Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Living Stone that Causes Stumbling, by Pastor Ed Evans

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:2-10

2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation-
2:3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
2:4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and
2:5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
2:6 For it stands in scripture: "See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
2:7 To you then who believe, He is precious; but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,"
2:8 and "A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
2:10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

This past week the children of the King, you who have become "God's own people" have been stressed and dressed down for not believing a lie.

The TV Cable wires, radio broadcasts and newspaper printing presses were burning up with the news that the world was ending on May 21st and the earth would be destroyed!

Oh my! Oh gosh! Holy cow! Yikes! Whatever will we do?!

The almost comical rush of media lemmings off the very edge of wisdom and sanity brought to mind the old two-line poem: "When confused, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!"

An 88-year-old civil engineer and radio network owner, Harold Camping, had declared the world would end at 6 p.m. -- local time all over the world in a rolling earthquake beginning in New Zealand -- and he had spent $2 million dollars putting up billboards to let everyone know. TV screens filled with wide-eyed followers declaring "It's true. He knows. Make peace with God, now!"

Of course, it's easy to say all that now, right? I mean, here it is May 22nd, a day later, with no rolling earthquakes, no appearance of our Lord, and so now we can laugh and make jokes about it. Got news for you. We could do that before.

I won't go into Harold Camping's entire history, it's out there on the Internet if anyone wants to look at this late date, information that was there all along about how many times he had played this same game, and the destruction of the world never came. What do you call a prophecy that doesn't come true? I'm not certain, but you don't call it a prophecy. Prophecies happen.

But there's an even better reason we should have been able to laugh and joke about it during that "stressful" week leading up to May 21st. What's that reason? The reason is because we are children of the King. Because we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the inspired Word of God.

If you are going to believe in such "prophecies", such false claims, then you are going to have to forget about Jesus Christ, because you are going to have to believe that He lied to us in Matthew 24:36 where, speaking to His disciples on the Mount of Olives, sitting beside a fig tree, Jesus described what would happen during the last days, ending with, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Jesus thought it important enough to repeat His warning just two verses later: " Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour."

In the context of that conversation with His disciples, just a few verses earlier, still there on the Mount of Olives, Jesus warns His disciples, in verse 11, that many false prophets will appear and "deceive many people." Mr. Camping has said the world was ending before, in the 1980's, again in 1994, and now, again; always false.

He has also for years been telling people not to attend church, claiming the Holy Spirit has abandoned churches, and relating how there was silence in heaven because no one was being saved. Oh please, how gullible do you have to be, how ignorant of scriptural discernment do you have to be, to be so easily led away from the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your understanding of holy scripture?

Harold Camping builds his entire false prophesy upon his private interpretation of Ecclesiastes 8:5. He takes that verse out of context and twists it to mean what it was never meant to mean. In fact, the true irony is that the context of chapter 8 is about the limitation of man's knowledge, how much we do not know, cannot know.

It's always possible, of course, that whatever Mr. Camping meant to accomplish, God meant for His own purposes, and perhaps many people came to accept Christ because of the actions of this false prophecy.

But sadly, it is more likely this debacle of false prophecy, for many, undermined what little they knew of Christ, and convinced them that, like Camping's claims, there was nothing to the claims of Christ. This is pleasing only to the god of this world, who delights in such false masquerades of the true Christ.

It is our individual responsibilities, as followers of Jesus Christ, to know enough about the inspired word of Almighty God that we can discern the true from the false. Our natural senses should alert, out of our own learned wisdom about God's word, when people begin twisting and misusing His word. For example, Camping twists scripture to change the dates of Jesus' birth and death, the times of Noah, and other events. For what purposes? Well, for one thing, to disagree with Bible scholars makes news, and Mr. Camping writes and sells books. Publicity also generates advertising sales, and Mr. Camping also has a $22 million dollar radio network.

So, how should Christians react to all this?

First, let us accept that there is a war in heaven. We have God's word that tells us that. Satan and his demons are the enemy of God. God's word tells us that. For that reason, Ephesians 6:12 explains to us, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

When that verse was posted on Facebook recently, someone responded, "Honestly I would like this, but I don't like the war. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, but I don't have to like it."

As I read that response, my jaw dropped. What? Do they believe we have a choice in this conflict between good and evil? Okay, that's enough, no more conflict between good and evil. We're not gonna do war no more. Satan, settle down and be nice. God, Satan says he'll behave so You and all Your angels can stand down and take a break.

Now, it is true according to God's word, that when we get to heaven there will be no more sin. But that means that those who want to do sin, who seek sin to do, they won't be there. But here in this life, we are still up for grabs by the enemy if we do not have the life of Christ within us.

But, if we do have Christ, we have a compulsion to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Love, purity, all the good things have come. As 2nd Corinthians 5:14-15, 17, tells us, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again ... Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the news has come!"

Those renewed in Christ have no reason to be concerned about this date or that date, but we can merely accept Jesus' word, that no man knows. Our job is to do as Jesus in Mark 16:15 instructs us, "He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'"

Note that there is nothing there about packing up and waiting for His arrival, nothing about making arrangements for who will take care of our pets left behind, who will get our house, our car, our fortune. He who loved us first will see that we are taken care of, but first, we need to share His love with all the world. Of course, that will not always be easy, for as we do move into the end times, the persecution of Christians will increase, even as we are seeing in China, India, Pakistan, and Africa today

In the case of those described in verse 9, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people," we will have the empowerment of the sons and daughters of God; we will have steadfastness and the living truth; the "living stone" which causes others to stumble.

The inspired Word of God makes it clear that there is "the judgment" coming, that God sees and God neither ignores those who become His enemy, nor those who accept His Son. His Word is clear, and true, and deadly to those who ignore Him, even before "the" judgment gets here. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that "the Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword."

Let the false prophets do their worst. We the sons and daughters of the royal family have work to do, a mission for the sake of Christ, and the Word of God, which false prophets attempt to use against us, is a two-edged sword in the hands of the believer. Know your sword. For having received mercy, through the Word we now offer Christ to the world, and His hand of mercy.


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