Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:7-8). I’m sure by now everyone has heard about the unusually strong earthquake that struck the East Coast of the United States. The earthquake’s epicenter was located in central Virginia in an area known for seismic activity although it seldom produces a quake with such large magnitude. This quake comes a day after a similar magnitude earthquake struck in Colorado. All this shaken going on brings to mind Jesus words in Matthew 24: “In various places there will be famines and earthquakes.” Colorado and the East Coast definitely qualify as various places.
Even a casual observer would rightly observe strong earthquakes seem to be on the increase. Some prophecy teachers even point to this as evidence we are living in the last days very near the return of Christ. But the question remains: Does today’s earthquake, along with the many newsworthy earthquakes of recent days (Japan, Chili, Haiti) indicate we are nearing the terminus of the present age? When seeking to answer this question we must keep in mind the signs Jesus gave in Matthew 24 are specific to a very narrow window of time—seven years to be exact. This time period is known in Scripture as Daniel’s Seventieth Week. It is also referred to as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble and also as the Great Tribulation. It is the last half of this seven-year period where the earth will experience the severe outpouring of God’s wrath. So by themselves, earthquakes probably don’t mean too much. In fact, the Scoffer says, “For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). But reality leads us to a different conclusion—something is definitely up. When taken together with other global happenings such as the global economic unease, the wave of Islamic nationalism in the Middle East, and the growing threat of wars and rumors of wars, we must conclude things are not continuing the way they always have been. It seems the events of The Tribulation are beginning to cast their shadows into our present time. Perhaps we really are nearing that time when God will once again directly intervene in the affairs of man. The Bible reminds us He has done it before and He’ll do it again.
He will do it again. We got His Word on that! Therefore, the question we need to answer is one posed by the Apostle Peter: “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat” (2 Peter 3:11-12)? In the words of a modern-day theologian: “How shall we then live?” Peter answers that question for us. We should seek to live lives characterized by “holy conduct and godliness.” In 2 Peter 3:14, he admonishes us to “be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.” The world isn’t getting any better. In fact, it’s getting worse. We aren’t headed for some cosmic leap in global consciousness but an appointment with the Creator. Therefore, the wise will recognize the days in which we are living and prepare to meet God. That meeting may very well occur today. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
“Thus says the Lord God, ‘It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan, and you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates, to capture spoil and to seize plunder…” (Ezekiel 38:10-12). The Iranian president said on Friday there would be no room for Israel in the region after the formation of a Palestinian state, and that once the state is established; the liberation of all Palestinian lands should follow. He is quoted as saying to Israel, “There is no room for you in the region.” Such diatribes are nothing new from Mr. Ahmadinejad. In 2005 he stated Israel would soon be, “wiped off the map.” In 2006 he said, “The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm.” Interestingly enough, Ezekiel prophesied, “You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land” (Ezek. 38:9). When one considers Ezekiel’s prophecy speaks of an Iranian led, Russian equipped coalition of nations that come against Israel in the last days all of Ahmadinejad’s statements take on a whole new meaning. Add to that Iran’s feverous pursuit of nuclear weapons and the situation becomes dire, indeed—or so it would seem. But remember, appearances can be deceiving.
When considering Ezekiel’s prophecy in light of current world events there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, when it comes to predicting the future, Ezekiel bats one thousand—in other words, one hundred percent accuracy one hundred percent of the time. His prophecies concerning Israel’s return to its ancient homeland (Ezek. 36-37) have largely been fulfilled. The Palestinians are attempting to take all the land of Israel just as Ezekiel prophesied: “Because you have said, ‘these two nations and these two lands will be mine, and we will possess them’” (Ezek. 35:10). And now we see Persia—Iran of today—rising to prominence in the Middle East. Furthermore, Russia has entered into economic and military alliances with Iran and other nations mentioned in the Ezekiel 38-39 coalition. Furthermore, Ezekiel tells us Russia’s purpose for equipping and supporting this coalition—although reluctantly—will be to take spoil (Ezek. 38:12). What spoil has Israel that Russia and other nations might desire? In recent years huge natural gas fields have been discovered in Israel’s territorial waters. Furthermore, explorers suggest it’s only a matter of time before huge quantities of oil are discovered in Israel. Imagine how a massive Israeli oil discovery might upset the petroleum economies of the Middle East and the world. But that’s not all. We must also consider other biblical prophecies concerning the last days—the alignment of nations, apostasy in the church, the rise of the European super-state and Mediterranean Union, worldwide economic turmoil, preparation for the third Jewish Temple, arguments over Jerusalem, and the push for an elusive Middle East peace. To see all these things transpiring together suggests only one thing. Daniel’s Seventieth Week—also known as The Great Tribulation—is closer than most are willing to believe. And closer than that is the Rapture of the Church.
Clearly the hour is late. The return of Christ for His Church is closer than it’s ever been before. The amazing thing to me are those who claim to belong to Christ yet whose actions, lifestyle choices, and decisions in general give evidence they are not coming into the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, they are nowhere near prepared for the return of Christ. What about you? Are you prepared? Jesus said, “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect” (Luke 12:39-40). The evidence is all around us. Jesus is coming soon. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Are you ready to meet the Lord in the Air?
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5) What holds your heart right now? Does your soul yearn for Jesus, or the things of this world?Is your desire for Him or your sin?When living in an undisciplined age like ours, our affections can be unintentionally focused on the things of the world. Whether it’s the world or sin, misplaced affections rob us of the full glory of Christ. If you met Christ face to face this very moment would you hear “Well done,” or something akin to His assessment of the Church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:4: “You have left your first love.” Whatever worldly affections we might have, God expects you and me to overcome these things. Failure to overcome may very well indicate something far worse than misplaced affections. It could be indicative of not belonging to the Lord. John writes, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” My overcoming then is of utmost importance for it serves as an outward proof of inward change. John emphasizes this in an earlier passage when he writes, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
John says those who truly belong to Christ overcome the world. There is no hidden meaning here. This passage means exactly what it says. If one is born of God he or she will overcome the world. Their affections, although they may sometimes cross the line of being misplaced onto the things of this world, will in the end, always come back to that which is truly important—Christ. So, if you are able to comfortably embrace sin and let your affections settle onto the things of this world, watch out! Such could very well indicate you don’t belong to God.Remember, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” So clearly, the answer is overcoming.But how does one overcome the world? In this passage John says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval” (Heb. 11:1-2). True faith overcomes because true faith brings eternity into view. I read somewhere,“Faith discerns the excellence of the things believed, and therefore, fills the heart with love and longing. It displaces the world from the heart by introducing a new and infinitely higher affection.”That’s the key—a new and infinitely higher affection—a love and longing for namely, Christ Himself. Remember, faith is only as good as its object. The object of saving faith is Jesus Christ.“Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5) Our faith in Jesus overcomes the world and sin! Therefore, we can safely conclude if one’s faith is real then he or she will overcome the world. Is your faith real? Is your affection for Christ rather than anything this world has to offer or any sin with which Satan might tempt you? If so then be encouraged—you belong to the Lord!
As he neared the end of his first letter, John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).This is the key verse in the entire letter and serves to remind us we can know whether or not we possess eternal life. One way—the primary way—is through a changed life. Has your life radically changed where you now long for the things of God rather than the things of this world? Is your chief affection for Christ or something or someone else entirely? “The world is passing away, and also its lust; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). What is the will of God? That you and I believe and love the Lord Jesus Christ above all else
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