Friday, 8 September 2017

CHRIST’S REPETITIVE END TIME WARNINGS

Early warnings of typhoons and hurricanes, if heeded, may prevent unnecessary loss of lives. Similarly, warnings in scripture are positive if heeded; they are meant for the spiritual well-being and eternal security of believers.


                                                                        
When scripture repeats something, it means that it is highly significant. It has to be repeated lest we forget or adopt a laissez faire attitude towards it. It is so important that believers must take heed.

What did Christ repeatedly warn concerning the end times?

DECEPTION

                                                                     
Be aware, be warned. It’s already here. We should wise up by preparing ourselves against deception. Jesus warned that deception will be a prominent feature during the end times (Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24).

Believers have to be wise—in fact, extremely vigilant and discerning—if they want to stand up against deception in these last days.

Of the various end time characteristics—deception, persecution and turbulent times—mentioned by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, deception seems to be the most prominent. Even supposedly mature leaders can be deceived. If they can be deceived, don’t you think the flock will fare even worse?

In fact, in Matthew 24, Jesus warned believers to be wary of deception not once but four times:
  • Take heed that no one deceives you (vs. 4).
  • For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many (vs. 5).
  • Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many (vs.11).
  • For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (vs. 24).
Similarly, the other writers of the Synoptic Gospels also warned against deception:
  • “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray” (Mark 13:6).
  • “And he said, See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them” (Luke 21:8).
Christ's strong warnings against deception are reflected in the teachings of the apostles Paul, Peter and John. They all took a firm stand against destructive heresies (2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1).
  • “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
  • “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1).
  • “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

BE FAITHFUL


                                                                        
Christ compared a believer to a steward placed in charge of a master’s household. If the steward was faithful, he would be richly rewarded upon the master's return.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions” (Matthew 24: 45-47).

Like how the master dealt with the steward, He will hold us accountable if we do not fulfil the task He has given us. If God’s servants are complacent and irresponsible, they will be punished when the Master (Christ) comes back unexpectedly. 

“But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24: 48-51).

A similar warning is found in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). The moral of the teaching here is that believers ought to wisely utilise our time, talents and resources to advance God’s kingdom. The one-talent man, who buried his talent, was condemned and sent to the outer darkness, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This danger of careless complacency is emphasised in the Parable of the Ten Virgins where the foolish virgins were excluded from heaven as they did not have sufficient oil in their lamps (Matthew 25: 1-13).

The importance of good works is highlighted in the final judgment (Matthew 25: 31-46) when Christ will separate  ***   the sheep (genuine believers) from the goats. The sheep are those whose lives are evidenced by good works—done “as unto Christ”. 

Even if we fail to appreciate Christ’s warning in the first account (steward must be responsible for his master’s household), the message will soon be apparent to us as Christ repeated it in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Parable of the Talents and the final judgment when the sheep will be separated from the goats.

Liberal teaching tells us that believers saved by grace merely need to rest in Christ’s imputed righteousness; God will always see us as righteous, He will not point out our faults or convict us of sin. But the truth is …

                                                                         
The message is loud and clear: Don’t be complacent, be faithful to utilise our God-given time, talents and resources, and do not neglect good works, which are the evidence of genuine faith.



                                                                       
ENDURE TILL THE END

                                                                      
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus warned true believers that they have to endure end time persecution, deception and lawlessness in order that they might be saved.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved."
(Matthew 24:9-13)


                                                                      
Christ’s end times warning to endure—and persevere in the faith—is repeated elsewhere in the Gospels:
  • “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10: 21-22).
  • “And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved (Mark 13:13).
  • “You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:17-19).
  • “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6).
Notice that Johnthe writer who is distinct from the writers of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke)recorded in Revelation so many instances about the need to overcome before believers can inherit eternal life.
  • “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).
  • “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11).
  • “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5).
What the foregoing implies is that believers who overcome will get to inherit eternal life; those who fail to overcome will have their names blotted out from the book of life. Sounds harsh? But it is the truth. 
                                                               
                                                                              
In conclusion, Christ warned many times that believers have to:
  • Be alert and vigilant against deception
  • Be faithful; prove it by the way we live
  • Endure to the end that we might be saved
Christ’s end time warnings are so important that they have to be repeated. Let’s take heed for the sake of our spiritual welfare and eternal security.

Christ categorically stated that heaven and earth will pass away but His words will not pass away. If we ignore Christ’s repetitive end time warnings, we do so at our own peril.

 ***    Separation of good and evil

Notice that Christ repeatedly warned that there will be a separation of good and evil. He used farming and fishing metaphors, which were familiar to the listeners in that era, to get His point across: 
  • In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43), the tares will be gathered and burnt whereas the wheat will be preserved.
  • In the Parable of Dragnet (Matthew 13:47-52), the kingdom of heaven is like a net full of fish. When the net is full, men will select the good fish and discard the bad ones.

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A DIFFERENT JESUS, A DIFFERENT SPIRIT, A DIFFERENT GOSPEL
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EFFORTLESS ENTITLEMENT
 Just believe and every spiritual blessing is yours. Be happy because you have already bought an instant ticket to heaven. Repentance is merely a change of way of thinking. No need to emphasise obedience as it will nullify God’s grace. Don’t worry about working out your faith, self-denial, endurance or overcoming because nothing you do or fail to do will cause you to lose favour in God’s sight. After all, future sins are automatically forgiven. And once you are saved, it means you are always secure. You merely need to rest on the imputed righteousness of Christ; God will always see you as pure.

WATCHFUL AND READY
An end time reflection on being prepared for Christ’s return
What will earth be like when Christ returns? Why did Jesus mention Noah and Lot when referring to the end times? Notice that not many were saved in the days of Noah and Lot. Only eight persons got saved in Noah’s ark and only three escaped the destruction of Sodom. The majority perished because they lived as if God did not exist or willfully lived in sin.
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COMPLACENCY VS WATCHFULNESS
Knowing God’s ability to keep us safe for eternity is not enough.
We need to emphasise personal responsibility as well.

LOSS OF REWARDS VS LOSS OF SALVATION
Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more?

IS THE WAY TO HEAVEN EASY?
Two different views—easy and difficult ways to heaven
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Thursday, 24 August 2017

THE BATTLE BELONGS TO THE LORD

When we face various challenges in life, we often forget that God is in control.
If we’re enlisted in God’s army, the keys of victory are in His hand.
So we need to cease striving and learn to trust Him.
For the battle belongs to the Lord.

Winning a battle does not necessarily depend on having many well-armed men, horses or chariots. If God holds the keys of victory, the side which has God’s favour emerges as the victor.

Here are three Old Testament accounts about how God caused His people to triumph, against tremendous odds, over their enemies. For the battle belongs to the Lord.


                                                                             
Foreign Invasion Repelled
When King Jehoshaphat faced an impending invasion, he was dismayed. A great military alliance was preparing to attack his nation, Judah. In his despair, he cried out to God. Firstly, he began with adoration: He extolled the greatness and might of God. Then he placed his fears and worries before God, reminding Him how He had once shown favour to them by driving out their enemies.

The king called upon the whole nation of Judah to pray for God’s mercy to be upon them. Then Jahaziel, the prophet, proclaimed, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Acting upon the prophetic word, the king confidently arranged a worship team to go before his army. As they went into battle, they praised God, as if the almighty had already defeated their enemies. “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever” (2 Chronicles 20:21).

The battle was truly a walkover in favour of Judah. God caused their enemies to fight against one another; Judah did not even have to fight against them.

The spoils of war were so abundant that it took three days to collect them. On the fourth day, the victors gathered at the Valley of Beracah (blessing) to bless God for His hand of favour upon them. Truly the battle was not theirs, but the Lord’s.

Parting of the Red Sea
In the exodus account, the people of Israel were fearful because they were locked in a tight situation. The Red Sea lay ahead of them, rendering escape impossible. Behind them, the army of Pharaoh—with their horses and chariots—was closing in on them, relentless in hot pursuit.

Terrified, they cried out to Moses: “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? (Exodus 14:11).

It was true that Pharoah’s army was behind them and the Red Sea was before them but they had forgotten one thing: God was above them.

Moses, demonstrating great faith, answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14: 13-14).
                                                                               
                                                                             
And, as they say, the rest is history. As Moses lifted his rod over the sea as if to “divide it”, in obedience to God’s command, a miracle happened. Moses’ symbolic act was instrumental in the unfolding of God’s deliverance of His people. He was God’s co-worker. The sea parted and the people of Israel were able to pass through it as if it were dry ground. When the soldiers tried to cross the sea, the walls of water on either side collapsed on them and they were drowned.

When City Walls Crumbled
After crossing the river Jordan, Joshua prepared the people to invade Canaan, the Promised Land. The males had to be circumcised as a mark of sanctification before the conquest.

Now Jericho, the first city that stood in the way of their conquest of Canaan, seemed like an impregnable fortress. In some places, its walls were heavily fortified, even up to 25 feet high and twenty feet thick.

God had already told Joshua exactly how to capture Jericho. Every day, for six days, they were to march around the city once. On the seventh day, however, they were to march around it seven times. On the seventh occasion, seven priests will blow their trumpets made from rams’ horns, everyone would shout and the walls would crumble (Joshua 6:2-5).

When God’s people obeyed these instructions, a miracle happened. The walls of Jericho collapsed and they charged straight into the city.

The conquest of Jericho illustrates the fact that the believer’s weapons of warfare are not carnal but spiritual. Marching round and round, blowing of trumpets by the priests and shouting by the people all seem silly in the eyes of any military strategist. But the foolishness of God is better any day than the strength and wisdom of man.

For a victorious life, what must we do? What does God require from us? He wants us to listen to His instructions, trust and obey.
  • Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7).
  • The horses are prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD (Proverbs 21:31).
  • His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love (Psalm 147:10-11).
And what is the other requirement? Holiness. Notice that the Israelites failed to conquer the next city in their push into the Promised Land, Ai, because of one man’s disobedience (Joshua 7:1).

It is natural for us to fear, just like Elisha’s servant was dismayed when a great Syrian army came to capture his master. But once Elisha prayed to God for his servant’s eyes to be opened, the young man was comforted by the sight of an overwhelmingly superior army from God protecting Elisha.

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
(2 Kings 6:15-17)

                                                                        
Aren’t we inspired by the above passages that whatever challenge we might be facing is not too big for God to handle? God is bigger than any of our problems. If we lay aside our fears and worries, and commit them to God, He will help us overcome our difficulties. He may even bless us abundantly beyond what we ask or think.

Victory without strife does not mean we do nothing and God does everything for us. On the contrary, we need to pray, seek Him, humble ourselves, listen to His instructions and obey, make the move at the opportune time and leave the results to Him.

God’s people do not have to fight for victory in our own strength or wisdom. God will do the fighting on our behalf. The battle belongs to the Lord!




                                                                             
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THE BATTLE BELONGS TO THE LORD


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THE BATTLE BELONGS TO THE LORD
When we face various challenges in life, we often forget that God is in control.
If we’re enlisted in God’s army, the keys of victory are in His hand.
So we need to cease striving and learn to trust Him.
For the battle belongs to the Lord.
http://bit.ly/2wH9hFe