WHEN WE REALISTICALLY LOOK TO THE FUTURE, THE PRESENT HAS NEW MEANING
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
12 NOVEMBER 1995
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
What does today mean to you?
Of what importance is today in the scheme of your whole life?
Is today like any other day?
Is your attitude, "I'll get through today, and then there will be tomorrow."?
And then, do you see tomorrow as being like any other day, too?
If you knew you were going to be dead tomorrow, would today take on a new meaning?
What if you knew you would have a lot of money tomorrow, what would you do today?
If you knew that all cruelty in the world would stop tomorrow, and everyone would love one another, would your actions today be any different as a result?
Our frame of reference makes a great deal of difference in the way we behave in the present, doesn't it?
In our preparation verse, Matthew 16:24, and the verses that follow it, Jesus gives us an example of the way in which looking at the future should give us direction for the way we live today. (Matthew 16:24-28)
24. Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
If we wish to be with Jesus today and in the future, we are to live in a way that reaches beyond ourselves.
We are not always to think, "What am I going to get out of this; what am I going to receive for doing what I am doing."
We are to consider carefully what effect each of our lives has upon the world we live in.
Are we loving and compassionate in everything we do and say?
Do we consider the feelings of others lovingly before we speak or act?
Do we constantly live as Jesus taught us to live, or at least try our best to do so?
Or, do we think and act in a way that says we are going to take care of ourselves first?
25. "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.
26. "For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
See, I'm not the only one who asks you pointed questions; Jesus does it all the time.
27. "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.
What is He going to say and do about us?
28. "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
Now, consider carefully what this statement means.
We know that everyone, who was standing there with Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago, is now dead; and Jesus hasnít returned.
How is it then, that Jesus said to them, "Öthere are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."?
Could it be that this seeing of Jesus coming in His kingdom is in ourselves and other fellow believers, as we are told in John 16:13-16?
13. "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
Notice here again the emphasis on the vision of the future as being necessary for a true believer to be able to live properly here upon the earth.
14. "He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you.
15. "All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you.
16. "A little while, and you will no longer behold Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me."
How is it that Jesus says that they will no longer behold Him?
Isnít it that He will physically die?
But then He says that they will see Him again after a little while.
Could it be because of His resurrection?
Yes; but in the context of what He is saying here, by the time the Holy Spirit came upon them, Jesus had already ascended into Heaven.
I believe that Jesus is telling us that we should be seeing Him being glorified in the lives of true believers; that through their unconditionally loving and compassionate natures, we get a view of the kingdom of God to come.
Now, to see if we are on the right track, let's take a look at a converse statement Jesus made to non-believing, but "religious" people in John 5:38-42.
38. "And you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.
Note the emphasis on these people not having the living word of Jesus abiding in them.
39. "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me;
40. and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.
Kingdom living is not just knowing about God, or even what we are told in the Scriptures, alone.
To see the kingdom, we must have Jesus living in us, and be living the life that Jesus desires us to live.
41. "I do not receive glory from men;
42. but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.
Do you see the confirmation?
If we do not have love, and share that love with the whole of creation, we are as nothing, and we really have nothing of importance.
The other day, Mary and I were listening to an interview of a leader of the Independence Party.
This leader was saying that both Republicans and Democrats are really the same, and that people need an alternative.
But when she described what her party was offering, it sounded like the same thing all over again.
What people really want is an honest, responsible person who is also filled with God's unconditional love and compassion.
But this is rarely what is offered, and rarely what we get, if ever.
They don't live in the kingdom of God, and thus we have no lasting hope in their efforts at managing our government.
We are living in a world that is lacking true vision; we are doing the same old thing over and over again, and even though many want something better, we fail to get it.
It's as Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:32-44.
32. "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near;
33. even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
Donít we see the difference between the Godly and the ungodly?
Donít we know the truth, even if we don't always live it?
Then Jesus is right at the door.
34. "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Here's this expression again.
Do we see these things taking place?
35. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.
36. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
37. "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.
38. "For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39. and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
People don't seem to want to understand that they are accountable to God.
If we continue to do the same old things over and over again, without God, all that we do and have will be destroyed.
40. "Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.
41. "Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.
42. "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.
43. "But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.
44. "For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
This is definitely a view of the future. Are we going to ignore it, or are we going to respond to it?
The choice is ours.
Is the knowledge of the future going to make a difference on our lives today?
Before we leave that thought, let's look at one final passage of Scripture, Luke 20:27-38.
27. Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection),
28. and they questioned Him, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should take the wife and raise up offspring to his brother.
29. "Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died childless;
30 and the second
31. and the third took her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children.
32. "Finally the woman died also.
33. "In the resurrection therefore, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife."
See how concerned they are over unimportant things?
They don't even believe in the resurrection; yet they question it by playing word games with Scripture, instead of making it a living part of their lives.
Note how Jesus answers them:
34. And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage,
35. but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage;
36. for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
There will be no need for marriage and children, for everyone will live forever.
A good marriage can be wonderful, but there are better things to come.
So, we can make our marriages even better by bringing into them the kingdom of heaven, in which there is only pure and true love and compassion.
But in case any of us doubt the assurance of this future kingdom, listen to what Jesus says next:
37. "But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
38. "Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him."
Are we among those who live in Him?
I pray so; for by seeing the future kingdom, with all its glory and no more death of any kind, we can make a difference here on earth today and tomorrow, if we live by what we see beyond.
Didnít we pray this morning, " Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."? (Matthew 6:10)
I hope and pray we all meant it, for we can make a real difference if we do mean it.
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