Eternity

That Day: Great & Terrible (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)

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‘The day of the Lord’ – (vs2) is the great and the terrible day spoken of all through the Old Testament when Yahweh will come to save His faithful ones and will come to punish the those who rejected His kind offer of forgiveness through His Son.

It is a day with two distinct perspectives depending on one’s faith trajectory.  For some, it’s a great day, a day to be longed for and anticipated, and yet for those who rejected God’s Son as their Lord & Saviour, its a terrible day.

This day will come suddenly, will come when people aren’t expecting it (vs3).  To some the suddenness is negative & not welcomed – ‘like a thief’.  Yet for others the suddenness is positive & welcomed like a pregnant woman suddenly going into labor. (vs3)

These contrasting ‘suddenly’s’ refer to the contrasting experience on ‘the day of the Lord’ depending on ones state of faith.

But this coming day in all our futures isn’t to be feared for those who are God’s children, ‘children of the light’ (vs4-5), for we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into Jesus’ kingdom (Colossians 1:13) which is the kingdom of light as Jesus is Himself, the light of the world (John 8:12).

Knowing these things, believing these things helps us to be at peace with our future, and helps us to stay alert, awake, sober ready for Jesus’ return. (Vs6)

Knowing these things, believing these things helps us to choose to keep putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of our salvation to protect us until that day (vs8).

We who have believed in Jesus Christ, we are not destined for wrath but for salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who died in our place for our sin so that we might live forever with Him (vs9).

So let’s encourage one another and build one another up!

And let’s reach out to all we know with the good news that those who put their trust in Jesus, those who ask Him to forgive them of their sins, will be forgiven and then this THAT DAY will be the first of an eternity of GREAT DAYS.

Re-Uniting Day… (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)

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There is a day when the temporary separation brought about by all death in this life will be overturned by the greatest day of re-unification ever!

I find airports very interesting spaces. Going to an airport one can observe a whole range of contrasting emotions on display.

On the side of departures there are last hugs, last kisses and last looks – endings, separations, increasing distance, tears & questions of when we will see one another next.

Yet, on the side of arrivals its the opposite. There are first hugs, kisses & words of joy and love. Decreasing distance, intimacy and re-unification, the resumption of relationships…

Death is like the departure section of the airport. The second coming of Jesus, however, is like the arrivals section! There is a day when the wait will be over, the distance between us and Jesus will evaporate forever, and a day when the separation we have endured from loved ones who died as believers will be over forever and ever.

These Thessalonians had questions about loved ones who had died, here in these verses Scripture describes the amazing day to come when King Jesus will return as King. The underlying Greek word (‘parousia) used here and translated as ‘the coming of the’ Lord is a word that has special meaning. It’s not just like a friend ‘coming’ round to your house but the picture the Thessalonians would have had when that word was used would have been that of a victorious king leading his armies and his captives in a victory parade through the streets, to be received with cheers and celebration from his home city/kingdom.

We get hints of this incredible scene when this passage describes the picture of Jesus’ return with three sounds;

  1. Jesus declaring loudly with a shout/command ,
    The voice of an archangel (chief angel) saying something about Jesus no doubt
  2. And God sounding a heavenly trumpet!
  3. In this moment there will be the greatest day of re-unification ever! It seems from vs15-16 that those who had already died, believing in Jesus will be raised and then they will join Jesus in His ‘parousia’, in His victory procession as ‘God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep’ (vs14).

I can imagine Jesus in all His glory out front, and the host of believers behind Him singing glorying in Him and yet at the same time looking out for, finding in the crowd and waving with joy and excitement at those who are still alive who believed in Jesus. What a day of re-unification, joy unspeakable! This is comforting for us who just feel the loss of separation in the present time, this sadness will be overcome with everlasting joy.

Lastly, the result of what I’m calling Re-uniting Day will be an intimate proximity to Jesus that will never be undone again; “and so we will always be with the Lord” (vs17).

These truths should encourage us, and should be used by us to encourage one another (vs18).

Who can you encourage with these words today?
Have you done it yet?

To follow or not to follow…

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Our congregation has the vision to help people become followers of Jesus. This is not just a nice sentiment, but carries the weight of true conviction for those who turned their life around from out of the kingdom of darkness into God’s kingdom. It implies a change in lifestyle, however gradual.

Jesus said:

If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. (Matt 16:24)

We have probably all read this verse many times – and scan over it as easily as we sing the songs proclaiming we will lay down everything for Jesus’ sake… Is it really that easy? Do we truly understand what it means?

I was startled this morning to read an Afrikaans translation where three options for the Greek word “aparnesastho” was given: “jouself verloen/afsweer/ontken”.  These are strong terms!  It can be translated with words like “renounce”, “disavow”, “contradict”. Denying yourself means to NOT do as you please, to NOT make your own wants/needs/dreams/desires the most important thing in life.

I don’t know about you, but to me it seems that the modern Christian mantra has become more and more focused on our own desires and working to make them reality, because that is what God wants for us… I don’t necessarily agree… And maybe I’m missing the point, but allow me to continue this train of thought, however unpopular.

Am I willing to lay down everything, even my own life, to follow Jesus? We live in a country where we still have a great amount of religious freedom.  We are not generally confronted with the choice between being killed for following Jesus, or staying alive by renouncing Him.  Losing our lives in the context of this passage, to us, has a more subtle meaning.

We live in a world inundated by media that urges us to believe we need very many things to be happy and fulfilled.  A nice house, nice care, nice clothes, the best in technology, phones, computers, entertainment media… Maybe you are strong enough to say, alright, I can give that up, and live with only what I need to survive…

But what if it comes to having a husband/wife, a family, a wonderful fulfilling career, the best education for myself or my children…  What if the cross we take up means a life devoid of those things that we feel makes us happy?  What if taking up my cross means allowing God to take me in a whole different direction than where I was wanting to go?

I am not saying we should all dive into an ascetic lifestyle! But what if all of that is taken away from you?  Will you still follow Jesus with your whole heart?  Will you still trust that the Father is working it all out for your benefit?

So, really, I’m inviting you to think it through with me, today.  I’ve had to think it through for myself many times.  And its hard to imagine what life would be like without all the stuff and people we love, without the hope of realising our dreams and desires, but maybe it is a good way to establish where your heart really is.

Our life on this earth is not a game played to gain as much as we can from it. It is an opportunity to live a life that acknowledges God’s sovereign rule, a life that pleases HIM, that gives His Word, His instruction, His direction first place.

It helps us correct our perspective when we set our minds on eternity.  I would offer up everything here, however painful I’m sure it must be, to know that my eternal reward is to sit at the feet of my Lord, and behold His beautiful face forever:

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father and then He will repay each person according to what he has done. (verse 27)

by Lise Oosthuizen

Have you seen it?

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The magnitude of our response reveals the extent of our comprehension.

Jesus tells two parables in Matthew 13:44-46, that both have something of great worth which is hidden. The treasure was hidden in the field, the pearl is hidden within an oyster’s shell in the ocean.

In both parables the object of great worth is found, is discovered, is uncovered and it’s true revealed value then dictates what happens next…

The value of the discovery of the treasure/pearl is so great that it is worth selling everything in both instances!  More than this it is worthy of great joy even in the sale of everything in the case of the treasure in the field.

So, the two individuals who sell everything when they discover the item of great value are not being sacrificial they are being prudent and wise because they have truly comprehended the value of the item in question.

Imagine you somehow knew with absolute certainty that if you bought a certain numbered ticket in a very very prestigious competition in which the tickets cost R500 000 each but the prize was 5 Billion rands, you would not be unwise to sell your house to afford the ticket, you’d be unwise to not act on the certain information you had at your disposal.

Similarly, the magnitude of our response reveals the true extent of our comprehension regarding God and His kingdom.

Those who have not seen the infinite value of following Jesus wholeheartedly will not lay down all other things, will not prioritise the church and God’s mission, will not relinquish their own agendas in this present and temporary life so as to lay hold of God’s greater and eternal plan for their lives!

The degree to which we wholeheartedly unreservedly give our lives for the cause of Christ through His church reveals the degree to which we have truly seen or not seen the infinite value and treasure of Jesus and living for His kingdom and His will in and through our lives.

May I, may we, keep seeing with greater and greater clarity the inexpressible value of our relationship with Jesus Christ and may we therefore live lives that are worthy of what we have seen! Amen.

By Gareth Bowley

A perplexing parable…

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This is a perplexing parable that speaks about the link between this present life and eternity (Luke 16:1-13)

In my previous post “Jesus, You said what?” I encouraged us to not be put off by perplexing, difficult or challenging passages but to be drawn in by them and to ask questions that help us to hear our Father speaking to us from them.

So let’s ask some questions;

What questions does it address, ask or answer?

This parable speaks to the relationship between this present life and eternity (vs 9&11) and that we will be held accountable for our actions (vs2).  We will be held to account, God as the owner cares about how we steward the resources entrusted to us.

Specifically, this parable links our present management or stewardship of God’s resources in this life to eternity (vs9-12).  Like this guy – for us there is a time of stewardship (our life) during which we should use wisely the time and resources we have at our disposal, before our term of stewardship is done and they are no longer any use to us.

This parable also speaks about our relationship to money & possessions – we are managers/stewards, not owners.  When it comes to money/possessions, we big idea is that in this world we are managers/stewards not owners with regard to money/posessions.

Finally, this parable speaks about our time on earth and that it is finite.  There is a day when we will no longer be able to make the decisions we do still get to make still today, before that day that either we die or the day on which Jesus returns.

What tension/mystery does this text create or resolve?  

Why does Jesus’ parable ‘honour’ this ignoble manager?  Why is a dishonest person being commended?

In what way did this dishonest manager act that is worthy of being called shrewd? 

He knows that he is about to loose his job, loose control of the wealth he manages for the owner, but he still has this moment in the present while he is still manager and he knows he can act now in ways that will affect his future.

This is what he is commended for, having a future perspective that changed his life now in the present, changed his actions now.  

In the same way, one thing is certain in every man’s future: his ‘dismissal’ from his present sphere into the unknown regions of eternity.  

We too are managers/stewards now, we too are wise if we use the possessions under our control for the purpose of affecting the future while we still can.

The tension here is that Jesus can’t be commending the dishonesty in the manager, he is commended surely his forward thinking which affected his present actions, because in contrast to the manager, Jesus’ followers must not be dishonest, must not use the money they steward for God unrighteously, but like the manager they must use their money in such a way that they prepare for their future life, while they still can.

What does this text say about God, myself or others?  

God cares about how we utilise the money/resources entrusted to us.

I have a finite period of time here on this earth, after which there will be a time to give account for how I utilised the resources entrusted to me.

What should I do now as a result? 

Do I see myself as an owner of my money or as a manager/steward of God’s money?

How can I best use the worldly wealth (be it little or lots!) God has entrusted to me in order to hear God’s ‘well done’ on the day when I give an account?

How can I use what’s been entrusted to me to gain eternal friends for myself in heaven?

___________________________

Thank you Jesus for this perplexing parable!

Living in light of eternity (Luke 14:12-14)

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12  He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14  and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

This parable is brought on by Jesus’ healing of the blind man on the sabbath at the feast put on by the Pharisee.  It follows Jesus’ parable teaching humility to the guests of the host.  Now in this parable Jesus focusses on the host and reveals the motivation in the heart of the host for why he invited those he did invite to his feast.  The initial two verses (12-14) are then followed by a parable which reveals God’s heart regarding whom God is inviting to His salvation banquet.

The compatibility principle:

Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6:19-21 concerning how we ought to live for eternity, focussing on storing up treasures in heaven (which is lasting) rather than the temporary and fading treasures of this present life and world.

As believers we will all appear before God’s rewards seat (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-10) to receive what is due to us “for what he has done in the body whether good or evil”.  We are saved by grace, this is a reward ceremony but not everything will be rewarded.  How we live now really matters and will have an effect on eternity.  We ought to live every day in light of the reality of eternity.

Moses lived like this as we know from Hebrews 11:24-26.  His focus on eternity and his reward in eternity impacted his choices, strengthened his resolve to resist the temptations of sin knowing that sin’s offer of pleasure is fleeting but godliness will lead to pleasure & joy that is eternal.

What questions does it address, ask or answer?

What motivates our actions?  This first part of the total parable addresses the issue of not just of who we invite to what, but why we do the things we do.  These verses 12-14 address the issue of the motivation behind our actions.

These verses also bring the fore the issue of eternity and the relative value of the present compared to the supreme value of eternity.

What tension does this text create or resolve?

There is a tension in these verses between the outlook that considers only the present but ignores eternity and the outlook that lives a certain way now because of eternity.

When we see how much grace and mercy and generosity God has poured into our lives we the reasonable response is to love God and love people with the self-same love we have received from God.  And knowing that God will reward a godly response to His grace in our lives should motivate us to respond to His grace by living in light of eternity to come.

What mystery does this text speak to?

This parable speaks to the mystery of eternity, eternal life after death.  It raises the question what happens when we die?  Do how we live our lives on earth matter?  It speaks about the issue of rewards in heaven.

What happens when we die is;

“it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement” (Hebrews 9:27).

There is judgement for all after death, judgement for salvation – “Is your name in the Lamb’s book of life?” and then judgement for works how you responded to the grace of God in giving you salvation – “How did you live as a child of God?”

The first judgement is only passed by those who believed in Jesus (John 5:24) while still alive and received eternal life as God’s gracious gift.  The second judgement for the believer is not by grace but about the “good works God had planned for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10) having been saved by His grace.

The following passages all speak about rewards for the believer:

Romans 14:12, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Luke 14:12-14, Matthew 6:19-21,Revelation 11:18, Revelation 20:12, Revelation 22:12…

What issues in life does this text address?

Do we see people, do we value people as God values all people?

If we act in such a way as to advance ourselves, bless ourselves through using our time, money, possessions or hospitality we in fact are not blessed.  But if we use our resources to bless others, without the aim being to “get something in return” we then are blessed not by people but by God (“you will be blessed”).

If we seek to be a blessing, especially being mindful of those who are marginalized, God will bless us.  Those marginalized people will not be able to “return the favours” but God will repay you with blessing now and reward on the day of judgement into eternity.

When last did I show hospitality to the marginalized?  Not just inviting people round for meals hoping I would receive friendship in return, or that they would like me or think I am great….

How can I serve those who cannot pay me back?  How can I give of my time, my money, my resources to those who will never return it?

How can I be like God today – giving lavishly of Himself to those (us) who could never repay Him?

What does this text say about God, myself or others?

God wants me to be like Him, who gave to those who could never repay Him.  God is full of lavish grace, free mercy towards those who don’t deserve it and can never reciprocate so as to repay Him.

God rewards (“you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just”) those who are like Him in this life with their time, possessions and money.

God’s heart is inclined towards the poor, the hurting, the marginalized – He cares that we care for such people in such situations.  God affords honour to the marginalized.

Application

Godliness is the antithesis of selfishness.  Godliness will result in blessing others and especially blessing those who can not or will not return the blessing.

Seek to be like God, giving, blessing with no regard for what you can get back, but rather seeking to be like God, to reveal God’s love to others.

You will be blessed Jesus said and you will be rewarded in the realm that ultimately matters – eternity.