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To Stand Before the Son of Man

Date: Nov. 29, 2015

Author: Michael Mark

Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:35-36

Key Verse: Luke 21:36

“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Welcome to Advent 2015! Today is the first day of the Advent Season, which happens every year, beginning the 4th Sunday before Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve. Advent also marks the beginning of the preaching calendar for churches that follow a lectionary. You may have noticed that we are reading from 4 passages today. These all come from a lectionary. A lectionary is a schedule of readings that typically consist of an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, an Epistle and a Gospel. There are a few standard lectionaries that many churches use. In general, for most of the year, the lectionary may proceed through one of the gospels (Matt, Mark or Luke), with the other passages related to it. On special occasions, the lectionary will have passages based on the theme, such as Advent or Easter. The 4 passages are related to one another, but sometimes a preacher can just preach on one or more of them, the congregation can sing the Psalm, or a preacher can preach on all of them. We don’t follow the lectionary throughout the year, but for the past few years we have been using it for Advent. The main reason we have done Advent is because generally in December we prepare for Christmas, and may decide on different books or themes during that month – Advent gives us a nice pre-defined set of passages, and also something new, and hopefully interesting as well, as it turns our focus to the coming of Christ, preparing our hearts for Christmas Day, taking a break from our regular going through a book, and also seeing what insights we can gain from 4 different passages.

Now back to the topic of Advent itself: Advent means “arrival” or “coming,” and during the season of Advent we commemorate the first coming of Christ and we also anticipate his second coming. It is probably something we should think about more – that anticipation and hope of the 2nd coming of Christ. Jesus’ first came humbly as a baby born in a manger, to come to die for the sin of the world. Jesus’ second coming will be with incredible power and terrifying signs, and he will come to judge the world. Judgment hardly sounds like fun. How can Jesus’ second coming be something that we look forward to, or anticipate? For the world, it is going to be a dreadful day, but for Christians, it will be a hopeful day. Jesus is coming again to judge all people in the world, without exception. Everyone will be called to account for the things they have done in this life (Rom 14:12, 2 Cor 5:10). Who is the one who can stand? Have you ever heard the term “Last man standing?” (I think it’s a TV show now but I’ve never seen it). In a competition, or other situation, it’s the winner, or the final individual who remains. It is the one who has overcome, and the person who has not lost. To stand before the Son of Man means to remain before him, to not be sentenced to be cast out into eternal punishment and sent away from his presence. When you come face to face with the Lord, and called to account – will you be convicted, guilty of sin and rebellion, idolatry? Or will you be found innocent, holy and blameless, righteous in the sight of God and able to stand? Will you be able to stand before the Son of Man?

Jesus has made a way for us to stand. That was the purpose of his first coming over 2,000 years ago. It was to establish a way of salvation for his chosen people. Look at Jeremiah 33:14-16, this is the one out of the 4 passages in our reading today: “’The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’” This prophecy was given to Jeremiah maybe less than one year before the fall of Judah, almost 600 years before Christ was born. Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, was under siege by Babylon, but God wanted to give his people hope, so that they will not fall into despair. He promised that a righteous Branch will sprout from David’s line, who will do what is right and just in the land. This is a difficult promise to accept, because this looked like the end for Jerusalem and their king, Zedekiah. If you remember from our 2 Kings studies not too long ago, Zedekiah was the last king before the fall, and he did evil in the eyes of the Lord. So how could there be another Branch, another sprout from David’s line that will do what is just and right?

God kept his promise by bringing Israel and Judah back from captivity in Babylon. It looked as thought it was the end for Israel, they were a conquered people, but God preserved them and their land and brought them back. Israel even exists as a nation today. When God brought Israel back to their land from exile, he preserved the descendants of King David. He then carried out his promise, and Mary, a direct descendant of David through his son Nathan, gave birth to Jesus though she was a virgin at that time. Joseph, a direct descendant of David through Solomon, adopted Jesus as his own son, giving Jesus legal right to be king of Israel. Jesus was the righteous Branch that sprouted from David’s line. When you see the word “branch,” think “family tree.” Descendants are like branches in a family tree.

Now Jesus was not an ordinary branch. He was a righteous Branch – that means he was perfect, he did what was right and good all the time, and his entire life without any exception was pleasing to God. He lived in complete obedience to God, he humbled himself, and even became obedient to death. He suffered. How is it, or how can it be that a righteous person suffer? It is because of sin. Sin is rebellion against God. It is the pride in our hearts that wants its own glory. It is the desire of our flesh to be satisfied that cause us to break God’s law. We know that God is good, but how can he be good to sinners? Behold the righteous branch, Jesus Christ, where God’s goodness and justice meet. God punished his one and only Son, with the punishment we deserve. We were spared, and Christ died for us, so that our sins could be forgiven. He was given our sins, so that we could be given his righteousness.

That is how Jesus made a way for us to stand, by giving us his righteousness. That is why we call him “The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” He is our Righteousness. Take note that Jesus is from David’s line. The significance of this is that, just as David was the king over God’s people, Jesus is now the king over God’s people. He has inherited David’s throne. If you are God’s people, then He is your king. Notice also in Luke that Jesus calls himself the “Son of Man.” It is true, that Jesus, the Son of God came into the world born in human flesh, and that is the nature and form he took, but Jesus here is referring to something even greater. In the book of Daniel, chapter 7:13-14, Daniel had a vision of one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven, and this son of man was given authority over all peoples of every nation, and given an everlasting dominion over his kingdom. When Jesus calls himself the “Son of Man,” he is referring to this prophecy, and he is actually saying that He is the One from heaven, and He is the eternal king. And because He is righteous, He rules in true righteousness and in true justice.

Look one more time at Jer 33:16, “In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” Looking at this, is Jerusalem living in safety today? It is not. There are news articles and stories of Israeli citizens carrying concealed guns to keep them safe. There’s a woman who has a nickname “Glocker Mom” in Israel because she carries a gun around. They are in constant conflict with the Palestinian people around them, and they are not far from ISIS. There is still sin in the world, and though it may have been worse historically, thousands of years ago, things seem to be getting worse again even in our time. That is why Jesus will come back. He will put an end to all sin in the world – unforgiven sinners will be cast away into eternal punishment, but forgiven sinners will inherit the earth. Moreover, they will inherit a new heavens and a new earth – the old heavens and earth will pass away, and a new heaven and earth will be restored. Heaven and earth may actually be one place in that time, and not separate like it is now. Now we can only know God by faith, but there we will see God face to face.

So why doesn’t Jesus come now, you might ask? Why doesn’t he destroy all the bad and establish all the good now? And that would actually be good, as a Christian should eagerly desire the Lord to come (see why Christians want him to return?). But then you might as well also ask, well, why didn’t Jesus come 500 years ago? Or 1000 years ago? Well, if he came in the past, you might not have been born. Or if he came 10 or 20 years ago, you may not have had the chance to repent. So thank God, he is patient with the world; but there is a cut off time. That time nobody knows, it will come unexpectedly and at that time it will be too late to repent. That will be the time of judgment. Things are really bad in this world, because of sin – and that is why there will be such dramatic signs in the skies and on the earth, because a drastic changes will take place. Will you be able to stand before the Son of Man when he comes again?

Jesus gives his disciples (both those he spoke to in the past, and all believers, including you who believe in this room) warnings and advice on how to be ready for when he comes again. I mean it when I say it – Jesus Christ is a benevolent, caring, and mindful king, as much as he is just and righteous. He wants and urges all of his people to be ready. So first, he gives this warning – look at Luke 21:34-35, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.” Carousing is excessive drinking, and it leads to drunkenness. Drunkenness is intoxication, so it might not only refer to alcohol consumption, I think even drug use can apply here. These things weigh down the heart, especially of a Christian, because of the guilt they can cause. I’m not opposed to a glass of beer or wine at a meal, but Jesus is talking here of too much drinking and un-sober living. These are like over indulgences or preoccupation with the pleasures in life, and often, these are the most common pleasures the world indulges in. College parties, bars, dance clubs – what would these be without alcohol? Again, nothing wrong with a drink, but this should not be the highlight of your life. Sad to say, it once was the highlight of mine, but all too often, it leads to regretful words and actions.

I will venture to say that most in here are not alcoholics, but what does Jesus put right up there with carousing and drunkenness? The anxieties of life. We all have these – the worries and the cares of this life. I think it is normal to have a little anxiety before a test, or an interview – but these anxieties should not weigh your heart down so much that you lose sight of the Christian life. Anxieties here refer to both the good and the bad anxieties, ultimately, neither type of anxiety, if it takes you away from the Lord, is good. The good type of anxieties, or cares of this life, are like money, material things or pleasures. It is possible to spend too much of your time and energy thinking about how to maximize your income, when you might already have enough, or having to take up 2 jobs to afford a luxury car or two, or luxuries that you don’t really need. What is it you live for? Do you live for just eating and pleasure, working simply to eat, or do you live for God? Today, perhaps more than in the past, our consumeristic society is consuming our lives more and more, distracting us from spending time thinking about the deeper issues in life that lead us to God – what is our purpose, what will happen in the end? An excessive desire for material things is idolatry. The bad type of anxieties might be wanting or going after things that are not right, like gambling, or alcohol or drugs. Again, both types of anxieties are not really good when they become the things we live for, instead of living to know God.

Jesus says to be careful about these things or the heart will be weighed down. That might be a good indication if the anxiety is becoming a problem. The heart becomes burdened with the care that it becomes too busy with it – so then most or all of a person’s time and energies will go toward that care, and they become at risk of being unprepared for the coming of the Lord. A light hearted example is my coworker. He rides the metra every day to work, and he needs to be mindful of the time or he will miss his train. Sometimes he gets wrapped up or absorbed in work that I have to remind him that his train will leave in 5 minutes, at that point he rushes to pack up and runs to the train. If he doesn’t keep watch, he will miss his train! A more serious example would be the world in the times of Noah. People were eating, drinking, going about their day, thinking nothing would happen, and suddenly the flood came. Or remember Sodom and Gomorrah. The people were pursuing after lusts of the flesh, there were none righteous, and judgment came upon them unexpectedly. Jesus says in v.34b-35, “that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.”   The world will go on, business as usual, happy hour parties, eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage. They ignore the messages and signs of judgment and carry on as if it will never come, and for those who are not alert and do not keep watch, that day will close on them suddenly like a trap. Noah I’m sure preached repentance as he was building the Ark, but no one listened to him.

So what should we do? Jesus gives us help. Can we all please read Luke 21:36, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” We don’t need to get extreme. We don’t need to quit our jobs and devote our lives to nothing but Bible study. We don’t need to purposefully live in poverty, or move into isolated communities awaiting the coming of our Lord. Quite the opposite actually. We should do good in every area of our lives: our families, taking care of them, our friends, showing them love, and even telling them the gospel, and our jobs, doing our best so that God may be glorified. We should expect it, and be ready for it. So on top of all of those things are to watch and pray. That’s why we shouldn’t worry about what we have or do not have, or even about when Christ will come – because when we worry we cannot watch or pray. But when we do watch and pray, we carry on our lives, continuing to watch and to pray, so that when he comes it will not catch us unexpectedly like a trap. No, rather, we were looking out for Christ through watching and praying.

What do we watch for? We definitely should watch out for our sins – the carousing, drunkenness, anxieties of life, and try to avoid them. We should also be on the watch for our Savior’s return. He can come back at any moment, we should watch as if he can come back tonight or tomorrow. Either you will see Christ when he comes again, or when you die, either way, you do not know the hour, but keep watch for the return of our Lord. Going back in the passage, he also gave these signs to watch for preceding his return in Luke 25-27. “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” We watch by keeping this in mind. Perhaps the end is coming near, still we don’t have to worry, but we keep our eyes out for these things. Maybe all of these things will happen at once, or rapidly – the sun will darken, the moon will not give its light, the stars appear to be falling, and Christ will come in the clouds. This is what we watch for, and when this happens, Jesus says in v.28, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” The world will be in terror and in fear, because judgment day has come, but the watchful Christian sees this in confident anticipation.

One way to keep watch is to know about these things, and look out for them, but another way to keep watch is to pray. We can keep watch through prayer. Watch and prayer go hand in hand, and is often mentioned together. Watch and pray, and you can watch through praying. Prayer is also the way in which we can prepare to be ready for his second coming. Has anyone ever had a pop quiz? They seem to be a fact of life as a student. You never know when the teacher will give a pop quiz, but how do you prepare for it? By doing your homework and studying every day. If you do that, the pop quiz should not be a problem for you (if the teacher is fair and only asks what you should know). In the same way, through prayer, we can be ready for the second coming of Christ. How is that? Prayer keeps our minds on God. It teaches us to depend on him, and trust him, and thank him for what he has done. Prayer helps us to conform and submit ourselves to do his will. Prayer is one of the most vital aspects of our Christian lives. The disciples even asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Last week, from Jimmy’s Thanksgiving message, we learned from 2 Tim 2:1, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions be made for all the people.” There are many examples in the Bible of prayers. For now, let’s look at the 2 examples given in our readings for today.

Look at 1 Thes 3:9-10, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.” Paul, Silas and Timothy were behind this letter to the Thessolonians, and they prayed night and day, most earnestly to see their brothers again. First, there is thanksgiving. Then, their prayers are eager, night and day. More specifically, their prayer, in v.11-12 is that God would make their love increase and overflow for one another, and that God may strengthen their hearts to be blameless and holy when Jesus comes again. They prayed for one another to love each other, and for God to strengthen their hearts. We see here that it is God who strengthens and makes our hearts holy, but still, we should pray this for others. How often do you pray for others in this ministry, outside of our Sunday service? Through prayer we can help one another be prepared for Christ’s second coming. Also note that there is prayer to love one another, increasingly and overflowingly. That is something that would be wonderful to be found doing when Christ comes again. Let us pray to love one another more and more.

And as we pray for others, we also pray for ourselves. In Psalm 25:1-10 you will find a prayer written by King David. Three things I find in this prayer is trusting in God, asking for his grace, and repentance for sins. David begins this Psalm with “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.” That is a great start to a prayer: to throw ourselves at the mercy and grace of God, to take the trust away from ourselves and our own abilities and to look to our Father in Heaven. In v.4-5, David asks, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me.” How shall we walk in this life? How do we follow God? Where does our understanding of truth come from? It comes from God, and he is pleased to give us wisdom when we ask. We can ask God for anything, and he will give us all we need to do his will. He will give us understanding. He will give us the strength to love one another. He will help us carry our burdens. And last, there is repentance for sins in David’s prayer, in v.7, “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.” Here is a confession of sin, and asking God to forgive and to forget them. David asks God to forget his sins, but to remember him. This is what we need daily, and this is what we need to ask when the Lord comes again. We ask, Lord, please do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways. How great in number they are. How I have hurt my brother when I was young and he looked up to me. How I have turned against a best friend for transferring to another school. How I have led others into sin. Remember not the sins of my youth, Lord, but remember me. When you come again, remember me. And forgive me, according to your love, forgive me. Help me also to watch my sin, and keep me from sinning against you.

Jesus tells us to always be on the watch and pray. Our prayers don’t have to be long. It is good to spend some time in prayer in the morning, and in the evening. It is great to meet together to pray. It is good to pray publicly, privately, and in secret, and even just short 2 second prayers, thanking God, or asking him for some grace needed for the moment. Pray continually, pray frequently and pray often, as much as possible desire to spend more time in prayer as you are able. Prayer helps us to keep watch – on ourselves, on others, and on God. And Jesus tells us to pray that we may be able to escape all that is about to happen. Judgment is coming upon the world. There are wars, bombings, citizens vs cops or cops vs citizens, because of the wickedness of men’s hearts. One day this is going to stop, and Jesus Christ, the eternal king, is coming to judge the living and the dead. He is only waiting now to give you an opportunity to be ready. Praise the Lord, and get ready now! Either he will come and you will see him, or you will see him when you die, in either case, the time is unexpected, so be ready, and keep watch for his return. Will you be ready to stand before the Son of Man? He is the all wise, all knowing king – not the least amount of sin can escape his eye. You have no righteousness of your own, but trust in Jesus, and he will be your righteousness. When he sees you who trust all in him, he sees not your righteousness, but his perfect righteousness that he have given to you, as if it were yours. As Jeremiah said, the gift of Jesus’ righteousness is a promise made by God freely given to all who would believe. Until he comes again, pray, pray for others and yourself, and he will strengthen you and keep you blameless until he returns. Pray, and ask the Lord to remember you when he comes again, according to his love, and he will save you. He will enable you to stand so that when you see the sun and moon darken, and the clouds coming, you will say “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”

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I Will Spare Them No Longer

Amos 7:1-9

Key Verse: 7:8b

And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

  “Behold, I am setting a plumb line
    in the midst of my people Israel;
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