Vision 2014 and Beyond

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Opening illustration:

Many of us appreciate the Robertson family’s strong commitment to biblical principles and their refusal to back down under intense media pressure over Phil Robertson’s comments in a recent interview on moral values. As the Robertson controversy winds down – at least for now – I have been amazed at how many churches have apparently “ducked” out on the issue (sin). Some were even quick to condemn Phil Robertson. By refusing to back down and sticking to the Biblical moral standards, the Robertson’s became the unofficial symbol of courage and resolve in a moral battle that the media wanted Americans to believe they’d already lost.

If we Christians banded together and took a stand, perhaps we wouldn’t be losing so much ground in what the media is calling the “cultural war.” However, it is not a cultural war – it is a religious war against Christians and the biblical truths we stand for. In fact there are a number of anti-Christian groups in our country who want to silence anyone who dares challenge the idea that homosexual behavior should be celebrated. We’ve seen these vicious tactics used against wedding florists, bakers, photographers, sports journalists, students, and teachers, who’ve been fired, hauled into court, fined, suspended, and ordered to violate their religious/faith beliefs. Sad to say, some churches have fallen into the trap of being politically correct, under the disguise of tolerance. God is not “politically correct,” and He is certainly not tolerant of sin. The Bible tells us that He is going to judge all sin one day; and anyone who is not found under the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, will face an eternity in hell separated from God.

Scripture says, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49-50). But today God is willing to forgive anyone who truly repents (is willing to turn from their sin), asks for His forgiveness, and believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (“For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” Romans 10:13).

If you believe in Christ, say it loud and clear for the world to hear! Jesus tells us “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:31-33) We can so easily deny Christ not only through our words but more with our actions and beliefs. Contemporary stalwarts like Phil Robertson, CEOs of Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby have set the standards and example for us all in being good Christian watchmen for our country. They have kept the torch burning brightly. It is a time for us to stand up for our faith in Christ and not just stand on the sidelines as passive lukewarm Christians.

What is our vision for 2014 and beyond?

1. Be the WATCHMEN for the DYING NATION (Jeremiah 6:16-19)

Introduction: The days of Jeremiah’s ministry to the people of Israel were days of deep spiritual wickedness. The people had sinned against God to the point where He was ready to give them up and send them into captivity. And, in fact, they did go into captivity in just a few short years after this was written because they failed to hearken to His instructions. Yet, the Lord never gives up even while they perched on the edge of judgment; He desires to see them turn back to Him. You notice in the Bible that God always uses simple common everyday things to express His truths. In this verse, we are given the image of a traveler who comes to a fork in the road. He has the opportunity to go anyway he desires, but God tells him to ask for the “old paths, where is the good way.”

(i) Ask for the old paths

Notice the term “Ask”; instead of just traveling blindly on down the road, the traveler is told to stop and ask directions. We men traditionally don’t do that. We think we can get to where we want to go without asking anybody. Many a times our shortcuts turn out to be long cuts, but we keep on doing it for some reason or another. Maybe it’s within the nature of man. Perhaps God had men like us in mind when he gave this Scripture to Jeremiah. Just maybe He wanted us men to listen closer to His words and warning.

(ii) Follow the old paths

The problem Israel faced is a problem people have faced down through the ages; they get the wrong directions and follow them. Moving just one road sign created a dangerous situation that possibly even caused serious accidents or even death. I afraid that many of our religious leaders of today are changing some of the road signs of the faith, in doing so are causing confusion among the Christian community, and keeping many from ever finding the road – way to life. You will surely find rest in the paths that have already been laid down by God through those who have gone before us.

(iii) Consequences for adherence and refusal

God’s promise to those of us who walk in His paths is that we will find rest for our souls. That is, in His paths, we can be assured of three great truths. However, those who fail to ask for the old paths will find themselves walking in the ways of destruction and misery. When we turn our backs on the way God has chosen as the right way we will find that the way is difficult, there is no peace or safety and the destination is ever in question. There is a reward for those who will walk in the Lord’s pathway!

Our text tells us that some decided that they would not walk in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s path. The result of their choice is chastisement and destruction. God is clear; there is a high price to pay for refusing to walk in the paths He has established. We are living in a day when many are refusing to walk in the old paths. Either the old way is too narrow, or they feel that God just doesn’t know that what He is talking about. They are bound for destruction and the wrath of God.

*Remove the Godly Landmarks (Job 24: 1-2)

Illustration: Revisiting my birthplace (Delhi) after many years makes me to lose the way …

Application for the watchmen:     You all know the old way isn’t the popular way, and it is being abandoned daily by people who have decided that new is better. They are leaving the Bible, the old songs of the faith, old fashioned worship, praising the Lord, and biblical preaching. Seeker friendly services are replacing old time worship of the Lord.

2. Be the PROPHETS to the DYING GENERATION (James 5:8-11)

(i) The EXHORTATION for PATIENCE

  • Be patient – Road construction causing road blocks … Obviously, you can’t have it both ways. If we want good and sufficient roads we must patiently put up with construction projects. This is basically the message James wants us to understand today. He wants us to understand that we cannot grow and develop in our life as believers unless we are willing to patiently endure some of the pain and frustration that come from trials in life. You can’t have one without the other. The sooner we realize this fact, the more enjoyable life will be.
  • Stand firm – These words of James are much needed in our day. In 1968 Richard Nixon spoke about peace efforts around the world.  What he said was quite insightful, “As Americans, we have many great strengths, but one of our weaknesses is impatience. The Russians think in terms of decades, the Chinese in terms of centuries. Americans think in terms of years, months, and even days. But if in the quest for a realistic, lasting peace, we expect overnight success—instant gratification—we are bound to be disappointed.”

(ii) The ENCOURAGEMENT for PATIENCE

  • The Coming of the Lord – James reminds the people to be patient even in the midst of these kinds of trials.  In these times we must be willing to “trust beyond ourselves.” We must hold on the fact that there is more to life than what we see, taste, and feel. God has a plan and a purpose for what happens. James says we should be hanging in there until the Second Coming of Christ.  It is only then that we will see clearly and understand His purpose.

(iii)The EXAMPLES of PATIENCE

  • The expectancy of the farmer – We understand this illustration. We may not understand fully the autumn and spring rains of Israel but we do understand the need for patience in farming. Every April and May farmers patiently wait for the ground to dry from the winter moisture and for the temperatures to be right so they can plant. Once the crop is planted there is more waiting.  The farmer must wait (sometimes more patiently than others) for the rain and for the warm summer sun. They wait through storms and wind for the crop to reach maturity. In the fall the farmer sometimes has to wait for the ground to be dry enough to harvest. The impatient farmer is not going to have a very enjoyable life. Waiting does not mean inaction. Most farmers spend their time during the “off times” working with livestock or harvesting off season crops. This is the time they apply fertilizer or pesticides. They also have equipment that needs service.
  • The endurance of the prophets and Job –
  • Noah patiently built the Ark.  He also patiently floated in the Ark for a full year with no idea what the future would hold.
  • Abraham patiently waited until he was almost 100 before he had the promised heir.
  • Moses patiently endured the complaints of the Israelites time and time again.
  • Elijah had to flee Jezebel when she tried to kill him.
  • Elisha was threatened with death.
  • Zechariah was executed by the King because he continued to confront the people of Judah for disregarding God’s Word.
  • Jeremiah was called a traitor (he wasn’t) and was put in a muddy cistern to starve.
  • James particularly spotlights Job. Job lived an upright life. He tried to honor the Lord in everything he did yet Satan afflicted him harshly.  Job did not understand why he lost his crops, his animals, his children and even his health. Throughout it all we are told that Job did not sin against God with his mouth.

Application for prophets:   You know without patience it is going to allow things to happen prematurely which will fizzle out as quickly as they began. For establishing strong foundations and completing the ministry that God has begun in and through us, we must endure and remain patient, perseverant and suffer for the cause which is the key to exercising our gifts as prophets.

3. Be the PREACHERS/MESSENGERS to the DYING WORLD (Romans 10:13-17)

Introduction: This passage brings us face to face with a very important question. What is the church’s responsibility to those who have never heard the gospel? Sometimes it is phrased this way: “What happens to those who never heard about Jesus?” And that question stirs up lots of late-night debate, especially when we are dealing with non-Christians. That question has become sharply focused in the 21st– century due to the clash of civilizations, especially the confrontation between Christianity and Islam. It is considered rude and intolerant to suggest that there is only one way to heaven, and that we should send missionaries to those who already have their own religion. The problem is that after 2,000 years, so many people still have never heard the gospel message. The scandal is that 2,000 years after he left, 100,000 people around the world will die today, most of whom will have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel. This is a true tragedy, and it is also a scandal and a rebuke to the church.

Although this is not a missionary passage per se, it contains the theology that underlies the Great Commission. We see God’s concern for the nations, his willingness to save all who believe, his desire to see the Good News go to every nation, and his patient grief and persistent love for those who reject his offer of salvation.

Why be the preacher/messenger to the dying world?

(i) Because God Made Salvation Universally Available (v. 13)

Here is a sad part of a young couple’s missionary story I was reading. The people of this particular tribe in Africa are dying at an alarming rate. Sometimes they die from disease, sometimes because of a feud that leads to a fight that leads to death. The young couple wrote in a recent email about how burdened they are for their tribe. They are dying without Christ. So there is urgency about their work. They must learn the language, reduce it to writing, learn to speak fluently, teach the people to read and write, and along the way, they must at all costs share the gospel before everyone dies without Christ.

You won’t read about this young couple in any magazine or newspaper—though you should. In this great big world, with its 6.4 billion people, they are just two people serving the Lord in a remote jungle somewhere in the “regions beyond.” We got a big enough jungle of cities in America where people have not yet been reached. Why does this young couple do this? Why can’t we?

(ii) Because No One Can Be Saved Without the Preaching of the Gospel (v. 14)

Don’t limit the word “preaching” to what your pastor does on Sunday morning. Preaching the gospel is broad. It is sharing Jesus with the people you meet during the week. Meeting people over coffee …

Paul lays out the progression very clearly –

  • First comes the preaching.
  • Then the hearing.
  • Then the believing.
  • Finally the calling.

What makes Billy Graham keep going even though he’s over 85 years old and in poor health? Sometimes he has to sit in order to preach, but the power is still there, the Holy Spirit is still on him. People say, “Billy, why don’t you retire?” If anyone has earned the right to retire, it’s Billy Graham. I heard him say to Larry King, “I can’t find in the Bible where anybody retired.” Fred Stettler went out as a missionary, preaching the gospel until his death in 1993. He spent 67 years on the mission field. What is it with these people? What makes them tick? They understand that God has ordained that nobody can be saved without the preaching of the gospel, so they will preach it until they are taken home to heaven.

(iii) Because No One Can Preach Until Someone Is Sent (v. 15)

Paul here quotes from Isaiah 52:7, which is an Old Testament vision of a coming day of peace for Jerusalem, and ultimately for the whole world. The prophet speaks to a generation weary of war and frightened by the storm clouds gathering on the horizon. The people of Isaiah’s day heard of “wars and rumors of wars,” just as today we hear of more killings in the Middle East and nuclear saber-rattling from Iran. Things haven’t changed all that much in the last three thousand years. We’ve become more adept at killing each other, and we can do it quicker and in greater numbers. But the dream of world peace seems as elusive as ever.

In ancient times good news traveled by means of messengers who ran from one place to another. When an army marched off to war, no one knew for months how the battle had gone until the messenger came with the news. No one had a cell phone. You couldn’t turn on the TV and watch the battle in real time as we can today. They didn’t have the Internet that flashes news around the world instantly. Everything depended on the messenger arriving safely, with news from distant lands. But what if the battle had gone badly? That often happened, and the messenger was charged with telling the truth even though it plunged the nation into mourning. But oh, how happy the day when the messenger came running down the mountainside with good news on his lips. How beautiful are their feet to us, how beautiful they are to God, and how beautiful they are to those who hear the good news they bring.

(iv) Because Faith Only Comes by Hearing the Word of God (vs. 16-17)

Not all the Israelites accepted the good news. That’s the problem. Even the best missionaries have a lot more people say no than say yes. Why didn’t Israel accept the message of God’s Good News in Christ? Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Even in his day, hundreds of years before Christ, the people largely rejected what he had to say. But he said it anyway, even when people didn’t want to hear it because faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes from the word of Christ.

How does saving faith come? It comes as we believe what God has said. How are people saved? By the gospel. Where do you hear the gospel? From the Word of God. This answers the question “What about the heathen?” They are lost unless somebody comes and preaches the gospel to them. What about the people who have never heard about Jesus? They are lost because saving faith comes only by hearing the word of Christ. Someone has to go and preach to them. In many ways, the “heathen” in America are much worse off because the gospel is so available in this land. Surely the judgment will be much greater for those who heard it and rejected it than for those who never heard the gospel at all.

Application for preachers: Do I have to go to bible school or be a pastor to preach the good news to people around me? The answer is NO! Wherever God has placed us whether it is in the market place or otherwise, that is our mission field. We must proclaim the gospel to the ones around us so that they have an opportunity to become aware of the knowledge of the saving grace of God and be saved. Who will do it? Each and every one of you and God will also give you opportunities to disciple and raise more people for this agenda.

May God bless you and give you wisdom and insights into His call upon your life for this year and the years to follow.

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