Last month I talked about what are we expecting when Jesus comes for us. Much of our expectation today does not rest with Jesus coming for us but what we will be supposedly spared from experiencing in these dark times. Are we watching for Jesus because we want to avoid having our faith tested, our character revealed, and the level of our commitment exposed?
I am watching for Jesus not because I want to avoid the worse this world might throw at me; rather, I am looking for Jesus because I love Him. I long to see Him and to experience His purity, holiness, and delight. Like Paul made reference to in 2 Corinthians 5, every believer is here for the sake of others, whether it is reaching out to the lost or being part of the work of edification of the Church.
I do not belong to this world and I find myself becoming at odds with it more every day. I do not love it; rather, I hate its perversion, corruption and abominable practices. I’m vexed over the great wickedness that has not only been exposed, but unleashed in such foul ways on the innocent and vulnerable that I feel utterly repulsed at times. The truth is, there are times when I just want to sit in a corner and mourn. However, as a believer, I must continue to run the race, ever pressing forward for the prize of heaven, Jesus Christ. I must not expect another to carry my baton until I have finished the race at which time, I hope to hand it off to another marathon runner (Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 12:1-2).
As pointed out in my last article, the Church is not in danger of not looking for Jesus coming, but of not being prepared for it. Some of those who call themselves Christians believe they will be exempt of being tested by the darkness of this time and immune from tasting the bitterness of great sorrow. We would all like to avoid the tribulations and testing of life but trials are inevitable and they always reveal the level of our faith. In many cases we lack faith and must be given a greater measure of it as we step out in it in light of God’s character and promises (John 16:33; Romans 12:3; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:5-9).
When it comes to the end days, the crucial challenge remains consistent—we must be watching, ready, and praying that we will be found worthy to escape the tribulation that is coming. We must not assume that Jesus will accept crumbs, excuses, and half-hearted attempts to somewhat serve Him. He is coming for a Church without spot or wrinkle (Mark 13:31-33; Luke 21:36; Ephesians 5:26-27).
When you study the concept of trials and tribulations, they are the spot remover and the hot irons that will rid God’s people of “spots” and “wrinkles”. They shake faulty foundations, reveal weak character, expose sources of reliance, and bring spiritual growth so that a believer can stand in darkness, withstand with the light of truth, and continue to stand because of faith (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).
If you’re like me, you would prefer to avoid the tribulations, flee the trials, and dodge the challenges of life, but there would be no testing, nor contrast as to what is genuine, and no spiritual growth. As a result, I have to trust the Lord as to the challenges He brings my way. I have to know that God never wastes any trial and that His heart is to bring me to a place of greater intimacy with Him and excellency in my Christian walk.
Sadly, many Christians do all they can to avoid facing the trials. They seek peace, but it is not the peace of mind that comes from resting in the Lord regardless of what is going on, but peace from trials (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:5-9). The truth is such people often become drunk on something. Consider the warning in Luke 21:34-35, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
According to Luke 21:34-35, there are three conditions that will overtake the world and cause people to be unprepared for Jesus’ coming. We have that which is excessive in practices, that which is addictive and obsessive in pursuits, and that which is overtaxing and overwhelming with vanity. Excessive will result in complacency towards God, that which is obsessive becomes idolatrous, and that which is overtaxing will bury one beneath that which is worthless. These different scenarios will often come down to the reality that these people create around them.
The first group we must consider are those who try to avoid the different cares of the world, but will become greatly entangled in them in the end. These are the individuals who want to be treated with kid gloves. They are like emotional prima-donnas. Since they are the main star or attraction of their own show, they must be protected and spared from any real challenge life brings to them to ensure they shine in the end, but these people often end up in a stupor of denial and indifference due to fear. In some cases, a broken fingernail or a slight bump in the road can send them into a crisis mode. Sadly, they prove to be weak in character and harsh in judgments towards others because they have no depth or experience.
There are those who create their own reality to avoid facing the tribulations of life. They believe they can control their life and live out their particular fantasy without being touched by the harsh realities that others seem to have to endure. This type of individual proves to be indifferent to any other person’s reality that may challenge the validly of their “desired” lifestyle. They often prove to be heartless and cold to those who are struggling, because, after all, they are in control of their reality, so their attitude is, “why aren’t you?” Some even conclude it is your “karma” (which is Hinduism) because of how you lived your “past life” as well as how you presently live. Therefore, whatever comes your way, you deserve it! These people often become surfeiting (excessively) drunk on greed and will oppress others. There is no end to their appetite to gain the world, regardless of who they walk over or stomp on along the way.
The next group you can encounter when it comes to facing life for what it is are those who live in an altered reality. The difference between those who create their own reality and those who live in an altered reality is that the person who creates their reality often sees themself as some type of puppet master that is pulling the strings, or a god who will bring it about.
Those who resort to an altered reality will not face it because they know there is no changing it; therefore, they find alternatives in order to float through reality while remaining untouched by it. They often use such things as alcohol, drugs, pornography, and fantasies to escape into another world. This way they can be clueless about what is going on so they do not have to be bothered with the demands, challenges, and responsibilities of LIFE. After all, they now have the ever-present demands of their own god of addiction and insanity riding on their back and they must keep their idol happy and silent.
There is a fourth group and these people are the people of faith (Hebrews 11). They have faith towards God, faith in His character and walk by faith when it comes to His Word. They never will be overcome by the present life; rather, they will overcome in this life through the Holy Spirit. They choose to face life in light of their hope being in God. They are not of this world; therefore, they are not pulled down into its many entanglements. They are not pursuing the world; therefore, they do not get caught up with its many temptations that would require them to sell their soul to possess nothing more than vanity. They are more afraid of not facing reality so they can walk in the light of truth, than reality itself. They know that God will enable them to walk through any challenge the world offers, and in the end, they will come out victorious. They don’t care to be numb to life; rather, they want to experience the gift of life God has given them.
The question is, why do so many people, including those who call themselves Christians, resort to any other reality other than Jesus Christ? When you listen to these individuals, they have their excuses. We humans are long on excuses, short on remembering what is so, and quick to choose the way of least resistance so we can have our preferred reality in the end.
When I consider excuses, I think of Matthew 22. The King’s (Heavenly Father) Son (Jesus Christ) is about to be married. The Eastern custom for such an auspicious event was to send out a preliminary invitation to let certain groups of people know about it and when the time came for the feast to take place, they would send out an urgent invitation with the time and date on it.
What happened when the King sent out the first invitation? We are told that they would not come (Matthew 22:3). In this case the first invitation went out to the Jewish nation, but the nation would not respond. Here we have a royal wedding about to take place. In most societies who would not want to come to such a wedding and be part of the celebration? We must remember the Jews rejected God as their king back in Samuel’s day, so why would they think such a royal occasion was all that important? In their mind the Lord was a dethroned king and did not warrant such consideration, and we must not forget when Jesus was introduced as the King of the Jews, the priests declared they had no king but Caesar (1 Samuel 8:6-9; 12:12; John 19:15). It is clear we need to properly recognize our God as being the sovereign ruler if we are going to take His invitation seriously.
The second invitation went out to the people who lived in the surrounding kingdom (representing the days of Jesus) and what happened? Many made light of it and went back to their daily activities. I am sure some of the servants heard that those invited were in the process of checking out the land, or stock, or even catering to a new spouse while the remnant (religious leaders) took the servants and either treated them badly or even killed them (Matthew 22:5-6; Luke 14:17-20).
When it comes to the second invitation the question is, have we taken the first invitation seriously enough to prepare for the time we will be bidden to come to the wedding? We are living in the time when the great wedding supper of the Lamb is on the horizon, but are we soberly preparing for it as we wait for the second invitation to come or are we like the five foolish virgins?
Can you imagine a king sending out invitations to those of His kingdom and being met with rejection, casualness, or even persecution? What kind of king would sit back and endure such disrespect and contempt (Matthew 22:7)? The results of the king’s response of wrath actually happened in 70 A.D. when the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed and the remaining Jewish people dispersed as slaves.
There was a final invitation that went out to the highways and byways of the world. That invitation went out to the Gentiles. Many were gathered regardless of their status. Everything had been furnished (redemption and grace) according to Matthew 22:4 and all one had to do was come. However, there was one who came in his own clothes of self-righteousness. And what happened to this person? (Matthew 22:10-12).
I want you to note a kingdom was judged and a religious system destroyed because of their response to the wedding invitation, but now we have individuals who have no regard for what the King has provided. As a result, they will be as the man who was cast into outer darkness.
It is clear that it is up to each of us individually to accept the wedding invitation to the great feast. We must not rely on our associations to hopefully cause us to shine in the end; religious affiliations that allow us to overlook greedy worldly pursuits; our personal works that will cover up deviations; or our vain excuses that will leave us speechless before Him. We must heed the invitation, come in child-like faith, with great anticipation knowing we are entering into a heavenly chamber to be part of a royal feast like none other.
The question is, have you accepted the wedding invitation and if so, are you preparing for the time you are finally bidden to come? And, if you come will you assume that any old garbs from the past will be allowed, or will you be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ because you are hidden in His death, burial, and resurrection? (Romans 6:3-6; Colossians 3:2-3).