Sunday, December 03, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Ready and Waiting"

“Ready and Waiting”
Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
December 3, 2017 :: Hebrews 9:27-28

This is the last message in our Gospel Roots sermon series. Last week, we completed our series on Galatians. Next week, we’ll start a brand new sermon series. This week, we are completing our other series on the foundational values that have shaped our church family for the last 125 years.

Our Gospel Roots.

It’s been a great year to look back on what has been most important to our congregation.

First, the Gospel itself. Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

Then singing the gospel in corporate worship.

Sharing the gospel in evangelism. Seeking the Lost.

Being a praying church. The church that prays together.

Being a church that stands on the Word of God.

Remember the Swedish catchphrase for that?

“Var står det skrivet? Where stands it written?” Show me in the Bible.

Being a missions-minded church and supporting the people whose pictures are on our fridges.

Being a loving church family that supports and cares for each other.

Being a church full of servants who use their gifts in ministry.

Being a free self-governing congregational church whose members are a royal priesthood, making the big decisions together under Christ for this church.

Being a church that is a heir of the Protestant Reformation, taking our stand on the Gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.

And being a church that trusts that God even in times of trouble. Putting our faith in His steadfast love and His mercies that are new every morning.

That’s our church.

It’s at least the church we’ve aspired to be over the last 125 years. That’s the church we want to be. The church we have been when we’ve been at our best in God’s grace.

And today, I have one last gospel root to emphasize, and it’s very important.

We have, in our 125 year history, emphasized the return of Jesus Christ.

This world is not all there is. Jesus Christ is coming again, and He’s going to bring His kingdom. And the glory of the Lord will fill the earth like the waters cover the sea.

Jesus Christ will come back, and He will change everything.

He will restore everything to how it was supposed to be in the beginning.

And even better!

He will bring justice.

And He will bring salvation.

That’s actually what the song “Joy to the World” is all about. By Isaac Watts?

We sing it at Christmastime, but it’s actually about Jesus’ second coming. Not His first!

Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing!

No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and make the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.

This church has always believed in the second coming, and it’s been one of the threads woven throughout the fabric of our century and a quarter together.

And it goes back even further than that. Do you remember the Lay Bible Readers movement that we’ve mentioned several times this year? The old Swedes in Sweden who wanted to read the Bible for themselves? Well, they rediscovered the importance and encouragement that comes from believing in the second coming.

In his book This We Believe, Dr. Arnold T. Olson the great EFCA President from the last century, wrote, “...even in the old country, as these future immigrants to our shores began studying the Bible, there was kindled a little flame of hope in their hearts. Christ’s coming was not only to judge to the Christian it was a hope, a blessed hope, a much to be desired event. So there was added to the main points of discussion in prayer and Bible study groups...another question: What does the Scripture teach about the last things and the coming of the Lord? Lay preachers became zealous prophets warning the sinner and the backslider and exhorting the saint to make ready for the sure and soon return of Christ. It caught fire” (pg. 313).

Remember this guy?

He is not a Civil War general those he looks like it. This is Frederick Franson.

Frederick Franson was the Free Church leader who was always looking for missionaries.

And he visited our church in the late 1800's, when our church was only 5 years old, and we made him a promise to support those missionaries...until when?

Until the Lord returned.

I’m pretty sure that our forebears couldn’t have imagined that we’d still be doing it 125 years later, but that was the promise.

Until the Lord returned.

Franson was so passionate about missions because he was passionate about the return of Christ. Doctor Olson wrote that Franson’s "missionary conferences were also prophetic conferences. The great burden of his appeal for missionary volunteers was the urgency of the hour. Not only were souls dying, but the Lord was coming. No time could be wasted...‘as the King’s business required haste.’ The Gospel had to be preached until all the ends of the earth” (pg. 313).

It was in that kind of a church culture and spiritual movement that our particular church was born. In the original constitution, our founders called upon all of the members to have “entrusted themselves to the Lord...and to persevere and come to the final fulfillment, namely at last to be transformed with Christ in Glory.”

And the theme of Christ’s return has permeated the teaching of our church for 125 years.

I read in our history book that we used to have Watch Night services on New Year’s Eve that we shared with the Lanse Baptist Church.

I remember when I first got here listening to audiotapes that were still here from Pastor Kelly preaching on the return of Christ.

And I’ve tried to keep up the tradition by regularly talking about the second advent.

I was encouraged last Summer when I was going through our doctrinal statement with Nathan  and Matt , that they both felt like they had learned about Jesus’ return through the ministry of this church.

And Bea and Raph Johnson put at the end of the 100 year history and Lita copied it again at the end of our 125 year history, “May we serve [the Lord] with renewed vision and effort until He comes! Even so come, Lord Jesus!”

Those are just a few of the ways that this doctrine has worked itself into the life of this church.

So, what is the doctrine? Let’s look at Hebrews 9:27 and 28.

Yes, that was all an introduction. But don’t worry. The sermon itself will be very short. Hebrews 9:27&28.

I think this passage of scripture forces us to ask two very important questions.

Very simple questions, but very important ones.

Here’s number one.


Specifically, are you ready to face the judgment of God?

Look again at verse 27.

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment...” Stop there.

That’s a pretty big opening clause isn’t it?

Humans are destined to die, how many times?


And after that comes what?


If you have the King James Version, it says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”

How do you feel about appointments?

I generally like appointments, as long as they aren’t with doctors or dentists!

But this says that everybody has an appointment with death. And, unless we are aprt of the generation alive when the Lord returns, we’re going to keep that appointment!

One of my favorite stories from Peter Marshall, the late chaplain of the US Senate is the story of a servant of a merchant in ancient Baghdad. I’ve told it many times myself.

“One day the merchant sent his servant to the market.  Before very long, the servant came back, white and trembling, and in great agitation said to his master: ‘Down in the market place I was jostled by a person in the crowd, and when I turned around I saw it was Death that jostled me.  Death looked at me and made a threatening gesture.  Master, please lend me your horse, for I must hasten away to avoid Death. I will ride to Samarra and there I will hide, and Death will not find me.’ The merchant lent him his horse and the servant galloped away in great haste. Later the merchant went down to the market place himself and found Death standing in the crowd. He went over and asked,‘Why did you frighten my servant this morning? Why did you make such a threatening gesture?’‘That was not a threatening gesture,’ Death said,‘It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.’”

We will all show up for our appointment with death.

But really, that is nothing. What is an even more terrible thought–after our death–we will face judgment.

God is saying in His word that we are all destined to face the judgment of God.

Are you ready?

How could anybody be ready?

We are sinful and unholy, rebels against God’s perfection.

We have all fallen short of the glory of God.

How could we be ready?

You know the answer to that, right?

Is the answer on your tongue? Do you still have the taste in your mouth of the bread and of the cup?

Verse 28 tells us how someone gets ready.

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people...”

That’s the only way that we can face judgment and survive!

That phrase “take away the sins” should remind us of Isaiah 53.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

That’s why we started with communion.

Are you ready to face judgment?

So many are not ready!

The only ones who are ready are those who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

Those who have put their faith in Jesus and Jesus alone.

To those are justified, counted as righteous in Christ.

There is no reincarnation and do-overs.

There is only death and judgment. And you and I will fail that judgment if we are outside of Jesus Christ.

That’s why this church preaches Christ. Because He is the only One Who can save us.

The gospel says that Jesus has come to make us ready to face death and judgment.

That’s the point of Christmas.

But this letter says more. It says that Jesus will come again to bring salvation. V.28 again.

“...and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin [not this time], but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Second and last question.


Because this actually says that you can know that you’re ready if you know you are waiting.

The people who get the salvation that the returning Christ is bringing are those who are (King James) “looking for him” (ESV) “eagerly awaiting him.”

They are the ones who have faith and hope in Jesus so that they long for His appearing.

You can know that you’re ready if you know you are waiting.

So, how do you know if you’re waiting?

What does waiting look like in the Bible?

Isn’t not just sitting around and twiddling your thumbs.

The eager expectation and watching and waiting in the New Testament is a very active sort of thing.

We are to be busy for the Lord while we wait for Him.

The EFCA Statement of Faith puts it this way:

We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service, and energetic mission” (Article #9).

I think that says it well.

Godly living. You know that you are waiting if you are growing in godliness.

Your faith in Christ and your hope for His return motivates you in sanctification.

1 John 3 says, “ [W]e know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

So we fight against temptation and sin because we know that Jesus is coming back.

And we keep gathering together for this kind of corporate worship and mutual edification in Christian community.

Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing [they’ve dropped out of church], but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Church becomes more important as the Return of Christ gets closer.

Sacrificial Service. In Evangelical Convictions, our explanation book for the EFCA Statement of Faith, the authors write about how being watchful means that we are energetically serving the Lord. They say, “Being watchful does not mean that we should sit out on the porch like a lonely dog, pining away until our master returns. Instead we are to live with the certainty that Christ is coming, and when he does we will be held accountable for how we have lived. Jesus compared our situation to that of stewards responsible for the master’s estate (Matthew 24:45-51) or to financial managers entrusted with the master’s money (Matthew 25:14-30). We have a job to do, and when our Master returns, he will reward his servants for their faithfulness” (pgs. 229-230).

I just preached on that last month at the Deep and Wide Conference [based on this message from 2 years ago]. How we are to do our jobs, our work, faithfully in light of the coming of Christ.

Did you do that this week?

Did you do your job faithfully because you know that Jesus is coming back and coming back soon?

Energetic Mission. Just like Frederick Franson told us over a hundred years ago, we need to get the gospel out because Jesus is coming back soon!

I don’t know when.

Nobody knows when!

The worst kind of preaching on the end times is the kind that gives you the idea that you know when it’s all going to happen.

We don’t. Our Lord Jesus said that He didn’t even know when it was going to happen!

Our Sunday School just read Acts 1 last week.

"‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ “He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.’”

That’s not for us to know.

So we need to be humble about it. Very humble it.

By the way, I love that about our approach to the end times in the EFCA.

We believe they are very important to study.

We believe that it’s very clear that Jesus was will return, His return will be personal and bodily. Just like He left, He will come back. Not some invisible return or just a spiritual return.

We believe that it’s important to study all of the details about the End Times, Daniel Revelation, the Olivet Discourse, the books of Thessalonians. It’s all over the Bible, and it’s all to be studied and believed.

But we also believe that there are a lot of details that are hard to understand and hard to synthesize. Hard to put into order. It hasn’t happened yet, so there is a lot to try to get straight.

And Christians have disagreed over the finer details of eschatology for a very long time.

Like every other area of ministry, we agree on all of the essentials and we allow people to disagree on the non-essentials, on the secondary things.

Not that both are true but that we extend grace and try to help each other to see what we each see there.

To use the big words, we have people who believe in pre-tribulationalism, mid-tribulationism, pre-wrath, and post-tribulationalism, and probably other positions. Some believe in "pan-tribulationalism" that it will all pan out in the end!

And we all get along!

And like I told you this last Summer, we are considering opening our doctrinal stance just a little wider by no longer requiring premillennialism.

I’m a committed premillennialist, but I don’t think it’s an essential like the other things in our statement of faith. I think it’s secondary at best.

And I love that we’re talking about all of this.

Because it’s all in the Bible, and it’s all important.

And we need to study it and learn it and to stay humble about it at the same time.

This “waiting” in verse 28 is not setting dates. It is staying busy and staying watchful and purifying yourself and staying in fellowship with others.

And it’s longing for Jesus to come back.


Do you long for Jesus to come back?

You aren’t ready if you don’t have some desire for Jesus to return.

In the second to last verse in the Bible Jesus prophesies His own return. Revelation 22:20. “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’"

And the very next words are our response.

"Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Are you waiting?

I’ll bet you are wondering what is the artifact in the box for today.

I don’t have one.

There is nothing in the box because this isn’t really about our past.

It’s about our future.

And our future is glorious.

I do have a couple of pictures though. Of things from the past that point to the future.

Does anybody recognize this?

This is the time capsule from the 100th anniversary celebration. It's a 50 year capsule, set to be opened in in 2042.

25 years ago, the folks here (many in this room) buried that time capsule.

Anybody remember what’s in it? That’s before my time.

Probably some pictures? Maybe some letters. Somebody told me that there was some Kids for Christ stuff in there.

If the Lord holds off and gives me life, I hope to be present at the opening of that time capsule in another 25 years. I’ll be 69 years old that year, and if I’m retired, I hope the church invites me back to witness it.

I’ll recognize a lot of those names.

That’s the future.

Here’s another set of time capsules that we have buried.

My son is very familiar with all of these as he’s helped with the mowing at the cemetery for the last several years.

These are all time capsules, as well.

Not that we will dig them up, but that the Lord will.

Because one day each grave will be opened and the Lord will give His people new resurrection life.

Not as zombies. But as glorified saints and citizens of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

Philippians 3:19&20.

“[O]ur citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

The Thessalonians were concerned about their loved ones who had died before the Lord returned.

They knew the Lord was returning and soon, and they were worried that those whom they had buried were somehow missing out on the resurrection.

So this is what Paul said to assure them and what I’ll end with for us today. 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep."

No, they have first dibs!

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

“Encourage each other with these words.”

Don’t let go of the return of Christ.

Keep it in front of you.

It’s our blessed hope.

His coming changes everything.

And makes it all worth it.

Let’s all be ready.

And let’s all be waiting for Jesus to come again.


Previous Messages in This Series
01. Jesus Christ and Him Crucified
02. Sing!
03. Lost and Found
04. The Church That Prays Together
05. Where Stands It Written?
06. The People On Your Fridge
07. I'm So Glad I'm A Part
08. Not In Vain
09. “It’s Our (Other) Middle Name!”
10. Here We Stand (Reformation Sunday)
11. Steadfast