Eternal Reminders in Earthly Realities

School shootings. Movie theater shooting. Mall shootings. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Floods. Tornadoes. Wars. Rumors of war. Revolutions.

All reminders that there is no person, no government administration, no king on earth that can solve the woes of the world. Yet some (and more will) continue to look for this one (anyone but Jesus Christ) and be deceived and disappointed by many. But scripture, written thousands of years ago, speaks very clearly and often to this reality.

1 John 2:18 for example says: “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” (Also read 2 Thessalonians 2). But that reality is not what I want to focus on in this post.

What I want to focus on is that all the “tragedies” and “disasters” of 2012 (and ones before) are terrible reminders that we live in a dark, sinful, and fallen world. All reminders that we cannot fix the problems of the world. All reminders that education (though it, along with government has its place) is not “the” answer. All reminders that our only hope lies in Jesus Christ and His Second Coming. And that ought to be our hope and focus and longing as believers.

Read carefully the words of Romans 8:19-25 written close to 2,000 years ago but still applicable to today’s reality:

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

The fall of man (Genesis 3), the rebellion and disobedience of man, the sinfulness of man in turning away from trusting in, depending on and living in obedience to God, in rich and real fellowship with Him, is what put creation under a curse. Man and creation is decaying, dying, and dysfunctional. Not because God made us or it that way. Our creator and Savior (Jesus Christ) is the answer and the only one who can redeem mankind and will redeem creation.

Galatians 3:13-14 says: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”

And read in particular (or you can listen to our entire study through Revelation at www.theallenwoodchurch.org) Revelation 21-22. Because the bible tells us not only the reality of the past while speaking powerfully to the present, but also reveals the truth of the future.

But anyway here’s what I really want to get to and share with you in light of the “tragedies” and “disasters” of 2012 and before. Paul the apostle wrote this in Ephesians 2:1-5 to the Ephesus believers that is a good reminder to every believer today:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.”

How can someone go into a movie theater and just start killing people? How can someone go into an elementary school and open fire on little kids and teachers?

The answer lies in the above scripture. They (like we once were—even though we may not have carried out an act that “extreme” though we have a nature just as depraved) are slaves to sin and under the power of Satan himself. The world may attribute it to mental health problems and being disconnected from reality; but scripture calls it sin, being disconnected from relationship with God, and under the influence of oppressive and evil demonic powers.  The bible makes clear until or unless we are saved by Jesus, we are slaves to sin and though created by God, children of the devil (Romans 6; John 6:31-47) under the wrath of a Just God (Ephesians 2).

The only thing that sets someone free from sin and Satan’s power, is receiving the grace of our heavenly Father who loves us, through faith in Jesus Christ. But the reality is, not everyone is going to turn to and trust in Him. In fact the bible tells us things will only get worse not better the closer we get to Christ’s second coming. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 tells us this:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”

Notice by the way that in the midst of selfishness and sin, the world will not cast off “morality” (but actually gravitate to it) but it will be an empty shadow, not a true inner reality that transforms their heart and life. And that is because only Jesus Christ can transform someone from the inside out when they surrender their life to Him).

Anyway, 2012 has been a rough year for many. I live in NJ about 10-15 minutes from where Hurricane Sandy destroyed a lot of homes. Our church has been involved in hurricane relief ministry, along with groups of people who came up from PA to assist us. We have been right there with people who have lost everything. We have prayed with those emotionally distraught and overwhelmed. On top of these things, our church also been with those caught in different kinds of “storms”, in difficult or deep emotional, spiritual, and relational pain.

We live in a fallen, evil, wicked, sinful, messed up world. And it all traces back to the reality that human beings (as a whole) have sinned and are separated from God.

And there is a greater tragedy awaiting multitudes for eternity than any earthly tragedy. In fact Jesus used two earthly “tragedies” in His own day to remind people a greater eternal “tragedy” awaited them if they did not repent.

Luke 13:1-9 “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

On the surface, to some, that may seem insensitive or harsh. But actually it is incredibly loving of Jesus and in fact the extension of grace to any and all who would head His words and respond in repentance. In fact listen to what is recorded next right after this:

“Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'”

God has every right in His justice and righteousness to not give us any opportunity let alone many opportunities and then another opportunity to respond to His grace in repentance, receiving Christ as our Lord and Savior that we might bear fruit unto God!

In fact if God were only just, no one would go to heaven. God would be perfectly just to sentence us all to hell, because that is what we rightly deserve. But the bible tells us God is not just “just”. 1 John 4:8 says: “God is love.” But listen…though God is love that doesn’t mean He ceases to be just too. His is a Just Love and righteous grace. Let the words of Romans 3:22-26 explain:

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Listen. If we want to talk about “fairness” why don’t you ask how it is fair that Jesus, the one who created this world and you and me, who took on human flesh and lived a perfect life but suffered and died for the sins of all the world on a cruel cross, could allow us to be forgiven and saved?! How is that fair?!!

God owes us nothing. But He loves us and gave us everything (ultimately Himself) because He is not just a holy, righteous and just God, but a God of love, mercy and grace. That is the message of the Gospel!

Tragedies” and “disasters” are going to continue to happen until Christ comes again and later creates a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3, Revelation 21). These tragedies are shocking reminders we live in a fallen world that is not as it should be. They remind us of our need for repentance and God’s grace in Jesus Christ. And they point us to deal with the question of our eternity if we can see beyond and through the earthly pain.

John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Hebrews 11:13-16 “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

Revelation 21:1-5 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

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