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Signs of the Times Matthew 24.3-14

God has called us to be unleashed for the Gospel.  We ask questions like, “What is going on in the world?”  We wonder about current events.
Jesus prepared his disciples about what’s coming next.  God tells us to be set free to share the Gospel.  There are 2 struggles:
1)      Excitement about the future – I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about flying cars! 
2)      Other things remind us of the brokenness of our world. 

Jesus wants you and I to know the truth.  In Matthew 24 Jesus is with his disciples.  He was teaching them and getting them ready for healing and traveling and crowds would come. But then Jesus started talking about the cost of following Him.  The true believers will remain.  They’re the ones who will turn the world upside down.  They’re responsible for taking the Gospel worldwide.  Church isn’t something we do right here in this building, it’s something that disrupts our lives and transforms our lives. Jesus has told them the temple will be destroyed.  They have questions – Is this the end of times?

God wants you to know the truth.  Here we see the care of Jesus.

4And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 
11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 

Jesus was concerned that His disciples would get the wrong information.  False prophets will arise and lead many astray.  In John 14 Jesus has already said that he is the way, the truth and the life.  They know this.  Jesus will rise from the dead and return.  Others will claim they are the Messiah.  Jesus doesn’t want us to be fooled.

For example, if you encounter someone claiming to be Jesus, and then you encounter another you might wonder who is the real Jesus?  How do we know which one is the real Jesus? 

You won’t need an explanation when Jesus returns.  All on earth will know who Jesus is when He returns!  The sky will open up and this will be a visible return.  The dead in Christ will rise and those of us rise to meet Him in the air.  There will be no question about who Jesus is.  It will be an explosive power.  If this isn’t happening, it ISN’T JESUS.  False prophets will attempt to lead you astray.  

Fear will increase, but followers of Jesus have nothing to fear.

Persecution will be intense and we will be tested.  False prophets will say everything will get better etc…  They will claim things about Jesus the Bible doesn’t say.  People are afraid of what can happen.  FEAR sells books and charts!  People pack out conferences about the end of times.  The reality is that Jesus has given us all we need to know about the end of times.  We don’t need anything extra.  Jesus wants us to know the truth.

                        6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 

Jesus begins here by calming them.  Things will get BAD, but we have nothing to fear.  Do not be alarmed.  Do not panic.  Do not live in fear.  Don’t be alarmed by these things.  There will be wars, traumatic experiences.  Years ago I went to dinner with a man who wanted to talk about his past.  He was a pilot during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He wakes up at night panicking.  News causes fear of what could happen.  We understand there’s a sense of panic in the midst of instability. 

Most of these men Jesus is addressing will lose their lives.  Following Christ is costly.  Do not be afraid.  When we hear about events, Jesus says the end is not yet. Do not be afraid.  I’ve heard many say, “This is it!  The end!”  How will we know?  Jesus will appear in the sky and then we will know.  If we panic, we cannot do what God has called us to do. 

Some of you have a favorite blanket that you panic when it’s time to wash it.  It’s an irrational fear, but you’ve seen SOCKS get lost in the washer!  Mom assures us it’s going to be ok.

Jesus is assuring his disciples here.  A truth we need to know: nothing happens outside the control of God.  The world will come to an end.  The reason why is its part of restoration.  Destruction will be a part of making all things new.  God will restore our world and His people.  He has already begun doing this.  We do not panic because this is part of the process.  Be aware things will get worse. 

Persecution will increase and be normal.

There will be less people in between polar opposites.  These are the signs of what’s happening.  With this will come stronger resistance to the Gospel.  This will shock us.  Do not be alarmed.  It will happen, even locally.  The difficulty for us is that we do good here in our community.  We are grateful.  Not all people will be grateful for us.  Some will hate us.  What will we do when people don’t like us?

                        9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 
                        12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 

We don’t typically want hatred.  We want to be liked.  Some think we are bad people.  Some of us will lose our lives for following Christ.  If you’ve subscribed to a Christianity that teaches you won’t suffer you don’t have the Gospel of Christ.  Many are facing this kind of persecution.  It costs everything.  We need to be willing to lay down our lives to follow Him.  Don’t be surprised when people hate you.  They hate Christ.  There will be intense persecution for those who say there is a God.  We have to obey and follow.  This is normal conversation for us.  This is increasingly crazier in our society.  We can see changes when we make claims like there’s a God who created the world.  Don’t be alarmed.  Pilate found no fault in Jesus but Pilate still put Jesus to death.

The church will do what we are called to do.

Here’s what will happen, maybe in our own hearts, as long as people love us it’s easy to serve and do good things.  But what happens when people don’t appreciate you?  The hearts of any grow cold.  This is us, the church.  When loved ones die because they follow Jesus we pull back and retreat.  It will be harder to love people in the midst of persecution.  We need to do the same thing He did. While on the cross, people were hurling insults and mocking Him, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  The tendency is to crow cold and resist, but God calls us to love.  This is the moment we were made for.  Some churches are retreating.  I’m calling you to resist that trend.  We will not retreat and insulate ourselves.  We will rise up and when people persecute us, we will double our efforts!  This is expected.  It’s what Jesus called us to do.  We are ready for it.  We are not afraid!

14And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

When resistance comes, you and I will rise up and take the Gospel to the nations.  Part of what we’re doing is ushering in the Kingdom of God.  People who live in fear express that through hatred and persecution.  They have no answers for what’s happening in our world.  The only answer is we have sinned against a holy and righteous God.  God wants to redeem us.  Angry people in their anger will something different in us.  People will come to faith because of our faithfulness.  We will see this happen.  In areas of persecution there’s the greatest response to the Gospel.  How many times have you prayed for loved ones?  When you pray, “whatever you need to do God, please do it!”  This will happen but it will come by the way of people saying we are crazy idiots.  God will use this to bring hope to the multitudes of people.  While others retreat in fear, we will rise up and be the hope of the Gospel.  We have the hope of Easter!  Death does not hold us!  Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  We will not back down, we will rise up!


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