Comfort And Joy
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Mal 4:1 "For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," Says the LORD of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this," Says the LORD of hosts.
4 "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse."

Ro 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, (Namely comforting and patient with each other) according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. 8 Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: "For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name."

 Lu 21:25 "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 "men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. 27 "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." 29 Then He spoke to them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 "When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near 31 "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
 34 "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 "For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

Advent means coming, and in our texts today we see references to both His first coming and His second coming.  In our gospel lesson, Jesus has been engaged in a conversation with His disciples about future events.

There is much confusion over His words in the church today and it would be well for us to spend a little time on them this morning to help clarify the situation. I wish you all had your Bibles with you this morning, so you could mark these verses and make sure you have them set in the proper time frame of past, present, and future.  Those time frames are as follows:

Luke 21:8-11 speaks of events that will occur during the course of time and it includes things like false teaching, wars, and natural calamities. These will always be with us.

Luke 21:12-19 speaks of the immediate future for the disciples of Jesus and it includes, persecution, imprisonment, appearances before kings, betrayal by family members even unto death, and the promise that the Holy Spirit will give them the words to speak when they are on trial. These verses deal with the immediate future of the disciples.

Luke 21:20-24 speaks specifically of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D, and the fact that the Jews will never again regain complete control of that city. It will remain trampled by Gentiles until the end.

Luke 21:25-33 speaks of the Second Coming of Christ. It will be an instantaneous and simultaneous disruption of the sun, moon, stars, the earth, and the sea as the Son of Man returns in full glory!

Just as Isaiah became undone in the presence of our holy God, so will all of Godís creation on this great and dreadful day become undone in His presence. But believers will not be undone,  for they have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and when these instantaneous things happen, we are told in v28 to look up! Our redemption has drawn near to earth, the elevator that we call the Rapture has arrived.

Luke 21:34-36 speaks of warnings for all time. The disciples, you, and I need to take heed to these warnings. We need to be watchful of our faith and pray that we will be counted worthy to stand on Judgement Day.

I urge you to make these markings in your Bible, lest you be taken in by the glamorous versions of end time millenialism that pervades the airwaves on Christian radio stations and floods the shelves of Christian bookstores everywhere.  

While these doctrines make for entertaining reading and viewing, their only value is to make people aware that there will be Judgement and thankfully they do point out the way of escape. But you have all you need to know about escape right here in v36. Watch your faith and pray!

One other item to note in our gospel lesson is found in v32.  Jesus says, ďAssuredly, I say to you, THIS GENERATION will by no means pass away till all things are fulfilled.Ē At first glance one might think that Jesus is a false prophet.

I mean it appears that He is saying that the end shouldíve come shortly after He ascended into heaven. It didnít, that generation is gone and weíre still here! Therefore, He mustíve meant something else! The ďthis generationĒ that He refers to, are the type of Jews that He has been dealing with since Luke 19:45 through chapter 20.

He often referred to the unbelieving Jews as ďthis generation,Ē and thatís what is meant here. He was saying that those kind of Jews who refuse to believe that the Messiah has come will persist until He returns.

About 2400 years ago, the prophet Malachi, moved by the Holy Spirit penned these words concerning the Last Day, ďFor behold, the day is coming.Ē About 200 years before Malachi, the prophet Zephania penned these words:

 Zep 1:14 The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; There the mighty men shall cry out. 15 That day is a day of wrath, A day of trouble and distress, A day of devastation and desolation, A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 A day of trumpet and alarm Against the fortified cities And against the high towers. 17 "I will bring distress upon men, And they shall walk like blind men, Because they have sinned against the LORD; Their blood shall be poured out like dust, And their flesh like refuse." 18 Neither their silver nor their gold Shall be able to deliver them In the day of the LORD'S wrath; But the whole land shall be devoured By the fire of His jealousy, For He will make speedy riddance Of all those who dwell in the land.
2:1 Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, 2 Before the decree is issued, Or the day passes like chaff, Before the LORD'S fierce anger comes upon you, Before the day of the LORD'S anger comes upon you! 3 Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the LORD'S anger.

And the prophet Zechariah spoke of that last Day saying this about the enemies of the true Jerusalem, the true Jerusalem being the church of Jesus Christ:

Zec 14:12 And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: (Jesus said, you are either with Him or against Him) Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.

Thatís how sudden and decisive the end will be for those who arenít ready. No wonder Jesus urges us to not fall asleep on the watch. Watch your faith and pray to the end! Or your body parts will turn into the equivalent of alka seltzer tablets in a glass of water. Dissolving in the consuming fire of the judgement of Jesus.

If you and I want to be on that celestial elevator that takes us up to meet Jesus in the air when He returns, as Paul explained in his first letter to the Thessalonians,

 1Th 4:17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

then we would do well to listen to the words of the prophets: Zephaniah says,

3 Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, (Look up, you who have been meek!) Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the LORD'S anger.

Oh yes, meekness, ....that quality that is spoken of by Jesus that is found in our mission statement at Living Word, learning to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves. It is the meek, that Jesus says will inherit the earth. And not the burned up earth either, but the re-created Paradise of the new heavens and the new earth.

As bad as it is for unbelievers on the Last Day,  I love the picture that Malachi paints for the believers here on the Last Day:

 Mal 4:2 But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
 3 You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this," Says the LORD of hosts.

How can you describe that feeling of basking in warm sunlight? Thatís what the believer has in store for all eternity. Basking in the Sun of Righteosuness.

Have you ever seen calves on a spring day as they kick up their heels in the pasture, thatís the unbridled joy that awaits those who have kept watch over their God-given faith. Oh, if we only believed that kind of comfort and joy awaits us on the other side,  we would all more earnestly pray.....ĒCome Lord Jesus.Ē ďLet us out of the barn!Ē

Iíve been rethinking some things about the Lordís prayer lately, and this seems like an appropriate time to share them with you. Do you remember what prompted Jesus to give that prayer to His disciples?

 Lu 11:1 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."

How do you think John taught his disciples to pray? Since he was the Elijah spoken of here in Malachi, the one chosen to be the forerunner of Christ, I think he taught them to pray that the Christ would come! That He would show up. And one day He did, ďBehold the Lamb of God, John said, that takes away the sin of the world.

So Jesus likewise taught His disciples how to pray, only He taught in the light of the Second Advent or coming.
He said, ďOur Father, in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.Ē When is that going to happen? When will His perfect will in heaven be realized in itís fullness on the earth? When He comes again!

So the first part of the Lordís prayer is His church asking for the Second coming of Christ. Itís asking for His perfectly holy kingdom to come to this earth, that it will perfectly reflect His will!

The rest of the prayer deals with what we should pray for until that Second Coming! ďGive us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, (then He parenthetically adds a statement about the proper attitude of everyone who names the name of Christ) for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. (Until He comes again, we are to be a forgiving people. He continues:)   And do not lead us into temptation, (step in Lord, lest we give in and are disqualified) but deliver us from the evil one.Ē (And all his schemes to dislodge our faith)

I think the Lordís prayer is the prayer of His church for end times. In it, we ask for Him to come again, and in the meantime to provide for us materially and spiritually. So, watch your faith and pray. Pray the Lordís Prayer in the spirit in which it was given, because it was designed to ask God to help keep you until the Lord comes again!

Back to Malachi. He warns us to remember the Law of Moses, in other words remember the Word of God!

Then He promises to send a prophet like Elijah to help the people remember the Word of God, and it is attention to this Word of God that will prepare the hearts of people to receive Jesus as they are convicted of their sins and desire to turn from them.

What follows then is not the idea, (as some have taught and preached including myself) of fathers hearts being strangely warmed toward their children and vice versa, although certainly Christian children should love their fathers and Christian fathers should love their children.

But what is meant here is that this prophet will prepare the way for a return to the faith of the fathers. It will be a reconciliation of sorts with the restoration of, or return to, the faith of Abraham which simply stated is Abraham believed God and it was accounted to Him as righteousness.

His faith (the faith of the fathers) is reconciled to our faith (the faith of the children) when we believe the Gospel, for it is that belief, that faith, that is accounted to us as righteousness.

Yes, part of our Advent challenge is to remember the Law of Moses, the Word of God! What does it mean to remember? It means to recollect, in recollecting we reflect, and if we are reflecting properly, we should be excited about this love letter from God and be willing to share what He has been teaching us with others.

If I were to ask any of you the following question, would you be able to give me an answer? What has God taught you in His Word this week? What did you learn that you didnít know before? Or what did He affirm to you in His Word?

This is more important than you might think. Look back a couple of verses in Malachi and youíll see what I mean!

 Mal 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, (Are you speaking to each other about what God has been showing you in His Word?) And the LORD listened and heard them; (The Lord is blessed when you do this!) So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name. (He makes note of our shared meditations!)

 17 "They shall be Mine," says the LORD of hosts, "On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him." 18 Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, Between one who serves God And one who does not serve Him. (The Word matters to the true Servants of God! They not only read it, they share it with others and seek to heed it! )

This Advent season, as you prepare for the second coming of Christ,  get the dust off your Bible. And donít just read it for the sake of reading it, let God teach you something! Then speak with someone else about it! Get excited! Challenge each other to put it into practice!
It is just as our epistle lesson states: ďFor whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.Ē

We know that Scripture can provide comfort, but how can he say that Godís Word is patient! Patience is an attribute of something living! I can get comfort from an inanimate object, it doesnít have to be alive. But it is only the living that can give patience. Godís Word is living! Godís Word is patient!

Try to get a handle on this because it is so very important. Godís Word is very patient with you and it will not overwhelm you, it will feed you and mature you  at just the right pace! But it canít do that if you leave it on the shelf!

 That brother or sister who is still on their spiritual journey, still harsh, still careless with words, still belligerent, still boisterous, still proud, still stingy, still lazy, still self-centered, still judgmental, still moody, still given to occasional foul language, still struggling with a besetting sin that they long to be free of......Godís Word is patient with all of them. And you know what? It is still patient with you!

Even now, for most of you, Godís Word  is patiently waiting for you to pick it up again. And what better time than now during the Advent season. What a time to encourage each other to growth by continuing in Godís Word, ....exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:25)
We shouldnít be backing off from this mutual exhortation, we should be picking it up, especially as we see the Day approaching.  

Every one of us here have our faults. Every one of us have room to grow. Allow yourself the opportunity by getting into Godís Word and allowing it to get into you! Honestly seek to grow. Allow Godís Word to change your way of thinking. Allow it to challenge you to do things differently. To believe itís promises more strongly.

Jesus said in Jn 6:63,

 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

Paul speaks here of Godís patience in dealing with us and a reminder for us to therefore be patient with each other. As we patiently grow together we become like-minded and sing a glorious praise song to Jesus.

Itís about Godís glory, not our own. Therefore patiently receive each other just as Jesus patiently received His disciples and slowly shaped them with His teaching...all to the glory of God!

It goes without saying that we are not talking about winking at sin here, for sin is the greatest  hindrance of all. It must never be excused or swept under the rug. But we are talking about helping others grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as we encourage them to continue in Godís Word.

Where they and we, will receive the comfort of Godís milk as it concerns the gospel,  and the patient tutelage of the Holy Spirit in the matter of revelation that patiently produces sanctification as we seek to do Godís will. Thank God for His patience with you and be willing to be patient with others as Godís Word slowly but surely accomplishes what He desires.

Remember, according to Jesus, we are to ďwatch and prayĒ And one way we keep watch over our faith is to get into the Word of God and allow it to get into us. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

We need to keep hearing so faith will keep coming, because we are kept by the power of God through faith and through prayer........and again the Lordís prayer is a big help here in asking God to provide for our keeping. .

As Jesus spoke of His Second coming, He made it clear that it will be sudden. ďIt will come as a snareĒ. One minute youíre walking along the next minute youíre hanging upside down from a tree.

The only two things He told us to do in light of the suddenness of the end is to ďwatch and pray.Ē Watch your faith! Tend to your faith by daily revisiting what God did for you in baptism. (He washed away your sins! And gave you faith, and new life and the Holy Spirit)

Then take a little time to daily remember the Word of God and seek to put it into practice. (Faith without works is dead) Then pray the prayer that the Lord taught us to pray...... and you will do well. Eternal comfort and joy await all who believe and are baptized. Therefore watch your faith and pray.