Look Up

blog.001Today we’re going to look at one of the great chapters of our faith found in 2 Chronicles. The authors are chronicling in First and Second Chronicles the acts of God on behalf of His people, primarily through the kings. These books show us God is always working. Even when things looked bad or there was a bad king, God was up to something. This chapter is going to show us what can happen when we lift our gaze to God in the midst of a storm in our life. In this story Jehoshaphat is the king of Judah. 

“After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, ‘A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar’ (that is, En Gedi).”  2 Chronicles 20:1-2

Jehoshaphat got news that a vast army was coming quickly, moving at a pace that he didn’t feel like he could control. Sometimes things larger than our ability to manage come at us with a rate and pace faster than our ability to stall or stop.

When Jehoshaphat first heard this news he was alarmed. We’re not promoting a faith where there are armies coming, and they are vast,  but we just shut that out and don’t take it seriously. It’s okay to be alarmed. Jehoshaphat is going to prove to be an amazing leader and he began by being alarmed.

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord…”  2 Chronicles 20:3

His alarm was then accompanied by resolve to seek the Lord. Now that may seem so obvious but that is often the last resort for the people of God. Typically, we inquire of everything and everyone else. We inquire of the internet, we google it. We text a friend and ask them to meet up with us. We ask people for opinions. We do everything else but look up.

Jehoshaphat was alarmed, but he resolved to inquire of God. He asked God what was happening. When he did that, it was the key to his breakthrough. Breakthrough begins with us saying to God, “What is happening and what would you like to do?

“…and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” 2 Chronicles 20:3

This fast was not a fly-by-night fad. It wasn’t a juicing, cleansing, liver detoxing, or losing weight. Rather he proclaimed that they had a big problem so we were going to cut out all other distractions for awhile so that they could put God first and hear from God. They had armies coming and desperately needed to hear from God.

“The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said:”  2 Chronicles 20:4-6

The people came together at a high place.  For these people the mountains were real. The ark of Noah found its resting place on the top of a mountain, Mount Ararat. When Abraham was in the struggle of knowing there is a promise that a nation would come through his son but God asked him to take a radical step of willingness to let go of that son, and a ram appeared caught in the thicket, it was up on Mount Mariah. When Moses met with God and the earth quaked and a cloud descended and the glory of God couldn’t even be seen face-to-face, that all happened on Mount Horeb, Mount Sinai. When the prophets of Baal came against the people of God and Elijah declared that his God is greater and fire came down from heaven it happened on Mount Carmel.

Jesus eventually would give his life on what some would say is Mount Moriah. The lower regions of that same temple mount is where these events are happening in our text. God is inviting us to turn our eyes up and meet Him at a higher elevation. Our help comes not from these people, it might come through these people, but our help comes from the Lord. So they stopped and looked up. The things that happened for them as they stopped, fasted and looked up can happen for us. There are five things to look at. 


What Happens When We Look Up

1. We see God seated on an unassailable throne.

Unassailable means unable to be attacked or defeated. God is seated in that place today. He is not pacing. He is not even standing. He is confidently sitting on a throne that cannot be threatened from any angle.  There is not one ounce of anxiety in God today. That’s what we can see when we look up.

“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.”  2 Chronicles 20:6

He is seated on an unassailable throne of power and might. We know this, but when the storm comes and the pressure come we have to lift our eyes up and see there is a throne up there and so is our God.

2. We see that God has an unbroken track record of faithfulness

Immediately what Jehoshaphat remembers is that God has come through for them and defeated their enemies before.

“Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?”  2 Chronicles 20:7

We’ve all been knocked down but none of us have been utterly destroyed because we’re all here today, God came through. You might think He has not come through for you, because of the circumstances you are in right now, but the good news is it’s not the end of the day yet! God is not done with you yet. It’s three days in a tomb but there was a resurrection. Right now may look like your tomb but it’s not over. A chapter may have closed, but the next chapters of your life have not. 

God’s work in your life is not finished. 

God’s opportunity to continue to do what only God can do is still alive today. That’s the power of the resurrection. That’s why when all of the sudden we’re fixated on the wind and the waves and the when, the where and the why, God is saying you can’t, but I can. Just lift your eyes to a God who has an unbroken track record of faithfulness.

3. We replace self-dependency with God-ability.

God-ability is so much better than self-dependency. Because self-dependency runs out and runs dry quickly. There are so many situations in life in which we have no control.

“Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  2 Chronicles 20:12

That’s a great confession. Instead of lying here all night until we figure it out, we can talk to God instead. We can confess we are facing something we can’t handle. Sometimes we just need to say the simple thing: I don’t know what to do.

Remember, Jehoshaphat was alarmed, but he did resolve something. He resolved to shut out all the other noise so he could hear from God. We might not be able to take on three armies, but God can. We may not be able to control our situation, but we can control our response and our resolve.

“All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.”  2 Chronicles 20:13

They have all gathered together, standing with lifted eyes. There are three armies coming quickly, but in faith they set their gaze on God. Then the Spirit of the Lord fell on a messenger.

He said: ‘Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'”  2 Chronicles 20:15

Whatever it is you’re facing you need to keep reminding yourself that you’re not fighting this battle, but God is fighting this battle. We will do whatever it is God leads us to do, but God is fighting this battle.

4. God gives a promise for deliverance.

He wants to give you a promise for deliverance as well. Again, the battle is not yours, it’s God’s. He gives them a plan.

“‘Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, [He knows this because He is the maker of heaven and earth.] and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” 2 Chronicles 20:16-17

The battle is the Lord’s but He directs our steps and guides us to victory. These are the marching orders. If you have a protocol facing you, go and follow the ways that seem wise. But as you go remember the treatments aren’t the ultimate warrior. God is our warrior and our defender. God is fighting for us. He may be using the regiment or this treatment, but it is God who is doing it on our behalf. He never said turn your back and pretend the problems aren’t there. Go face them, because you know the Lord, your God is with you.

5. We respond with pre-thanks to God.

Pre-thanks is when you start thanking God for things He has told you He will do that He hasn’t actually done yet. God has promised that He has delivered me. I’m going to praise him and thank him as though He’s done it, because God’s promise is as good as the fact that He’s done it. If you thank God after you’ve got it, that’s gratitude. When you thank him in advance, that’s called faith.

“Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.”  2 Chronicles 20:18-19

God has spoken, the people have stood and now they have bowed down and started praising God. Fear is loud and all consuming. Worry is loud. Loud praise displaces loud fear. Fear and worship cannot coexist in the same space. One displaces the other. 

Worry and worship cannot exist in the same space.

“Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.’ After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.’”  2 Chronicles 20:20-21

These people began to displace their fearful thoughts with faithful thoughts. They began to displace their worried thoughts with worshipful thoughts. The army begins singing give thanks to the Lord for His love endures forever.

“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day.

Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets.

The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.” 2 Chronicles 20:22-30

That’s what worship does and that is God’s promise for us today. Our worship can displace our worry. His faithfulness displaces our fear. We need the peace that comes from Christ. We can fix our gaze upward to where our help comes from and receive that peace today.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on the “One Person at a Time” message?

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

Hear the Word

Read: 2 Chronicles 20

In 2 Chronicles 20, we see Jehoshaphat leading the people to look up to God. After getting word that three armies were coming against them, Jehoshaphat resolved to look up to God for help. Their response to the coming crisis made all the difference. When we look up…

  1. We see God seated on an unassailable throne.
  2. We see God has an unbroken track record of faithfulness.
  3. We replace self-dependency with God-ability.
  4. God gives a promise for deliverance.
  5. We respond with pre-thanks to God.

Application

  1. Have you ever been in a circumstance that alarmed you? Maybe it was multiple things coming against you. How did you respond? What did Jehoshaphat resolve to do when he was alarmed?
  2. Where do your eyes naturally go when a crisis is coming your way? What would it mean to look up to God as a first resort?
  3. Have you ever pre-thanked God for anything before?
  4. What promises of God are you clinging to right now?
  5. Is there a specific crisis or fear in your life to which this message applied?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage as a result of this message?

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One Person at a Time

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In Matthew 15 is one of the most incredible moments with our Savior and His people. It’s a mixture of our Savior, people and His disciples.

“Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down.”  Matthew 15:29 NIV

Jesus is outside, He’s public, He’s available. Look at how people are drawn to Him. They just want to just be around Him, because of who He is and what He can do.

“Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet and he healed them.”  Matthew 15:30 NIV

These people did not come by themselves, they brought someone with them. The word “laid” means they cast them down. No one is an outcast, even though these are Gentiles.

A Gentile refers to a person who is not a Jew. From the Jewish perspective in that time, Gentiles were often seen as pagans who did not know the true God. During Jesus’ time, many Jews took such pride in their cultural and religious heritage that they looked down on Gentiles.

Jesus did the miracle we are about to read about in a Jewish area with 5,000 men, not counting the women and children present. But in this account, Jesus is now doing for the outsiders.

Jesus is so at ease with it. He doesn’t mind being crowded in and all of these people at His feet. What does Jesus do? He healed them.

“The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.”  Matthew 15:31 NIV

All of these hurting people came. Someone was there who could not speak and in the Lordship of Jesus, they started speaking. From the authority of Jesus, they were healed.

We find out later there are thousands and thousands there. People who were carried there or carted there were now walking and running. It could have been dozens of people who did not have use of their legs, who can now use them.

The blind are seeing. Blindness can be a symptom of other things, so maybe even another disease is being healed. Now, suddenly they are seeing.

Look how they responded. They were amazed and praised God. What an incredible scene on a mountainside. It could have ended there. Jesus healed people and they praised God. But it goes on.

“Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.’”  Matthew 15:32

People were healed, restored,  put back together again and free from challenges. Jesus had compassion on them because all of this healing had gone on for three days. As Jesus healed people and they worshipped God, then He gives the reason for His compassion.

It’s the nature of Jesus, He notices everything.

Not only do big things matter to Him, the small things matter.

Jesus notices that they are going to go away after three days and they are going to walk home, but could collapse. It’s so important that our Lord noticed that. He’s just leaning in and meeting needs.

Jesus says, “We’re not done yet.” Rock Brook, we’re not done yet. Thank God for SERVE Day and moments, but we’re not done yet. There are still hurting and lost people.

People in your life woke up this morning and looked at their life or maybe they looked at the news and they are afraid or even wondering why they are even on this planet? They see truth leaking from our culture and it’s leaving people struggling with pain and addiction and questioning their value. We are not done yet.

Jesus just couldn’t stand to leave people hungry. When you leave the presence of Jesus you feel fed. Have you ever noticed how Jesus was always filling things up?

He fills up the disciples boats with fish. He fills the barrels. His followers left the empty tomb filled with joy. The Apostle Paul calls it an overflowing grace. 

God has called us to go out into an empty world and fill it up with hope.

“His disciples answered, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?’”  Matthew 15:33 NIV

Notice how the disciples feel they have to remind Jesus that they are in a remote place. They can’t just drive over to Sam’s Club real quick, there’s no SERVE team is showing up with coolers.

“‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked. ‘Seven,’ they replied, ‘and a few small fish.’”  Matthew 15:34 NIV

Do you see how they made what they had even smaller by calling them small fish? Sometimes we make what we have so small. We thing we could never make a difference. We don’t have anything to contribute. I only have this little bit of time or money.

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children.”  Matthew 15:35-38 NIV

Jesus invites the disciples to cooperate in this by asking them to help distribute the food. He could of just made everyone full all at once, but that’s not how He decided to fill everyone. Instead Jesus took what the disciples had, took it out of their hands and took it in His hands. When He put it back in thier hands, they put it in the people’s hands.

That’s like our offerings. We take what’s in our hands, we give it to God and he blesses it. He hands it back and we are to relay it to the world. That’s how it works.

He’s the chef, we get to be the waiters. He’s in the kitchen getting it all ready. But we get to deliver. That’s what he let the disciples do. He lets them up close. He loves the individual, one person at a time.

That’s how he healed people too. He could have healed everyone in one word, but He interacted with each person. He could have made everyone feel full. Instead, He had the disciples pass this out, one person at a time.

He wanted the disciples to see that He values people. Jesus wants to put us on the front row of making a difference. Have you ever noticed how the front row is always so much more into it? You pay big money to be in the front row of a concert or a sporting event. 

To get a premium view, you must pay a premium price.

So often, we pay a cheap seat price for a premium view. Maybe in marriage or with your kids. Maybe in your workplace or in the things around you. Ask God to help you be willing to pay a premium price because you want a front row seat for what He is doing.

If you have experienced the front row, then you have been ruined on going back to the cheap seats.

When you say yes to a front row seat with Jesus. You’ll never want to go back to compromise or convenience.

God will ruin you with his grace. When He uses you to touch a person’s life, when He uses you to serve. You can’t go back to sitting idle. You want the front row seat.

Get yourself to the front row of what God’s doing. When you’re willing and you say yes to a front row seat, you’ll never want to go back.

There’s something you possess that can bless someone else.

There is something about you that can lift someone else. It could be your time, your talent or your treasure. Something you posses can bless someone else when you put something you have in circulation. God wants to move us to the front row to bless someone else.

Does SERVE Day make a difference in someone’s life? Does serving in a church make a difference? Consider where you would be with out people pouring in to you. Giving what they have and investing it into your life. Think back to your small group leaders,  children’s church teachers or the people who brought me to Jesus. Where would you be without those people?

Our church is built around five purposes that we get to fulfill in our life. This is what we get to be a part of.


It Is the Dream…

It is the dream of a place where the hurting, the depressed, the frustrated, and the confused can find love, acceptance, help, hope, forgiveness, guidance, and encouragement.

Worship

It is the dream of a group of people who gather together with eagerness, passion and enthusiasm to worship, treasure and lift up the name of Jesus Christ.

Fellowship

It is the dream of welcoming people into the fellowship of our church family. A church family so full of the spirit of Christ that you can tangibly feel the sense of grace and second chance when you are around them. A church family that is loving, learning, laughing, and living in harmony together.

Discipleship

It is the dream of a freedom so rooted in Christ that it produces the fruit of spiritual maturity. A desire to lead one another to the truth of God’s word. A love for the word of God and radical generosity as we give of ourselves in response to the word.

Ministry

It is the dream of equipping every believer for a significant ministry by helping them discover the gifts and talents God gave them. Anyone can make a difference, no matter how unqualified they feel, or how broken their past.

Evangelism

It is the dream of a church so passionate for the lost, like a parent who’s lost a child, nothing will stop them nor stand against them as they share the Good News of Jesus Christ with their neighbors, their nation and their world.

It is the dream of Rock Brook Church to be unified around these purposes of God.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on the message about how God tests your faith?

 

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

Hear the Word

Read: Matthew 15

In Matthew 15 we see Jesus using the disciples to meet the physical need in the crowd. “Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.”

Jesus could have met their hunger any number of ways, but he decides to use the disciples to serve the people in the crowd, one person at a time.

Application

  1. Have you ever had a front row or VIP experience somewhere?
  2. How has that experience changed your perspective of that environment?
  3. Where and when do you feel like you’re cooperating with God the most? In other words, where and when do you feel you’re making the biggest difference for the kingdom of God?
  4. What inhibits you to serve? (Time? Energy? Feeling worthy?)
  5. Which part of the Rock Brook Dream excites you most?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage to take a next step in their faith? Who can you encourage to start serving?

 

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How God Tests Your Faith

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Sometimes we wonder why things don’t always work out perfectly and go the way we want them to go. Even after you become a Christian, you still have problems. What’s fascinating is some of the trials we face are the very answers to our own prayers.  We ask for some of these things and don’t even know it. We may pray that we want everything God has for us, we want to be more Christlike, we don’t want our life to look like the world, we want our finances to be biblical and our jobs to be fulfilling. And this is God’s goal for our life too, so he lays out the pathway.

God’s number one goal for your life is to make you like his son, Jesus. He wants to grow you creating a strong faith and character. He knows the best way to get us to that point, whether we like it or not.  Just like a good parent doesn’t bail their kid out every time, God is a good parent and wants to grow us up. We’ll have all of heaven someday to be perfectly happy, today we are in the training ground. The primary way God grows you up is by testing you. When you work out in a gym you test your muscles by lifting weights. The more weight you can life the more it tests your muscle the more it grows your muscle.

God grows your character the same way, through a series of tests. Those tests build your faith, character, patience and all kinds of other things in your life. The problems are not pointless. Rather, they are there to test your faith and to grow you into the man or woman God wants you to be. 

“Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your FAITH IS TESTED, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when it is fully developed you will be strong in character and ready for anything!” James 1:2-4 NLT

Tucked in that financial despair, that mean neighbor or coworker, that marital problem, or that issue with your kids, there is an opportunity for your faith to grow. Some of us are trying to run from the very situation that God gave us as a gift.


How God Tests Your Faith

There is a section of the Bible that deals with this specific thing. It’s in the book of Hebrews. The author is not listed, we’re not sure who wrote it, but it was written or preached to a group of people who were considering abandoning the faith because it was getting difficult and they weren’t strong in character enough to handle it.

In chapter 11 the author or speaker just begins passionately listing out the people of their heritage and how they lived by faith. One of the men mentioned in this chapter is Noah. The Bible tells us that when God created the earth it was perfect, but the longer man went along we started having problems, conflicts and wars, injustice, racism, and sexual problems.

God was so grieved that He had even made the earth because it was going in the wrong direction so He decided it was time to start over. The world was so evil there was only one man and his family who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. This man was Noah.

Now, imagine that you’re Noah or his wife or one of his kids and you know the world is a pretty evil place and God comes He is going to start over and wipe out everything. He says that He is going to flood the Earth and He wants Noah to build an ark. The world is going to start over with this one family and the animals God will bring to the ark. This is the first test and we will all go through tests like this.

1ST TEST: A NEW TASK

God asks us to do a new task or to dream a new dream that seems so big that it’s impossible. This is the WHAT test. God comes and asks you to do it and our response is often, “What?!” You’ve got the wrong guy!”

“It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about something that had never happened before.” Hebrews 11:7 NLT

Up until this time it had never rained on earth, that’s why they’d never seen a rainbow. A mist came up from the ground that would water all of the vegetables and plants. Before the flood people lived a whole lot longer, but after the flood the age of life expectancy starts going down because something in the environment and atmosphere changed. It says it never happened before

  • Faith is facing the future without knowing “WHAT?”

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 NIV

2ND TEST: A MAJOR CHANGE

You have a major change in your life. This is the WHERE test. “Where are we going with this one Lord?” This example comes from another person in the Bible, Abraham.

“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8-10 NLT

Abraham lived in a city called Er which was in the Iraq area. God told Abraham He was going to make Him into a great nation, but not where he was currently located. This is an especially difficult move for Abraham. He’s 75 years old and that’s not really when you want to start the greatest adventure in life. He’s ready to retire, but God says He is ready to inspire.

Abraham had a lot to move because he was a very wealthy guy. He had a lot of livestock and people working for him. God was moving him to a new country in the Palestine area, but God didn’t tell him that. He just told Abraham to move and He would let him know when he got where He wanted him to be.

Some of you are in this test because you’re experiencing a major change. This might be a job change, a school change, moving to a new home or city, or family dynamics are changing.

  • Faith is following God’s leading without knowing “WHERE?”

Abraham does this. He packs up all his herds and employees and heads off following God’s leading. Eventually, he gets to Canaan but when he gets to the land he doesn’t settle down, he lives in tents.

3RD TEST: A DELAYED PROMISE

God has thousands of promises in the Bible for you. They are guarantees. However, God has not guaranteed to fulfill them instantly. They aren’t vending machine promises. They are promises that require faith. God doesn’t work for you, you work for God. He has made the promises but He has all of eternity to fulfill them. Some of the promises won’t be fulfilled in this lifetime, but in heaven.

The delayed promise is called the WHEN test. 

“Even after Abraham reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent and so did Isaac and Jacob, to whom God gave the same promise. Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” Hebrews 11:8-10 NLT

Promise is used twice here. God wants us to base our life on promises not explanations. If you ever understand that you’ll take a giant leap in your character. God is not going to explain everything, He doesn’t owe us an explanation. He wants us to trust His promises.

There’s a delay in transfer of ownership after Abraham gets to the land. He lives in tents for three generations. God calls him a stranger in his own country. You may be in this test right now.

  • Faith is waiting for God’s timing without knowing “WHEN?”

4TH TEST: AN UNSOLVABLE PROBLEM

As mentioned earlier, Abraham is 75 years when God told him He would start a great nation from his family. He moves to the land of Canaan that will become Israel. He’s waiting for his wife to be pregnant, but by age 99 he still doesn’t have a son. 

Now it is physically impossible for he and his wife to have a child. They laughed when God told them they would still have a baby. They ended up naming the baby Isaac because that name means laughter.

This is the HOW test. It seems like an unsolvable problem.

“It was by faith that Sarah together with Abraham was able to have a child, even though they were too old and Sarah was barren. Abraham believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man, Abraham, who was too old to have any children—a nation with so many people that, like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.” Hebrews 11:11-12 NLT

  • Faith is expecting a miracle without knowing “HOW?”

5TH TEST: A SENSELESS LOSS

This was the ultimate test in Abraham’s life and it will be yours too. A senseless loss will be the ultimate test in your life. So much of what happens in life, it just doesn’t make sense. When we look for an explanation we’re not going to find one. We spend our entire lives thinking if we could just get an explanation we would feel better about the loss. But, explanations never offer comfort.

In pain and major loss, you need the presence of God, not the explanation of God. 

One day after Abraham had this miracle baby named Isaac, God told him to sacrifice his son. It seems so brutal and nonsensical. Why would God ask to sacrifice a son he gave in a miracle? Abraham knew his faith was being tested. God is not a mean God, and Abraham knew that. He decides he is going to obey knowing that God will do something about it. But this was the ultimate test, Isaac represented everything God promised Abraham. If his son were to die there will be no future nation.

“It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had promised him, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Hebrews 11:17-18 NLT

This is one of the most gripping stories of how God would find a way. This will be the most gut wrenching test in our life when God asks us if we love the dream more than we love Him. If so, then we’ve made the dream an idol. There are many layers to this story, but at the last second God stops Abraham and provides a lamb for the sacrifice to replace Isaac.

In a few thousand years he would offer the lamb of God, his son for you. For those who trust and put their faith in Him, He provides a lamb, a way out. Abraham passed the test. If you can explain everything in your life, you’re not living by faith. Some things are not explainable.

“Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death!” Hebrews 11:19 NIV

  • Faith is trusting God’s purpose without knowing “WHY?”

6TH TEST: PROLONGED PAIN

This could be a chronic physical, emotional or spiritual pain. It is extended suffering that you just have to live with, maybe even for your entire life. It is the HOW LONG test.

Many of the prophets in the Bible asked this question. And there is another person who is used as an example in Hebrews 11 – Moses. Moses had incredible persistence and put up with enormous pain. His life is divided up into three phases: 40 years in Pharaoh’s court learning to be a somebody, 40 years in the desert learning to be a nobody and 40 years leading a million griping people across the desert.

He put up with criticism, conflict, misunderstanding and pain. He has every right to say, how long LordHe gave up everything we spend our whole lives trying to achieve: pleasure, possessions and position. He was the son of pharaoh’s daughter and the grandson of the most powerful man in the world, but he gave it all up.

“It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26 NLT

Our culture tells us to base our decisions on our feelings, that the truth is found inside yourself. Your feelings lie to you all the time. They tell you things are better or worse than they actually are. We’re manipulated by our moods.

I don’t always like to read my Bible, but I know it helps. When I don’t feel like praying, I need it the most. I don’t always feel like encouraging people who are down or need faith. I don’t always feel like being faithful, but thank God faith is not only a feeling.

  • Faith is continuing to persist without knowing “HOW LONG?”

“By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; He persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27 NIV

When life doesn’t make sense we fix our eyes on Jesus. He ran the ultimate race with perseverance, a race that didn’t make sense at the time. It didn’t make sense that when he began his ministry to serve people for the glory of God that He’d be tempted by the devil for 40 days in the wilderness. It didn’t seem right that the Pharisees could get away with lying about Him, and the Sadducee’s could succeed in conspiring against Him. It didn’t seem right when Judas was allowed to betray Him and the disciples abandoned Him. It seemed absurd that God would have Jesus stand silent as Pilot handed Him over to the crowd. And it seemed absurd when the crowd called for Jesus to be crucified. It didn’t seem right that this man who lived a perfect life would take on the guilt and the shame of every murder, rape, lie, abortion, and sin. And it didn’t make sense that God would forsake him in Jesus’ moment of need. God’s ways seemed horrible as Jesus was in the grave for three days. But then, He got up out of that grave and received His reward for enduring His race to the end. And so will you.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on the message about what unites us and what distinguishes us from the Catholic church?

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. Read Hebrews Chapter 11. Sometime this week, read through each of these stories. Noah (Genesis 6-9), Abraham (Genesis 12-22), Moses (Exodus 1-3).

Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your FAITH IS TESTED, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when it is fully developed you will be strong in character and ready for anything!  James 1:2-4 (NLT)

God uses tests in your life to grow your character and strengthen your faith. As long as you’re on Earth, you’ll be in constant growth and development to become more like Jesus. In this message we looked at six tests from Hebrews 11.

 1ST TEST: A NEW TASK (Faith is facing the future without knowing “WHAT?”)

2ND TEST: A MAJOR CHANGE (Faith is following God’s leading without knowing “WHERE?”)

3RD TEST: A DELAYED PROMISE (Faith is waiting for God’s timing without knowing “WHEN?”)

4TH TEST: AN UNSOLVABLE PROBLEM (Faith is expecting a miracle without knowing “HOW?”)

5TH TEST: A SENSELESS LOSS (Faith is trusting God’s purpose without knowing “WHY?”)

6TH TEST: PROLONGED PAIN (Faith is continuing to persist without knowing “HOW LONG?”)

Application

  1. How do you view your troubles, problems and trials? As a opportunity for joy? As an opportunity for your faith to grow?
  2. What stood out to you in this message?
  3. Which of these six tests have you seen most in your life?
  4. Which of the six tests are you enduring right now?
  5. What is a senseless loss you’ve had to endure in your life?
  6. How can looking ahead to a great reward help you to persevere?

Tell Someone Else

Who is going through a similar loss you’ve already suffered?  Call or text them with an invitation to grab coffee or a lunch.  If you are hurting, who could you reach out to in God’s family and ask for help?

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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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