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The Lamb who Came is the Lion who is to Come: The Certainty of Christ's Return and Why it Matters

The Christmas we celebrate on December 25 is one of two Christmases. The second is still to come. For those who know Christ, His return should be something we look foward to with eagerness and joy. To believers He would say, "Go and be faithful today with what you've been given." For others it will be a time of great regret. To them He would say, "Come and repent while there is time."

Todd WagnerDec 13, 2009
Luke 4:14-21

Messages In This Series (14)
The Lamb who Came is the Lion who is to Come: The Certainty of Christ's Return and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerDec 13, 2009
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (9 am service)
Nick VujicicDec 6, 2009
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (5:30 pm service)
Nick VujicicDec 6, 2009
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (11 am service)
Nick VujicicDec 6, 2009
Why it Matters that Eternal/Abundant Life Starts Now
Todd WagnerNov 29, 2009
The One Hope for You and for the World: Why it Matters that the Church is Healthy and Defined Correctly
Todd WagnerNov 22, 2009
The Person of the Holy Spirit: Understanding Who He is and Why That Matters
Todd WagnerNov 15, 2009
Salvation: Two Equal and Opposite Errors and Why Getting Them Straight Matters
Todd WagnerNov 8, 2009
Jesus: Who Do You Say He is and Why It Matters
Todd WagnerNov 1, 2009
Understanding Our Total Depravity and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerOct 25, 2009
The Image of God in Man and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerOct 18, 2009
The Character and Nature of God: Who He is and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerOct 11, 2009
Who Is the Trinity, and Why It Matters
Todd WagnerSep 27, 2009
The Truth About Truth: Where to Find it and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerSep 20, 2009

Good morning. I'm glad you're here. I know Gary was talking about the Dallas White Rock Marathon. There are a bunch of folks who aren't here because we've adopted one of the last miles, which is great. There are a bunch of folks this morning (They'll be with us this evening) who are down there encouraging folks as they finish that race.

They are using that as an opportunity to have some spiritual conversations about finishing the race well. Some of our body is down there ministering to the 20,000 in Dallas that are getting after it this morning. Like Gary said, I am glad I am here. My body was not built for that trek, I'll tell you. We are talking about truths that will help us be built for this trek.

All of us are in a marathon: the life of a relationship with God, of following Christ. It has often been said, it's not a sprint. It is a marathon. In order to run that marathon with joy, in order to push through certain walls that you hit when you do run marathons… There is always that moment when you go, "I'm not sure, no matter how much I've trained it, that I can keep doing this, that I want to keep doing this."

You need encouragement. We are told to "… encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." We've been talking about 12 big truths. We are on number 12 this week. These are truths that if you don't fully embrace them, if you don't get them entirely right; the ramifications in your life are going to be immense.

They're going to be eternal. They're going to be complete. Both in terms of how it affects your quality of life and then even just as significantly, the kind of life you have when you move that eternally fixed beginning, which is the grave. The grave is not an end. It is an eternally fixed beginning. The Scripture says that, "…it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…"

What I want to talk to you about today is that we will not all die, the Scripture says. We don't know when this moment where God is going to move us toward our eternally fixed beginning is without actual death. There are events in Scripture that anticipate one of these days that Christ will move quickly. That he will return.

The twelfth truth that you have got to get your arms around or it will affect the way you live your life with passion. You will hit a wall in your Christian life. You will not be able to persevere. You will not be able to endure. You will not live with joy if you do not fully embrace the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Chris is alive and he has told us that he will return.

Let me just say this right here. We don't have a ton of time, so I'm not going to walk you through what is called a complete and full eschatology. I'm not going to explain to you the doctrine of last things. I'm not going to give you all the charts and show you what it is that we believe the best and most reliable interpretation of Scripture is in terms of a prophetic calendar.

What I want to really focus on this morning is not being a part of the planning committee, if you will, but being part of the welcoming committee. It is that when he does return, and he will. His job is to return. Our job is to be ready. If you focus too much on how the events are going to break out when he returns…

There's a reason that you should have some familiarity with that because Jesus gave us some information. You ought to avail yourself to it. I think we've sometimes moved to being obsessed with that information and have gotten very consumed with it. We take the New York Times and we drape it over the book of Daniel, the book of Revelation and we go, "That must be this! This is what's going on now! This is what's happening!" Jesus just flat out tells you that no man knows the hour when he is returning.

There are signs. Here's what I want to share. When I taught verse by verse through the gospel of Mark early on when we started here at Watermark, and we got to what is called the Olivet Discourse. The Olivet Discourse is when Jesus gathered his disciples toward the end of his life and he said, "Look, let me explain some things to you about the kingdom and who I am and how I'm going to accomplish all things that all the Scriptures already anticipated about who the Messiah will be.

You're a little confused because you still think that I'm going to do everything I said I was going to do right now. I'm not mad at you. Let me open up God's Word for you and explain it." I'm going to show you this morning why the Jews were confused and why many people today continue to scoff.

Bottom line, he just said, "Mark my Word. I will return. My kingdom will be established. What I came to establish right now is my kingdom in your hearts and to reconcile you to me. I've left you here to do a work because I don't want for anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance so they might have a relationship with me.

Even as the Father sent me to reconcile the world to myself, I now send you. Even as the Father loves the world enough to allow me to suffer so that others might be reconciled to him, I love you enough to join me in that sacred privilege of serving the Father. You should love the Father as much as I did. You should suffer here for me so that others can come through me. It's a marathon. Be sure of this. I am coming."

Let me just let you look at a few Scriptures. The very first time that Jesus spoke, you knew he was going to have a successful ministry because the very first message he gave was about four minutes long. That will endear you to people. In Luke, chapter 4, this is what Jesus did. He started off it says, "And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district."

Verse 15, "And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written…"

This passage is from Isaiah 61. "'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.'" And he stopped. "And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'"

We cannot, there's almost no way for us to get our arms around what happened in that little synagogue that day. What he basically said is, "Hey, I'm not just Joseph and Mary's boy. I'm not the one with controversy around my birth. I am the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I am that little child who is going to lead you. I am Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Wonderful Counselor. I am Prince of Peace. This passage that you've all memorized and loved? Today it has been fulfilled in your presence. Ta-da!"

Watch. Look what he did not do. He stopped. Jesus had some time still, but he stopped. Let's go back now to Isaiah 61. This is the text that Jesus opened up and he began to read from. See if it looks familiar. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord…"

Then verse 2. "…And the day of vengeance of our God…" But he left that out. In fact, don't go back. You had it right. It says, "…to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord…" That's what we call Isaiah 61:2a. Jesus did not read Isaiah 61:2b and c. He was as concerned about correct Bible interpretation as anybody. He knows context is important. He has a reason he stopped after "…to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord…".

Because he wasn't here in that moment as Messiah and the Anointed One to talk about vengeance of God. Isn't that what we all want? We want somebody to come and be our avenger and to deliver us from evil. Jesus did. Most of us think of evil as that which is outside of us that makes us uncomfortable.

What Christ said, "The problem with what is outside of you is because there is evil in their hearts even as the problem for them is the evil in your heart. I've come to deliver you from evil. It's the evil of being bound to self and sin. I'm going to judge sin. Because I love you, I am going to come and set you free from the judgment you deserve."

Look what he did not read. In verse 3, he continues after this delivering us from…vengeance verse 3. "To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins…"

Look, if you're reading this, this is what you're longing for. You want a physical reality to happen in your life. You want this oppressed land that you live in as a vassal state, as a slave state to a wicked ruler…you want the Roman garrison to be gone. You want your borders to expand. You want your city to be rebuilt.

The desolation of oppression that has come to be ruined. Verse 5, "Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks…" You want others working for you. "…And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers." You want to rule the world. "But you will be called the priests of the Lord; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast."

Even as now, they boast in your riches. Jesus is saying, "Look, there's going to be a day I'm going to accomplish all that. The enemies of God will suffer. First of all you need to realize, you're all enemies of God. This is not just a Caesar problem. The problem is that sin has seized all of your hearts. I have come to set you free. Before I establish you in righteousness, we've got to get righteous. By the way, I love Caesar as much as I love you. I love the Romans just as much as I love you, but I'm going to work through you to reach the world."

Here's a little passage that you're going to read a lot right now because you're going to get Christmas cards in the mail. Isaiah, chapter 9. Look what it says. In verses 1 through 5, it talks about this coming hope, this coming Messiah. Let's just read verse 6 for time's sake. "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."

Then it stops. Nobody sends a Christmas card that focuses on this other piece because we don't really see it happen right now. Verse 7, "There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne…" That might sneak in there. You might see Tim Tebow wearing some eye black out with John 14:27. "My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you."

Look. Then we get a little uncomfortable. This isn't a whole lot of peace externally, but where does the peace come? It comes in your heart. It only comes in your heart when you understand this truth. You cannot live with joy. You cannot live with endurance. You cannot live with peace if you are not firmly convinced of this. That Christ knew what he was doing when he came. He gave himself up to be crucified, dead, and buried, to be resurrected on the third day to ascend to the Father where he's seated at the right hand until he returns to judge the quick and the dead.

Then " There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace…" because he will rule, as it says, with a rod of iron "…from then on and forevermore." Folks, it is coming. It is either a Grand Illusion as Styx once sang in the 70s or it is our future hope that we can have confidence in the face of the character and the Word of God.

Look, this is the way the Bible closes. In Revelation, chapter 22, this is how he wants you to fix your hope. He wants you to be consumed with this. Revelation, chapter 22, verse 12. "' Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.'" He's going to say here, "Look, you want justice? Justice is coming."

I'm going to take in just a few seconds here, I'm going to take about seven minutes and I'm going to give you some teaching on what is called the Bema Seat, or the judgment that will happen over all the world. Do you know that every single one of us is going to be judged? Every one of us! We are going to be judged.

You go, "Wait a minute, Todd. I thought that we were saved by grace through faith." You are. Salvation biblically is always by grace through faith. You can never earn salvation. You can't merit God's love, but he does say that you will be judged. I'm going to break it out. I'm going to give you a chart that's going to show this.

This chart flows out of something in Matthew, chapter 25. Because I want you to know Christ is coming. My message this morning is, I told you before. I'm going to give you an affirmation that's true. I'm going to give you an alternative to that belief. I'm going to give you an application.

The affirmation this morning is thatChrist is coming quickly. His reward is with him and he will render to every man according to what he has done. The alternative is…no he's not. No, he's not. So just go to church and sing your little songs and die deluded and be happier than the atheist. You're deluded, but at least you're happy in your delusion.

The application is, if it's true, trust him, obey him, and compel others to be ready. Suffer well. Endure. Persevere. Love him and love others. Matthew, chapter 25. There is this story that Jesus told. Interestingly enough, he tells it in the context of teaching his disciples about end times. Matthew 25. After a lot of study, I've seen it comes right after Matthew 24. That's amazing.

What's interesting about Matthew 24 is that's when he begins his discussion about last things. This is what I was going to tell you. When I talked through the gospel of Mark, I spent 10 weeks explaining a biblical hermeneutic of a reliable way to interpret prophetic Scripture. It's there. Like everything we do, it's free. You can go online and go to the gospel of Mark. It is a little series there starting in Mark 13 all the way through the end of that chapter.

The series is titled Inside the Gospel of Mark. It's called The Last Things You Need to Know. A little double entendre there. So go check that out. I've got all your little charts there if you want to see a reliable way to break out Scripture and why we go that route with some humility that acknowledges that we don't know for sure. We're not to be consumed with the itinerary of Christ. We are to be consumed ultimately with being faithful with the information he has given us and live with hope and endure.

You need to know when Jesus broke out all those things, what he said is, "I am coming. I will bring my reward with me. I will render to every man according to his deeds." He tells a story about a king who went away and he entrusted his servants with talents. He gave each of them the opportunity to be faithful while he was gone. Based on how they did with what they were given, they were given a reward or a rebuke when he returned.

Here's what I want you to understand in this little story in Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14 through 30. I'll read the beginning of it for you. It says, "'For it is just like a man about to go on a journey…" This is Jesus. I'm going to go to the Father. "…who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them." His possessions to them. "To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability…"

What I love about this little story here and the parable, the meaning is we all get the same thing and how we handle those is what determines our judgment. Here we all get different things, but if you are given one thing and you're faithful with it, you will get the same reward as the person who was given 10 things gets.

In the one, the distribution was equal and the reward was different. Here, the distribution was different and the reward was equal. In other words, not all of us are what I would call 10 talent people. Isn't that amazing? Last week when you looked at Nick, this guy with no arms and no legs, and you listened to his voice and his story.

You go, "God, clearly that's a 10 talent guy. Because look, I mean okay. If I had no arms and no legs, I could be useful to God too." Didn't you find yourself thinking that? "Well then I could go and write and speak about how great God is." That's a 10 talent guy and God's given him a great opportunity and a great privilege.

I would say that he's hitting the mark. I would say he is on his way to be found faithful. You may not have the stage that God gave Nick Vujicic, but he's given you something. The question is…Will you be faithful with it? There are two kinds of people in this parable. A group that says, "I acknowledge that you're King and I want to serve you and thank you for your provision. I honor you as my King." Others that say, "I don't know you as King and I'm not really sure you're King, no thank you for the offer of relationship with you."

Watch this chart. In Matthew, chapter 25, he has this gift and offer of relationship. There's going to be a group of folks who say, "No thanks." The folks who say, "No thanks," to him, they will be judged by their works. In other words, "I don't want King, what you've given me. I will show you what I'm going to do for you."

You're going to be judged by your works. Because his standard is perfection, it's not going to work out so well for you. It says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. There will be darkness. There will be much sadness. On the other side, and by the way, there are going to be some when this King returns who say, "I don't think you're King. I don't think you're coming back. I think I'll just set up my own little kingdom here and I'm going to run my offense."

The King is going to come back though and you're going to go, "Uh-oh. I wasn't ready for you to come back. I thought you were just a story. I thought you were just a cultural phenomenon. I don't want anything to do with you." He says, "I'm going to judge you based on your best effort. Oh, sorry. Perfection is the standard."

There are other folks, though, that are going to say, "Yes, I will take your offer of salvation. Yes, please." There are two groups here. One group is people who have been truly saved by grace through faith. They know that they are God's workmanship. That they are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which he prepared beforehand that they should walk in them. That's verse 10.

They take the talents that God gave them, whatever they are, and they walk faithfully with him. Guess what? When Christ returns or when Christ calls them home, they will also be judged. They won't be judged as to whether or not they have a relationship with God because their relationship with God is already secure by their acknowledging that he is King and that there is no way they could have a relationship with the King unless the King wanted it. They are humbling themselves before the King and accepting that gift of salvation.

They are sons. When you are a son or a daughter, you will still be judged in how you did as a servant. There are two different branches of those folks who are going to be judged as servants. There are the folks in Matthew, chapter 25, verse 21. It says this. "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'"

Then there is this group. Also sons, in 1 Corinthians 3:15 that it says that when they stand before the Father, that they will not live lives of faith. That they will not have been about enduring and persevering and proclaiming and honoring and living faithfully before him. Their life is going to be a life of wood, hay, and stubble.

In other words, they gave themselves to fleeting things that are easily consumed. It's the pig who built his house out of straw. It says that "…he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire," which means all the work that you did was fleeting work. It wasn't set on the eternal. You acknowledged that every gift God gave you was his, but you used it just for you.

It's going to be a time when you find yourself standing there naked and ashamed before Christ. You won't hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant." He'll say, "Welcome, son. Grace is yours." I want you to understand this. This is very important. That how you determine your eternal home and your eternal honor are two very different things.

Let me say that again. Christ is coming again. If you know Christ and you acknowledge him as King and you humble yourself before him and say, "I have no relationship to be part of the lineage of the King. There's no reason he should adopt me into his home, but he has. I acknowledge that apart from his gracious provision for me and my faith and what he has done for me to allow me to reconcile to him, I am the wicked one who needs to be cast in the outer darkness, but grace has brought me in.

In grace alone I trust. Then having trusted in him and called him Lord, I lived life on my terms, my ways, used the talents he gave me for my own comfort, my own fame, my own pleasure. I don't suffer here. I'm consumed with my own comfort here. I act like this is the kingdom. I will be saved yet as one who passes through fire."

One of the reasons that we don't teach on this (it's going to screw your life up) is because Jesus wants you to know this world is not your home. I want you to live faithfully here because there is an eternity coming. How you serve here has a direct correlation to some experience in the thing that really matters. I just want to say this, because I want to go to the other side of this little chart.

This is a very real possibility. Is that there are people who say, "Yes, please. You're my King," but Matthew 7:22-23 says that they deluded themselves and they really called him "Lord, Lord," but they had no relationship. It was just a moving forward in some emotional moment. It was just a propositional idea and never true dependence and relationship upon him.

What the Scripture says about that side, is that you are a professor about your love for God. You don't possess a relationship with him. You don't possess intimacy with him. The Spirit of God does not indwell you. You are an imposter. He will say to you, "Depart from me. I never knew you. Even though you said I was your King, I wasn't your King. You were your own king."

Then you find yourself over there in that weeping and gnashing of teeth. Even those folks who say right now, "He is my King." They're still two out of the three in that little flow chart that we want to make sure we are not those people. We want to be individuals who respond fully to the truths that we're talking about, which means we have to get in the game. You know this.

Revelation 22:12. Read this again. I'm going to ask you to read it out loud with me. Are you ready? Let's just read this. "'Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.'" Look, gang. How you respond to that will determine the quality of your life and the quality of your eternity.

Jesus wants you to store up for yourself treasure that is in heaven right now. He wants you to set your mind on the things that are above. That this world is not what you are living for. You want to live for an audience of one. There is one King. He is not going to go and consult a board. He is not going to take a popularity poll about you. He knows your heart.

He knows if you're honoring him. There's going to be a day when he returns and there is an intimate, personal conversation. If you're his son or his daughter, great. He's going to say, "How did you do as my servant?" Understand that how you determine your eternal home and your eternal honor are two very different things. Is everyone square on that?

Here is the deal. If Jesus is not coming back, then we are fools or we're smart to hedge our bets. If he's coming back, you don't want to hedge your bet. If there really is an eternal home, you want to go and do everything you can to honor him right now and quit living like this world is worth holding on to.

In my entire life, gang, I'm going to tell you what. This is the area right now where I am really wrestling with God. I'm like, "God…I…you know? I don't know if there's enough set-your-mind-on-the-things-above about me. I mean, okay. Even when there's a lot of that, there's still a whole lot of being concerned with this world. I want things to work out now.

I want others to respond this way to me now. I am living with too much invested in this world. You need to grow me." I think that as I grow, we'll grow. I love members of our body who are leading us out in this area and challenging each of us and reading the Scriptures and praying. God, move in our lives. Move more and more and more in our lives.

Let me just read you some Scripture, gang. This stuff is crazy unless what I just said is true. Unless there really is a King who is coming, you don't want to live this way. Look at Luke, chapter 6. You won't live this way unless you believe this truth. "' Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.'"

You see that is crazy to live that way unless there is a heaven and he's coming quickly with his reward. Look what he says. "'But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.'"

Let me just say this. It doesn't mean that we're supposed to go through life with a constant hunger pain. He's saying is if you live for this world and seek to fully satisfy yourself in this world, then you're getting everything in your world. Mark this. If you don't believe that God is King, if you don't believe Jesus is the Messiah and he is coming again, then this is your heaven.

This is your heaven. Where you are going is going to make this look so unspeakably pleasant. Why? Because God's prevailing grace falls on the just and the unjust right now. Whether you're his son or not is a woodchip that goes in your eye. God designed your body such that your eye would produce moisture and allow that woodchip to flow out.

You cut yourself? Your blood is going to thicken and clot and keep you from bleeding to death. You get sick? There are going to be believers around you who will care for you. You're hungry in the city? You're homeless? There are believers who say, "Come, we will feed you." Are you lonely? Is your marriage broken? We're not going to cast dispersions at you.

We're going to say, "We get it. We know that human relationships can fail. Let us help you. Let us restore things with you. Let us teach you to forgive. Let us teach you to seek forgiveness. We'll bring healing." You are in a place right now with exceeding grace even in the midst of all the misery that is going on.

Mark my word. If you don't know that Christ is King, this is your heaven. This is as good as it's ever going to get. Here's the other side. Are you ready? If it is true that Jesus is coming again. There's a literal heaven and a literal hell. He's bringing his reward with him and you know him, this is your hell. It will never, ever, ever get worse than this. I don't mean right here with the 71-degree temperature.

What I mean is that sickness and death and disease and betrayal and adultery and lack of faithfulness…those things are going to be gone one day forever. Heartache and brokenness are gone. This is your hell. God loves the world enough to let you, his son, suffer. God loves me enough to let a young man be born without arms and legs to live for 27 years to fill his mouth with his Word of truth so that I could be reminded of where my home is.

That's how much he loves me, and I'm his son. He loves some of you who are just wretches and sinners. Last week you came in here and you were deluded about your relationship with Christ or you never really understood. Last week, God let Nick Vujicic suffer for 27 years just so he could be here and proclaim the gospel so some of you could know him. That's how much he loves you.

Not that he would just let Christ carry a cross and be beaten, but he would let Nick carry the cross of no arms and no legs so that you might hear about Christ. He loves you. He wants me right now to be on mission as well. I am fearfully made for a wonderful purpose. I want to hear, "Well done, Todd. Well done, good and faithful servant. Todd, don't try and make this your heaven." Look at Luke 6:31-36. You won't live this way if you don't believe this truth.

"'Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?

Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.'"

That's crazy! That is crazy to live that way unless he's King and he's gone away and he's coming back and he's going to see how you did with the talents he gave you. Let's just quit acting like this is a good way to live if he's not returning. If he's returning, let's quit acting like this lukewarmness is a good way to live.

I am talking to me, because I keep saying, "This world is not my home," and then I just keep building a nicer home. I keep saying that I want to send my treasures off to heaven, and then I keep going, "But it sure would be nice to have this treasure now even though it's going to go away and I could maybe use that to invest in a way that would really honor the King."

Look. Let me tell you something. When we send men off to war in our country, what do we want to give them? We give them the best equipment, hopefully. We give them good food, hopefully. We give them shelter, hopefully. We train them, hopefully. We're not saying, "Go live in the desert and scrape and claw and use Tae Kwon Do to defeat the enemy."

No, we do everything we can. We say, "You're at war," so we're not over there building paneled houses for those guys while they're at war. God wants to care for you. He wants you to have provision. He wants you to eat. He wants you to live in a way that's going to allow you to be effective in the battle. He's not trying to build your vacation home for you, because you're at war. I'm at war.

Let me just tell you a few things I jotted down. I'm going to give you a very specific application in a minute. If it's true that Jesus is God and that he is coming quickly, in the purview of eternity he's coming quickly, it means that living with an eternal perspective is not only sane, it is exceedingly wise.

It means that if you're a follower of Christ, this world is your hell. It means if you're unwilling to submit to him, then you are already experiencing your heaven. Enjoy it. Drink deeply, my friends. Because this is it. You and the most interesting man in the world. Go for it. It means living for his pleasure is the wisest thing you can possibly do.It means he is the only opinion that matters, and waiting for him to reveal his goodness and sovereign rule is worth it.

I'm going to share with you a story that just happened. You guys heard of Tiger Woods? Tiger has been in the media here a little bit lately. I have some friends who share the same profession as Tiger. Right after the deal with Tiger Woods broke, my dear friend Ben Crane and I were on the phone, and we were talking. He said, "Todd, I want to seek your counsel, because this is the time for the Christians on tour to stand up and treat him differently. This is not a time to kick him under the curb.

This is not a time for us to cast dispersions and judgment on him. I don't have a harem strung out across this world, but there is sickness in my heart, and I need grace. Tiger needs grace. He needs to know what I know. We need to love him." We prayed and we talked about Scripture. He and his wife wrote Elin and Tiger a sweet note. We're praying for him.

Last Thursday, three or four days ago, there was a report from Life & Style magazine that Ben said that Tiger is a phony and a fake and that Elin knew all about his affairs and she got what she deserved. They quoted another golfer as saying that she's on the take too and this is all a big scam and they're getting what they deserve.

Yahoo! Sports picked it up, and everybody who logged onto their email account saw Ben Crane and this other guy threw Tiger under the bus. Entertainment Tonight wanted to interview him now because they were going to talk badly about Tiger. PGA Tour was calling. Good Morning America and the Today show. They all wanted Ben now because he was going to say something awful about Tiger.

It broke his heart, because he didn't say that about Tiger. He wasn't at the golf tournament where he was interviewed by Life & Style magazine. There were 5,000 blog posts that were saying he was an idiot and he was a self-righteous Pharisee. They said, "That's what's wrong with Christians. He's the one especially I hate."

We talked again. We talked on Friday. I said, "Bro, I am so sorry." This is the verse that we read. "Let me just say something. This is not the enemy's plan to make Christians look bad. This is God's plan. Your job right now is to be faithful in it, because the Lord apparently did want you to speak publicly about Tiger. Now you're going to have to. You released a statement, 'I didn't say that. I wasn't there.' They're going to come back and say, 'What do you think about Tiger?'"

There are 125 professional golfers. There are three they really want to hear from right now. Jesper Parnevik. He's already spoken his mind. Then there are two others who came out early and said he's a phony and a fake. I said, "Look, the Lord is in this thing." What broke their heart… They're such a sweet, tender couple.

They said, "But have you read those posts what people are saying about us? Here we were. We wrote them… I don't know if Elin and Tiger are going to believe that the email we sent to them was legit or this press story was legit." I kind of offered, "Well, if anybody knows right now the press isn't completely fair, it might be Tiger and Elin."

Nonetheless, here's what we quoted. Watch this. I said, "You don't need to care what anybody else did. I know what you've been doing for the last nine days. You've been praying for them. You've been reading Scripture. You've been communicating with them in every way that you can. God is telling you this world isn't your home.

You don't live so the world thinks you're Christ on tour. You live so that Christ knows you're Christ on tour. You'll never get all those feathers back in the pillow, but if you go out and try to convince everybody that you didn't say that? I mean, if asked, respond. But this world is not your home." We looked at 1 Peter, chapter 2.

This is what it says. It says that Christ left here. He has called us for this purpose. He suffered for us and he left us an example to follow in his steps. This is the verse I specifically quoted. "… Christ… WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…"

Can I just give you a word? Sometimes Life & Style magazine is going to get it wrong. "Life & Style Dallas" is going to perceive you wrong. They're going to speak poorly about you. Believe me. The only thing that matters is you have to live for an audience of one. If you go around wanting everything to work out just right…that's going to be heaven when everything works out just right, where there is no slander and no malice and no misquoting.

That doesn't happen here. When you are reviled, don't revile in return. When you suffer, don't utter threats. That is crazy! Unless there is one who judges rightly and he's coming quickly. We just looked at that. My words of counsel to my buddy on tour? They're crazy. Unless what I'm talking about today is true.

Here is my favorite analogy. This is one of my favorite analogies that I ever give. Let's just read 1 John, because it talks about this. In 1 John chapter 2 it says, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."

If you put your happiness in temporal things, then your happiness will be temporary. Jesus is saying, "Invest in me. Love me. Don't love the world." "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One…" In other words, you see things correctly. "…and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son."

The spirit of the Antichrist is informing a lot of people saying, "You are king. Do what thou wilt, not what he wants. Don't believe he's coming back. That's crazy. He is not the Messiah. Just live as you want to live because there is no King and he's not coming back. He's dead." That is the spirit of the Antichrist. The embodiment of that spirit will be here one day.

The goal is not to figure out who that is going to be. The goal is to not follow that spirit, but to follow the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth who tells you, "You are the way. You are the truth. You are the life. This world is not my home. I am just passing through. I'm going to live for him." You with me? Watch this.

"Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning." It is that Christ is the anointed Messiah, God in the flesh, crucified for you, buried, and resurrected. That's what you've heard.

He says, "If what you heard from the beginning abides in you…" If this is the promise which is in you that leads to eternal life, keep tracking. Verse 26: "These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you [to live for this world] ." Then he goes on. "As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you…" The anointing of truth. "…and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

In other words, don't let somebody else give you new truth. You have all the truth you need. He is King, and he is coming. Verse 28. "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming." I read this verse a long time ago. I was meditating on it one day.

I actually kept reading and kept thinking. I'll read all the way down through chapter 3, verse 3. I'll tell you what came to my mind. "If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.

For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is." Verse 3. Application. "And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

See one of the favorite metaphors that Jesus uses of our relationship with him is the one that captures the most intimate, most overwhelming emotional relationship on earth. It is the love of young lovers. He uses the picture of a bride and a bridegroom. I love weddings for one reason. I'm not a big fan of the rehearsal dinner. I'm not a big fan of leaving my family for a weekend.

I love standing at the front with that groom. I have a better seat than everybody, even Mama. I am right there, right next to the guy. I remember that day. I didn't see my wife all day. She hid from me, as traditional holds. I knew she'd been getting ready. I knew she was wearing white. I knew her hair was done made up. I knew she'd been on that LGN diet for a while, right? The "look good naked" diet.

I knew that that door was about to kick open. Right? She was going to come down that aisle. I was going to see her in all her beauty. I was going to see her later with that dress off. I was just ready. I love it. I do. Whenever I do a wedding, I tell the wedding planner… They are some of the meanest people on earth, by the way.

I think every single one of them has the last name Schwarzkopf. I mean it. Anyway, separate issue. You get your good wedding planner. (I've done weddings with you, and you're a good wedding planner. So you don't have to write me, all right?) Here's what I want you to know. I love it. I tell them, "Keep the door shut! When that music starts, keep it shut!"

I want the anticipation to build. Some folks, as soon as they hear the first little down note on that wedding march or the bride's march or whatever little song you're going to play… I've got several we're going to listen to this morning. Keep it shut. Build the anticipation. We're going to start the music.

[Wedding music]

Wedding coordinators, the door just shut. I just nod at the mother of the bride. We're all standing, man. I'm up there with that groom. I love to look at him. He's up there just like a dog waiting to be released. We're there and I'm like, "Okay, we're standing." You can't wait. Yes! Yes! Yes! All right, now. All right. Stop that. Stop that. Watch. Okay, now that is awesome. Think about that. Your bridegroom, he can't wait. Imagine this. Here we go.

[Wedding march]

Hey, you with me? I got my handicap down to zero. I'm the club champ! The guys love me. They don't see me as a normal churchman. I'm a regular guy. Yeah, club champ, baby! All for God.

If you are making love to the world, can you imagine? I can't wait to see my bride and those doors open. What if she's getting one long, lingering kiss in with that guy? She's going to be committed to me forever, but how many of us say, "You're my King and I love you. I can't wait for that song to start," and we're getting our last make-out session in with the world when those clouds are rolled back like a scroll. You're going to found trying to push your dress down, slap his hand away, and get yourself all situated really quick. That would be unbelievably tragic.

I've done a lot of weddings, and even brides who were fools did their best to look like they really loved that guy in that moment. We shouldn't be fools. So if you're making out with the world right now, if you love the Father and yet you love your flesh, and you love what you see and not what's in heaven, and you love exalting yourself and not your bridegroom, you know what you're really hoping for?

It's that he doesn't come. That you're kind of wrong about this big truth. Because you don't want those doors to be pulled open and to be pushing your dress down trying to get ready. You want to be ready. You won't be ready or you'll quit the race if the intro is too long. You'll just wander away because the music hasn't started, the doors haven't been opened, and you will be gone.

That story shows up in the Olivet Discourse as well. You don't want to find yourself in it. Because of this truth, we can sing with integrity, "It is well with my soul." Because of this truth, we can persevere through armlessness and leglessness and disease and death and betrayal. We can be merciful even as our Father is merciful.

We can be slandered on blog posts around the world and go, "You know what? I'm living for that guy. He knows what I'm doing behind this door. Everybody else can speculate, but he knows what I'm doing. That truth purifies me." Let us sing and let us pray.

Father, we thank you for a chance to come in here and see why this is a big deal. I pray that we would just not sit in here and listen to this, that we would spur each other on. We all love comfort. Lord, we have a community here. We're big on community, but our community has said, "Wine cellars are okay. Several homes are okay. This standard of living is okay."

Father, I'm so glad you don't give us a number. You don't give us a number, but you want us to be people who set our minds on the things above, who don't invest in comfort in this world. We live for you. We use our talents, not to make ourselves a home but to prepare a way for you and to invest in what is eternal and sure. Help us. Thank you for grace. God, we need grace.

Help us to endure and persevere because we know that in the end you're coming and you'll make it right. May we sing this song now and sing it together throughout the week with increasing purity for your glory. Amen.

Let's stand together. Listen. This world is not well. It's sick. There is despair and betrayal and adultery. There is death. There is war. There is disease. You can sing that if there's another Christmas, because this world is not our home. We're not surprised. He told us why it's like this. He's coming to make it right. We can sing that. Let's quit acting like this is our home.

You won't do that unless you believe there's a second Christmas. He said there is. He gathered his boys together at the very end of his first Christmas run and said, "Don't freak out. Live for me. There's another Christmas. We're going to move into one forever where you're not going to be just set free from sin's penalty but from sin's presence. Trust me on this."

If you don't know that King, come…come quickly. If you know that King, get your dress down and thank him for grace. Know that you'll never be beautiful enough to deserve his love, but live as lovely as you can as you follow his Spirit for his glory. If you want to know Christ, come. If you need to be spurred onto that, get in community with us. Help our community become more of what he wants. Fix your hope on Jesus. Set your mind on the things above. Be ready, bride. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.


About 'The Big XII'

"This series will cover twelve truths that if you don?t get exactly right, the ramifications and the impact on your life will be enormous. They matter today and eternally. If you want to call yourself an orthodox follower of Christ, these are truths that you cannot miss. These are twelve central, non-negotiable principles of theology and we will discuss what it means to embrace them, the alternatives to them, as well as the application of them. In other words, what it should look like when devoted, orthodox followers of Christ live them out." Todd Wagner