Sunday, November 14, 2010

C, Pentecost 25 Proper 28 - Luke 21:5-19 "Eternal Endurance"

In the gospel reading before us today, Jesus speaks of the temple in Jerusalem and its desolation. But not only its demise through destruction but also the collapse of creation in future events of chaos!

When what we know and have depended upon for everyday life disintegrates, the restless hearts of humanity will boil over with fear and horrors that history hasn’t even experienced. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple—a place where heaven met earth and God dwelt with man—all those years ago in 70 AD, stands as a reminder and warning to us that the collapse of creation is coming.

And rightly so, the hearts of those who have elevated their created surroundings into their hope will be overcome with unquenchable anguish. Those who have lifted up this life as their heavenly paradise are heading for devastation just like the temple.

In stark contrast to these terminal times is the enduring name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the new temple. Through him, heaven meets earth. He is created like you and me, but he is also eternally begotten. Not only did he have a human beginning, conceived in the womb of a woman, God the Son has always been there eternally enduring with our Heavenly Father, even when the world was created and before.

Like the temple in Jerusalem, we find a place with God in Jesus’ person. No longer do we need to have our sin atoned for in the sacrifice at the temple with the spilling of animal’s blood, but we’ve had his blood spilt for us. The temple of his body was bludgeoned, beaten, and bled; left like temple rubble was Jesus dead on the cross.

We know the temple in Jerusalem has never been rebuilt, and will never be re-erected. Nevertheless, Jesus has been resurrected and lives and rules eternally at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Yet, we also know now that Jesus lives and rules eternally in the hearts of those who allow the Holy Spirit to create life-giving faith.

As the walls of Jerusalem’s temple crumbled and Jesus’ days on earth were chaotically brought to an end, we can expect the same thing to happen to us. As creation shows its signs of coming down, those living in Christ will increasingly be handed over to torturous times. Humanity’s darkness and chaos within will begin spilling out in spasms of spiritual and physical acts of hostility.

But this hostility will be a cover for the fear humanity has when it sees the things it adorns as beautiful, and the things to which humanity makes sacrificial offerings, beginning to perish.

In fact, in these times people will be looking more and more for answers, they will be more and more spiritual, and they will seek these things more and more in all the wrong places. The temples we have come to love and trust will come tumbling down.

This includes Christian people too. Many calling themselves Christian, who in fact have Christ temple-ing inside them, will rather trust the frame of his temple, their human frame, and be deceived; caught up chasing myths due to the spiritual and physical hostilities taking place in and around them. Some of the greatest attacks against the one true Christian church gathered around Jesus Christ, and individuals within it, will come from within the ranks of the church.

There will be those who will act towards faithful Christians as did Judas Iscariot towards Jesus Christ; seemingly with Christ one minute and against him and believers the next. There will be those who worship Jesus with us one day and then the next turn on us and hand us over to all types of torture, just as Jesus was worshiped on Palm Sunday and then handed over to death on Good Friday. Some will also be martyred for standing firm in Christ, just as has happened in the past, and is even happening in parts of the world today.

As the true church allows itself to be God’s mouthpiece, calling people out of darkness, being God’s agents of light in the world, the church is not going to win any favours from the those whose eyes have been blinded by darkness, and who refuse to have their darkness removed. Therefore, when the world is shaken, and you begin to witness horrors happening around you, know the end of suffering, or the realisation and revelation of eternal joy, is drawing near.

Jesus tells us not to be afraid, not to go after those who come seeking to stand in Christ’s place, or who seek to lead you by placing dread and fear on you that the end is coming. Jesus calls you and all who believe to stand firm in what our help really is. And our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Confess your sins and call on the name of the Lord, and he will forgive the guilt of your sin. In fact, you will only endure in him, his Word, his flesh, enabled by the Holy Spirit, who will fire faith within. He will enable you to endure whatever is shaken around you and within you.

One might wonder how we might survive these horrific days, if they are to come in our time! But in reality these times have been coming ever since Christ was raised into heaven, ever since the Holy Spirit was sent ten days later at Pentecost, and ever since the temple was sacked in Jerusalem forty odd years later in 70 AD.

However, these times of chaos and destruction come to all of us individually in our death. One day they will come as a wholesale event on earth but all of us are faced with the destruction of our mortal frame, just as the temple was destroyed and so too was Christ, momentarily on the cross.

Those who live in the one true church adorn Jesus Christ with their faith, showing and reflecting him in all his nobility and beauty. Just like one who loves living in the light continues in the upkeep of the candle or the wick, those who decorate Jesus Christ as their Saviour, will endure in faith, hope, and love towards him.

True believers will want to be in Jesus’ presence face to face in the warmth of his love, so they allow the enduring fuel of faith to burn within. For them it’s no longer the temple of the human frame that’s most important, but he who lives within making it a holy temple of the Lord.

So it won’t be a surprise when others hate us for not upholding the righteousness they believe to be beneficial in this world. They won’t like hearing about the truth of our darkness as we confess it to the Lord, because in our confession and subsequently being found blameless in God’s presence, others will know they too are judged guilty but will churn because they won’t want to rid themselves of their righteousness and therefore be at blame before God.

Then in their blame they will turn on you. Those dwelling in Christ, and he in them, will be persecuted. In refusing to align with humanity’s righteousness won’t win true Christians any honour in this wretched life.

If you’re wondering if you’re one within the ranks of Christ, know you are when you allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to repentance, returning you to Jesus’ righteousness, being in the peaceful presence of the Father; not to escape death out of fearful expectation of the worst, but because in you are love and joy just being with him.

Despite the threat against us, in spite of our reputation as “good people” amongst the world’s righteous being lost, and notwithstanding the trouble we will face this side of death because of our politically incorrect trust that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, and the only life, Jesus calls us to not only trust him but to stand in him and boldly speak his name.

He promises, “This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21:13–19 ESV)

Do you see what’s happening here? Some may be put to death, but not a hair of the head will perish! Our endurance will gain life. In our faithfulness to death we will gain life! Just as Jesus endured in his Father, enduring and knowing full well he would die, we too can endure in the Father, knowing full well we too will die. But death will have no hold over us, our death rather will be a restoration to whom we were always meant to be, not one hair of the head will perish.

In fact, even today as God allows the idols and temples of your heart to be destroyed he is calling you to endure in the joy and love of having your sinful self daily drowned in repentance, having all your righteousness die, so Christ might fulfil all righteousness within you.

As you notice the kingdoms and nations raging, the earth shaking, and the hatred of those against Christ in you, know that death has already been dealt its death in you, because having been buried with him in baptism …you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12 ESV)

In other words, what can truly now harm you? Nothing, when you allow him to daily raise you through repentance in faith! And in this faith which God gives, he will faithfully fill you with peace, joy, and love. By allowing Jesus Christ to endure in you as your Saviour, you will endure in him and be his light of love in a world of darkness and sin.

But those who reject his Word, who refuse his gift of grace, who stop God from being God within by blocking the Holy Spirit and the faith he seeks to give, (which is the new enduring eternal nature he want humanity to have in Christ), they sin against him and will be doomed.

But when all these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28 ESV) God is work in you enduring in you in order that you gain your eternal life in him. Amen.