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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Michael Youssef » Michael Youssef - Until Christ Returns - Part 1

Michael Youssef - Until Christ Returns - Part 1

Michael Youssef - Until Christ Returns - Part 1
Michael Youssef - Until Christ Returns - Part 1
TOPICS: Second Coming

There's always been interest in the end times throughout history, but that interest in the end times and the return of the Lord is not being manifested into the lives of the believers. Let me illustrate to you. There were tens of millions of copies of the "Left Behind" series books sold, and yet the number of Christians who tithe, give the 10% back to the Lord, is less than 2.6%. The vast majority of Christians give less than 2%. Now, you know what I mean. While end times conferences draw tens of thousands of people, prayer meetings draw only a tiny-full each time. End times material literally snapped so fast, and yet less, and less, and less Christians are willing to witness for their faith publicly.

How can anyone be truly waiting for the return of the Lord and they live this life as if they're gonna be here forever. And yet, Christians and non-Christians seem to be acting alike. They're just kind of interested in the subject. They are fascinated by it. They wanna know more about it. But true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, that faithful remnant that is called of God, they are waiting on a daily basis for the return of the Lord, and that waiting motivates every aspect of their life. That waiting motivates all of their service, and they serve more, they give more. Because of their motive of waiting for the Lord, they are witnessing more. But our generation is not the first generation, as I already said, that's been interested in the return of Christ.

From the early church on, there's been fascination of what the Bible called "parousia". "Parousia" is a Greek word for the return of Christ. It's the doctrine of the return of Christ, and that is why the Apostle Paul write these two letters to the Thessalonians who were confused on the subject. He spends the first half of the first epistle letting them know what a person who's waiting for Christ should live like. Chapters 4 and 5, he really gives the detail about the return of Christ, so we're gonna go through the whole epistle. These believers in Thessalonica were truly a model of faithful believers, and that was not wasted on the Apostle Paul. He did not miss that, because he founded that church.

In fact, the city of Thessalonica was founded in the 4th century BC and named after Alexander the Great's half sister, Thessalonike, who was married to one of his generals by the name of Cassander. Thessalonica was a very strategic city in the Roman Empire. It was the crossroads between the eastern side of the Roman Empire and the western side of the Roman Empire. It was a very strategic city. It was a very key city. And so, about 50 AD, the Apostle Paul comes to Thessalonica for the first time, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And he was only there 3 weeks, and many people responded to that preaching of the message of the gospel and they became converted, both Jews and Greeks alike.

Greek God-fearers convert to Christ. It's often the case those who hate the gospel will mount persecution against those who preach the gospel. They got so mad, they stirred up trouble. They wanted to kill the Apostle Paul only after preaching for 3 weeks, and they literally got him out of there just in the nick of time, saved his life, and that really disappointed him. It broke his heart because he really wanted to spend more than 3 weeks in order to instruct them in the Word of God. They're new believers and he didn't wanna just leave them in the lurch. In Ephesus, he spent 3 years instructing the church in Ephesus. Now it's only 3 weeks. And so, he sits down and writes these Holy Spirit-inspired letters in order to instruct them on several things that they had problems with. They had a problem with sexual morality. They had a problem earning their livings. But above all, they were totally confused about the parousia, the coming of Christ.

And so, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul writes this magnificent letter, and he begins by thanking God for their wonderful witness for Jesus. In fact, there are ten things, if you're waiting for him. First of all, he said that they had working faith, verse 3. Secondly, they had a laboring love. Thirdly, they had an enduring hope. Fourthly, they had humility before God in the light of his election and his love for them, verses 4 and 5. Number five, they were genuine imitators of Christ, verse 6. They had joy in the midst of trouble, verse 6. They were exemplary in their lives, verse 7. They had zeal in witnessing for Christ, verse 8. They displayed transformation in their lives, verse 9. And then finally, they are expectantly waiting for the Lord to come back.

Now, how do you like a ten-point sermon? In fact, verse 3, the Apostle Paul summarizes the genuine Christian faith, and Paul is saying faith, love, and hope are the characteristics of a true and genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of these characteristics, you notice, they are outward, not inward. They are active, not passive. They are visible, not hidden. They are public, not private. Faith is active toward God, love is active toward one another, and hope is active for a future longing of the return of Christ. Faith is anchored in the past as we look to the rugged cross where Christ died and rose again on Calvary, and the faith is anchored in that past. Love is established in the present as we love one another and we practice love and forgiveness of one another. Hope is firmly established and found in the future.

Every Christian... listen to me, everyone who truly calls himself a believer in Jesus Christ must be a believer, number one, have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way for salvation, and they must be lover, and finally, he must be or she must be hoper. I made up a word, but, believer, lover, and hoper. These three are the visible evidence that we are practicing this kind of life in everyday life, not just on Sunday. The evidence of Christianity in us is not that abstract concept.

And I heard it for many, many years, some of you have heard the same thing, "My faith is very private. My religion is my private", that's mumbo jumbo. That is not the Christian faith. Faith must work, love must labor, and hope must endure. That's the Word of God, not me. True faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, his death, and resurrection as the only way to heaven and salvation means just that. It must be working faith, not just words only, not dead faith. In fact, James tells us anybody can claim to have faith. Lots of people claim, say, "Oh, my faith, his faith, faith-based," you know? You know, they have faith in the government, they have faith in yourself, and you have faith in faith, or you have faith in your mother-in-law. I mean, faith is a big thing now. Faith that is in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way for salvation and heaven is a working faith. It's not a dead faith.

Here's what James said, "Anybody can claim to say, 'I have faith,' but only those who truly have faith manifest that faith in serving, and in witnessing, and in giving". That's why we got these schizophrenic Christians. True love labors, how? By sacrificing, by forgiving, by giving, by persevering, by stretching of oneself. Otherwise, love will be like the stuff we see on television, mere sentimentality. And that's really the national interpretation of love today, sentimentality. But that's not what the Word of God said. True hope waits patiently, not in a white robe up in the mountains doing nothing. Hope does not mean we just hunker down, store food, and gold, and silver. I mean, after all, they tell you this is the way you're supposed to do. No, hope gives us peace in the midst of persecution. It gives us perseverance in the face of oppression. That's what hope is all about.

In fact, John Calvin said that the true definition of Christianity is just those three. In verses 4 and 5, Paul unites love and election. God's choice of us and his love are one unit. Why did God choose us? Why did he love us? Is it because we're loveable? No way. I'm telling you, I mean, Moses looked at God's people, the apple of his eye, the chosen people when they came out of Egypt, and he said to them, "Why did God choose you"? It's not because you're the most brilliant people in the face of the earth. God doesn't work that way. His love and his choice of us is because of his sovereign will. His love and his choice is a secret known only to the one true God. Until about 40 years ago when somebody taught me this truth about God's calling, and God's choice, and God's election, I mean, from that moment on, I can tell you as God my witness, it literally put me on my knees in humility and in brokenness before God. You loved me, you called me, chose me.

How humbling that is. How humbling. And the person who taught me this, he said, "I want you to just think about this". When you go to heaven and you meet the Lord face-to-face, what are you gonna say to him? You gonna say, "Boy, I was really brilliant that I made that decision to follow you"? Or will you go on your face and say, "Thank you, you chose me, unworthy that I am"? Listen to what Jesus said to the disciples. He said, "I chose you, you did not choose me". If it's up to us, we would choose the world, we would choose the flesh, and we would choose the deception of Satan. If it's up to us, we would choose selfishness and self-centeredness. And yet, the Apostle Paul explains that part of the reason God chooses his children is because he wants them to make him known to others.

In verse 5, all the way to verse 10, he shows us the three stages, he's operating on threes here, by which the gospel progressed in the church of Thessalonica among the believers there. First, the gospel came to them, verse 5. They welcomed the gospel, verse 6. And then, they take that gospel message to others, verse 8. That's how it works. This is the message of this New Testament that is repeated over, and over, and over again. In fact, it is the message repeated in the Old Testament as well. God told his people Israel that, "I chose you so that you might be a light to the nations". But instead, they became inward looking, they became navel gazers.

We are saved, not just we sit there and do nothing. We are saved not just so we say nothing. We are saved not so we should say, "Well, lucky me, and lucky my family's saved, and I am saved, and everybody around me's saved, and you know, let the world go to hell in a basket". No, that is not the attitude of a true believer. You can't just be saved to say, "Well, you know, I'm not responsible for anybody else". No, the very reason God called us, chose us, and loved us is that so we can be responsible to our classmates, and to our neighbors, and to our friends and coworkers. We are saved for a purpose. God saved us in his sovereign will, but we know for sure that he saved us for a reason. He placed us in the place where you are for a reason, for a purpose. He has given you the opportunity that he is giving you for a reason and for a purpose.

And Paul said, "The gospel did not just come to you in words," verse 5. Yes, sure, it was verbalized in words, but not only in words. The gospel came to you in power. The gospel is dunamis, and it literally means it has power to blast away, to open the blind eyes, and to crack the hard hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. See, when the dynamite of the Holy Spirit is accompanying words and they're not just mere words, they will open the blind eyes and they will break a hard heart. Many of you have heard me long enough, you've heard me say it repeatedly, that I can speak the most eloquent words, which I can't, or I could use the most erudite arguments, which I don't, or I could give you the most powerful expressions, which I can't, but until and unless the Holy Spirit of God takes these words and uses them, we'll only fall on deaf ears.

And that is why all of our witnessing and all of our ministries must be totally and completely submerged under the power of the Holy Spirit. They must be totally and completely submerged in prayer. They must be totally and completely depend on the dynamism of the Holy Spirit. When the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, there will always be hostility, because the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ would challenge human pride, not cater to it as many preachers are doing today. And the reason so many churches in America today are not facing opposition or hostility from the world is because many of them are not preaching the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ. But the persecution did not deter the Thessalonians.

Whenever you share your faith with somebody else, some would welcome it and accept it, others will not, and you should not be surprised at that. That should not surprise you at all. There are so many people out there who wanna be liked instead of convert people to Christ. Verse 6, "In spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy of the Holy Spirit". Listen, it's the same Holy Spirit that is working in the person who's doing the witnessing, speaking through him. It's the same Holy Spirit working on the other end, opening the eyes of the blind for somebody to respond. Whenever you share your faith, some would welcome it, some will not.

I know some of you are apprehensive about sharing your faith. Some of you are apprehensive and timid about witnessing for Christ because you think that you're gonna do it in your own strength. Some of you are worried that you might get persecuted. Either way, you're blessed. Read the Beatitudes. He said, "Blessed are you when you sit back and do nothing, and play it safe, and don't rock the boat. Blessed are you". No, he said, "Blessed are you when you are persecuted". You win both ways. When the hearer responds, you're both gonna experience the joy of the Holy Spirit, and that is why Jesus said that there are greater joy in heaven. I mean, literally in a Youssef translation, the angels having a big party every time a sinner repents.

One thing that was clear about the Thessalonians is that they did not sit back on their blessed assurance and did nothing when they came to Christ. Look at verse 8, "From you," the whole world was impacted by your witness. Ah, but do you know what the secret power that was... of course we know the real power is the Holy Spirit, but do you know part of the secret of why their witness was effective? It's right there in the text. I'm telling you, it is so incredible. He says, "Transformed lives". Transformed lives. That's the secret.

What happened why they heard the gospel? They decisively and definitively walked away from idol worship and began to worship Jesus alone. They definitively, and actively, and outwardly were serving the living God, regardless of the cost, and they were patiently waiting for his return. The three evidences of faith, what are they? You turn to Christ, then you immediately serve Christ, then daily you wait for Christ. Faith, love, hope. Somebody here would say, "Well, Michael, the Thessalonians worshiped idols and they walked away from idols, but we really don't worship idols. In Hinduism and in Animism, you know, they have these gods that they bring out of the closet, and they bow to, and then they put them back in the closet. That's idol worship, but we don't have idol worship here".

Let me tell you the definition of idols first. Anyone or anything that occupies our attention, our resources, and our time, that's an idol. The overall occupation of those things, they're idols. They could be the idol of selfish ambitions. Could be the idol of accumulation of money and power. Could be the idol of infatuation with the wrong person. It could be addiction that you keep saying that, "I can't break away from it". That means you're saying that God is not a strong God. You're worshiping the wrong God, because my God said he breaks the power of addiction. He breaks idols' power. He breaks all of that when you definitively walk out of these idols, walking with the living God. These are all idols.

And many claim to be Christians, and they claim Jesus to be their Savior, and yet they're living under the power of Satan. Anything and anyone who controls your life is an idol that must be decisively broken away from by the power of God. The Bible gives us a contrast between these idols and the true living God. Here they are. Idols are dead; our God, our true God, is the living God. Idols are false; God is true. Idols are many; God is one. Idols are visible and tangible, but God is invisible and intangible.

God is beyond the reach of sight and touch. God is the Creator of the universe. He is the Creator of all mankind. Verse 9, he's saying you cannot claim to have turned to the living God from idols and you're still serving these false gods, these false idols. When you turn to Christ, he will set you free, free to freely serve him and him alone. Verse 10, finally, it's saying the authentic believer is to be waiting for the return of Christ. Paul, of course, building his case as he gets to chapter 4. A true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ does not panic about false prophecies about end times. Let them say all they want. Let them set all the dates.

The clearest indication that you are waiting for Christ is your serving of him. That is the clearest indication. Hear me right on this one, waiting and serving must go together. You say, "But serving is active, but waiting is passive". No they're not, not when it comes to the Christian faith. Waiting and serving must balance each other in the Christian faith. Jesus said, "Occupy till I come". He didn't say, "Head out to the mountains". He didn't say, "Just pour on these charts". He said, "Occupy till I come". What does "occupy" mean? It means, "Work hard 'til I come". It means, "Serve diligently 'til I come". It means, "Give generously 'til I come".
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