Okay. Okay! Here is the skeleton of the Sunday Sermon. Remember, I don’t print it if you don’t ask.
The quote, attributed in our experience to Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1936, and later popularized by Robert Kennedy in 1966, is supposed to be an ancient Chinese curse, but that is something I cannot confirm. All I know is that I like it and I can certainly see why it is called a curse, though it sounds like a blessing. It is simply “May you live in interesting times.”
Friends, we live in interesting times.
- From a natural perspective, we live in
times when the world is waking up and stretching – we have an uptick in seismic
activity and a shift in the climate.
- From a political perspective, there is
an intensity in the division of political parties that we haven’t seen in
decades. This is true here, and around the world.
- From a judicial perspective, we have an uptick
in violence and a resistance to governance that is ripening all over the world.
- From a religious perspective, we have a
falling away from core beliefs and a rise in extremism in world religions.
- From a distinctly Christian perspective,
we have an abandonment of Traditional Orthodoxy and a move toward syncretism –
merging with the religions of this world.
Will you join me in prayer? “Lord, walk among us in these interesting times and speak peace to us, and to the world through us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
When he was writing his second letter to
The Church in Thessalonica, Paul spoke about the coming of interesting times. He
gave us a set of markers to recognize the coming times of trouble for The
Church in the world. Among many others, Paul gave us these markers:
Of the world, Paul says…
- …the mystery of lawlessness is
already at work
When Jesus spoke to the disciples, He spoke of “wars and rumors of wars.” Paul’s statement is an echo of that word from a slightly different angle. As we build toward the End of Days, we will see a resistance toward governance, especially toward the rule of law. Serious students of the Word understand this conversation to mean that there will be an increase in political and international tension as well as actual aggression and open warfare as the end of the age draws near.
There was tension in the world in the
first century. There is far more tension in the world now – now that the art of
war has grown to the extent that its weapons have the capacity to make the
entire globe uninhabitable. The stakes are higher than ever, and the tension
has risen with the stakes.
- …they did not receive the love
of the truth
Paul also told us that in the end of days the truth would not be popularly accepted. That is, the love of the truth would be rejected. In the Christian faith, those who reject the truth in favor of error are called heretics. Their belief-sets, called heresies. That leads to our next point:
- …they will believe what is false
Starting in the First Century and walking forward to the twenty-first, there are fifty-four major categories of heresy that have been active in the world. About a dozen of them arose in the First Century, and the rest have been raised over time.
Most of these heresies were laid to rest within a few decades after they arose, but these days something strange has happened. Many of those old, settled heresies have started breathing the air again. As I stand here before you today, at least 50 of the 54 heresies are active again to some degree.
In my opinion, the most damaging heresy in the world these days is Antinomianism, the belief that Christ’s death freed all human beings from all law – that there is no need to practice moral righteousness, or even to accept the Lord as Savior. When married to Universalism, this concept cripples evangelism.
Friends, the world is actively believing that which is false. But surely The Church is still pure and holy! Yes, The Church is pure and holy, but there is a line of distinction between The Church and all the people who have joined a Christian organization. We need to come to terms with that. But it’s not our job to sort out the true believers. We need to do two things:
- Make sure our own souls are sorted out.
- Make sure the Gospel we share with
others is the real thing.
Why? Because The Church, Paul promises,
will be saved by…
- …sanctification by the Holy Spirit
- …faith in the truth
We are called, convicted, forgiven, redeemed and empowered to live holy lives. We are not perfect, but we are held and loved. We can do better than we do – would you admit that? But we are doing the work of Christ in the world, by the will of the Father and in the power of the Holy Spirit. By that Holy Spirit we are sanctified – not saved by, but set apart for good works.
And we have the Holy Bible, the true
self-revelation of God to humankind. You own several copies, don’t you? But do
we have faith in that truth? Have we rested the full weight of our lives on
If we do and we have then we are The Church.
I am not a veteran. I have never served in the military, but I am the niece, the sister, and the friend of several veterans. I was married to a veteran who is now deceased. I have a son-in-law who served in Desert Storm and a grandson who is currently serving in the military. I have seen my flesh and blood shipped to a warzone, and I have suffered separation from those who were stationed abroad.
I know a little something about that level of devotion, and I tell you this: we – The Church – are at war with the evil that is bent on the destruction of God’s good creation. We are NOT at war with sinners. We are at war with the powers that are causing them harm and threatening their souls. We lay down our lives to see them set free. That is not hate. That is love. That the world cannot see that is part of the delusion of sin.
We are The Church. We have a calling. And we live in interesting times. Whether that is a blessing or a curse, I don’t know. But this I do know – these are our times, and our mandate is clear. Cherish the truth and share it. The rest is up to the Spirit moving through us and the grace of God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed… that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness.
But we should always give thanks to God for you… because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Epistle Lesson – Readings from 2 Thessalonians 2