Robert Jeffress - Signs Of The Times
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Economic uncertainty, political unrest, a global pandemic, just a few minutes watching the news each day, is enough to convince anyone that the end is near. And although we cannot know the time of Christ's second coming, we can know the signs. Today, we're going to look at the specific events outlined in scripture that will precede Christ's soon return. My message is titled: "Signs Of The Times". On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
I have a friend who has a saying, he says, "To a hammer, everything looks like a nail". And I know what he's saying. All of us tend to look at circumstances in our life or in the world through a unique set of lens. A lens that has been crafted by our own personal experience and perhaps by our own theology. To a hammer everything looks like a nail. To those of us who believe what the Bible says, about the return of Jesus Christ and the events that will precede that return. Well, that determines how we look at world events. To a premillennialist, every world event looks like a sign of the second coming of Jesus. And while it's true, Matthew 24:36 says, "No man knows the day or the hour of Christ's return".
As we're going to see in Jesus' words today, we are still to be observant of the signs around us that are pointing to his soon and certain return. And we are to live our lives in light of his coming. That's the theme of the passage we're going to look at today. If you have your Bibles turn to Luke 17, as we talk about the signs of the times. When my girls were growing up, they a word that they often used to describe people who kinda sinned out there. Or comments people would make that seemed coming out of left field. It was the word "Random". They would say, "Oh dad, that's so random". Or more often, "Dad, you're so random". And I knew what they were talking about.
When you look at these first 19 verses, of the sayings of Jesus in Luke 17, quite honestly they seem random. They seem totally disconnected from one another or from anything else Jesus has been talking about. But remember, he's giving these instructions for how to live in light of what he's going to talk about in verse 20 and that is his second coming. These verses tell us how we are to live in light of the second coming of Jesus. And in verses 1 through 19, you find five simple exhortations of how we should be living our lives in these last days. First of all, he says, we are to be careful in how we live. Look at verses one and two, "And Jesus said to his disciples, 'it is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than he should cause one of these little ones to stumble".
Now the word translated "stumbling block" is the Greek word "skandalon", we get our word scandal from it. It literally refers to a piece of bait that is used in a trap, in order to ensnare an animal. He's saying whatever you do be careful that you don't become a trap for other people. That in some way would make them stumble in their relationship with God. That would lead them into disbelief or into sin for them. The word translated little ones, sometimes people think of that as children. That's not what he has in mind here.
I think sometimes we read this, we think about causing a little child to stumble. Is this referring to some pervert who hangs out at the playground at an elementary school and tries to lure kids into the car with a piece of candy? Is that what he's talking about? No, that's not what he's talking about. The word translated little ones, refers literally to those who are naive, to those who are untaught. For example, he could be referring to non-Christians. Don't do anything in your life that would cause a non-Christian to stumble over the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That would lead them away from God.
A couple of weeks ago, I had just made a commitment to do something that became tremendously inconvenient for me to do. And so I was going to break the commitment but then I realized the people I was dealing with, they were non-Christians. And I knew they knew I was a Christian. And if I broke that commitment, something I had given my word to do, I knew what they would say, "That's what those Christians do, that's how those Christians live". I thought of Gandhi's observation, "I might be persuaded to become a Christian, if I ever met one". I kept the commitment even though it was inconvenient to do so because I didn't want to be a stumbling block to a non-Christian. I don't do that all the time, trust me. But I did it that time.
I think that's what he has in mind here. The term little ones not only refers to non-Christians, it can refer to newer Christians or untaught Christians. Don't do anything as an older, more mature Christian that would cause a new Christian to stumble in his relationship with God. That would lead that new Christian into sin. Paul actually used that term, stumbling block, in 1 Corinthians 8. Remember the situation in the church of Corinth? There was a debate over whether or not Christians should eat meat that had been offered to idols? The older, more mature Christians say, "What's the big deal? Of course we can eat it. There's no such thing as an idol. Why shouldn't we eat that meat"? But the newer converts in the church of Corinth had come out of idol worship. And to them it was sin to eat meat that had been offered to an idol.
And yet, as they saw these older Christians doing it, there was a temptation for them to violate their own conscience. And that's a terrible thing, to violate your conscience. It led them back into their old way, their old lifestyle before they were Christians. So that was the debate, "Should Christians eat meat that had been offered to idols"? You know today, we don't debate that subject. We debate subjects like: should Christians drink alcoholic beverages, for example. We know there's nothing in and of itself sinful about alcohol but what does it say to new Christians? Or what does it say to people who are tempted with alcoholism? How does my freedom of Christ... How is it impacted by other people?
Look at what Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 8:11-13, "For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined". Through your knowledge that there's no such thing as an idol, that there's nothing wrong with this meat. "Through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And thus by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food"... Paul says in Romans, "If food or drink causes my brother to"... There's the word -stumble, "I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble".
My freedom in Christ ends when it impacts another believer negatively. And notice what Jesus says: to cause another Christian or a non-Christian to stumble in his relationship with God, it would be better to have a millstone tied around your neck and cast into the sea. But you may not know what a millstone is. So I brought some video of our trip to Israel, to show you what a millstone is. It is not a little thing you put around your neck. It's 18 inches in diameter, three to four inches thick. It was used the huge cylinder in the milling process. There I am, pushing the millstone around. Did you see me there working at it? That's what he's talking about when he's talking about, having a millstone tied around your neck. It'd be better for you if that happened than to cause a person to stumble in his relationship with God.
In light of Christ's return, secondly, Jesus says, "Be forgiving". Look at verses 3 and 4, "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him: and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, saying, 'i repent', forgive him". It's important to know, Jesus has two kinds of sin in mind here. In verse 3, he's talking about the occasion where a fellow Christian is involved in sin that is hurting his own life or hurting the church or hurting the reputation of God. What are we to do with a fellow Christian who gets caught up in sin? Today's culture says, "Judge not, lest ye be judged". As if the most loving thing you could do would be to just ignore that person's sin, to accept it.
If you saw somebody lying on the side of the road, bloodied and beaten and left for dead, would the merciful thing to do be to just walk by and leave that person alone? No, you ought to stop and help him. It's the same with a fellow Christian who has been caught up and entangled in sin. Galatians 6:1 says: brethren, if a man is caught, literally he has over taken in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. We have an obligation toward those who are involved in sin to try to help them, to free them from sin. That's our responsibility. That's what he's talking about in verse 3. But then in verse 4, Jesus talks about a different kind of sin.
How are we to respond if somebody sins against us? Personally they offend us. Notice what Jesus says, "And if he sins against you seven times a day, saying, 'I repent', forgive him". Here's somebody who keeps wronging you and wronging you and wronging you and after every time they say, "Oh, please forgive me". What are you to do? You're to forgive. Now, some people have twisted these words to say something Jesus never said. They say, "Well, there it is, preacher. Our forgiveness is conditioned upon somebody asking for forgiveness". That's what he says, "If he asks for forgiveness, forgive him". Yeah, he says that, but he doesn't say, "If he doesn't ask for forgiveness, don't forgive him". Jesus said whether a person asks for forgiveness or doesn't ask for forgiveness, we are to always forgive.
You say, "Well, how can I forgive somebody if they don't ask for forgiveness"? Well, just think about this, if you condition your forgiveness of somebody who has wronged you on what they do, you make yourself their prisoner. If they don't ask for your forgiveness, does that mean you're doomed to stay in the prison house of bitterness for the rest of your life? What if that person who has wronged you has moved away and you've lost contact with them and they can't ask for forgiveness? Does that mean you're sentenced to bitterness? What if they're in the cemetery? They can't ask for forgiveness. Does that mean you're doomed to bitterness? No, the Bible says we are to forgive regardless of what that other person does. In Mark 11:25, Jesus said, "And whenever you stand praying, forgive. If you have anything against anyone, so that your father also who is in heaven may forgive you of your transgressions".
Jesus is picturing somebody in a worship service like this. And as you pray you suddenly remember somebody who has wronged you. What are you to do? Wait for that person to ask for forgiveness? No, Jesus said you have the ability right where you are, in that pew to forgive, to let go of that offense, to give up your right to hurt that person for hurting you. Why are we to forgive? Certainly because of what it does for us. Unforgiveness, bitterness, is like an acid the only thing get damaged is the container in which it's found. But an even greater reason to forgive is, God conditions his forgiveness of us, on our willingness to forgive others.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your father will not forgive your transgressions". Doesn't get much plainer than that, does it? I hear people trying to explain these verses away. No, Jesus says, "If you do not forgive, you cannot be forgiven". As one person said, "He who refuses to forgive another, destroys the bridge over which one day he must travel".
Jesus says, "Be forgiving". Thirdly, he says, "Be believing. Be believing". Look at verses 5 and 6, "And the apostles said to the Lord, 'increase our faith'! And the Lord said, 'if you have had a faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'be uprooted and be planted in the sea': and it would obey you".
A lot of people think that the key to effective faith is having a lot of it. But you know what the key is to effective praying? It's not the quantity of faith, it's the object of your faith. Jesus said it don't matter how much faith you have, you can have faith so small. It's like one of the tiniest seeds in nature, the mustard seed. But if you had just a tiny sliver of faith and it's placed in the right thing, the will of God, you can move mountains, you can uproot trees. You know a lot of people have this idea today that faith is kind of like positive thinking that if you think about something long enough and hard enough it'll happen. They think if I can just conjure up this faith, oh Lord, I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe, then suddenly the miraculous will happen. That's not what faith is. Faith is something small. It can be very small. But if it's placed in something that is within the will of God, it can transform into a miracle.
Isn't that what John said in 1 John 5 :14, "And this is the confidence that we have before him, that if we ask anything according to his will, we know that he hears us". And I can tell you from personal experience, you don't want anything that's outside the will of God. You may think you do, you don't. The will of God is not some fence to keep good things from coming into our life. It's a protection to keep evil things from entering into our life. "Be believing in these last days" Jesus says.
Fourth, be obedient. Now these verses, they're very unusual. Look verses 7 to 10, "But which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'come immediately and sit down to eat'? But will he not say to him instead, 'slave prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I've eaten and drunk: and afterward you'll eat and drink'? The master doesn't thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'we are unworthy slaves: we have only done that which we ought to have done'".
I read a number of commentators this week who said, "Oh, these verses are so hard to understand". They're not hard to understand at all. They're just hard to accept. What Jesus is saying is, just as a master doesn't reward a slave for doing what he's supposed to do, don't expect some big reward from God, simply for doing what he's commanded you to do. That's what slaves do, they obey their masters. We've talked in the past about rewards in heaven and that's a very real concept. There are rewards in heaven based on our faithfulness to God in this life. Rewards for those who go above and beyond the call of duty. But never forget, there is a duty we have to obey God. And we shouldn't expect any big pat on the back for that.
I hear some Christians and they give their testimonies and they sound like martyrs and talking about, oh, how they just struggled with sin but finally they said no to sin and yes to God and they're expecting some big applause for that. God says, "Well, good for you, that's what slaves are supposed to do". You know to me, that doesn't discourage obedience to God. In a strange way, it makes it easier to realize if there were no rewards in heaven, you and I ought to do what God has called us to do because of what he's done for us. He's redeemed us, he saved us from the pit of hell. We're obligated to serve him.
As Paul said, "Do you not know you are not your own? You have been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body". Be obedient. And finally he says, "Be grateful," now, there's a story in verses 11 to 19. This is not a parable, it's a natural occurrence. As Jesus and his disciples were making their way to Jerusalem, they were approached by 10 lepers, who cried out to Jesus, "Lord heal us"! And so Jesus said, "You go to the priest and tell him, in Jerusalem, you've been healed". And so obediently, they went to the priest and as they walked to the priest, they were immediately healed. But only one of those 10 who was healed, returned and came back to Jesus to thank him. Look at verses 17 to 19, "And Jesus answered and said, 'were there not ten who were cleansed? But the nine-where they? Was no one found who would give glory to God, except this foreigner, this Samaritan'? And Jesus said to him, 'arise and go your way, for faith has made you well'".
Did you know God appreciates our appreciation? In Philippians 4:6, I love this, in the living Bible, Paul says, "Don't worry about anything: instead, pray about everything: tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers". God revels in our gratitude. Those of you who are parents understand that. Imagine you have two children. One of your children, it doesn't matter, you can do the smallest thing for him or her and they are just overflowing with gratitude, oh, I appreciate this. Oh, thank you so much. Thank you so much. You have another child, it doesn't matter what you do for him or her. They will never utter the words thank you.
Now, which child are you more likely to favor and want to do things for? The grateful child or the ungrateful child? Why should we think God is any different? It's not that God is made in our image, it's because we are made in God's image. The reason we as parents tend to favor the children who show appreciation more is we're made in the image of a God, who puts a premium on gratitude and rewards those who are grateful. And that's why Jesus says, "In your living, don't forget to be grateful for what God has already done for you".
Now, these five exhortations we looked at are good for any time, for any Christian but they're especially useful and important in light of Christ returns. And that is what verse 20 turns our attention to, the end time events that will precede the return of Jesus Christ. Look at verse 20, "Now having been questioned by the pharisees as to when the Kingdom of God was coming, he answered them and said, 'the Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed: nor will they say, 'look, here it is'! Or, 'there it is'! For behold, the Kingdom of God is in your midst'". Now, folks, I want you to stay with me because if you tune out, you want to miss something very important.