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HOLDING ON TO OUR FAITH BY UNDERSTANDING GOD'S WARNINGS

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

17 NOVEMBER 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Mark 13:19-29
Ephesians 4:14-16
2 Thessalonians 2:1-6
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Preparation Verse: (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Last week we saw how God used the faith of a non-Hebrew widow to be a witness against Israel's hypocrisy.

We, also, should have been tested to the very depths of our own souls, to see if we were capable of such faith.

Do we love God enough, do we trust God enough, and do we have enough faith to die rather than hurt anyone, or any animal, or anything, if the Lord should choose to call us home?

Or, are we going to fight to preserve this life, rather than our next and everlasting, life?

Throughout the Bible, there are many examples and encouragements to help us hold on to God's word and trust in Him, no matter what our present circumstances may be.

The Lord has also given us some warnings about false doctrine; and if we heed these warnings, we will find it easier to hold on to our faith.

Let's begin by looking at what the Lord Jesus tells us in Mark 13:19f about the end times:

19. "For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created, until now, and never shall.

20. "And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect whom He chose, He shortened the days.

Do you remember how the woman of Zarephath, a believer, consigned herself to the fact that she and her son were going to have to suffer the tribulation of starving to death?

Yet here in this passage, the Lord tells us that greater tribulations will befall the Christians of the end times.

In fact, those tribulations will be worse than anything the world has ever seen.

But we continue to worry about our little problems and, quite often, show little or no faith in God.

If we don't learn how to deal with our small problems now, how are we ever going to learn to hold on to our faith in the face of truly overwhelming strife?

And when things get bad, there is always someone trying to show us an easy way out.

God's way is not always the easy way.

Follow along as we continue with Jesus' words beginning at Mark 13:21.

21. "And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him;

22. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray.

23. "But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.

These false prophets are all around us today, trying to lead us in the way of another gospel.

They try to convince us that God didn't really say what He said, and that He didn't mean what the Bible says.

They even try to convince us that the Bible was written by men, and not by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and thus we shouldn't believe in it.

This doesn't mean that evil people haven't tried to distort God's message through false or misleading translations and doctrines, for they have.

And then theses people go on to say that there really isn't any hell and that God is a God of love and will accept everyone.

The only God there is, is the God of the Bible; and we had better learn to distinguish between Him and those who are false prophets of His word.

Let's skip over to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-6 for a moment, and listen to Paul's similar warnings to that church, for they were listening to false prophets who were telling them that the end was already at hand.

1. Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him,

2. that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

3. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

4. who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

And there are some today trying to do just that.

But just as evil are those who play with the minds of believers, who do not read and study their Bibles, by filling them with doubts.

Our only defense against such persons is to be more knowledgeable than they; for they have the power to lead us to hell, if we are not armed with a greater power.

5. Do you not remember [says Paul] that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?

6. And you know what restrains him [the devil and the antichrist] now, so that in his time he may be revealed.

And I, also, have tried to tell you.

I have entreated you to love each other through our sins.

I have encouraged you to show the sensitivity and compassion, that He instilled in you, for all of God's creation; and to not fight against it.

I have tried to show you by example and by not receiving any payment, so that no one could say I have an ulterior motive.

I have no other motive than to lead you into heaven, and to experience the same love of God that He has shown me.

But I say to you in the words of Paul, as he wrote to the Ephesians in verses 4:14-16

14. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

15. but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,

16. from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

In other words, it's time we become mature Christians.

We are not to argue over various doctrines that can be understood by various Scripture verses in various ways; but we are to be steadfast in the love of Christ toward one another, understanding their point of view, but holding fast to the word of God ourselves, as the Holy Spirit has directed us.

But make sure that it is the Holy Spirit, and not some other spirit.

The only way we are going to be able to truly know is to wholly know what God has told us, in a consistent manner, throughout the entire Bible.

One simple way to test the Spirit and God's will is to remember that when God created heaven and earth, there was no death or suffering in Eden, and we know that there is no death or suffering in heaven either, and Jesus encourages us to live this way here on earth.

It is only the devil and his demons who are empowered by strife, violence, the shedding of blood, and death.

Remember, just as we grow together in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, so also do we tear ourselves down when we participate in the ways of the world.

Put away such things, just as we have put away our pacifiers and baby bottles, and have learned to go to the toilet; for God is tired of changing our diapers.

We need to grow up, as individuals of course, but more importantly as a church, as an example of Jesus Christ in the community.

And remember, our church will only be seen as an example of the weakest link in our midst.

We must encourage each other.

We must support each other.

We must not be afraid to correct each other.

For all of these things are part of our love.

Now I want us to go back to our passage from Mark 13, beginning at verse 24, and picture ourselves as God sees us.

24. "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,

25. and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.

26. "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

27. "And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth, to the farthest end of heaven.

By the way we behave when facing tribulations, or when we are in them, or following them, do you think the angels could tell we are the elect?

Or, do you think we might look very much like non-believers who don't have any faith?

28. "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.

29. "Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door."

We very easily can recognize the signs of seasonal change, but we seem not to want to recognize the spiritual signs right in our midst.

We may not be in the great tribulation spoken of in these verses, but we very well could have our own tribulation.

Will God see us as one of His chosen ones who can still love through it all?

God has told us that all these things will take place, and that these things can help us become stronger Christians.

Are we going to fight these things, as the rest of the world is fighting even now?

Or, are we going to hold on to our faith no matter what happens, knowing with absolute certainty that God will shortly bring us home?

I pray that every one of us has this faith.

And I pray even more that we exercise that faith so strongly that the whole world will know that we are Christians.

Amen.

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