GOD IS WITH HIS PEOPLE IN THE MIDST OF A WORLD GONE MAD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE
HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
26 MAY 1991
By: Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Peter 4:7-11
Preparation Verse: (Revelation 22:7)
7 “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”
I don't believe that anyone who knows the Lord can look around himself or herself and not realize that the world is not following the Lord.
Therefore, we should also realize that the Lord our God is not very happy about the situation.
We hear many people question how a God of Love could, as a form of punishment, cause or allow all the destruction and death that occurs around the world.
This kind of thinking is out of context. It doesn't consider God's intent for His people, and I'm putting the emphasis on HIS PEOPLE.
For even in His anger with these evil conditions, God is still with His people in the midst of a world gone mad.
This is God's love; and because we love Him, He will save us.
But while we still live in this world, we are to be separated from it in our spirit and in our actions.
We are to always remember who God is and what He desires of His people.
Listen to how David brings this to remembrance as he pictures The Voice of the Lord in the Storm in Psalm 29:
1. Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in holy array.
As we read and listen to these words, we’re to ask ourselves:
Do I, in everything I do, acknowledge who God is?
Do I truly understand how really powerful He is?
Do I always glorify the name of the Lord, or do I misuse it, or go along with others who misuse and abuse it?
Do I always dress in a manner that glorifies the Lord?
You don’t have to answer these questions for me; for as long as you know the true answers, you know what God knows about you.
And the same applies to me.
Let’s return to David’s word picture:
3. The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The Lord is over many waters.
4. The voice of the Lord is powerful,
The voice of the Lord is majestic.
5. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6. And He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
7. The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.
8. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9. The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve,
And strips the forest bare,
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”
Can you feel the power and might of the Lord in your soul?
Can you feel the power of the Lord raining down upon us?
Can you see the lightning strikes and hear the thunder of His voice to wake up His believers, to call to repentance those who have drifted away, and to scatter those who refuse?
I believe that is exactly what the Lord and David want us to picture and respond to.
10. The Lord sat as King at the flood;
Yes, the Lord sits as King forever.
11. The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace.
Did you note the grace being expressed for His people in the last verse?
And did you note the emphasis on His people and not others?
If we are His people we should have His peace even in the midst of strife, and in the evil world around us.
Noah had that peace and that assurance in the midst of a world gone mad, even before there was rain, or lightning, or thunder.
Listen to what God said to Noah in Genesis 6:13-18.
13. Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold I am about to destroy them with the earth.
Putting it simply, God has had enough. He’s fed up with everyone’s prideful and selfish attitude, and the violence they cause.
He’s decided to put an end to their disobedience and the corruption that it breeds.
But what about the righteous?
Why is He telling this to Noah?
14. “Make for yourself an ark of Gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.
15. “And this is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.
16. “You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.
That’s a good size ship (1 ½ times a football field), even by today's standards; and it contains a lot more space than that required for Noah and his family, and the animals that will come to him.
God is giving Noah a way of escape from the wrath to come, but Noah must do his part as well.
And even more, for Noah has been entrusted with the responsibility of
providing that way of escape for others, too.
None of us, who truly believe, are islands unto ourselves. That’s just not
the way God deals with us, or the way He wants us to relate to each other.
He is with His righteous ones in the midst of the unrighteous; but they must also desire to work together to be with God.
It’s a team effort: God WITH us.
Listen to what God says:
17. “And behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.
18. “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
Every living creature upon the earth will be destroyed for they are disobedient to God; but those who are obedient will come aboard the ark in answer to God's invitation, and be lifted above the surface of the earth, and be saved.
Where are we today in all of this?
Are we following along with the madness of the world that is very much as it must have been in the days of Noah, or are we separating ourselves from it?
Can we hear the voice of the Lord calling to us, as the psalmist wrote?
Can we hear the voice of the Lord speaking to us, as He did with Noah?
Will we slow down and be still long enough to listen to the voice of the Lord and His warnings, as Isaiah tells us in 34:1-4?
1. Draw near, O nations, to hear; and listen, O peoples!
Let the earth and all it contains hear, and the world and all that springs from it.
God wants to wake up His sleeping believers.
He wishes that all would hear, and believe, and return whole-heartedly to Him.
But He, who is wiser than any of us could ever hope to be, knows of the stubbornness and hardness-of-heart of most of His creation; thus, the Lord brings forth His judgments.
And sometimes His judgments include allowing us to destroy ourselves, which is what I believe is happening in the world today.
As an example, think about the destruction that the human lust for flesh is causing:
This lust for flesh causes billions of animals to suffer and die every year.
This lust for flesh is causes most of the viral and bacterial illness that infect humankind.
This lust for flesh is destroying our environment.
To ensure that there will be no excuses, God wants to make sure we’re listening.
Are we going to heed the warning of the following words?
2. For the Lord's indignation is against all the nations,
And His wrath against all their armies;
He has utterly destroyed them,
He has given them over to slaughter.
3. So their slain will be thrown out,
And their corpses will give off their stench,
And the mountains will be drenched with their blood.
4. And all the host of heaven will wear away,
And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;
All their hosts will also wither away
As a leaf withers from the vine,
Or as one withers from the fig tree.
Not all the armies of the world have been destroyed; but we certainly are seeing the wrath of God being fulfilled against some of the armies of the world in exactly this manner.
In our pride, we don't want to accept the fact that this warning could be against us, as well.
But let us not forget, that in Scripture, the vine represents the believers’ connection to the Lord Jesus Christ; and if we don’t allow the sap of truth to flow into us from the root, we, too, will wither as the leaves on the vine.
Similarly, the fig tree represents the nation of Israel and the Church; and
if we do not become a willing, giving, receiving and believing part of the tree,
we will wither, dry up, and fall off.
The world has indeed gone mad, but the Lord our God has given us the protection from it, if we will receive it and follow His direction.
Let’s now turn to Ezekiel 34:1-10 and hear what the Lord is saying to our false religious leaders.
This also is a two-way street: for if we are innocently led astray, the Lord
will protect us; but if we hear the truth, and heed it not, then we too will be
swept away with the false teachers.
1. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying,
2. “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?
3. “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock.
4. “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.
5. “And they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered.
6. “My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill, and My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth; and there was no one to search or seek for them.” ’ ”
Isn't this a fair picture of the world today, just as it was in Ezekiel’s day?
And aren't we seeing our own nation heading in this same direction?
As we said, this is also a two-way street; for some people use the excuse that since the shepherds are bad, they won’t listen to God, either. That is really no excuse.
But for those who truly want to serve the Lord their God – in spite of the
false teachers, pastors, and priests – there is hope in the midst of God's
wrath. Listen, as we continue:
7. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:
8. “As I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed the flock;
9. therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:
10. ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I shall demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I shall deliver My flock from their mouth, that they may not be food for them.” ’ ”
In the midst of a world gone mad, the Lord is still with His sheep.
And I again want to put the emphasis on HIS SHEEP, and not all sheep; for we
still have the responsibility of listening and heeding the voice of the Lord.
There is thunder and lightening all around us and the Lord’s word is raining down upon us.
If we hear His voice and turn to Him wholeheartedly, we shall be saved; but if not, we shall be swept away by the flood of His wrath.
This too, is God's love, for he will not let a true believer be lost for the sake of unrepentant sinners.
He protects His believers by removing the evil from their presence, or by removing His believers from the midst of the evil ones, even if it is through death.
However, God does it in His own time, which may not necessarily be in our time frame.
We’re to keep on doing what we know to be right, in spite of a world gone mad around us.
And we are not to fear.
Therefore, with these thoughts in mind, let us end this excursion through
God’s word this morning with Peter’s encouragement to holiness in 1 Peter
7. The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.
8. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
9. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
10. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
11. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
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