[This entry follows a sermon preached at Gray Road Baptist Church, titled "Living with the End in Mind". Click on the title to listen to the audio.]
In Mark 13, Jesus speaks about two ends...the end of the temple, and the end of the age. His prophecy would be fulfilled about 4 decades after His death and resurrection, as the Romans finish a prolonged siege on the city of Jerusalem by destroying the temple. This judgment in time points us to the judgment that will come at the end of time. As Jesus instructed His disciples how to live as they awaited the end of the temple, so we should heed His instruction as we await the end of the age.
There are four phrases that summarize Jesus' teaching that we should keep in mind as we seek to be the good servants waiting for the master of the house to return (v. 33-36).
1. Do not be deceived (v. 5-8). As we wait for God to bring this age to its rightful end, we must stay clear-headed and refuse to be deceived. We live in a confusing age...an age in which the nature of the gospel is twisted. We live in a culture in which sound doctrine is seen as divisive...as if it were opposed to love. Clear thinking does not mark the church today, but it must mark us if we are to avoid deception. And...not being deceived is directly linked to the other three instructions.
2. You will suffer opposition (v. 9, 11-12). This is particularly true in light of the need to be clear in our thinking about Christ and the gospel. It seems that the clearer we are, the more fierce the opposition will be. It will come from outside the church, as those who openly hate Christianity. It will come from inside the church...from those say that Christians should "lighten up" with their gospel preaching. For many, it will even come from within the home. This opposition may be felt in some measure in American culture, but it is especially serious for of our brothers and sisters in other cultures. Whenever you need to be reminded of this, just visit the Voice of the Martyrs website, read their stories, pray for our brothers/sisters, and remember that the world hates them (& us) because the world hates Jesus.
3. You must preach the gospel (v. 10). Clearly, if we are to preach the right gospel, we must not be deceived about the gospel. We must think clearly about man's real problem. The real, eternal problem that man faces is that while we are sinful, we will be judged by a holy God. Our holy God created everything, and because He is the Creator, He has authority to judge all of mankind. His justice is thorough, and our eternal sin against our eternal God has earned the wage of eternal death. Yet, our of sheer grace, God has sent Christ to bear the punishment of sin. All who turn from their sin and trust in Christ will enjoy the benefit of Christ's death and resurrection, be forgiven of their sin, and rather than bearing their sin before God, they will bear the righteousness of Christ. This message rightly exalts and glorifies God as holy, just, merciful, and gracious. This message is also the only hope of salvation we have, and it is the only hope that any man or woman has as the end of the age approaches. So, we must continue to preach the gospel.
4. You must endure to the end (v. 13). The only way we will endure is if we continue to think clearly and continue to avoid deception. We must not allow our minds to be clouded by the ideals of the world. The writer of Hebrews encourages us on: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (12:1-3, NIV).
There was nothing worse in school than dozing off in class because I lost sleep the night before. Ok...there was something worse. It was made worse when my teacher would notice my dozing and ask me a question about whatever he/she just said. That was the worst. It was embarrassing. Much as I might try, my ignorance of the information in question was clear.
Dozing off in our responsibilities as Christians is not an option. The end is coming...that is certainly one truth about which we should not be deceived. As Christians, we must continue to work until the master of the house (i.e.- the Lord Jesus) returns. We must not fall asleep on the job. And what Jesus said to His disciples, He says to all...even all of us, "Stay awake!" (Mk. 12:37)