Sunday Sermon – Meeting Our Maker pt. 6 – Growing in Christ Series

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If you are someone who studies their Bible or who has been in church very much, you are familiar with the term – ‘the rapture.’ The word ‘rapture’ is not found in the Bible but comes to us through the Latin language. The New Testament was originally written in Greek and was first translated into Latin before it was translated into English. It was from the Latin translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that we get the word ‘rapture.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Rapture is the Latin translation (rapturo) of the phrase ‘shall be caught up.’ The phrase literally means – ‘shall be snatched away.’ The return of Jesus Christ to take His church out of this world has been a fundamental doctrine of the church since the very beginning. The Apostle Paul believed in the rapture of the church and he looked forward to it with great anticipation. We read in 2 Timothy –

2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Paul anticipated the return of Jesus Christ and he believed that every other Christian should as well. Paul believed that we should be living each day with Christ’s return in mind. He also believed that there was a crown of righteousness awaiting those who live each day with anticipation of Christ’s return and their standing before Him.

I. Eager to See Jesus

A. The Comfort of Christ’s Return

The Apostle Paul did not invent the idea of the church being taken out of this world. Our Lord taught this to His disciples.

John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Soon Christ would be leaving this world to return back to His Father. There was already a sense of anxiety developing in the disciples and would only get worse once they began to face intense persecution. Therefore Christ wanted to leave with words of comfort. ‘Don’t be troubled. I will return and take you away from this world so that you may be by my side.’  Indeed the thought of spending eternity with our Savior brings every believer great comfort.

B. The Caution of Christ’s Return

Yet, even though there is great comfort in the anticipation of Christ’s return, there is also a word caution. It has been two thousand years since Christ returned to the Father and as far as we know, it may be another two thousand years before He returns. No man knows the day or the hour when Christ will come for His church.

With the delay of Christ’s return, there comes the tendency for believers to become dull in their alertness. Much like the disciples who repeatedly fell asleep while Christ was praying in the Garden, many of Christ’s followers fall asleep spiritually. While our Lord was here on earth, He repeatedly warned His disciples about such spiritual sleepiness. “Watch”, Jesus told them, “… for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”

The book of Revelation begins with seven letters to seven churches. In His letter to the church of Sardis, Jesus said –

Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

No one knows for sure when Christ will return, yet we do know that He will. Jesus promised us His return and therefore we can know with certainty that it will happen.Yet unfortunately, for many it will come upon them like a thief breaking into their house in them middle of the night. It will happen when they are least expecting it and some will be ashamed when they stand before their Lord. The Apostle John wrote –

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

Why would a Christian be ashamed at Christ’s coming? Look at 2 Timothy 4:1-

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

One day, everyone is going to meet our Maker. One day every one of us is going to give an account of how we have lived. Perhaps the greatest sin the church has ever committed is allowing itself to sleep when we should have been watching, waiting, and working.

C. The Crown of Christ’s Return

There will be rebuke for the Christians who allowed themselves to fall asleep. Yet there will be reward for those who have stayed alert and who have lived with a sense of great anticipation of that glorious day. The Apostle Paul –

2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

II. Eager to Please Jesus                            

Over the last few decades there has been a lot of teaching concerning the rapture and other end time events. Indeed it is something exciting to study and to anticipate. But why do we love it so?

 A. Paul was eager to see Jesus because he was ready to leave this world

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

As many of you know, the Apostle Paul suffered greatly for the cause of Christ. During his time here on earth, he was beaten, stoned, starved and shipwrecked. At the time of this particular writing to Timothy, he was in prison; waiting his execution. Church tradition says that Paul was beheaded by a Roman executioner.

Paul wrote – ‘the time of my departure is at hand.’ The words he used are very descriptive. They refer to:

– a prisoner being released
– an ox being unyoked
– a tent being taken down
– or a ship being untied from the dock and setting sail

It’s not hard to understand Paul’s desire to go home to be with the Lord. The great saint was tired. He had given his very best.For over thirty years he had given his life completely to the cause of Christ and he was ready for it all to come to an end. The old soldier was ready to go home.

B. Paul was eager to see Jesus because he had lived for Christ in this world

 1. Paul desired to be praised and rewarded by his Master 

2 Corinthians 5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Paul believed with all his heart that he was accountable to Jesus for how had lived his Christian life. Because he believed this, he did all he could to live his life in such a way that it would be found ‘acceptable’ to the Lord. Paul was not working to try to earn his way to heaven. Paul was working to please His Savior. The term ‘wherefore we labour’ actually means – {to love honor.} Paul was saying, “Because we desire to be honored by the Lord, we live for Him.” Many translate this as – “It is our ambition to please our Master and thus to receive His praise.” Paul wanted to hear those precious words – “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I have no doubt that he heard them.

2. Therefore – Paul lived his life so as to obtain such reward

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

i. “I fought the good fight.”

Paul’s Christian journey hadn’t been easy. He told the Corinthians that there were ‘many adversaries.’ There were many who opposed him. They beat him. They stoned him. They falsely accused and had him arrested. Yet Paul didn’t cower down to their opposition. I have fought the good fight.

ii. “I have finished my course.”

I ran the race that God set before me. Regardless of the opposition, I kept reaching forth to those things which were before me. I keep pursuing the prize God has promised. I gave all I had to becoming the Christian, Christ called me to be.

iii. “I have kept the faith.”

I have not compromised on my message. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I determined to know nothing among the churches except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

3. And even in death – I give my life for Jesus

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

The Roman executioner didn’t take Paul’s life. Paul gave his life for the cause of Christ. The word ‘offered’ refers to a drink offering found in the Old Testament. The drink offering symbolized a total sacrifice of one’s life to the will of God.  Paul wrote – “From the very beginning my life has been poured out like a drink offering to the Lord and now the time has come for the last drop.” Did he dread death? Years early he said to the elders of the Ephesian church –

Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

No wonder Paul anticipated receiving the victor’s crown. Even death was a triumph for this great saint of God.

III. Eager to Serve Jesus               

A. How can we be better prepared to see our Savior?

Must we die the martyr’s death? Physically speaking – probably not. Spiritually speaking – definitely yes.

Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

B. Paul’s Final Words of Encouragement to Timothy

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove , rebuke , exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

In this final letter Paul is saying to young Timothy – “I have run my part of the race. Now I am passing onto you the baton. Therefore:

 1. Watch Thou in All Things      

Be faithful by staying alert. Don’t become spiritually lethargic. Don’t become cold and calloused. Don’t become indifferent. Stay alert and being ready for the Lord’s return.

2. Endure    

Early in this same letter Paul wrote –

2 Timothy 2:3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

In other words, don’t be a spiritual wimp.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began ,

3. Complete your ministry

2 Timothy 4: 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

First of all, never forget that it’s about bringing men to Christ. Our Savior came to seek and to save the lost. Go ye therefore out into the highways and the hedges and compel them to come in. Do the work of an evangelist. The way Paul wrote this indicates that he was not suggesting that Timothy necessarily had the spiritual gift of an evangelist. There is no definite article ‘the’ before the word evangelist. Instead Paul was telling Timothy that seeking to win the lost was his duty, even as it is the duty of every believer.

Secondly, whatever God has given you to do, do it to the best of your ability. “…make full proof of thy ministry.” If God has given you the fifth grade boys to each in Sunday School, teach them to the very best of your ability. If God has called you to serve in the nursery, serve Him well in the nursery. If your duty is to be a pastor, be the best pastor you can be. Early in this same letter Paul wrote –

2 Timothy 1:6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

The phrase ‘stir up the gift of God’ literally means – “fan your zeal towards your spiritual gift into a roaring flame.” In today’s terminology we might say – ‘Get on fire for the Lord!’

CONCLUSION

Throughout this series on Meeting Our Maker, I have tried to share with you some inspiring story concerning an Olympic athlete. Today I want to share with you something about an amazing young lady named Allyson Felix.

Allyson Felix runs track and field. Her special event is the 200 meter. She ran in 2004 in Athens and finished second, winning a silver medal. Then in 2008 she ran in Beijing and again won a silver. Yet Allyson Felix wasn’t satisfied with being second best. She wanted to win the gold. And so she trained again and in London she won the gold medal.

But there is something even more special about Allyson Felix. I quote – “Yet, there’s another finish line Allyson has her eyes set on in this life, and therefore, becoming more Christ-like is a daily goal.” [1]

Allyson Felix comes from a Christian home and she herself is a born-again believer. She states that she and her mother pray before every race. She stated -“I have learned that track doesn’t define me. My faith defines me. I’m running because I have been blessed with a gift.” [2]

Her life verse is Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Allyson Felix has a glow about her that makes it apparent that she is a child of God. There is one of her quotes that I especially like and I believe that it applies to both earthly and heavenly races – “I always want to give more than I gave yesterday.” [3]
My brethren, our Lord has rewards awaiting those who give Him their very best. They’re running the race with a passion to please their Savior. Paul no doubt will receive those rewards. Many others will as well. The question each of us needs to ask ourselves is – ‘Am I running so as to win? Will I hear my Lord say – ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’?

[3] ibid

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