The Final Example
Posted on 02/24/2008 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
TRANSCRIPT: (may not contain everything found in the audio above)
Good morning and welcome to Abundant Living Ministries CyberChurch!
We're very glad to see our visitors today, and want to welcome you. You're invited to click the welcome sign in the foyer before you leave and pick up some free gifts.
While we're getting closer to having the web server fully functional, our e-mail is still down, and any prayer requests sent from inside Second Life have not been received. If you wish to send them directly to me or to Mariposa Psaltery, we'll pray for you during the altar ministry at the end of the service, or during our prayer time next Sunday.
I'm going to ask my beautiful wife Mariposa to join with me in prayer for the service today, and then lead us in our giving.
*** no transcript available for the prayer ***
Let's take a moment to worship God in our giving. You're invited to turn around and touch one of the offering plates by the door, and give as the Lord leads.
Click the pulpit for a notecard, and let's continue to worship God with song.
I WALK BY FAITH
I walk by faith
Each step by faith
To live by faith
I put my trust in You
I walk by faith
Each step by faith
To live by faith
I put my trust in You
Every step I take
Is a step of faith
No weapon formed against me shall prosper
And every prayer I make
Is a prayer of faith
And if my God is for me
Who can be against me
YES LORD YES
Yes, Lord, yes, to Your will and to Your way
Yes, Lord, yes, I will trust You and obey
When Your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I'll agree
And my answer will be yes, Lord, yes!
YOU ARE CROWNED
You are crowned with many crowns
And rule all things in righteousness
You are crowned with many crowns
Upholding all things by Your word
You rule in power
And reign in glory
You are Lord
Of heaven and earth
You are Lord of all
You are Lord of all
You are Lord of all
You are Lord of all
Lord, thank you for your presence with us here today, and that we can sense your Holy Spirit here with us. We just want to continue seeking after you.
Let's stay in this attitude of worship. When you're ready, you can be seated.
Today let's continue to worship God by seeking after his heart. This is the time in our love fest with God during which we desire to hear what he wants to say to us, and we desire to know more of what's on his mind and what's in his heart.
His will and his ways, and the cries of his heart, are found within the pages of the Holy Bible.
Today let's turn those pages to some place in the Old Testament, and begin by looking at a city called Ninevah.
Ninevah was a wicked city, and God was going to destroy it. Most of us know the story of Jonah, who God called to warn Ninevah of their fate. Jonah set sail in the opposite direction. God caused a great storm which would have sunk the ship, but Jonah, being discovered as the cause of God's wrath, was thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish.
And as Jonah was being brought toward repentance in the belly of the whale, his under-sea transport was swimming toward Ninevah, the land that soon would taste the vengence of God against evil.
Let's jump into this story in the book of Jonah, chapter three, beginning with verse four.
4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.
6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.
7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, "Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water.
8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.
9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?"
10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
This is actually quite an amazing story. This man who smelled like rotting fish and probably looked as bad after marinating in digestive juices for three days and three nights, came walking through the city streets yelling that God was going to destroy the city.
And what's amazing about this is the reaction of the people. They actually believed this man who we would label as a raving lunatic. In fact, even though these people lived their whole lives for pleasure and self-gratification, every single one of them immediately started a fast -- a complete fast, with neither food nor water. From the greatest to the least of them, from the king to the beggar, they all put on mourning clothes, and refused to eat, as they repented before the Lord for their sins.
And in verse ten we read, "Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
Let's contrast this story with a couple of others. Let's take a look at the great flood of Noah's time, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
God told Noah to build an ark. And after the ark was built, God gathered up two of every animal, male and female, and led them into the ark. Then God instructed Noah to gather his family into the ark. Finally God closed the door of the ark and the rain fell and the water began to rise.
The messengers of the Lord were sent to see the iniquity of Sodom and Gomorrah, and to bring Lot and his family out of the city before it was destroyed. Taking them by the hand, they led them out of the city with strict orders to not look back. Lot's wife looked back anyway as she heard the destruction of the city, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.
These two events are quite a contrast to the outcome of Ninevah. We don't see people being sent to warn Sodom and Gomorrah or the people of Noah's time that God is about to destroy them. But God sent Jonah to Ninevah, and the people repented and were spared the wrath of God.
I believe there are a couple of important factors we need to consider if we are to see some important connections between these Old Testament stories and the final story we see unfolding around us today.
In Proverbs 1:20-21 we read this:
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares.
21 She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words.
The voice of the wisdom of God has never been silent. She has been ever speaking loudly to us all. And I believe her mouthpieces were many as the people of Noah's time continued to digress into sin, until, as Scripture tells us, "The thoughts of their hearts were continually evil."
The same goes for Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, Scripture tells us that there was an outcry against Sodom. There were very bad reports against Gomorrah. From the little snapshot we have of this place, we could well imagine that the voices of those who warned them of the consequenses of their sins had long since been silenced.
And that is the first thing I would like for us to consider concerning these two examples -- they were indeed warned by many people and things, but they stopped their ears and hardened their hearts.
The second thing I would like for us to consider is that God knew their hearts, just as he knows the hearts of all. And he knew before time began who would repent and who would not. And yet he guaranteed their free choice by sending the voice of wisdom to cry out from every direction, just as she continues to do today, that they should turn from their foolish ways and seek after the True and Living God.
So we've taken a look at the great flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Ninevah. There's a fourth example I'd like for us to explore today. This fourth example had many voices warn it of its end over thousands of years. And this fourth example's end is a mixture of our other three.
We find this fourth example in Scripture, in the book of Revelation, chapter sixteen.
1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth."
2 So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.
3 Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.
4 Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying: "You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things.
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. for it is their just due."
7 And I heard another from the altar saying, "Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments."
8 Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire.
9 And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.
10 Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.
11 They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
12 Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.
13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
15 "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."
16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.
17 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!"
18 And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.
19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.
20 Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
21 And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.
So while we've taken a look at cities who repented, and cities in which only a few were spared, we see a similar yet different scenario in this fourth and final example, all peoples and nations of the earth in this final great scene before the feet of the King of Kings returns to the Mount of Olives to rule the nations.
We see those who were spared the wrath of God, because they were on God's side at the cost of their own lives. In Revelation fifteen and verse two, we read this: "And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb."
We also see those who, instead of being drowned with a flood, and instead of being destroyed with fire and brimstone, they are being struck with plagues, much like the people of Egypt during the days of Moses. And just as the plagues were sent to Egypt to move the heart of Pharoe, so the plagues are being sent on this final stage to move the hearts of the people. Even though God knows what their reaction will be, and it is even written in his Book beforehand, he is granting them their free will. It is not because God has determined they have no choice but to reject him. Rather, it is because that will be their own ultimate choice.
We have seen great disasters bring entire nations to their knees, turning them for a time away from their wicked ways and back to seeking after God. And yet we see something different taking place here. The earth at this time will be full of those who have pledged their allegience to the beast, and who have turned their backs on truth and righteousness in exchange for false promises of peace, prosperity, equality, and change for the better.
This spirit is already in the earth today. We are being conditioned and prepared to usher in the rise of the last great world leader, who will promise to fix all the problems of our time. But make no mistake about it, this is he who the Bible calls "the man of sin," and sin is the cause of all the problems of our time. It is the curse of sin under which all creation groans, and until Jesus Christ returns to this earth to vanquish all his enemies, we cannot escape these evils.
But this is the state of the world during this final act. Those who refuse allegience to the beast will be put to death. We've already seen these in chapter fifteen, singing songs of victory and praise, standing on a sea of glass, singing the song of the Lamb.
And those who remain are about to taste the wrath of God. They've been warned. They've silenced the voices who dared to challenge their wicked ways and who dare to sing the praises of the One True God. And now the judgement of God begins to descend upon them.
And we see their reaction. It is not repentence, or even crying out for mercy. They are beyond the point of repentence. They have set their decision in stone. They have gone past the point of no return. And yet God in his mercy is giving them one final round of wake-up calls.
God has not destroyed them yet. They still have life. They still have breath. And yet, let's take a look at their reactions to these warnings of the final wrath of God yet to come.
Verse 9: "And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory."
Verse 10: "Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds."
Verse 21: "And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great."
So during these last days of time before the Great King reclaims his creation, the greatest disasters the earth has ever seen are poured out upon mankind. And during his most wretched condition, man does not cry out to God for help. Man does not turn from his wicked ways and turn to the True and Living God. Rather, he curses him.
Scripture tells us that the Spirit of God will not always strive with man. And for any of us to put off getting right with God until tomorrow is folly. I believe most of us here today have a heart that is seeking after God, and I hope and pray that we all are right with God and are walking daily with him. But if we allow our hearts to be hardened, if we turn aside from the way God is leading us to go, and if we are not seeking after him daily for more of his Spirit and less of our flesh, we could very well end up in this latter number. Just like Peter who insisted he would never deny Jesus only to do so a few hours later, none of us can rely upon our own strength and character to keep us in that hour of trial. We need oil in our lamps. We need to make that big decision in every little choice we make.
Perhaps you've seen this hardness beginning to build either in yourself or in those around you. A hardness against repentance, even if repentance is desired. An inability to fully turn from the same sins, and to whole-heartedly pursue more of God.
But there is hope. And this hope begins in the smallest of decisions. And the time to take action is NOW, while there IS still time. We can pretend, but none of us knows the point after which we will not turn back. Let's make sure when we pass that point, we're heading in the right direction.
Perhaps that small decision is in being completely honest on your taxes, or in an oral or written report of some event. Perhaps that small decision is in sharing Christ with a neighbor or co-worker, or in getting up just a little earlier so you can spend time in prayer and in the Word. Perhaps that small decision is in seeking out the help you need to work through an addiction or unGodly lifestyle.
This final example is unfolding before our eyes. Your outcome has not yet been decided. And if you do not decide with your actions, the decision will be made for you.
Let's get out of our seats and come to this altar as an act of our wills, saying, "I will decide for Jesus, from this moment on, and regardless of the times I fail, I chose now to make every decision for Christ."
I believe those of us who are answering this call will be in chapter fifteen, singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all eternity.
If you need personal prayer or ministry, please instant message someone on the ministry team. If you want to go or carry on a conversation, you're invited to make your way to the room on your left where we'll all meet up in a few minutes for fellowship.
Otherwise, you're invited to come to the altar, as we individually and corporately stand up for righteousness, for our unwillingness to compromise what's right, and to seek a fresh anointing from the Lord to make every big and small decision for Christ.