New Years 2018: Will Jesus return in 2018: 12/31/17

Message: ‘Will Jesus return in 2018?’     Text: Matthew 24:32-46

 Intro: It’s that time of the year to once again make New Year’s resolutions. Have you made any? Here are the top 10 New Year’s resolutions according to Patch.com starting with #10

  • Focus more on appearance
  • Start a new hobby
  • Make new friends
  • Get a new job
  • Learn a new skill
  • Read more books
  • Get more sleep
  • Spend less money
  • Exercise more
  • Eat better

Did you notice that none of those New Year’s resolutions had anything to do with spiritual improvement? That’s the way it is with most people, even many Christians.

People easily make and break New Year’s resolutions, but it doesn’t mean that as we approach the new year, we shouldn’t consider ways to deepen,

  • to further develop what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Background: We’re at the end of what’s called in the church, the Advent Season. We know that Advent leads up to Christmas, but did you know that Advent is considered the start of the Church Year?

The Advent Season is about watching and preparing for the coming of Jesus as a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem. But, over the past 4 Sundays during our Advent Wreath lighting, we’ve seen that Advent is also about His second coming, His return at the end of the age.

  • And, just as we’re told to watch and prepare for His first coming, we’re also told to watch and prepare for His second coming.

Pastor Monty Newton talks about people who are diligently preparing for the end.  These ‘preppers’ as they’re called, are building underground bunkers, collecting large quantities of non-perishable food and water. They’re collecting weapons and learning how to use them. They plan to emerge from their bunkers and start a new life.

Now, we tend to think they’re, crazy, fanatics, but they are passionate about what they believe and are actively preparing themselves for what they think the end will be.

Christians, however, know the end, we know what happens… Jesus comes back! And we’re excited about the thought of no more war, no more pain or death. We know we’ll live with Jesus for all eternity.

  • But… few Christians eagerly anticipate and prepare for Jesus’ return.
  • Few Christians have the kind of passion for Jesus’ return that the doomsday people have for their version of the end.

As the Advent season comes to an end, as Christmas passes, we, perhaps, should start watching and preparing for Jesus’ second coming. Folks:

  • Do you know that Jesus is coming again?
  • Do you believe it could be in 2018?
  • Is it going to affect how you live in the new year?
  1. Matthew 24:32-35 The setting

Read: Matthew 24:32-35

Chapter 24 of Matthew’s gospel, is the start of what’s called ‘The Olivet Discourse.’

  • It takes place on the Tuesday before He was crucified.
  • It’s when Jesus took His disciples up on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and taught them about the end of the age.

Don’t miss the connection.

  • Not only did Jesus prepare His disciples for His death on the cross,
  • He also prepared them for His return in glory.

In verses 32-35, Jesus tells His disciples that there will be signs of His return. And He says that what He is telling them is absolutely true.

  1. Matthew 24:36-39 Be aware

Read: Matthew 24:36-39

Jesus is with His disciples on the Mount of Olives. He started to tell them what was going to happen in the end times. The disciples ask Jesus in verse 3: Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?

Jesus quickly answered them: concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

  • In other words, don’t ask me.

Why? It’s because there’s something more important than knowing the when of Jesus’ return, It’s the how.

  • Not the how of Jesus’ return, but the how are we going to live in light of His return?

Folks, that’s what Matthew 24-25 is all about.

Jesus begins to tell us how to live in light of His promised return, by giving us an example of how not to live.

ILL: Nelson Agholor is a wide receiver for the NFL’s team with the best record… 13-2, the Philadelphia Eagles. Agholor was a horrible receiver his first two years in the league. The guy could not catch a ball.

When you look at replays he would often start to turn his head downfield before he had the ball in his hands.

Fundamentals… Receiver coaches from the time you’re in Pee-Wee Football tell receivers:

  • Keep your eyes on the ball.
  • Watch it go into your hands.
  • Then… head downfield.
  • Agholor lost a lot of touchdowns because he failed to keep his eyes on the football.
  • BTW, he’s much better this year because he spent the offseason practicing with MVP candidate and Eagles quarterback, Carson Wentz.

What’s this have to do with our text…

  • Well, besides getting to mention that the Philadelphia Eagles have the best record in the NFL,
  • It’s what was happening in the days of Noah. No, they weren’t playing football, but they did fail to keep their eyes on God and it cost them their lives.

Noah told them that God was going to destroy the world with a huge flood. Noah told them to repent, to turn to God.

  • The people didn’t believe Noah.
  • The people didn’t believe God.
  • The people didn’t change how they lived
  • And the people didn’t repent.

All of them, with the exception of Noah and his family, were destroyed.

You see, living the lives, they wanted to live,  distracted them, kept them so busy they weren’t looking at God, believing God or living for God.

And sadly, there are far too many Christian, who are distracted, kept so busy by their lives, that they fail to see God and what He’s doing around them.

As if this warning wasn’t enough. God warns us again through the pen of the Apostle Paul:

  • Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17)

Look, Jesus isn’t saying that there was anything particularly wrong with eating, drinking or getting married.

  • It’s just that they were doing all those things as if nothing was going to happen.
  • They did those things… with no respect for God or for what God said.

On the Mount of Olives, Jesus was telling His disciples that when He returns,

  • people will be so immersed in their own lives, so busy with living,
  • that they won’t look to him, won’t change how they’re living, won’t repent
  • and they too will perish.

His point to His disciples… and to us…

  • don’t be like them.
  • Live your life focused on Jesus. Be aware of what God is doing around you.
  1. Matthew 24:40-44 Be awake & ready

Read: Matthew 24:40-44

Stay awake. You’re all familiar with the tern ‘sleep walking’, right?

  • It’s a behavior disorder that results in walking or doing other things, while asleep.
  • It’s a common misconception that a sleepwalker should not be awakened. In fact, it can be quite dangerous not to wake a sleepwalker.

That’s the picture we get here. As the time of Jesus’ return grows near, people will be sleep walking through life, doing things w/o notice of what’s going on around them… like people going missing.

  • He warns His disciples, and us, to stay awake.

Now don’t mistake stay away for a passive condition. In the Greek it means to actively watch, to be vigilant, to give strict attention to.

It’s a military term given to someone serving guard duty.

  • When I was in the army in Germany, guard duty meant both sitting at the gate making sure no one breaks in and walking the perimeter of the compound where I worked.
  • There was no sleeping and no just sitting there in a chair waiting for my replacement.
  • That’s not to say there weren’t soldiers who fell asleep while on guard duty.

We’re familiar enough with the Gospels to know that the disciples, like some soldiers on guard duty, had a problem staying awake.

  • Jesus asked them to pray with Him when He was transfigured and they fell asleep.
  • Jesus asked them to watch and pray while He was praying in the Garden just before His death and they fell asleep… twice!

Staying awake, spiritually, means

  • Not dozing off into lethargy: a laziness when it comes to maintaining and deepening your walk with Jesus.

Staying awake, spiritually, means

  • Not dozing off into apathy: a lack of concern for spiritual things.

Staying awake, spiritually means

  • Not dozing off into complacency: a sense that life is going well so I don’t need to do anything else.

Staying awake spiritually means

  • Being actively engaged in living life, in making choices, in light of Jesus’ return.

Jesus, knowing human nature, is telling us to stay awake spiritually… be ready for His return. And in verses 45-46 He tells us what being ready looks like.

  1. Matthew 24:45-46 Be faithful

Read: Matthew 24:45-46

 

ILL: A boy told his father, “Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hung over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?” The dad replied, “Two.” “No,” the son replied. “There are three frogs and one decides to jump, how many are left?” The dad said, “Oh, I get it, if one decides to jump, the others would too. So there are none left.” The boy said, “No dad, the answer is three. The frog only decided to jump.”  (Michael Bolin)

In verses 45-46, Jesus tells his disciples it’s not ok to have great intensions, and not follow through.

For someone to be a faithful servant of the Lord,

  • they can’t just have good intensions,
  • they can’t just say, ‘I resolve to have a closer walk with Jesus in 2018.’

They have to actually do the work.

Jesus put it this way in verse 46: Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Doing so… what? In this example, To give the household their food at the proper time.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we too are to be good stewards of what Jesus has and continues to tell us to do.

  • Even when we really don’t want to.
  • Even when it’s not all that convenient.
  • Even when to do so might make us uncomfortable.

Faithful servants do the work assigned to them by their master. That’s how we’re ready, how we prepare for Jesus’ return.

What tasks has Jesus assigned to us as we await His return? No time for details, how about just some bullet points?

  • Gather together for worship.
  • Meet with one another for fellowship, and encouragement.
  • Read and study God’s Word, both alone and in groups.
  • Pray, individually and corporately.
  • Share the reason for our hope in Jesus with all who will hear.
  • Use our gifts/talents to help build up those in this community of faith.
  • Strive together to help build the kingdom of God.
  • Trust God with our tomorrows, even when we are uncomfortable because we can’t see around the corner.
  • Diligently teach our children and grandchildren, about what it means to walk faithfully with God.
  • Honor God with our finances.
  • Feed the hungry, cloth the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the prisoner, care for the widow and orphan.

Conclusion: At the height of WWII, Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for taking a stand against Hitler. Yet he continued to urge fellow believers to resist Nazi tyranny.

A group of Christians, believing that Hitler was the Antichrist, asked Bonhoeffer, “Why do you expose yourself to all this danger?

Jesus will return any day, and all your work and suffering will be for nothing.” Bonhoeffer replied, “If Jesus returns tomorrow, then tomorrow I’ll rest from my labor. But today I have work to do. I must continue the struggle until it’s finished.” (Daily Bread)

Folks, as we face a new year, that’s the challenge that confronts us.

What’s interesting about Jesus’ comment about the people in Noah’s day is that He didn’t point to their wickedness to say this is why they were destroyed. Rather they were destroyed because they were unprepared.

  • They were too busy eating and drinking and getting married to bother thinking about getting right with God and the salvation He was providing by way of the ark.

The temptation for us is to think that we’ll always have time to get serious about our faith.

  • When our kids graduate high school.
  • When we get the promotion and the money that comes with it.
  • When… you fill in the blank with whatever might be keeping you from being in a committed relationship with Jesus rather than just a casual one.

You know, I bet there were many in Noah’s day who thought they could wait till the ark was finished before they had to get right with God.

  • But because the ark wasn’t finished yet, they thought they had time to focus on other things.

Folks, that’s the whole point of Jesus’ warning to us this morning. He said:

  • No one knows about that day or hour… So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him. (Adapted from Daniel Habban)

What if Jesus comes back in 2018… will you be ready?