Michael Youssef - Watch Out for the Hidden Enemy - Part 5
One of the great challenges for believers in the 21st century is how do we live in the city of man, wherever we are, with all of its problems, with all of its difficulties, with all of its challenges, and all of its distractions, but keep our eyes on the city of God to which we belong? That's really a challenge. That is really a temptation because I find it much easier to love this life with little attention to where I'm going to be spending my forever. There are very few of us who could say with the writer to the Hebrews in chapter 13, verse 14, "For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come".
Now, I want us to say this together with real enthusiasm, okay? "For here", all of us, young or old, it doesn't matter, all of us who live in this city of man, we don't think often of our eternal future. When we see everything around us is in opposition to the Christian faith, when everything around us is contrary to the Word of God, when everything around us and so many people who are in authority, people in power, are ridiculing and opposing God's moral absolutes, how shall we, who know the Lord Jesus, live now?
The last four messages, we traced the historic division from the beginning of creation between the city of God and the city of man. We saw how, when Adam and Eve sinned against God, when they refused to obey God and want to go it alone, God placed an enmity between the descendant of the woman, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ himself and those who love him, and the descendants of the serpent, those who reject the God's one and only plan of salvation for eternal life.
And in the last message, I explain how sin and evil never stand still. Those of us who belong to the city of God, and, yet for now living in this place, being placed in this city, in the city of man, whatever city you live in, you are placed in the city of man, but you are placed as an ambassador. The saddest thing is when you see ambassadors defecting their home country.
You see, we are placed in the city of man to call out others to come and join us. We are placed in the city of man to witness, to represent our home country, heaven. We are placed as an ambassador. We are placed in the city of man to be a soul to keep this from rotting completely. We are placed in the city of man so that we may urge and plead with people, "Please escape the coming judgment. Please flee from the coming wrath of God. Please choose eternal life rather than eternal judgment. Please, please come and receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life from Jesus," and we do all of that with our eyes on the prize. We don't take our eyes off the prize. We keep focused on the city of God, the divine city that is to come, the heavenly Jerusalem that is to come, the eternal habitation, which we call heaven.
Now, today I wanna give you five reasons as to why believers tend to take their eyes off the prize, and they place them totally, completely on this life. Five reasons, I wanna share them with you. First of all, reason number one is false perception of the heavenly Jerusalem. Second reason is the overwhelming pressures of this life, which we all face. Third reason is the allure of the seen versus the unseen, and fourthly, it is the apostasy or the worldliness of the church of Jesus Christ here on earth, and finally, the false teaching regarding salvation and heaven. First of all is the false perception of the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem.
Listen to me. If I believe half of that stuff, those perception, if half, I wouldn't wanna go there either. I mean, think about this, sitting in clouds and playing harp and singing choruses 24/7, wearing halos and looking very cherubic? The streets of gold and the pearly gates and 24/7 boring church services, that is not heaven. There are all sorts of distortion about the city of God, the New Jerusalem, and the truth is this. Listen, please, listen to me. The truth is this: The heavenly city of God is awesome. It is absolutely magnificent. The heavenly city of God is indescribable to the human mind, and there is a reason why the Bible only gives us only glimpses of eternity in heaven, and the reason for that is because, if we really know what it's like, we will be jumping off high skyscrapers to get there.
Think of the best that you see here on earth, and multiply it a billion times, and then you get to the truth. Think of the most beautiful scenery that you've ever seen anywhere in the world, multiply it a billion times, and then you get close to the truth. Philippians 1:23, Paul was trying to describe heaven, was trying to explain heaven. He finally says, "It's far, far, far, far better". And so false perception keeps us from focusing on heaven. Secondly, the overwhelming pressures in life. Young or old, we all seem to feel the pressure, and that eclipses our vision of our eternal future. Even the godliest among us has to admit that the problems of life steal our focus from heaven. The godliest among us. The pressures of business and career and difficulties and family and financial challenges.
When you consider the emotional wear and tear of life, when you consider the hurt and rejection and pain, when you consider the loss of loved ones, when you consider the various responsibilities that we carry with us in this life, all of these are combined, to them, a vision of heaven. Don't misunderstand me. I believe God wants us to work hard. He does not want us to goof off. God wants us to be good stewards. I'm not saying you got to put white robes and head for the mountain, no, but by the same token that we do all of that with our focus and our attention toward the city of God that is yet to come. Our focus is to introduce people to the Savior. We allow these pressures in life, these problems of life to help us to let the light of Christ shine through us.
What difference otherwise between us and those who don't know Jesus, who are not going to heaven, who don't know they're going to heaven? These are all, should be the focus of our heavenly reward. Beloved, the world is desperate to know God. There is deep longing inside of them. In fact, they're living in quiet desperation. They wanna know God. They wanna know the true God. The reason we must forgive their insults and ridicule, the reason we must love them despite of the fact they set themselves as enemies toward us, the reason we pray for them in spite of that enmity and hatred is because we long for them to come and know Jesus, amen?
So a false perception of the city of God, distorts the truth about the city of God, then, secondly, the overwhelming pressures of the city of man, often eclipses our vision of the eternal city of God. Thirdly, the allure of what is seen trips us. It really does. I don't know about you. I know it trips me all the time. I mean, by nature, listen, all of us, by nature, your pastor is included, what we see with our eyes gets our immediate attention, right? Am I preaching the truth? If you're not, talk to me. By nature, what is visible tugs on our heartstrings, right? We say, "Out of sight, out of mind," and this is absolutely true.
In this postmodern culture, people can literally believe what can only be described as "make-believe," and they're living in their non-reality world, and, yet there are many others who think that God's promise of heaven is a foolish fantasy. They say, "Well, it's just something for the poor and the needy to hold onto so they can cope with life". Even the least materialistic believer among us can get sucked in by these make-belief, so they make their business plans, they make their life plans, they make their retirement plans, they make all sorts of plans as if they're gonna live forever.
So many people who confess Christ as Savior and Lord, and, yet they give the crumbs that are falling off their tables, and they think they're great philanthropists. Give me a break. I mean, there's some people here who come to church late, leave early, and they think they're great, spiritual people. Beloved, the Scripture is clear. Only what you give to the Lord in this life will be waiting for you on the other side. False perception of the city of God works against us. Overwhelming pressures of life eclipse our vision of the city of God. The allure of what is seen blinds us to the reality of the city of God, and fourthly, the churches' worldliness the churches' modeled teaching, modeled thinking regarding the city of God impacts us.
Walk to the average church and pick someone at random and ask, "What are your spiritual goals"? You'll be shocked with the answers. Walk to the average church and pick someone at random and say, "How are you accomplishing God's purpose in your life"? You'll be shocked with the answers. The early church lived and worked to glorify God and the name of God in this life because they were looking forward to the next. They planned for heaven and for eternity. Their priority was holiness. Ours is happiness. Their priorities were sacrificing for God. Ours is self-satisfaction. Their measure of success was measured by eternity and eternal perspective. Ours, measured by how much we can accumulate.
Let me ask you this: Why would anyone want to think of heaven, the city of God, when their best life is here, when their best life is now? It's not a secret that, today, we try to live a life without risk, without loss, and without pain. We really do. I mean, after all, every desire can be gratified, and every pain can be alleviated, and every limitation can be transcended, and every happiness can be achieved. Why ever think about heaven and plan for heaven? And so false perception of heaven can deter us. Life's pressures can eclipse our vision of heaven. The allure of the visible blinds us. The churches's worldliness muddle our vision.
Five, false teaching, which is rampant, about eternity and heaven and salvation, there are so many so-called mega evangelical churches who never preach on heaven or hell or eternity, never, not one time. I thank God for all the faithful ones here in this city who preach the truth and let the chips fall where they may, but there are very few of us left. The mainline denominations, gone, long time ago, about the subject. Now the so-called evangelical churches have joined the chorus, and you hear them say, "God will not send anyone to hell". Well, this is actually true and false at the same time.
God is not gonna send anyone to hell that have not chosen to go to hell. If they refused God's plan of salvation, if they refuse Jesus's salvation, if they refuse his hand of forgiveness, if they refuse the cross of Christ, they're gonna walk into hell with their own feet. They're sending themselves to hell. They will go there because they refuse the one and only true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I'll never forget in the early days of this church when we were part of a mainline church, and I felt a burden in my heart to reach out to some of these pastors in the mainline denominations. I really did, and I began to set series of lunches. I would invite them to come, one-on-one, and I would just talk to them, draw them out, begin to talk to them about, you know, "Why is it only one way to God"? "Why Jesus is the only way to heaven?" and I would talk with them, and I'll never forget, one time, a man got so angry, and he looked at me and said, "How arrogant of you to say that there's only one way to God, that Jesus is the only way to God"?
And I said, "Your false teaching not only misleads people, but misleads them all the way to hell. Your false teaching confuses even some of the professing Christians". I pleaded with him, "This is not my idea. This is not what I would've probably wished. I have nothing to do with this truth of God. I only accept it. It is Jesus who made the claim. It is Jesus who made the statement. It is Jesus who said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life to no avail.'" To no avail.
Now, this teaching, for some of you who might not know, is known as universalism. That's a big word, but what it means, so many in the churches practice or believe universalism: "Everybody is gonna make it. It doesn't matter if they're Hindu, Buddhist. Everybody's gonna make it in the end," because this is how they see it. The Bible said God is love and therefore love is God, and all we need to do is love. Beloved, this is, to me, at least, as I've been studying the Scripture for 50 years, and as I'm looking at our world today in the last 3 to 5 years, as I'm examining the condition of the church of where we are and where we're going, I believe with all my heart we're coming toward the end. Not fear. "Lift up your head," the Bible said, "for your day of redemption draws nigh". Amen, amen, give God praise. Give God praise.
Very few now can really say with, Hebrews 13:14, "We have not here an abiding city, but we seek after the city that is to come". Please hear me right. I'm getting close to the end. I love life as much as you do. I love serving the Lord in this life. I love serving the kingdom of God in this life. I love serving you, as my congregation, in this life. I love serving my family in this life, but every waking moment now, I am looking forward to the coming of Jesus, to that new city, and every day it's growing in intensity.
A man by the name of Henry C. Morrison, from the Midwest, Henry served the Lord in Africa for 40 years, faithfully. He worked long and hard. He endured cold nights and hot days and served Jesus with all of his heart. At the end of his 40-year service, he was returning home to retire in the Midwest. On the boat that brought him from Europe into the New York harbor, there was President Teddy Roosevelt on the same boat, the same ship, and so when they docked at the New York harbor, there were thousands of people at the harbor, waiting for Teddy Roosevelt, and they were waving flags, and there were music and fanfare and celebration, welcoming President Roosevelt home.
Not one, not one person was waiting for Henry and welcome him home, not one. Being made of flesh and blood like all of us, Henry Morrison felt dejected, disappointed, disparaged, and he became depressed, and so he went from the harbor to the train station, bought a ticket to get home to the Midwest, and as he sat in that train, he heard the voice of the Lord audibly, whispering in his hear, "Henry, you are not home yet". He was not talking about the Midwest. He's talking about heaven.
Some of you may have faithfully served the Lord and received not a word of thanks, and you're despondent, discouraged. Some of you may have sacrificed dearly. Not one acknowledged your sacrifice. You may have been teaching, serving, and giving, and not one said a thing to you. Remember, you're not home yet. You're not home yet. Wait till you get home, and you'll hear from the lips of Jesus, "Well done, good and faithful servant," and I wanna say, "Amen and amen and amen".