Prophecy – The Practical Side – Luke 21:34-38
Father, we want to thank You for those that You've called out from this fellowship-- You've place them in school and You've sent them out to get that education. Father, we lift them up and pray that Your spirit will go with them. We realize that, although they might be apart from us in body, they're not in spirit, and we pray for them.
We pray that they could just excel in what you've called them to do, they could be prepared in that area that you've called them to. We pray that You'd bless them this year. Father, we also want to lift up the officer that was shot, Vic Web, last evening, and pray for his family, Lord, that You would comfort them and give them the faith and assurance that they need.
Reveal Yourself to him and to them. Father, now we look to the word and we pray that You would just have that little message that You want us to hear today. We realize that You're a God who is personal, and You have a personal touch and a personal claim in our lives. And so we open the world to see what You'd say to us this morning as Your children. In Jesus's name, amen.
Chapter 21 of Luke, beginning in verse 29-- excuse me-- beginning in verse 34-- "'But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life, that day would come upon you unexpectedly.
For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole Earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all of these things which will come to pass, and stand before the Son of Man.' And in the daytime, He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and He stayed on the mountain called Olivet. And early in the morning, all the people came to hear Him in the temple."
Jesus, in this section, is speaking about prophecy, the future. He is speaking in Luke chapter 21 about the second coming, about the tribulation, about the rapture, but Jesus is always practical. I love that about him. He always ends up on a practical note and sort of a challenge to those who adhere.
And although he's speaking of the tribulation and the rapture, and all of those things that many of us love to talk about, He ends with a very practical warning. He says, take heed or beware about the coming of the Lord. Now, there are many people who sort of condemn the study of prophecy, getting involved with the things and the teachings of the last days.
They say it's unprofitable. It's all speculation. And their argument runs something like this-- we have too much to be worried about today. We don't need to worry about the future. We have to live for today. I'm glad Jesus didn't think like that, because Jesus's thinking was this-- if you can realize what is yet to come, it will motivate you in your life to live for God today.
And so He teaches on prophecy. He teaches in detail concerning some of the things that will transpire in the last days. When you realize that over 1/3 of the entire scripture is prophetic, is dealing with the future, it'll make you look differently at it.
Remember Jesus, when He stood before Jerusalem, He looked at Jerusalem and he wept? He said, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you which killed the prophets, stoned all those that are sent unto you-- how often I would have gathered you like a mother hen gathers her young, but you wouldn't have it.
And because of that, he pronounced judgment on the inhabitants of Jerusalem. He said, if you would have only known what has happened to you in this, your day, the things that have been spoken about by the prophets-- if you would have only known and been aware of the day of your visitation, but now they are hidden from your eyes.
And Jesus goes on to pronounce judgment upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem because of their failure to be students of the prophetic scripture. They failed to realize what Daniel chapter 9 said-- that Jesus would come at a prescribed time-- and thus, they failed in preparing for the coming of the Lord.
It was very important. They messed with the Bible specifically said, when the Messiah would come. After the Resurrection, Jesus was walking with his disciples to Emeas. You remember the story. He was sort of incognito. They didn't know who He was.
And He walks up and He says, well, what's troubling you guys? This is, well, haven't you heard about the things that have happened around here the last couple of days? Jesus goes, what things? Says, oh, about Jesus of Nazareth-- the one that we trusted in, that we hoped was the Messiah. But now, He's crucified.
And Jesus, it says, beginning at Moses and all of the prophets, expounded how that He was the Messiah and the fulfillment of the prophecies. It is interesting that the very first Bible study after the Resurrection was a prophetic Bible study. It was foretold, Jesus said, what must happen, and you should have known.
And Jesus says, oh, slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets have said. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things entered into His glory? So to Jesus, it is very important, because He spends quite a bit of time in dealing with the future.
So actually, a study in prophecy is very practical. Actually, it's harder to find a more practical scripture than the one we just read. Now, we've entitled this morning's message as Prophecy, the Practical Side, or the Practical Side of Prophecy.
Because the purpose of studying prophecy is not so you and I can collect tidbits about Gog and Magog, who the Antichrist is, 666, and make a big deal out of that. It is intended to motivate us to get busy, because the Lord could come any moment. That's the true effect and the true result of a proper study in the future, or in prophecy.
And so Jesus ends up with this beautiful warning, and He says in verse 36 what we should do-- that we should watch and pray, as if it's a motivation. And a study in prophecy will motivate us in our personal lives, because it says in 1 John-- when he described the coming of the Lord, he says, we don't know what we're going to be like.
All we know is that when, He shall appear, we're going to be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And John goes on to say, everyone that has this hope within himself purifies himself, even as He is pure. And so studying prophecy is a very purifying effect, because we realize, hey, Jesus could come back any moment. And because of that, it will motivate us to live a pure life and to reach out for others.
Now, let's take this scripture in stages. First of all, let's look at the warning that Jesus gives. He says, beware-- verse 34-- "take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life, that that day come upon you unexpectedly."
This is a warning. This is a stop sign-- flashing yellow lights. He's saying now, you've heard all of these things about the rapture, and the tribulation, the second coming. I've expounded to you the things that would transpire in the last days. But now, beware. Here's a warning.
And He ends up very practically warning-- beware, lest your hearts be weighed down. There have been many books written on eschatology or prophecy dealing with the future. There've been conferences on prophecies.
And the church is always full of arguments about it, different people taking different sides-- well, I'm pre-trip. Well, I'm mid-trip. Well, I'm post-trip. Well, who cares? That's really not the important issue, is it? The important issue is the effect that that will have on our lives.
Jesus didn't say, OK, now that you know all these things are coming to pass, I want you to get together and have conferences and argue about who's right. Now, all of us are opinionated and have our different opinions in what we believe the scripture says, but the important thing is that we take heed to the practicality. Beware, lest our hearts become weighed down with certain things.
Now, I'd like you to look at chapter 20 for a minute. It's important that we realize to whom Jesus is giving this powerful warning. And in chapter 20 of Luke, it says in verse 45, "Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said"-- to whom? His disciples.
Remember that this is the context-- Jesus is speaking to His disciples. And then we go down in chapter 21 and in verse 5-- "And as some spoke of the temple and how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, 'As for these things which you see, the days will come in which not one stone will be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.'
And they asked Him, saying, 'Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?" Matthew 24 records the identical sermon that Jesus preaches here. And His disciples are the ones that are asking Him, when will these things be? What will the sign of your coming?
I bring that to your attention so that you remember to whom Jesus is speaking-- to His disciples. And it's to His disciples, His close followers that He's giving this warning to-- not just to anyone. Because it says that, in the hearing of all the people, He said to his disciples.
And the context of this is He's speaking to those who are following Jesus Christ. And to those close disciples, Jesus says, take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that they come upon you unexpectedly.
He wasn't speaking to the skeptical Pharisees. He wasn't speaking to the liberal Sadducees or the scribes. He was speaking to close followers of Jesus Christ, those who had given up everything to follow the Lord, those who are living a life of obedience. And to them, Jesus says, take heed.
Oftentimes, when we hear a message, our inclination is to think in our mind's eye about somebody else that should hear it. Isn't that right? We hear something and go, wow, and we think of the carnal Christian we spoke to the other day. He needs to hear that.
Oftentimes, I get the privilege of watching people's reaction to certain things, when I talk, and I often see a wife go like this to her husband-- the nudge-- or vice versa. In other words, she's saying, this is for you, bubba. Listen up-- you're blowing it.
And that's often our reaction is to think of someone else that should hear it, who's not as spiritual as we are. But I notice that Jesus here is speaking to me and to you. He's speaking to all of those who claim to be Christians, even the closest of his followers-- not just for the Sadducees or the Pharisees, but to those who have given up everything and following in a life of obedience.
Those disciples of His need to hear this warning too, and to those followers, He tells them to take heed. I bring this up to you because it shows us that you're never too spiritual to receive exhortation. There's never a plateau that we reach, where there isn't a danger.
And it shows me that even the most spiritual of Jesus' followers are susceptible to danger and are susceptible to falling. It was Paul who said that he thinks that he stands should take heed, lest he fall. The person says, oh, I'm never going to blow it like that person. Oh, you horrible-- look what he did-- sinned.
And we often point the finger, but remember, there's-- you point one, there's three pointing back at you. Take heed, lest you fall. And Jesus here isn't just speaking to the crowds, but those intimate followers of His. In fact, it seems that the closer you get to the Lord, the heavier it gets. The closer you draw to the Lord, Satan fires heavier artillery.
Have you ever noticed that? You desire-- you say, Lord, I'm fed up. I'm really going to walk with You from now on. I'm really going to start serving You like I know that I should. And as soon as you say that, boom, you're attacked.
And the moment you desire to really walk a life of obedience is when the snares of this world come upon us, and Satan Just lowers the boom. And so He warns even his closest followers. A lot of new believers get shook at this.
I think many times, they're told by older Christians that you accept the Lord, and it's just going to be rosy, and keen, and peachy-- and wow, it's just great. And it is, but that's half the story, isn't it?
And so someone will come to the Lord and be filled with zeal, and love, and joy, and think, wow, this is great-- the Lord changing his life. Then all of a sudden, God puts him in boot camp. You know what I mean.
And I've had so many Christians, after a couple months, go, hey, I don't feel it anymore. I don't sense God's presence like I used to. Where's the joy I had? I'm going through all these trials. My friends don't like me. My parents think I'm crazy. And I don't feel God's presence.
And God takes them through that process of boot camp trials, changing their lives through these things. And Satan begins to attack, and they've experienced then a warfare that they've never thought was around, because before you were a Christian, Satan didn't attack you like that.
But the closer that you draw to the Lord, often, Satan will attack. There is never a plateau that you reach. I've had young Christians come up to me and say, is there ever a point where you're not tempted anymore?
And you chuckle at that because you know it's not true. There's never a point where temptation ceases. It's always there. Satan will always attack. It will never quit until the day you're either raptured or die, and then you're in the presence of God.
But there's always those attacks, and so Jesus, knowing this, warns His most intimate closest followers about dangers-- the dangers that would come, especially during the last times. I think of Noah. Look at the examples of scripture. Noah, it says, was a man who walked with God. While the whole world was going one way, Noah went the other way.
But look at Noah after the flood. He fell into drunkenness. Abraham, a man of faith, walking with God, but Abraham also lapsed in his faith. Lot, who decided not to go with Sodom, but condemned Sodom and left the wickedness-- fell into an incestuous relationship afterwards.
David, a man after God's own heart, upright and all of his ways, yet David fell into adultery and fornication. There's never a plateau. Jesus says to us, maybe us who've given up everything, maybe us who think we're more spiritual than everyone else, take heed, beware, lest your own heart be weighed down with carousing, and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that day will come upon you unexpectedly.
CS Lewis, a man whom I respect, said that most Christians make two mistakes concerning the devil. One, they take him too seriously, and they blame everything on the devil. I've met Christians like that. It's raining outside-- it's the devil. Honey, the dryer ate your shirt up-- it's the devil.
It seems like a lot of people love to blame everything on the devil. They don't like to take the blame themselves. And some see a demon behind every bush, on every roof, in every car-- everywhere-- deliverance services and just casting out this and that.
CS Lewis said the balance is that some people either take him too seriously or not seriously enough. And there are people who say that Satan doesn't exist-- it's just a myth. And that's exactly what the devil wants-- exactly what he wants people to think.
The balance is Satan is alive and well on planet Earth, and he wants your hide. And is seeking to tempt you, especially those of you who are seeking a close walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, and so there's a warning. I want to tell you, though, that Satan really isn't interested in you.
And saying that, I don't want you to flatter yourself too much. He really could care less about you. It's only as you relate to Jesus Christ that he's interested in you. His main objective is to hurt God and to hurt the work of Jesus Christ upon the Earth-- to destroy the work of Jesus Christ upon the Earth.
And since you're a part of that, he seeks to destroy you. But you personally he could care less about. You're of no interest to him. So before you were saved, he tried to blind your mind and your heart to the truth, didn't he, telling you you don't need a Savior. You're fine the way you are. You're religious enough. You're good enough.
Now that you're a Christian, he's seeking to make you ineffective, to make you stale and stagnant so that you won't affect others for the Lord, so that you won't be a bright and shining witness. He wants to keep you burdened down and-- with the cares of this life, and carousing, and such, so that you won't be effective for the Lord.
There's a story that once, the demons had a conference, and the purpose of this conference was to destroy the work of Jesus Christ upon the Earth. So they all got their little evil heads together and decided, what can we do to destroy, finally, the work of God upon the Earth?
And one demon stood up and he said, I know what we'll do-- we'll go down and persuade men that there is no God, that he doesn't exist. And it was voted down. The demon said, that's kind of stupid. Because it is impossible for intelligent human beings not to believe in God, because they said, if we ourselves believe in God, how can we persuade others that there is no God?
So it was voted down. Another demon got up and said, I know what we'll do-- we'll go down to persuade people that Jesus Christ didn't exist-- that there's many roads to God, and Jesus was simply a philosophy, not really truly ever existing. And the demon stood up and said, no, it's not going to work.
Historical facts are historical facts, and Jesus is a fact of history. We can't deny that. So another one stood up-- said, I know what we'll do-- we will persuade men that death ends it all. There is no life after death. There is no immortality.
And the others voted it down. They said, no. If we persuade men of that, then people are going to say God must have been a fool to create man for this Earth only, and it's just not going to work. Finally, one demon stood up, and he goes, I know what we'll do.
And they all listened. He said, we'll go down to Earth and persuade men that there is a God, that Jesus Christ does exist, and that by believing in Him, a person can be saved. But we'll also persuade those same men that all they need is a profession of faith, but they can go on living as they want to. They can go on living in sin.
And so ever since, the demons have been persuading men that they need only to believe, but not behave as God wants them to. And that's the lie of Satan. And knowing that, Jesus warns even his most intimate followers. And this is what he warns.
He says this-- "Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down"-- which means to be pressured or to be burdened. Beware, lest your heart become pressured or burdened with what? With carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life.
Let me read to you the Amplified Bible's version. "But take heed to yourselves and put on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed, weighed down with the giddiness, and headache, and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries, and cares pertaining to the business of this life, that that day would come upon you suddenly like a trap."
Jesus here warns against self-indulgence, lest your heart become burdened, or depressed, or weighed down with self-indulgence. That's His message-- living for self. In reading this verse, I sort of think that Jesus was describing 1984-- carousing, drunkenness, the party scene.
Try to go out for dinner some Friday night. This last week, my wife and I went out to dinner to a place that is a restaurant, but also in the back, there's a bar. It was so crowded, we couldn't even find a place to park. As we sat down to eat, people were crowding the bar.
And it seemed like the big thing today is to go into the bar and choose your company for the weekend-- carousing. Now, you might look and then go, well, I'm safe. I don't do that. Watch the third one, Jesus says. He says, and the cares of this life.
How many Christians get bogged down with the cares of this life, spending their time being occupied with nonessential things, things that really don't matter or account? And they find themselves involved in this and this, and they really just don't count, do they?
I'll be honest with you, it's easy to get bogged down with nonessentials, and to skip the essentials of life. Jesus says beware. I worked one time with a physician-- very, very, extremely, excessively wealthy man. He was not a Christian.
We shared with him about true riches and true commitment, contentment, and he scoffed. He laughed it off. He had all the intelligent, intellectual answers why he shouldn't become a Christian. He was the most miserable human being I ever worked with or saw.
He was very wealthy and he had every reason, worldly-wise, to be happy, and he was very miserable. He had such a tight grip on his material possessions, he didn't even know the meaning of life. Beware, lest we get bogged down with the cares and the business of this life, the cares of this world.
If you own anything that you can't give away, then you don't own it. It owns you. We can be entrapped and ensnared by those things. Jesus says, beware. Have a light touch with this world. Realize that you're only a pilgrim. You're just passing through this stuff.
Your home really isn't here. Our roots really aren't here. So Jesus gives us the warning-- to beware-- carousing, drunkenness, the cares of this life. You know that you and I live in a dangerous time in history? We live in a dangerous time in history and a dangerous country, so to speak.
There are more creature comforts in our generation and in our country than any time else or anywhere else on Earth. Because of that, there are more allurements for us, more distractions for us in this life-- too many appealing magnetic things that can draw our attention away from God so easily.
In many ways, it's harder to serve the Lord in the United States than it is in a foreign country as a missionary. When I was in foreign countries, and when I lived overseas for about six months, I didn't have any of the allurements of the United States. It was real easy to give them up. I just couldn't get them.
I wasn't tempted with some of the things that I am tempted with here. They weren't around. They didn't exist. But this is a real battleground. It's real tough to serve the Lord in a country like. This there are distractions. There are allurements. And so this particular scripture is very important to us.
You can see the wisdom that Jesus had in speaking such a verse-- to beware, to watch out for it. And remember that these were disciples that He's warning about drunkenness, carousing, and the cares of this life. It's a warning to you and me.
One of the tragedies of the Christian life is that so many will accept Jesus Christ, and I see them start out with such zeal and boldness, giving it everything they've got, and slowly, they start running and getting bogged down. And all of a sudden, they start slowing up to a walk, and then maybe sitting.
Like David said, blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the council of the ungodly nor sit-- nor stand in the way of the sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful-- that slowing down of the walk, slowing down in the progression. And then maybe they'll hear a message and it'll stir them, and they'll shed a few tears, and they'll go, oh. I've got to rededicate my life.
And that's beautiful when the Lord does that. And they'll rededicate their lives. They'll run again, and all of a sudden, they'll get bogged down again. Months will pass, God will touch their hearts, rededicate their lives again, and they'll get bogged down again.
The cares of this life can do those things. I'd like you to remember as scripture. In fact, I'd like you to turn to this scripture in Colossians chapter 3. Paul puts in perspective our life on Earth.
He says in verse 1, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things of the Earth. For you died"-- that's an interesting way to put it, isn't it?
That's the right perspective. You're dead. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. That's the true perspective of life. We're dead. We should be dead to ourselves and alive unto God.
I've often heard people quote scriptures, that there seems to be a fifth gospel running around-- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Self. And all of the promises are underlined in technicolor, or yellow, or red-- like ask, and you shall receive-- anything, ask in My name, and I'll give it to you.
And I underline those scriptures do. I stand on them. But scriptures like, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow the Lord-- we might just turn the page and underline the one after that. And so I often hear people quoting scriptures-- ask anything and you'll get it-- but we forget to whom Jesus was speaking to-- disciples.
Who is a disciple? One who has forsaken his life, taken up his cross, and following the Lord-- a life of self-denial, not seeking his own self-indulgence, but the will and to please the Father. To them, Jesus says, you can ask anything and it will be given unto you.
It's not a blanket promise for anyone. It's to His disciples, those who are following Him. And to His disciples, He warns, lest we be burdened down with those things. Now, the second thing I'd like you to notice is in verse 35, the suddenness of the Lord's return.
"For it will come as a snare or a trap on all those who dwell upon the face of the Earth." It used to be, years ago, that only fanatics with sandwich boards-- protesters were saying, the end is near, and they had big signs that said repent. The Lord's coming is near.
And everybody laughed at them-- oh, a bunch of wild-eyed fanatics. But now, it's our scientists that are saying the coming of the Lord is near. The ecologists, the sociologists, the military experts, they're all saying, we don't have much time. It's not just the fanatics anymore.
And Jesus said that it will come quickly for the soon return of the Lord. And Jesus promised that it would come quickly. Few months ago, I stood upon the mountain that Jesus gave this sermon, on the Mount of Olives. And as I thought about this in my mind, all of the things that Jesus was describing would take place in Matthew chapter 24 and Luke chapter 21, I thought here, I am, standing, looking in Jerusalem where Jesus looked.
But I also am amazed at what accuracy those prophecies are being fulfilled in our lifetime. And I believe it's very possible that, within our lifetime, we'll see the return of Jesus Christ. He said it will come quickly like a snare.
Now, I want you to turn again to a scripture-- this is scripture turning day-- 2 Peter chapter 3. In verse 8, it says, "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is 1,000 years, and 1,000 years is one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but He is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the Heavens will pass away with a great noise, the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the Earth, and the works, and all that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all of these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons are you to be in holy conduct and godliness"-- now flip back to 1 Thessalonians.
Paul is also speaking about end times, but he says in chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians, "But concerning the times and the seasons, you have no need that I should write unto you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
And when they shall say, 'Peace and safety,' then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in the darkness, so that that day should overtake you as a thief.
You are sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as others, but let us watch and be sober." The coming of the Lord, when Jesus Christ comes back, will be like a bomb dropped on the Earth.
It'll come suddenly. It'll take people completely by surprise. Jesus said it will be like a snare or a trap falling down upon an animal. Unexpectedly, they're caught. But according to 1 Thessalonians, although we don't know the day nor the hour of the Lord's return-- and I think it's folly to say Jesus is coming back next year, August 12 at 3 o'clock, as some people have tried.
We don't know the day or the hour, but it says, of the times and the seasons, you know. You don't need me to tell you. And that they shouldn't overtake us as a thief. We, as Christians, are expecting it. It won't come so suddenly, because Jesus gave explicit signs and seasons to look for.
We're expecting the soon return of the Lord. But although we are, the danger, Jesus is warning, is becoming stagnant, stale, losing our effectiveness. It's like Keith Green has a song, and some of the words of the song go something like, I hear you talk about or say that I'm coming back soon, but you live a life as though I'll never come back.
And that's the danger Jesus is saying. You've heard these things. Here's the warning. You're expecting it. It'll come upon the world as a snare, as a trap. Although we're expecting it, we know that the Lord's return is near, let us not get weighed down by the cares of this world.
And then the third thing that I want to bring out in Luke chapter 21 is this-- what we should be doing until the Lord returns? He says-- verse 36-- "Watch therefore, and pray always that you could be counted worthy to escape all of these things that will come to pass, and stand before the Son of Man."
Now, in verse 34, it's a negative. Verse 36, it's a positive. First, He tells them what they shouldn't be doing, then He tells them what they should be doing-- says, you should watch and pray always that you could be counted worthy to escape.
Because we see these things winding down, there are certain things that we, as Christians, should be doing. Knowing that the Lord could come back at any moment, we shouldn't be on our rooftops waiting for the Lord, saying, well, I'm not going to go to school. I'm not going to go to college, because Jesus is coming back so soon, it's not worth it.
I've seen many people ripped off by that kind of thinking, or thinking, well, the Lord's coming back so soon, I'm going to hike up when my credit, go out and buy things on my credit cards, and then I'm going to get raptured and won't have to pay for it. There are certain things that we are to do. There's a certain attitude that we're to have, as Christians, knowing that the Lord's going to come back soon.
Now, a lot of people criticize those of us who believe that the Lord could come back at any moment, saying, well, that's an escapist attitude. You're looking for the great escape. Well, Jesus says, pray that you may escape these things. That's what He said. Pray that you can escape these things, and stand before the Son of Man.
But people say, well, you can't talk about the soon return of the Lord. It's going to make Christians lazy. We're to be reaching out in evangelism to the world. That's the whole point. I believe, in knowing that the Lord is coming back soon, that's going to make us want to reach out.
Knowing that the Lord could come back at any moment, we should tell people all the time that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that they should turn their lives over to Him, because we don't know how much time we have left. And a true belief in the soon return of the Lord will cause us, will motivate us to live godly lives.
I think there's a danger in believing the Lord is not coming soon. That can make someone lazy, for Jesus warned against the servant who said, my Lord is delaying his coming. Jesus call that a wicked and unprofitable servant. So Jesus says that we should watch and pray.
The word watch means to be on the alert, to be aware, to be constantly keeping your eyes open. So He says, always keep your eyes open, be on the alert, and always be praying. Prayer and watching go together. Now, why should we be on the alert like this? Because there's an enemy.
And Satan, Peter says, is like a roaring lion, walking around, trying to devour people. Jesus told Peter that Satan wanted to sift Peter as wheat. Knowing that we have an enemy, knowing that he's out to hurt the cause of Christ and to destroy us and our walk, and to make us stale, we should be on the alert, watching and praying.
This is the positive. This is what we should be doing in the last days-- a life of being on the alert and a life of prayer. It's like if you are in the service and you are camped in enemy territory, do you think you could just pull out your pillow and have a good night's sleep?
No. You'd sleep very light-- any noise, you'd wake up. If you heard a branch break, you'd wake up. You're always on the alert. Knowing this, we should always be on the alert, watching and praying. Now, the second part isn't as hard, I think, realistically, as the second part. It's a little easier to watch, but it's very hard to pray.
I think this is one of the toughest things that you and I do is prayer, because most Christians that I talk to always say, you know, I really want to get my prayer life in order with the Lord, and that's one of the most difficult things that I have to do. You begin to pray-- you get distracted. You begin to pray-- you fall asleep.
And it's difficult to pray, isn't it, many times? We wake up in the morning, we start to pray we, and we just-- we want to crawl back in bed. And yet, Jesus tells us that we should be praying and watching. Without telling us that we should be praying four hours a day, I want to give you some practical things on what you can do to pray.
Because I find, if I sit down on my couch and bow my head in prayer, I'm going to fall asleep. And so for me, it's practical to take a walk and pray. I can pray for a longer period of time, as I just walk, if I'm doing something and I don't close my eyes when I walk-- right into something.
That's why He says watch and pray. Keep your eyes open. But I'll take a walk and I'll pray. Or make a list. Write things down so you don't forget. Or call a friend that can pray with you, or get a prayer diary that can remind you to pray. All of these things are practical ways to improve your prayer life in the last days.
Doesn't mean you have to kneel before an altar and pray for eight agonizing hours, but you can have creative ways that you can release your prayer life before the Lord. Watch and pray. What are we to pray for? That we can escape all of these things.
When I was a young Christian-- I'll never forget this-- and every time I read this verse, it always brings back-- when I was a young Christian, there was a group of people that would always meet for a Bible study. And they called me over one afternoon-- said, Skip, we're going to have a Bible study.
It's in the Gospel of John or something. Come on over. Bring your Bible. I said, all right. And I heard in the background over the phone all of the voices of people kind of singing and having a good time. So I went over to this house for a Bible study. I knocked on the door, and there was no answer. I knocked and I knocked and I knocked.
Finally, I opened the door, and there were bibles on the floor, pencils on the floor. I smell bread cooking in the kitchen. The water was boiling. And I thought, oh my God. Oh God, I missed the rapture. I was sure I blew it.
And I knelt down. I was going to repent right there. But I knew it's too late. And I remembered this scripture-- watch and pray, so you could be counted worthy. And what had happened is that something happened in the back with the neighbors, and they were all called out back to see something-- an airplane flying over-- I don't know what it was-- some distraction.
But everyone was out back, and I just came and they saw my face red. I was sweating. What's wrong, Skip? Oh, I was so scared. Man, I'm never going to do that again. Watch and pray, that you can escape these things.
What things? The things that Jesus has been talking about in Luke chapter 21, concerning the judgment of God upon the Earth, the great tribulation period. I am praying to escape those things. Even if people say, that's just an escapist attitude, they can think that. I'm going to pray. Jesus told me to pray.
In Revelation chapter 5, it says, "In the right hand of him who sat upon the throne there was a scroll, with seven seals written on the inside and on the outside. And a strong angel said, 'Who is worthy to take this scroll and to loose the seals?'" And John looked and he said, none was found in Heaven, or in Earth, or under the Earth to take the scroll and to loose the seals. John says, I wept convulsively, because no one was found worthy to take this scroll.
And just then, he said, an angel nudged me. And he says, John, don't cry. "Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed to take the scroll and to loose the seals thereof." John says, then I looked and I saw a lamb, as if it had been slain.
And He took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat upon the throne, and as He did, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down, each having a harp and a golden bowl-- which is the prayers of the Saints. And it says, when they fell down, they sang a new song.
Who's they? Listen to the words of the song, and you'll know. You are worthy to take the scroll-- or worthy is the Lamb to take the scroll and to loose the seals thereof, for You have been slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, and have made us a kingdom of priests unto our God, and we will reign upon the Earth.
There's only one group that can sing that song, and that's the church, because only the church has been redeemed out of every tongue, tribe, people, and nation. Notice where the churches-- before the throne of God. That's what I am praying for. My prayer is that I can live a life and be counted worthy to escape these things, the judgment of God upon the Earth.
That's what I'm praying for. I've already memorized the song. Can't wait get up there. I don't know what the tune will be like, but I know the words. And it'll be a blast to sing that before the throne of God. In closing, this message of the soon return of the Lord has frightened many people, especially those whose lives are not prepared to meet God.
For those of us who have a living vital relationship with the Lord, when you hear these things, you don't get bummed out, do you? Jesus said, when you see these things coming to pass, look up. Your redemption is drawing near. So for all of us, we get excited.
And I think the world thinks we're nuts sometimes, when we see the calamities around us, and in the midst of it, we can have hope and purpose. But if you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ this morning, then you're about to face the greatest judgment that has ever been pronounced upon the Earth and you.
Jesus said that you can escape that. He gave us a warning of what we can do. He gave us the great escape, which is Jesus Christ himself. I grew up with a story-- you did too-- twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house-- and I remember every Christmas Eve hearing this story, reading this story.
Well, listen, I found another one that goes like that. It says, "Twas the night before Jesus came, and all through the house, not a creature was praying that, not one in the house. Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care in hopes that Jesus would not come there.
The children were dressing to crawl into bed, not once ever kneeling or bowing a head. And mom, in her rocker, with the baby on her lap, was watching the Late Show, while I took a nap. When out of the east, there arose such a clatter, I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but angels proclaiming that Jesus was here. With a light like the Sun sending forth a bright ray, I knew in a moment this must be the day.
The light of His face made me cover my head. It was Jesus returning, just like He said. And though I possessed worldly goods and wealth, I cried when I saw him in spite of myself. In the Book of Life, which he held in His hand, was the name written of every saved man.
He spoke not a word, as He searched for my name. When He said, it's not here, my head hung in shame. The people whose names had been written with love He gathered to take to His Father above. With those who who were ready He arose without a sound, while all of the rest were left standing around.
I fell to my knees, but it was too late. I'd had waited too long, and thus sealed my fate. I stood and I cried, as they rose out of sight. Oh, if only we had been ready tonight. In the words of this poem, the meaning is clear. The coming of Jesus is drawing near. There is only one life, and when comes the last call, will find that the Bible was true after all."
There's many people who hear messages like this, and say, I've heard it before. Lord isn't coming soon. That day then will take you like a trap falling upon you, like a bomb dropped. For the rest of us, remember that the warning is to his close intimate followers. These words will always apply to us. There always needs to be a warning of a closer walk in relationship with Jesus Christ, because of the allurements and the traps within this world.
Let's stand, and we'll pray together. Father, we pray, as Jesus asked us to and told us to, that we could be counted worthy to stand before Your presence, to escape all of these things. Lord, we look forward to the day when we'll stand about the throne of God, rejoicing, singing praises, for you have redeemed us out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, and You've made us a kingdom of peace upon the Earth, and we will reign with You.
Father, You have searched our hearts this morning, and we know if we're being overcome and deceived by the cares of this world and by carousing, by not taking these times seriously. Forgive us, Lord, if that's the case. Help us get a proper perspective of the days that we live in and be as David said-- that we could number our days and so apply our hearts into wisdom. Father, we pray that You'd make us ready for Your return. We ask it in Jesus's name, amen.