A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on May 16, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Getting Ready to Take on the World… …with Prayers of Perseverance and For His ReturnRevelation 22:12-21Confirmands, now that Confirmation Sunday is here, are you breathing a sigh of relief?  No more coming in on Saturday mornings.  No more cramming your memory work at the last minute.  From now on, or at least till August 9 when school starts again, you can relax!  However, we can only relax for so long.  In the future what things are you looking forward to?  Let’s see, Daniel, next February 2 you’ll be 16.  The rest of you aren’t that far behind.  Maybe you’re looking forward to getting your driver’s license.  After that maybe going to college, getting a job, or joining the military.  Eventually you may want to find a wife and start a family – ah, let’s not rush it!  But how would you feel if Jesus came in glory before you had a chance to experience all the good things of life?  Does the thought of that disappoint you?  Would you prefer that Jesus wait until you’re older and ready to go be with Him anyway?   If you do, you wouldn’t be alone.  Probably most Christians feel that way at one time or another.   For the past 6 weeks, we have been using the Book of Revelation as the basis of a sermon series called, “Getting Ready to Take on the World.”  In Revelation God is just being honest with us – and of course He always is, but He warns us of things to expect that may interfere with enjoying a “normal” life.  However, God doesn’t just give us the bad news and then leave us like an uncaring doctor.  He stays by our side and assures us that He’s in control and that we’re going to be okay.  But actually we’re going to be more than okay.  In our text this morning He shows us how we can have a full and enjoyable life, even when surrounded with earthly troubles or disappointments.     The key is looking at the big picture, and here it is.  Our text had mentioned the Tree of Life.  Where’s that first talked about in the Bible?  At creation in Genesis.  Our text also talks about the Holy City or the Church in heaven.  These two are like bookends to the entire Bible.  And everything in between is about man’s sin and its consequences, and all that God did and suffered in order to restore us to Paradise.  That’s the big picture.  And now let’s compare whatever troubles or disappointments we face with everything God has revealed to us.  When we think about things in this way, the bad just kind of get swallowed up into God’s love – especially when you add His promise to work in all things for the good of those who rest in His love.   But now what?  In light of everything God tells us about ourselves, and everything He’s done to save us, what shall our response be?  Our confirmands’ “now what” is they’re going to vow to be faithful to God and conform their entire lives to His Word.  This is a wonderful, Spirit-driven response.  However, these last verses in the Book of Revelation teach us to take our commitment to God to a whole new level, a level we’ve maybe never thought of before.  We’re ready to take on the world, not just when we’re praying for perseverance, but when we’re praying for Jesus to come back soon.  We read, “He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”  But we might ask, “Why pray this?  He’ll come when He wants.”  Actually, God often bends His time table according to our prayers, because He hears our prayers when He made His plans in eternity.  Still, why does God tell us to speed up judgment day through our prayers?  Well, think about the impact praying that Jesus come quickly will have on us.  1.  Praying this keeps us from sin.  2.  Praying this is keeps us in His Word.  In short, praying that Jesus come quickly enables us to live and enjoy our life to the full!We read in our text, “Verse 14: Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  Verse 15: Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood – Revelation 22:14-15.”  The world’s definition of a full and enjoyable life is indulging in as many pleasures of sin as one can get away with.  Is that really so?  I’ve been told that there are three stages of alcoholism.  In stage one the person enjoys his drinking and everything that goes with it.  In stage 2 he’s still drinking, but he’s not having as much fun anymore.  In stage 3, his entire life has become vile, yet he can’t quit drinking.  Every sin is like that.  And so, even from a human point of view, sin does not bring a fun and enjoyable life, especially when it progresses to stage two or then stage three.  Rather, sin brings shame, guilt and loss of everything that make life truly worth living.  And now let’s look at sin from God’s point of view.  Again it says in verse 15, “Outside are the dogs…”  This isn’t talking about our pets at home.  It’s picture language for dangerous, mean, sick packs of sinners like the Pharisees, who surrounded Jesus when He was on the cross.  In Psalm 22 it says, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” Whenever we’re thinking about giving into a sin, let’s take a break from even thinking about that sin, and see what that sin turns us into.  Do we really want to run with the same pack that sneered while Jesus was suffering?  No way!  Rather, the faith God has given us by grace makes us want to stay as far from that sin as possible.  Unfortunately, we still have our sinful nature that believes sin’s falsehoods.  And so our sinful nature loves to imagine sin, look at it, and then see how close we can get to sin, without getting into too much trouble.  On the other hand, a prayer helps us fight our sinful nature is praying, “Jesus, come quickly.”  That kind of makes us not want to be where sin is, doesn’t it. “Jesus, speed up your coming again in glory!”  Now I’m not saying this prayer will take away every temptation.  Yet by praying this, sin loses some of its luster.  Also, if because of weakness we slip, we’ll quickly confess our sins to God and ask Him for His forgiveness, so that our robes may be made white, and so that when He does come, He will give us the right to eat from the Tree of Life and live in the Holy City.     However, as helpful as it is for us to keep praying, “Come quickly Lord Jesus”, at times we might be nervous about doing that, because we’re not really sure we’re ready for Him to come.  This wouldn’t be unusual.  But that little twinge of fear at the thought of Him coming is a good think when it drives us to hold on to the Word more firmly.  We read, “Verse 12: Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.  Verse 13: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  Jesus’ reward isn’t what WE earned.  It’s what HE earned for us by His perfect life and death.  And so, by believing we have his righteousness now.  Furthermore He is the beginning and the end, the author and perfect-or of our faith, and this He accomplishes in us through His Word.   So, I am not saying we won’t have a twinge of fear when we see the universe begin to disappear, or when a doctor announces that we have terminal illness.  Yet by growing daily in the Word, we’ll be ready to say to our fears on that Great Day, “Be gone!”  And, in those final moments while we’re still waiting, we’ll be ready to cry out with joy and expectation, “Come quickly Lord Jesus!You can see how important God’s Word is for us.  In fact this is why in the last verses of the Bible, He warns, “Don’t add to this book; don’t take away from it.”   You see, if we do either, what God says about us or reveals about Himself can go down like dominoes.  And it’s not that truth changes, we just won’t know it as well, and then eventually not at all, and then we won’t be praying anymore, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus”.  Instead we’ll love sin’s falsehoods again, which puts us among those dogs outside His Kingdom. On the other hand, and now I’m speaking personally.  The more I hear and read His Word, the more I experience how one verse in the Bible interlocks and reinforces the rest of the Bible.  I’m out of time to give you examples, but Confirmands, I plead with you to experience for yourselves how the Bible really does fit together, and how it really does fill up our hearts and our lives with joy, if we stay with it.  We read, “The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Finally, the Bible doesn’t just give us guidance and strength for ourselves.  But as we pray, “Come quickly Lord Jesus”, we’re reminded that there are a lot of people who aren’t ready for Jesus to come back, and so, we, Christians, have a lot of work to do.  But does this mean there’s no time left for fun?  No, it’s good for teenagers to enjoy a summer of sports or video games with their friends.  And it’s good to have goals for this life and to work hard toward achieving those goals.  God told us at creation, “Subdue the earth, take care of it.”  However, He also tells us to pray, “Come quickly Lord Jesus” in order to keep from sin, to keep us in the Word, and to give us encouragement to be a part of that one activity that gives us as much joy as the angels are having in heaven, and that’s leading others to also pray, “Amen, come quickly Lord Jesus.”  So, Confirmands, congregation, are you ready now to take on the world?  If you are, you can say amen now, or I can keep on preaching.  Amen.   

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