People who are dying often need to unload their burdens, and a thoughtful question would help draw those burdens out. One way to do that is to mirror a question back to the person. Name a situation that you feel a dying person would be grappling with, such as unfinished business, and share how you would encourage them to talk about it.

REMEMBER THE FAMILY HAS NEEDS TOO

Acts 20:35 encourages us to support those who are feeling weak. Sometimes, as a friend, you can sensitively ask questions of a dying person that the family may not be able to ask, such as, “Do you have any preferences for a memorial service?”

Discuss some practical ways you can minister to the family of the ill person.

TURN THEM TO JESUS  

According to Hebrews 2:14-15, what power did Jesus come to break?

Hebrews 2:14-15 speaks of those without Jesus as being “slaves to the fear of dying.” In what way are we “slaves” to that fear? How does knowing Jesus set us free? What does a life without Jesus have to look forward to?

Name at least one practical thing we can do to help someone worried about dying or any other present trouble to have the hope of Jesus.

What did the psalmist David do when death stared him in the face? Read Psalm 18:5.

Based on your discussion in this lesson and your own knowledge of Christ, why can we rely on him in that moment?

PERSONAL APPLICATION AND COMMITMENT:

When the final moment comes for us or for someone we love, we may experience all five stages of grief—but if you are confident in the salvation that comes only from Christ, you can move quickly to acceptance. If you have not yet asked Jesus into your life, why put it off any longer? If you have not settled this issue yet, you are gambling with your destiny. You can’t pass on to others what you don’t possess yourself.

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