God's tomorrow begins today
God’s tomorrow begins today
Our hope for the future
Greeting and Call to worship
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for “our God is a consuming fire”. (Hebrews 12:28)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (Galatians 1:3-4)
Doxology Hymn 331
Invocation and the Lord’s Prayer
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:7-8)
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespassers, as we also forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory,
Forever and ever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13)
Hymn no 92: “Glory be to God the Father”
Old Testament Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 5:22-6:3
Prayer of Adoration and Confession of sins
Declaration of pardoning
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. (Psalm 130:3-4)
Hymn no 218: “When I survey the wondrous cross”
Offering and Dedication
Prayer of Intercession and silent prayers
New Testament Reading: Matthew 25:14-30
Hymn 282: “God has spoken by his prophets”
For too long, Christians have been characterized by despair, defeat, and retreat. For too long, Christians have heeded the false doctrine which teaches that we are doomed to failure, that Christians cannot win — the notion that, until Jesus returns, Christians will steadily lose ground to the enemy.
The future of the Church, we were told, is to be a steady slide into apostasy. Therefore, any new outbreak of war, any rise in crime statistics, any new evidence of the breakdown of the family, was often oddly viewed as progress, a step forward toward the expected goal of the total collapse of civilization, a sign that Jesus might come to rescue us at any moment. It was often assumed that anyone who actually tried to improve the world must not really believe the Bible, because the Bible teaches that such efforts were bound to be futile; as one famous preacher put it, "You don’t polish brass on a sinking ship."
That slogan was based on two assumptions: first, that the world is nothing more than a "sinking ship"; second, that any organized program of Christian involvement into this world to help people implementing the principles and standards on every area of life, would be nothing more than "polishing brass." Evangelism was an invitation to join the losing side.
Imagine you calling your new minister, paying him a stipend, providing a house, making available travel allowance, only to comfort you with sweet words and a pat on the shoulder in the last moments before the Christian civilization falls apart.
Even worse, imagine our Lord Jesus Christ dying on the Cross and raised again only so that the world can become a progressively terrible place for His children to live in.
What then are we to say about the verse in Isaiah 52:
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!" (Isa 52:7)
Or even the verse from Philippians 2:
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. to the glory of God the Father.'(Phil 2:9-11).
A non-Biblical view of the Church
The picture of the sinking ship has two problems. One is a false view of Spirituality. The unbiblical idea of "spirituality” is that the truly "spiritual" man is the person who is sort of "non-physical," who doesn’t get involved in "earthly" things, who doesn’t work very much or think very hard, and who spends most of his time meditating about how he'd rather be in heaven. As long as he is on earth, though, he has one main duty in life: Get stepped on for Jesus. The spiritual man, in this view, is a loser. But at least he is a loser with good morals.
The teaching of the Bible is very different. When the Bible uses the term Spiritual, it is generally speaking of the Holy Spirit. To be Spiritual is to be guided and motivated by the Holy Spirit. It means obeying His commands as recorded in the Scriptures — all of Scriptures. The Spiritual man is not someone who floats in midair and hears eerie voices. The Spiritual man/woman is the person who does what the Bible says (Rom. 8:4-8). This means, therefore, that we are supposed to get involved in life. God wants us to apply Christian standards everywhere, in every area. Spirituality does not mean retreat and withdrawal from life; it means dominion under Christ as our Head. The basic Christian confession of faith is that Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9-10) - Lord of all things, in heaven and on earth. As Lord, He is to be glorified in every area (Rom. 11:36). In terms of Christian Spirituality, in terms of God's requirements for Christian action in every area of life, there is no reason for retreat.
The second obstacle to Christian action has been eschatology of defeat. For many people eschatology is only the doctrine of “last things”, our expectation of the very last days. And there is no question about the recent expectations of many Christians: we have looked forward to failure. For many, the devil is running the world and he is getting more and more powerful all the time. Ironically, the unintentional message of this gospel is: Antichrist is coming! There is something terribly lopsided about that.
In times past when the Church thought correctly about its hope in Christ, it radically shaped the history of Western civilization. Not one historian in a hundred years knows what motivated Christopher Columbus to seek a western route to the Indies. Trade? Yes, that was part of the reason. More than this, however, it was unfulfilled prophecy. Before he began his expeditions, Columbus crammed his journals with quotations from Isaiah and other Biblical writers, in which he detailed the numerous prophecies that the Great Commission to disciple all nations of the world would be successful. He figured that if the Indies were to be converted, a sea route would be a much more efficient way to take the Gospel to them. He credited his discoveries to the Holy Spirit, who was bringing to pass what Isaiah had foretold. Those explorers were bearers of the Gospel and their goal was to conquer the world for the Kingdom of God.
Do we really mean and believe what we sing in the words of "Stand up, stand up for Jesus”
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, you soldiers of the cross!
Lift high His royal tanner, it must not suffer loss:
from victory to victory His army He shall lead
till evil is defeated and Christ is Lord indeed.
God secures a future for an obeying church – for present and future generations
Let's look at our Scripture reading of tonight. In Deuteronomy 5:29 we read:
Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever.
In verse 31 we read that God is going to give them a land to possess - Canaan! But Moses warn:
So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you: do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.
This theme continues right through the rest of the book of Deuteronomy. Chapter 6:2 "So that you may enjoy good life", "so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly" (6:3) - to a total of seven times.
Of course, the grounds for the prosperous future lie in obeying the commands of the Lord. But once again, there are Christians and Bible teachers who argue that the commands of the Lord are limited only to the Spiritual life of the members of the church, as if it has nothing to do with the world around us.
Let's think about it: What do we mean when we say: Jesus is Lord and King? What is He Lord of, and what does his Kingdom encompasses? Was the Old Testament meant for the Israelites only, or is it still part of the infallible Word of God?
It is true that the ceremonial law has passed away. We don’t slaughter any animal when we come to church in order that our sins will be forgiven. In Christ, all those laws were fulfilled. He paid the ultimate price as the last sacrifice by the last Might Priest.
But the Ten Commandments still stand. That is also referred to as the Moral Law. Jesus Himself declared:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. " (Mat 5:17-19)
It is still wrong to murder; it is still wrong to covet your neighbour's wife and possessions; it is still wrong not to honour your father and mother, it is still wrong to steal; it is still wrong to desecrate the Sabbath Day; it is still wrong to abuse the Name of God; idolatry is still sin; to have more than one God is still sin. But as the law not to kill or not to covet is not confined to the walls of the church or to Christians only, so is it with the others.
What is means is this: There is only one God (Deut 6:4) and no other; and to Him belongs the world and everything in it - therefore He must be glorified in whatever we as his creatures do - in all spheres and walks of life.
So, when God’s church, washed and redeemed in the blood of Jesus, sanctified and made holy by the Sprirt, become obedient and diligent in observing God's will for our lives as expressed in the Word of God - the Bible - God intends for us to have a long and prosperous life. He promised His people Israel:
If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you. The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you.
God was quite dear about the counter-side of the blessing:
The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.
Because God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, He still does what He promised. He sends blessings upon his New Testament people - the church - and the blessing included the promise to grow and to conquer. Yes, we have a future. We have hope. The church will grow, as Christians in all walks of life will begin to apply the principles of God's infallible Word to their lives and actions.
How will we conquer?
Let's move on to the New Testament reading. You remember it was about the parable of the talents. Did you take note of the context of this parable? Matthew presents it as the second last parable of the Lord Jesus before He was betrayed and arrested.
We need to say something about the attitude of the disciples. When Jesus left the temple for the last time and predicted that He will rebuild it in His own body - referring to the resurrection - the disciples jumped into the future and asked when all this would take place. Right at the ascension of Jesus Christ, once again they asked: "Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?”
At that particular point in time they missed a very important aspect of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps they thought that now that Jesus is going to leave them, the best they can do, is to hope for a future some day when they will see the Kingdom restored. Their thinking excluded themselves.
But Christ, with the parable of the talents wanted to show them that the future of the Kingdom is not something that they will only onlookers of. Our Master showed them that the coming of the kingdom, their hope for a future, very much included them. Further, the coming of the Kingdom is not something that lies ahead in some hazy, misty future. No, the coming of the Kingdom is in the Risen Christ as reality. In other words: God's tomorrow starts today - and it definitely includes everyone of them, and of course us.
See, we are equipped with talents. And between the then and the now we are to use it to God's glory. And God's intention with it is that we bear fruit between the Cross of Christ and the Second Coming of Christ.
Using our talents is not an optional extra for only some people. It is a command, because some day we will have to account for what was given to us.
Further, the use of our talents cannot be limited to the church service or church activities. No, it calls for every Christian, in whatever situation or circumstance, to use those talents to the glory of God. The writer should write books to the glory of God. The singer should use his/her voice to the glory of God. The actor should do the same, and so the sculptor and the artist.
Why is it that the world seems to be a miserable place to live in? Why are we under the impression that the church is losing ground all the time? Why is it that we think this is the age of the devil? Isn’t it exactly because non-Christians are making the most of their talents, while Christians hide theirs under the bucket? Look at authors and sculptures and artists - what demoralising and distorted concoctions are dished up as art these days; what is presented as music these days?
When Christians will come out of their shells and start doing what they are called for, as they are gifted and talented by God to do, this world will look a great deal different. If Picasso could proclaim that he finds his highest purpose in distorting God's creation, think what Christians can do to prove him wrong! If only scientist could use their talents and see and proclaim God's glory in their research, can you imagine what will happen in this world? What will result be in the field of education? If all of us can start thinking God's way and using our talents - as they are sanctified in Christ - we all need repentance, we all need to come to Christ for forgiveness and new life in the Holy Spirit - can you imagine what effect it will have in the coming of the Kingdom?
We dont know when Christ will return. No-one knows. So, there is no reason to slow down or to try and jump the present to see if we can sit idle and wait for His return at heaven's door.
But one thing we know: He will come victoriously, and his church will be victorious. He has overcome; He is with us, to Him belong all authority in heaven and on earth, He has given us His Holy Spirit. What more do we need?
Therefore, obeying we will conquer, and conquering we must obey. Some day the knowledge of God will fill the earth as water covers the sea.
There is no reason for us to be pessimistic. In Christ we have a bright future. His church will be victorious, because Christ is victorious. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
But remember. God's tomorrow begins today. And it includes you. So, roll up the sleeves and get stuck into it.