This is post 3 of 7 in the series “A FAITH THAT SINGS”
A Faith That Sings: Jesus Is Coming Soon – Look Busy!
The sermon today is actually drawn from the entire 13th Chapter of the Gospel according to Mark. And it would be my hope that perhaps before you sleep tonight, that you would take your Bible and read through the whole chapter. But for our purposes now, I read for you just the initial stages of that great chapter in Mark. This is the Word of God.
“As He was leaving the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Look, teacher, what massive stones, what magnificent buildings.’ ‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus? Not one stone here will be left on another. Every one will be thrown down. As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign that they’re all about to be fulfilled?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in My name claiming I am He and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places and famines. These are the beginning of the birth pains. You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of Me, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the Gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given to you at the time for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of Me. But he who stands firm to the end will be saved.’”
May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His Holy Word.
Pray with me, please. Lord, nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to thy cross I cling. Amen.
Not very long ago I saw a bumper sticker on a car here in Houston, and the bumper sticker read, “Jesus is coming soon. Look busy.” Well, now, you know that’s cute, don’t you think? But it’s not very biblical. Mind you, mind you, the Bible does clearly declare that at some point in the future Jesus will return, and when He comes this time, he will not slip quietly into a little out of the way place like he did the first time. No. When He comes this time, he will come wrapped in power and glory, and no one will miss his arrival. And when He returns, He will bring to full fruition God’s plan for his whole creation including your life and mine. So let me say right upfront, I believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ. Oh, do I ever. And what I would like for us to do today is to focus our attention on how a belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ can actually determine what direction our lives will take and what difference our lives will make. Here is what I mean.
In the first place, belief in the second coming can determine what direction our lives will take.
Well, that bumper sticker read, “Jesus is coming soon. Look busy.” That’s not biblical. And so I’d like to change the bumper sticker to read, “Jesus is coming soon. Look out.” That is biblical. That is exactly what Jesus says in Mark, chapter 13. Jesus says, “Look out. Watch out. Be on guard. Be alert. You do not know when the end will come.” Now, having declared that, Jesus then goes on to say, “That while we may not know when the end will come, there are,” He says,”certain conditions which may,” He says,”which may indicate that the end is near.
I suppose if you wanted to you could take that list of conditions from Mark chapter 13 and you could look at the state of the world in which we are living, and I suppose if you wanted to you could make a case that the end is near. I mean, think about it for a moment. Jesus says, “That there will come many claiming to be Christ, and they will lead many astray.” Well, in recent times we certainly have been treated to more than our fair share of charlatans in Christian leadership. Jesus says, “That many will be put to death for their faith.” Are you aware of the fact that in the last 25 years more Christians have been put to death because of their belief in Christ than were put to death in all of the previous 20 Centuries of the Church’s history combined? All of those years combined, the last 25 years more Christians have been put to death. And in the last five years, Christians being put to death in our world has reached a staggering and alarming level.
Jesus says, “There will be wars and rumors of wars.” Well, the Great Cold War is long since over, but what we have now are any number of hot little wars raging all across the face of the earth producing incredible violence, bloodshed, and death.
Jesus says, “There will be the breakdown of family life. Parents will be killing children. Children will be killing parents.” Do you read your newspaper? Or for that matter, did you read yesterday’s newspaper? The number of incidents where parents are killing children and children are killing parents, unbelievable.
Jesus says, “That there will come the great distress where the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light and the stars will fall from the Heavens and the Heavenly bodies will be shaken.” Sounds to me rather like a nuclear holocaust.
Are you aware of the fact that at this moment 17 different nations have the capacity to produce nuclear weapons, and one-third of them have declared the intent to use them, and two of those, Iran and North Korea, are under the control of the most ruthless, immoral, and inhumane regimes you could ever imagine?
Jesus says, “That there will be natural disasters, earthquakes, and famines and the like.” Well, it seems to me that in recent times those things have been piling up one on top of the other almost.
Jesus says, “The Gospel will have to be preached in every land.” Are you aware of the fact that now for the first time in history, that is true? The Gospel in some measure has been proclaimed now in every single nation on the face of the earth, and there is some form of the Church of Jesus Christ to be found in every nation on earth. This is the first time in history that’s true. The last nation to receive the Gospel, Afghanistan.
Now, Jesus lays all of that out. Does that mean that the end is near? I don’t know. And it’s perfectly all right that I don’t know. Jesus says, “No one knows.” Therefore, let me kindly suggest to you that you pay no attention whatever to anyone who dares to come along and say that they know precisely the time when Jesus will return and the earth will come to an end. Pay no attention whatever. No attention. “No one knows,” Jesus says. Jesus says, “Not even the angels in Heaven know.” Jesus says, “Only God knows.” So, we do not know when the end will come. But does that mean that Jesus will not return? No. No. No. Absolutely. Jesus will return. Of that, there can be no doubt. He said it Himself. He said it, and He meant it. He said, “Surely I am coming soon. Count on it.” Now, given all of that, maybe you can begin to understand why there is always such passion and intensity to my preaching. You see, this is a matter of the greatest urgency.
Jesus says, “That those who belong to Him have no need to fear the future.” But because we do not know when the end will come, it is absolutely urgent that we make the decision now to follow Jesus Christ in our lives. We do not know when the end is going to come, and so, therefore, we better not delay. We better not put it off. Now is the time to decide that we are going to follow Jesus Christ in our lives.
Believe it or not, Queen Victoria of England has left us a perfect example to emulate. At one point, Queen Victoria listened to a sermon preached by Dean Farmer in the Westminster Abbey in London. The subject of the sermon was the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. After the sermon, Queen Victoria approached the preacher and said, “I do not know when the Lord is going to return. I only wish that He would come in my lifetime.” Whereupon the preacher said, “Your Majesty, why in the world is that your desire?” And Queen Victoria said, “Because I would so love to lay my crown at His feet.” She had made the determination of what direction her life would take. She would live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
So Jesus is coming soon. Look out. Watch. Be on guard. Be alert. And since we do not know when the end will come, now is the time to decide that we will follow Jesus Christ in our lives.
But also a belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ can determine what difference our lives will make.
That bumper sticker read, “Jesus is coming soon. Look busy.” That’s not biblical. And so I’d like to change the bumper sticker to read, “Jesus is coming soon. Get busy.” That is biblical. That’s exactly what is said here in Mark, chapter 13. Jesus says, “That those who belong to Him when the end comes will know a joy like no joy the world has ever known.” And then He says, “Those who know that joy will be those whom when He returns He finds busily engaged in doing His work in the world.” In fact, later on in Mark 13, it says, “Don’t let Him catch you sleeping when He comes.” In other words, get busy. Determine that your life is going to make a difference for Jesus Christ in the lives of those around you.
In order to underscore the point, permit me, please, to try to paint word portraits of two men. One man was Sinclair Lewis. He occupies, I suppose, a minor place in the pantheon of American literature. He may have been a capable writer, but let me tell you he was a miserable excuse for a man. He lived always and only for himself. He regarded faith in Jesus Christ as a pathetic joke. He gave himself to an unending series of orgies and perversions and promiscuities. Because of his severe and selfish ways, he alienated every last one of his friends, and he wound up being nothing more than a bumbling, fumbling mumbling, stumbling drunk, and he died all alone in a second-class clinic on the outskirts of the City of Rome. On his death certificate, under cause of death were written two words, parálisis cardíaca, paralyzed heart.
The second man was Lord Madors of England. He was born to poverty-stricken parents, and, in fact, not long after his birth, they actually abandoned him at the entrance to a coal mine. He was placed in an institution where the only good thing that happened to him was that he was introduced to faith in Jesus Christ. As the years unfolded, by his steely faith and determination, he managed to educate himself. And because of his faith in Christ, he made the decision that he would spend his life finding ways to help the hurt and needy people in the world around him. And he did just that. There came a point where he came to believe that maybe he could better accomplish that goal by standing for election to Parliament. He stood for election. He was defeated. He stood a second time. He was defeated. He stood a third time. This time he was elected, but all too frequently, he found himself in Parliament on the losing end of the vote. That did not stop him. He kept finding evermore creative ways to help the needy and the hurting people in the world around him. Years later out of sheer regard for the magnificence of his personal life, his peers in Parliament elected him to the House of Lords.
It was upon the occasion of his investiture into the House of Lords that he delivered himself of a poem, a poem which he said was the essence of his life. Well, that wasn’t really true. No. The essence of his life was his faith in Christ and his determination to make a difference for Christ in the world. That was the essence of his life. Ah, but the poem deserves to be heard, not because the poetry is good. It isn’t, but because the man was so incredibly good. “Did you tackle the trouble that came your way with a resolute heart and cheerful? Or did you hide your face from the light of day with a craven soul and fearful? Now trouble’s a ton or trouble’s an ounce, trouble’s just what you make it. It isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts, but only how did you take it? So you’re knocked to the earth. Well, what’s that? Rise up with a smiling face. Nothing against you to be knocked down flat, but to lie there, that’s the disgrace. A death comes with a crawl or it comes with a pounce, but whether it’s slow or spry, it isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts, but only how did you die?” What a man. Dear God, what a man. And he died surrounded by friends and covered with honors.
Two men, Sinclair Lewis spent others on himself. Lord Madors spent himself on others. And what is the difference between the two? Two words, Jesus Christ.
So Jesus is coming soon. Get busy. Do not let Him find you sleeping when He comes. Make the decision that you in your life are going to make a difference in the lives of others for the sake of Jesus Christ. Well, that in essence, is the message of Mark, chapter 13. That those who belong to Jesus Christ have no need to fear the future, no need to fear death and destruction, no need to fear the end of the world, no need to fear the return of Jesus Christ. All we have to do is to decide that we are going to follow Jesus Christ in our lives, and we are going to make a difference in the lives of others for the sake of Jesus Christ.
I leave you now with an incident which took place on board the Titanic. I refer to the heroic faith in the face of death, destruction, and the end of everything, the heroic faith displayed by the members of the ship’s orchestra. As long as music is performed, as long as hymns are sung, I believe that their names ought to be remembered: Brailey, Bricoux, Clarke, Hume, Krins, Taylor, Woodward, and their leader, Wallace Hartley. Shortly after midnight on April the 15th, 1912, when the ship people believed could never sink was floundering in the icy seas of the North Atlantic, the eight members of the ship’s orchestra moved to the deck of the sinking ship, set up their music stands, unfolded their music, took their violins, and proceeded to play, playing all the way through their repertoire. Their music brought a sense of calm in the midst of a desperate situation. Their presence brought a sense of peace to the passengers there. For more than an hour and a half, in 33-degree air, with cold-stiffened fingers, they played through every piece of music that they possessed. Gradually, the deck of the ship began to slope so much so that their music stands slid away. It didn’t stop them. They kept on playing from memory. And then at 2:10 AM, Wallace Hartley said to his men, “You’ve done your job. You may try to save yourselves if you can.” Not a single one of them moved. They stood right where they were. Now, the deck was sloping so precipitously they had to fight to keep their footing. But then the eight of them took their violins and they began to play a hymn, a beautiful hymn, an incredible hymn, a solemn soaring requiem to a great ship and her doomed passengers. The eight of them—Brailey, Bricoux, Clarke, Hume, Krins, Taylor, Woodward, Harley—the eight of them determined that in the face of the end of everything, they would focus their lives upon the Lord, and they would try to make a difference in the lives of those around them. And so they did. And they went to their death playing that incredible hymn.
I am going to ask us now to sit quietly in this magnificent church and listen to the melody of the hymn that they played. And as the melody sounds, I’m going to ask each one of us to commit ourselves anew and afresh, to follow Jesus Christ in our lives and to determine that we are going to make a difference for Jesus Christ in this world, no matter what the future may hold, and then I’m going to ask us claiming all of the power and hope of that incredible hymn, I’m going to ask us to stand and sing together the words “Nearer My God to Thee.”