The first in a short series of sermons under the general heading of – “Watching and waiting for the return of Christ” at the conclusion of the service refreshments will be served, followed by Sunday lunch for those who put their names on the list.
Have you ever been in awe of a particular building? The disciples were in awe of the Temple, and when Jesus said that it would soon be reduced to rubble it piqued their curiosity and concern regarding the future.
Many today, like the disciples, are concerned about the future, with such concern usually being expressed in two ways:-
Fear – They are afraid about what might happen when the oil runs dry, or when someone presses the nuclear button, or when the world is hit by an asteroid, or if we will eventually destroy the planet by environmental vandalism.
Fascination – In contrast others have an unhealthy interest in the future, always studying the “signs of the time,” and even going as far as to disobediently predict, the actual day of Christ’s return (Mark 13 v 32.)
Warning – Beware of both dangers!
In response to the disciples concern, Jesus gives the longest answer that he ever gave to any question, because he wanted them, and us, to be clear and not confused about the future. We are encouraged to vigilantly look in 4 locations for indications of his return, with the first three being plagued by “false Christ’s” (v 4 & 24) and “false prophets” (v 11 & 24) who will seek to deceive people. Here they are:-
The World The Church The Middle East The Sky
Today we give consideration to the first:-
1 – THE WORLD – conflict & calamity.
The sign of conflict and calamity which will be widespread across the world will manifest itself in three ways:
Wars – Of which there are currently 60 going on in the world.
Famines – Which have affected every continent in the world, particularly Africa.
Earthquakes – Of which 100,000 can be felt every year.
How are we to respond in the face of such conflict and calamity? Jesus counsels two responses:-
Do not panic (v 6) – Such events will inevitably happen in increasing measure, so they should not take us by surprise, and should be viewed in the greater scheme of things as opportunities to display Christian compassion and generosity.
Do not presume (v 8) – For they are – “the beginning of birth pains.” Like the first contractions of a pregnant woman, these signs are only the beginning, and not the end. They are significant stepping stones, but of themselves do not signify that “the end is nigh!”
Notice will you that these are not death, but “birth pains.” We are no doubt familiar with God wanting to bring people to new birth (John 3 v 7 & 2 Corinthians 5 v 17); but did you know that God desires to bring the whole created order to new birth, (Romans 8 v 21 & Revelation 21 v 1 & 5) with these signs being the first contractions of that new birth. So be encouraged and hopeful, because these signs of conflict and calamity are not so much the end of everything, rather they are the beginning of everything that will culminate in the new heaven and the new earth.
Challenge – Are you able to view a world engulfed in conflict and calamity through Biblical eyes, with that calm assurance that God is in control?
Theme: “Hope in the face of conflict & calamity”
Reading: Matthew 24 v 1 – 8
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Robin Brenchley