Michael Youssef - How Shall We Live Now? - Part 4
Have you ever experienced the overruling of God's hand in your life? When you have completely blown it, you know what that means? All by your little self, nobody helped you, and then you are sitting on a pile of mess. You rushed and made wrong decision. You rushed and you made the wrong choices. You rushed and did not ask God in prayer. You did not seek his mind, his will. You went against clear biblical directives which you know. On, and on, and on, and on. But then to your utter amazement and surprise, God overruled and delivered you. God overruled and saved you. God overruled and protected you in response to you crying out to God and said, "Lord, I confess. I will not do that again. Please intervene". And God does bring good out of what is purely wrong choice and bad situation.
Well, mercifully, in this message, I'm not gonna talk about past failures and keeping to learn the same thing again and again, but I'm gonna talk about the amazing overruling of the hand of God. Now, we've been seeing throughout this series of messages entitled, "How Shall We Live Now," how God overruled the foolishness of man again, and again, and again. And we saw in the last message how one of his descendants, Ham's descendants, was Nimrod, and Nimrod was the man who went even further in departing from God and he built Babylon, the city that is designed to be a city without God, to be a city that stole the glory of God, to be a city that took the glory of God and gave it to the zodiac, and to the horoscopes, and to Satan himself. It was a city was so preoccupied with self-worship, and that is why the Bible talks about the mystery of Babylon, and we saw why.
Because from that time on, any city, every city, any culture that departs from God, and turns against God, and depart from God's moral absolutes, they become like Babylon. And while the city of man was full of arrogance, and pride, and self-worship, Abraham, his heart was set on the city of God, a city that's only built, founded, designed, framed by God himself. Abraham himself was not really looking to that temporary city. He was looking to the city that is to come, the new Jerusalem. He was not satisfied with an earthly city.
And so now, I want you to turn with me please to Hebrews chapter 11, to verses 9 and 10. "By faith Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him in the same promise. For he", that is referring to Abraham, "For he was looking forward to the city with the foundation, whose architect and builder is God". I think I speak for most believers in the Lord Jesus Christ when I say that one of the hardest things in our Christian walk, in our walk with Christ, in our life in Christ, one of the hardest things... there are a lot of hard things, but one of the hardest things is waiting. Can I get a witness? Amen, I know.
You see, during the time of waiting, we attempted to say even to God, "Oh promises, promises, promises". But no one experienced such unbelievable waiting for God like Abraham. No one. I mean, he waited for years, over 25 years, for the promised son, Isaac. And yet, he waited all of his life for that earthly city so that it would be a symbol of the city that is to come which he really looked forward to, and he never saw it with his eyes. But he never gave up waiting. Hear me right on this one. I make no apologies for saying this to you. It's my testimony. Ever since I was a young man, I've been looking forward, and this is nearly 50 years now, to 2 things. I've been praying and looking forward to maybe I'll see a revival in my lifetime, but above all, I'm looking forward to seeing the return of the Lord. I may yet see it.
With the way things are, I may yet see it. But even if I don't, if I go to glory before the Lord returns, it doesn't make any difference. I will never give up waiting for the return of the Lord. I know it will happen. William Carey pioneered the Protestant missionary movement in all of the world. And he went to India, and he was a man of faith who worked hard, worked faithfully. You heard me quoting him, one of his motto that impacted me, "Expect great things because we have a great God". And yet, throughout his years of laboring in India, he had very precious little fruit to show for it. But I submit to you that for the last 200 years and even to this day, every missionary, every missionary movement, every great revival that took place in India, all the millions of people who came to Christ, all their results to William Carey. Do you understand what I'm talking about?
God wants us to be faithful and he's gonna do some great and mighty things, even if we look out and see them from heaven. I had the joy and the privilege of leading some people who in their senior years, and I remember several of them, but one particularly would cry and weep hot tears, and he said, "You know, I am just sorry that my parents did not see this because I know they prayed for me that I'll be saved". I assured him that the Lord is gonna tell them in heaven. God's timing is always perfect. True faith in the promises of God is deaf to doubt. True faith in the promises of God is dumb to discouragement. True faith in the promises of God is blind to the impossibilities. Abraham looked forward to the city like no other city, and not until John the Revelator in the book of Revelation does he talk about that city that Abraham looked forward to.
No matter how many temptations Abraham faced, no matter how many temptations he succumbed to, no matter how many temptations that beckoned him, his eyes were never off the city of God. His eyes were never taken off what he knows that God is going to do at the end times. This darkness that we're seeing, that we've been seeing this dreadful things that are happening in our culture, and we're seeing how so many of us are lamenting how our culture has been hijacked. Like Abraham, we must keep our eyes on the city of God. Look to that city that is built, and architect, and framer, and designer is God. Please hear me right, this is important. There is no greater cure to discouragement, and fatigue, and self-pity than thinking of being with Jesus for all of eternity.
If you allow your focus to be only on the darkness of this world, only on the problems of this world, only on the difficulties of this world, you are going to get mightily depressed and stressed out. Why do you think the Apostle Paul urges us, "Set your minds on things above, not on things here below". This is not just for old people, this setting your mind on things above is for teenagers, it's for those in their 20s and 30s, it's for those who are parents. It's for everyone. This divine city, this new Jerusalem that Abraham looked forward to is called by many names in the Bible, but to me, the best description is found in Ezekiel 48:35. Ezekiel 48:35 says, "The Lord Is There". I couldn't think of a better way to get me all excited, even no matter what's going on around me. The Lord is there. Of all the beautiful things that are in that city of God, the best part is that the Lord is there.
Beloved, faith is powerful because faith sees the invisible, and faith hears the inaudible, and faith touches the intangible, and faith accomplishes the impossible. Ah, but listen, faith is not wishful thinking. Faith is active, that you have to take a step of faith, that you have to take a step of trusting in the promises of God. In his sovereign grace, God provided and earthly city for his people Israel. It was supposed to be the shadow or foreshadow of the city of God that John saw coming down from heaven. It was a temporary provision to lift up the name of God on the earth. It was a temporary provision that gets people from all over the world to come and know the one true God.
It was a temporary provision to know the peace of God in the midst of difficult times, and that is why it is called Yra-Shalom. Yra-Shalom, can you say that with me? Yra-Shalom, Jerusalem, the city of peace. Why is it called the city of peace? Because Melchizedek who's a type of Christ was not only the king of righteousness, but he also was the king of peace. Today, every faithful church, every faithful Sunday school class, every faithful home group, every faithful ministry must be and need to be the place where God is present in a very unique way. He's with us all the time, but these are the times when we gather in Jesus' name that he's to be present in a unique way. It is to be a place where the peace of God is found. It's to be a place where the Word of God held in high esteem. It's to be a place where encouragement is found. It's a place where we spur one another into faith.
I wanna tell you very quickly three things about that earthly Jerusalem, that foreshadow of the real city of God that is coming down from heaven where all the believers will be gathered at the throne room of God. This city, the heavenly Jerusalem that Abraham looked forward to. Earthly Jerusalem was a temporary city that was chosen by God's grace. Secondly, Jerusalem, earthly Jerusalem, was a temporary city that received a conditional promise. Not unconditional, but a conditional promise. Thirdly, earthly Jerusalem was a foreshadowing. It was a mere foreshadow of the real city that we are looking forward to. First of all, it was a city that was chosen by God's grace. There can be no doubt that David, King David, had one overriding desire.
You see it not only in history, you see it in the psalms. Read the psalms and think of David when he was writing those. You can see the desire of his heart in all of these psalms. He had one overriding desire, and that is to honor the Lord. He really did. He had one overriding desire, and that is to revere the Lord. David's deep desire was to be in the presence of God all the time. As you look at the darkness of our world today, just horrible stuff going on all the time, when you see all of that but you refuse to compromise, and you refuse to budge from your faith and trust in Jesus, when you choose to honor God in the midst of all of this, when you choose not to fear but exercise faith, when you choose to glorify God above all things regardless of the consequences, when your desire is to bring honor, and glory, and blessing to the name of the Lord, I can tell you on the authority of the Word of God, like David, God is gonna rule and overrule your fumbling and your stumbling. Amen.
Listen, it's not a secret. Any Sunday School elementary knowledge know that David, King David, messed up royally. Royally. And yet, he loved to honor God, even the midst of messing up and blowing it. Look at the psalms, particularly Psalm 120 all the way to 134. There's 14 psalms. They are known as the Psalms of Ascent, because these are the psalms that they would sing as they were climbing up the mountain, going up to Jerusalem, to the temple to worship. In fact, Psalm 46, 48, 67, 84, and 87 were known as the Psalms of Zion. Read them when you go home. They were synonymous with the presence of God in worship. Oh, but they were only foreshadowing of the real city that you and I look forward to it. It's the foreshadowing of the city of God that is coming down from heaven, when you and I are gonna be spending all of eternity in the presence of Jesus. Jerusalem was a temporary city chosen by God's grace.
Secondly, Jerusalem, early Jerusalem, was a temporary city that had a conditional promise. David and Solomon offered to the Lord when they built that temple, they offered to God what Cain failed to offer, sacrifice. Deuteronomy, God warns them before they go into the promised land, and he said to them, he said, "Now I place before you a blessing and a curse". You choose. Thank God that in the New Testament, his promises are unconditional, and I'm glad I'm living in the New Testament. You see, in earthly Jerusalem, God's blessings was conditional, was conditional on their obedience. But in the heavenly Jerusalem, God's blessings will be unconditional because we will be like Jesus.
And I'm so grateful Jesus said, "Those whom the Father has given me, I'll lose none," that it's not up to me to hold onto God, but God is holding onto me. Because if it's up to me to hold onto God, I would've run long time ago. Those of us who are living between the city of man, or in the city of man, looking forward to the city of God, we're always tempted to take our eyes off the city of God and plunge headlong into the city of man. Finally, when Jerusalem had totally rejected God by crucifying his Messiah, at that point, earthly Jerusalem ceased to be the place where God dwells. You see, God's conditional promise, "You reject me, I leave". Thank God he never leaves his children. In Luke 19:41 all the way to 44, Jesus lamented over their rejection of the Father's plan to save them. And he lamented over Jerusalem, and he said, "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, had you known the time of your visitation".
I believe with all my heart that Jesus is weeping in heaven over many a church. Churches that once proclaimed him as the only way to heaven and to the Father, now they're preaching tolerance of sin. The founding fathers of this great country, The United States of America, they believed that they are founding a city on a hill that shines a light to the world. And yet today, the courts and the people in power have rejected any thought of obeying God, and the laws of God, and the Word of God, and the absolutes of God, and they're putting politics ahead of everything else. John Knox and John Wesley, great men of God who founded denominations for the sole purpose of lifting up Jesus as the only Savior, now so many of these denominations have allowed their feelings, and their instincts, and what is popular to take place.
Earthly Jerusalem was a temporary city chosen by God's grace. Earthly Jerusalem has a conditional promise. Thirdly, earthly Jerusalem was only a foreshadow of the heavenly Jerusalem. Jesus had an encounter with a woman. We call her the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4. When no man would talk to her, he honored her and talked to her. When no Jew would talk to a Samaritan, he went out of his way and talked to her. And then, he said to her when she was confused about where to worship, Jesus said to her, he said, "I tell you the day is coming and now is when true worshipers"... can you say "true worshipers"? "True worshipers will worship my Father," neither in Jerusalem nor in this mountain. They're gonna worship him in truth and Spirit. Earthly city of Jerusalem is more a foreshadow.
Remember back in the old days before your iPhone and the pictures you take on your iPhone, we used to have the negative? Remember that? I know it's a long, long time ago. I mean, those negatives looked terrible. You don't know if it's a man or a woman. You don't know what, I mean, you have to really look hard. That's what earthly Jerusalem, it's a foreshadow. It's the negative. It's gonna develop and the full picture is gonna be in the city that is coming down from heaven. Earthly city Jerusalem was just a foreshadow. Earthly city Jerusalem was a mere representation of what it means for God to dwell in the midst of his people. Earthly city Jerusalem is only a sketch. It's only a small model of what will happen when the heavenly city Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, come down from heaven for the believers to dwell in.
And that is why Abraham, the Bible said he looked forward to that city whose architect, whose designer, whose builder is God. And that is why nothing that is evil or wicked will be in that city. Why? Because Jesus is there. The Bible tells us only in Jesus can we begin to comprehend what it means to have him as Emmanuel, God with us. But we, like the earthly city Jerusalem, we can never fully comprehend what Emmanuel really means, what it means for us to dwell with God. God dwells with us. Why? Because we tend to run away from him. We tend to forget about him. We tend to get so busy in all the problems of this life and we ignore him. We tend to be persuaded by other voices. Ah, but in that new city of God, we will have an uninterrupted fellowship with Jesus. I can't wait to get there. I can't wait to get there. There will be no television news to depress us. There'll be no tabloid newspapers to catch our attention. There will be no terrorism to frighten us. There will be no power to harass us.
In the earthly Jerusalem, they experienced the presence of God when his name was lifted high, but in the new city, in the new Jerusalem that Abraham looked forward to, Jesus will always be there and his name will always be lifted high. In the earthly Jerusalem, blessings were conditional, but in the new Jerusalem, his unconditional blessings is gonna overwhelm us. In the old earthly Jerusalem, the presence of God was sporadic, but in the heavenly Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem, his presence will be permanent. In the old Jerusalem, God's people may or may not show up for worship, but in the new Jerusalem, believers will worship him day and night. In the old Jerusalem, his people served him occasionally when they feel like it, but in the new city of Jerusalem, we will be serving him 24/7. In the old Jerusalem, even his own people forsook him, and ignored him, and ran after other gods, but in the new Jerusalem, they will not. In the old Jerusalem, his people's heart often sought after worldly pleasures, but in the new city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, his true followers will be delighted in him day and night.