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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:Christ urges the Believer to prepare for His second coming by persevering in the Faith.
Text:Luke 18:8b (View)
Occasion:Christmas Eve
Topic:Christ's return
 
Added:2007-12-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

READ: LUKE 17: 20 - 18: 8
TEXT: LUKE 18: 8b
SING: PSALM 98: 3, 4
PSALM 33: 3, 6
PSALM 130: 3, 4
PSALM 27: 1, 6
HYMN 12: 1, 2, 3
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
The whole month of December is traditionally a month of reflection and anticipation. The time before the celebration of our Lord’s birth is known on the Christian calendar as the time of Advent. Advent is a time of sober reflection on one’s own preparedness for the second coming of Christ. It is a time of preparation for the final Day of judgement; a looking forward to Christ to come once more in the flesh; this time in victory, and with the purpose to unite heaven and earth, and to glorify those who belong to him. Those who are not written in the book of life will be banished from the earth, and thrown for ever in the lake of fire.
During the Middle Ages up until the Reformation, the month of December was celebrated in a most serious way. For it had become the custom to make that a time of fasting, of prayer, and of daily church attendance. During this time no marriages were allowed to be solemnized, the organ in the churches were to be silent, and the church buildings were decorated in the somber colour of purple. Of course, today we no longer have those practices. Since the Reformation these customs are no longer in place in the Reformed church.
We now also stand at the threshold of a new year. Soon we will be reflecting on what has happened in the year which is about to expire, and anticipate the new.
And also now we must ask ourselves, is it possible that Christ will come to earth for a second time? Will the coming year be the year of the last judgement? Will that be the year we will meet our Maker? Are we prepared for it? Are we properly preparing ourselves for that final day? The text of this morning/afternoon confronts us with these questions. For that is what Christ is after in this text. He asks a most important question. He asks, “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
He asks that question because he knows how it was with God’s covenant people, with Israel. Israel was not prepared for his first coming. Year in year out they claimed to be waiting for the Messiah. But when he did come they did not recognize him. They did not believe in that Jesus from Nazareth. He was a stranger to them.
They did not believe that he was the Messiah, nor that he was the Son of man. They did not believe, in spite of the fact that they were in possession of all the prophesies of his Coming. For they had the Bible. They had the whole Old testament. And they would tell you that they believed every word of it. Why is it then that they were caught so unprepared for his first coming?
And thus he asks this question of the believers who stand before him now. But note well that he does not answer that question. He wants the believer, and that includes you, to give the answer.
He asks the question after he gave the parable of the persistent widow and the judge. The parable depicts a widow who never gives up. She perseveres. She keeps her faith in spite of great odds. Christ gave that parable as a result of the conversation he had with the Pharisees and subsequently with his disciples about the last days. He tells them not to be like the Pharisees who have no idea of what persevering in the faith is all about. He wants to teach us. And so, let us listen to the preaching of God’s Word as I have summarized it under the following theme:
CHRIST URGES THE BELIEVER TO PREPARE FOR HIS SECOND COMING BY PERSEVERING IN THE FAITH.
1. The nature of such perseverance;
2. The reward of such perseverance.
As I said, the question which Christ asks in the text is in response to a question from the Pharisees. For they asked him when the kingdom of God was coming. They asked him that question, not out of faith, but only to see whether or not they could trip him up. That is all the Pharisees were interested in. For the question about the coming of the kingdom of God did not occupy them too much. And that was because they were sure that they of all people would be part of that kingdom. They did not see that there was anything seriously wrong in their lives. It did not even enter their minds that they might not be part of that kingdom. And for that reason Christ does not answer their question. At least not directly. He does not give them any date. He does not want to do that, for the kingdom of God is only for those who are part of that kingdom by true faith. It must be a spiritual reality. The Pharisees lacked that. They did not have true faith.
And Christ comes with the somber warning to all those who do not believe that for them his second coming will be a most terrifying event. It will be for them like the days of Noah. At that time everybody was going about his business, oblivious to the danger signs. They were eating and drinking; they were marrying and given in marriage. Until the flood came and destroyed them all. They were destroyed along with the rest of the world. They missed the boat. They were not on the ark. Only Noah and his family were.
Why? Why was only Noah and his family spared? For no other reason than that they had true faith. That is why Noah was not taken by surprise. He had prepared himself for the flood. He believed God and acted in accordance with that faith. He put his faith into action, and built the ark. He did not doubt that the destruction of the world through water was coming.
Noah, of course, did not have to do too much waiting for that to happen. For he knew that the destruction of the world was at hand. The Lord had told him so. He knew therefore that he would not have to wait all that long. And indeed he didn’t. It happened during his lifetime.
But for the church after the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, that is a different thing altogether, as no doubt you will agree. For, how long has the church been waiting for his second Coming? It has been some 2000 years. Many hundreds of thousands of Advent sermons have been held during that time. Also during our life times we have heard many such sermons. We have heard many a sermon about that coming Day of judgement. Many Christmasses and New Years have come and gone. Year in year out it is the same old thing. And there is no change, so it seems. There is still all that misery here on earth. There is still much suffering. There is still death and destruction, and the church in the various corners of the world continues to be persecuted, as has happened throughout the ages.
How many martyrs have not died for the faith throughout those 2000 years? And the church has been praying for a long, long time for that new age to be inaugurated. “When will you come again, Lord? When is there going to be an end to this sinful world? When is the new earth coming which you promised? Come, Lord. Come speedily. Do not delay.” That has been the prayer of the church throughout the ages.
Yet, there may be those in our midst who have doubts about the claim of Christ, and of his second coming. The church has been praying for so long. Are we fooling ourselves? Is it all a cruel hoax? Is he going to come again?
Such a question, of course, is not asked in faith. It is asked in unbelief. But is it any wonder, you may say. For there is a lot of uncertainty here on earth. That is why there is so much fear and anxiety. What is going to happen to this country? What is going to happen to the rest of the world? Not so long ago things looked a lot more promising. The communists lost their strangle hold over Eastern Europe. But now things again look uncertain. Nationalism, racism, neo-Naziism, Islamic fundamentalism, and all kinds of other terrible ‘isms’ threaten once more the stability in the world.
And now our hopes are being dashed. And the same thing holds true for our personal lives. We have our hopes and our dreams. But how often do our plans pan out? There is no security. At any time you can lose your job or your health or a loved one. We have no secure basis on which to build our lives.
It is for that reason that the question which the Lord Jesus asks is most pressing. For he knows the kinds of uncertainties man faces each day. He knows how hard it is for man to trust in a sure thing. And that is why the question that he asks is all the more important.
But he asks that question only after he gives us a parable about the unrighteous judge and the widow. For that widow is a lot like the church. The church, like the widow, has to learn to be patient; not to lose heart. For that widow had a matter on her heart which weighed heavily. She had been treated very badly, and was seeking justice. And she persisted in the matter. She would not be put off by the unrighteous judge. She kept on badgering him until he finally gave in.
For what was the case? The widow was without protection. She had lost her husband, her lord. And now she had no one to stand up for her rights. She was vulnerable. The Lord Jesus does not tell us exactly what her difficulty was. But it is clear that it is very important to her. It could be that some one tried to force her out of her own home, because the mortgage was being foreclosed, for example. It could be for another reason.
Whatever the case, she was being treated unjustly. And then she goes and puts herself under the protection of a prominent judge who has jurisdiction over her. She goes there full of hope.
But the judge will not even hear her case. To him she is nothing more than a lowly widow. Helping her would in no way advance his own cause. He does not want to be bothered with a trivial case such as hers. But day after day this widow comes back. And it is only because of her persistence that the judge finally gives in. He gives in because, according to the text, he does not want to be worn out by her continual coming.
In actual fact, according to the original language, it says that he does not want to get a black eye. It is another way of saying that he is afraid for his own reputation. He does not want his reputation tarnished. And that pesky widow, by her continual coming, is about to do that. Other people are beginning to notice. Only for that reason does he give in.
According to the introduction to this parable, the lesson to be learned from this parable is that the believer ought always to pray and not to lose heart. The Lord will hear you when you call upon him. Be like that widow. Do not give up.
But that is the only aspect which we may compare. For do not think, beloved, that the Lord expects us to compare the unrighteous judge to our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father is not an unrighteous judge. On the contrary. Therefore our Lord Jesus is actually saying, “When you come to God in prayer, do you think that he will not hear you? For do you think that your God is an unjust judge? Do you think that he is some cheap politician who is interested only in helping when it suits his own career? Nothing is farther from the truth. For the Lord your God is trustworthy. He will not let you down. If there is any place you will find justice, it is around his throne. For he will protect his church, his Bride, to the end of days. He will protect her without fail.”
For in that sense the church is not like the widow. She is his Bride. The widow must throw herself at the mercy of others. But the Church has almighty God as her husband. There are no uncertainties for her. For the church has the perfect husband. He will always fulfil his promises. He will never disappoint his Bride. He will never be unfaithful to her. He will certainly listen to his Bride. She is very precious to him. For he has bought her with his own precious blood.
But that is something that you must believe. For the Messiah did come. And yet, his own people did not recognize him. For thousands of years the Old Testament church had been waiting for the Messiah. There were many ways in which she lived in that expectation. The Lord God had instituted yearly feasts, such as the Passover to point to the coming of the Paschal Lamb. He had instituted the many sacrifices in the temple, to point to the unique sacrifice on the cross. And he had spoken to his people through the prophets to tell them of his coming.
And they waited and waited. They knew the prophesies. They knew even where he was to be born. For it was the scribes and the chief priests who pointed the wise men from the east to Bethlehem. That is where the Messiah was to be born. They knew all the prophesies concerning the Messiah. They knew that the Messiah would be born in the flesh, that he would be a Son of man. They waited for his birth; they waited to find out which woman would be so favoured by God that he would be born from her. They believed God, or so it seems.
And yet, it is sad to see that they did not really understand the prophesies concerning him. They did not realize the significance of his Name: Son of man. O sure, they knew about the prophesies of the Son of man in Daniel. They knew about that glorious passage. It was a passage which filled them with pride and with hope and great expectations. For what does it say? Daniel writes in chapter 7: 13ff., “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
No wonder they were so eagerly looking forward to the coming of the Son of man. That Son of man would vindicate the people Israel. He would show the world how great they are! That Son of man is from their nation. He would usher in the new age. He would come as the great king in the name of the Lord.
But surely that Son of man cannot be him who now stands before them, that Jesus of Nazareth? For that man has the audacity to identify himself with that figure.
That is something which the Jews do not understand. For that Jesus of Nazareth does not seem like such a great man to them. He is of no account. Who is he? He cannot be counted among the great. He was not born in some castle. He was born in a stable, the son of some poor people. His father was a mere carpenter. He could never be that son of man of Daniel. No way!
The Jews expected that Son of man to be a powerful figure who would take up arms and defend the nation of Israel against the Roman intruders. He would be greater than David and Solomon. He would restore the fortunes of their great nation, and throw off the Roman yoke, and win the great victory. He would make Israel great. Is that not what the prophesies meant? But who is this man who stands before them? Some carpenter’s son. That cannot be that same son of man mentioned in Daniel.
And we may ask ourselves, would we make the same mistake? Is it not understandable that they do not believe him? Would we not be as blind?
I hope not, brothers and sisters. For do you know why the Pharisees are so blind? They do not recognize the Son of man because he reminds them of their own lowliness. He reminds them of their own insignificance. He reminds them of how sinful they are. They do not recognize him because they do not realize that in order to be exalted you must first be humbled, totally humbled. It is abhorrent to them.
And so let me ask you, brothers and sisters, are you waiting for that same Son of man to come for a second time? Are you afraid that you do not know him?
Do you know when you will recognize him? There is only one way. Humble yourselves. Know how terribly sinful you are. Know how far you have fallen from grace. Fully realize the tremendous chasm that exists between you and God. It is a gap which is ever widening, insurmountable. And once you realize that, beloved, then you will recognize him. For then your eyes will be opened to the reality of how badly you need that great Redeemer. Then you do not have to seek him. But then he will have found you. And then his second Coming will not be a surprise. For then you know that Saviour.
And therefore examine yourself. Do not think that you belong to God’s people because you deserve it. Don’t be like the Pharisees in that regard. Don’t think that you are better than anyone else. But learn how the Scriptures prophesy about you. Learn why Christ came in the first place. He came to save sinners. He did not come to save the self-righteous. And in that state of mind wait for his second coming. And there is a great reward if you wait for him in that way. We come to our final point.
2. There may be those among us who are not so taken in by the question that the Lord Jesus asks in the text. For the question which he asks is not all that interesting to us. We are busy with other things. We have other questions. Young people ask, “What is going to happen in my life? Will I ever get married? When? To whom? How many children will I have? Will I own my own home? Where will I live? What kind of a job will I have?
Others ask, “Will there be war during my life time? Will my children be happy? What will be the circumstances of my death?” And so there are many more questions which occupy us. And these are important questions. And yet, one question must come first. And that is the question of this text, “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Do not think that the Lord Jesus asks this question out of curiosity, or because he is afraid that there will no longer be any believers here on earth when he comes back. He knows that there will be. And he knows how many will be saved. He knows his own. He also knows that there will never be a time when there is no one on earth to serve him. Some have thought that the Lord Jesus asks this question out of disappointment. They say that he is disappointed even in his disciples. For even they do not understand his mission. Here he is, almost at the end of his life on earth. And so few have accepted him.
But do not believe that for a moment, beloved. Do not think that the Lord asks this question out of morbid pessimism. That is not the state of mind of the Lord Jesus. For elsewhere he prays to the Father, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled” (John 17:12).
Why then does he ask the question? Well beloved, he asks in order to encourage us to have faith, not to give up as we wait for his coming. He asks it in order to provoke a life of faith, a life of expectation for his Second Coming.
And then you may say, but that is so hard. Waiting for him is so difficult. There are so many things that keep me so busy. I would rather think about other things. That is a lot more pleasant. For, I am not very sure of myself. I do not know if I have what it takes to be saved. There are so many sins in my life. I cannot overcome my shortcomings. I am not sure if I could be ready for his coming. I realize the seriousness of the Advent preaching. My knees knock if I think about it. I am so afraid.
But then beloved, this question is designed especially to help you. For that is the kind of heart the Lord is looking for. For now there is only one thing to do. And that is to go on your knees, and to admit to the Lord your God: “I am not ready Lord. Everything is lacking in my own life. I have no redeeming qualities. And therefore I come to you for help. O Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
If that is how you humble yourself before him, then the Lord will hear you. For, unlike the unrighteous judge, he is eager to hear you ask him to come to him. He is eager for you to assert your rights on the basis of the blood of his Son. He is waiting for you to come humbly before him. He is waiting for you with open arms. And he will not turn you away. Knock and it will be opened.
Indeed, the Lord will hear you when you come knocking at his door. For he loves you. And he wants you to enter. He does not see you as a sinner any longer because of the blood of Christ. He sees you as someone who is very precious. Do not doubt that beloved. Listen to him.
But now let us turn this question around for a moment. Will it also be the other way around, that you will hear the Lord your God when he calls you? Do you hear him? Do you listen to him when he speaks to you? For it cannot be a one-way street, beloved. God also wants you to listen to him, and to hear him.
God again comes to you this morning/afternoon in his Word. It is the voice of him who shall come to judge the living and the dead. What is your answer to him? Shall he continue to find faith in you, in this month of December, in the New Year? Will you persevere in the faith? Or will you, when adversity strikes, turn your back on him. Or will you, when you are called to examine yourself and to look at your own sinfulness, harden yourself in your sins? Are you truly a man or a woman of faith? Are you ready to meet your Maker? Are you willing to see yourself through God’s eyes, as a special covenant child of his? Do you believe in him? Do you have faith? Ask yourself, “When the Son of man comes, will he find that kind of faith in me? How will you answer that question, brother or sister? Amen




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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