Sunday, September 20, 2015

Our Longsuffering Lord

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.                 2 Peter 3:1-9  NKJV

“Why are we still here?”  Have you heard another believer ask that question lately?  It seems to be one which I am hearing more and more, especially as we watch what is happening not only in this country, but around the world as well.  Of course, there are those who use the absence of God’s appearance to claim that it is proof we can justify disbelief in the promise of deliverance, but as you can see from the passage from Peter, this too has been foretold.  However we are still faced with the question; “what is God waiting for?” Might I suggest an answer to that question that most of us will probably find uncomfortable?

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.    Romans 11:25 NKJV

In the passage from Romans, most scholars agree that Paul is referring to God's plan for Israel when he says that the blindness of Israel will only last for a period of time, and will change once the “fullness of the Gentiles” has been achieved. The interpretation of the passage seems to rest on the meaning of the word fullness, which is the Greek word plērōma, which refers to the filling of something to completeness. It is often used to refer to a ship being filled, but it is also used in Acts to describe the filling of believers with the Holy Spirit. As such, many scholars believe what we are being told here is that the rapture of the Church is a “number specific” event which cannot occur until the desired number of believers is achieved.

If indeed this is a proper interpretation of this passage, and if God is in fact waiting for the specific number of believers to be reached in order for the body to be complete, my question to all of us today (myself included) is simply this; “whose fault is it we are still here?” God's? Not hardly! Speaking for myself, this passage from Romans is a personal “calling out” pointing out to me the importance of making sure I am fulfilling the primary responsibility of a believer which is to share the Gospel of Christ with those around me. Notice I said share the Gospel? Not be “active in my church”, “exercising my spiritual gift”, or “living my life as a witness to others”, and otherwise trying to be “busy” doing.

Does that sound harsh? I don't mean it to be, but if it makes us uncomfortable I think we need only look as far as the church at Ephesus and the letter addressed to it by our Lord Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation, to understand what Jesus expects from us.

"I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary."Nevertheless I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love.    Revelation 2:2-4 NKJV

What was their “first love”? Virtually every commentator or teacher I have ever read or heard speak interprets this to mean that they had forgotten the excitement which resulted in making sharing the gospel with an unbelieving world their primary goal. They were busy doing everything else that makes for a healthy body, yet they had lost the initial excitement of first love that made them want to share Christ with others. Do you remember what it was like when you first became a believer? Didn't we all want to shout out and share the joy with everyone we met? That is our “first love”, and one we should never forget. In the book of Acts, Paul shares with us his perspective on what he sees as his first love and our purpose in this life as well.

"But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.                 Acts 20:24 NKJV

The simple fact is that God uses His believers to share the message of Christ with an unbelieving world, and if we don't do it, it doesn't get done. Is it possible we as a body are making the same mistake as the church in Ephesus? Are we so busy “doing” what we think is important that we forget to do what God says is important?

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always [be] ready to [give] a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;    1 Peter 3:15 NKJV

I'm sure I am not alone in wanting to hear God tell me “well done” when I finally stand before Him. Years ago I decided that the following passage from Jesus' teaching in Matthew should be my personal motivation for sharing the Gospel in order to hear those words from the Father.

"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? "Blessed [is] that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.    Matthew 24:45-46 NKJV

If the rapture of the church is indeed based on the number of members in the body of Christ, then it is logical to assume that the rapture will occur at the moment the last person makes his or her decision to accept Christ into their heart. That said, it is entirely possible any one of us could be the person sharing the Gospel with that individual at that particular time. Many of us are disappointed to still be here given all the signs that the rapture is indeed imminent, yet if Paul is telling us that there is a number that has to be reached for the “fullness of the Gentiles” to “come in”, it is reasonable to conclude that it's our fault we are still here. As a body of believers, we need to remember our first love and share the Gospel with everyone we meet so God can “fill the boat” to completeness.

If you are reading this and have never made the decision to accept Jesus Christ into your heart and accept the free gift of eternal life He has offered you, I urge you to do so right now. You can do that by praying this prayer and accepting the gift of eternal life God has offered you by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Father, I know I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin, and I ask you now to forgive me of my sins. I want to receive your gift of salvation so please come into my heart and help me to live and follow you as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name, Amen.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.    Romans 1:16 NKJV

May Jesus find us all “so doing” when He comes.

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