Matthew chapter 7. Could we pray before we come to God's word? This is vital, this is probably the most important thing that we will do. We are seeking God's help, we are asking for the Holy Spirit to come and do His ministry, which we cannot do. So would you unite with me? If you know the Lord, pray that He will come and that He will speak in a very definite way to people. If you're not a Christian here, maybe these aren't familiar surroundings to you and you're new to all this here today, you're a visitor, well, you're welcome - but we want you to have more than just a human experience, or a religious experience of the environment that you're in. We would love you to have a God experience, and we believe that's what God wants for everybody here - but it's important that your heart is open, and that you are welcoming the Lord to come and speak to you. So why not pray a very simple prayer like: 'Lord, speak to me. Lord, I want to experience You'. Maybe you're cynical or sceptical, you don't even know if He exists - well, that's OK, He's bigger than that, and you can ask Him. You can say: 'Lord, if You're there, speak to me' - and He is there, and He will speak to you. So come and just very simply, from your heart, cry out to Him. Let's all seek His face as we unite in prayer just now.
Father, Abba Father, Holy Father, as we have been singing: Lord, we want to cry 'Holy' from the depths of our heart. You are our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Yet, Lord, with all Your holiness and awesomeness, and all Your transcendence above and beyond all that we are as created beings, Lord, to think that we can call You our 'Abba' in heaven. Within our hearts rises up that spirit of adoption, the Spirit of Your Son, Jesus, crying 'Abba Father'. Lord, we want everybody here today to know that relatedness to You as children of God. Lord, for that to happen, they need to receive You; and we ask that You will come by Your Holy Spirit, and Your Holy Spirit will convince of sin, of righteousness, of judgement - that Your Holy Spirit will witness Christ to the minds and hearts of those who have not yet believed, that Your Holy Spirit will quicken them and breathe life upon them, and open their eyes - not just the eyes of their head, Lord, the eyes in their heart, open the eyes of their heart, open their spiritual ears, unplug them from whatever is blocking there, Lord, would You unplug it right now. Whatever has hardened their heart and calloused their heart, preventing You touching and doing deep surgery to their heart, Lord, would You break through today, by the oil of the Holy Spirit would you soften their hearts, Lord, in order that they might respond to You just now. Lord, all of us, we all need a touch from You, Lord - myself included. So we pray: come, come Lord Jesus, come Holy Spirit, come Heavenly Father, come and make Your home with us now we pray. Dispel all the darkness, and flood this space and this place, this moment of time, with Your Presence and Your Lordship we pray, Amen.
Now we will take time to read this portion again. I know it has already been read, but we need to read it again so that it is fresh in our mind. Verse 24 then, reading from the New King James Version of Matthew chapter 7 verse 24. Jesus is speaking, of course: "'Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall'. And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes".
I'm going to entitle this parable today for you as 'The Survival Plan For Life'. Particularly, in the contemporary sense, I believe it's a survival plan for the last days, the close of time. It's a very simple plan. Don't be perturbed at all, just look at what Jesus is saying - He says: 'You need to hear Me. You need to hear what I'm teaching, what I'm preaching, what I'm saying. You need to hear My word - and, having heard it, you need to put it into practice'. Now that's a survival plan for life, and particularly I believe - in a contemporary sense, here and now - it's a survival kit for the end of the age.
Now Luke also records this parable of Jesus, and he gives us a little bit more detail. He describes the person who survives the storm as 'a person who comes to Him', and that is vital - you've got to come to Jesus Christ, and you've got to obey Jesus Christ. Luke gives us what Glenn was demonstrating so well for us with the kids, the fact that a foundation needs to be dug. Luke says that we've got to come to Jesus and be like a man building a house, and he digs deep - that's how Luke puts it - he digs deep, laying a foundation on the rock. Then, when the rains descend and the floods come, that man's life, or that woman's life, will stand firm and secure. Alternatively, those who hear the word and do nothing have their life built on sinking sand, and they will not survive the storms.
So there are many lessons in this, but let me highlight a few that I believe the Lord would have me bring to you just now. The first is a warning: you don't have to be vehemently opposed to Jesus Christ to flounder when the storm comes. Do you understand? You don't have to be an atheist or agnostic, you don't have to be a purveyor of religion that is anti-Christ or contrary to the claims of Christ, you don't have to be a devil worshipper - this parable tells us you just have to do nothing. Just do nothing! What a description of 21st-century Western civilisation, and particularly in our land! There is a lot of hearing of the word of God, in the heritage that we have particularly here in Ireland, we know a lot about the sayings of Jesus Christ and His person in a sense - but when we don't obey, when we do nothing with what we have received, when the storm comes our life will crumble.
The only foundation for life is hearing God's word, obeying it - which is coming to Christ, repenting of your sin (that means doing an about turn, turning away from the things that you have engaged in to bring satisfaction, and they have left you empty of course; you turn away from selfishness and any attempts to earn God's favour). You repent, you do an about turn and turn to Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of men, and you believe in Him: believe that He died for your sins, believe that He rose again to give you life, that He has ascended to heaven, He is at the right hand of God, and He is speaking to you now, and He is inviting you to come to Him. Believe this, embrace it, and your life will be built on the rock - making Christ and His truth the foundation of your life.
Now let me just ask you: have you done that? Have you come to Jesus? Have you dug deep in repentance? That hard ground, that fallow ground that hasn't been fertile maybe ever, or maybe for a long time, some of you professing Christians - have you dug up in repentance? Is repentance an ongoing thing, and are you continually laying the foundation? No other foundation can people lay than the foundation of Jesus Christ. Now many people in the pluralistic age that we live in say: 'Well, why should I? Why should I do what you're telling me to do? Why should I build my life on Christ or His sayings as opposed to someone else? Or just build my life as best I can according to my own ethics and beliefs? I don't feel that this is something that I need to do right now'. Well, one reason why you do need to do this is because of the storms of life, and the experiences that will come along your way. Everybody's lives are full of storms, but Jesus also teaches of an incoming forecast which isn't good, conditions that are going to get worse and worse as we approach the end of the age. In fact, the language that He uses here in this parable is 'a great crash, a fall that was disastrous'.
Now the general problems of life, the storms of life, all of us have to face. The book of Job says: 'Man is born unto trouble as sparks fly upwards'. Many of us are living in the micro of the macro, a little cameo in our own personal experience of what is actually going on in the chaotic crash of human society around us that we are witnessing. Jesus taught that the troubles of this world will climax one day in what we might call 'the perfect storm'. Do you know what a perfect storm is? I'm not talking about the book or the film that came out of the book recently, I'm talking about the phenomenon, the expression 'perfect storm' is an expression that describes a combination of circumstances that will aggravate a situation drastically. When these circumstances come together, the confluence of these circumstances results in an event that is unusual in its magnitude. The term has become synonymous, almost, with the worst case scenario. The term 'perfect storm' was bandied about a lot in the recent global financial crisis that we have all experienced. But Jesus, many many times, prophesied of a time of unprecedented trouble that will hit this world - a perfect storm, if you like.
Turn with me to read about it - keep your finger there in Matthew 7 and go to Matthew 24 to read a few verses. Jesus speaking again, Matthew 24 verse 5: 'For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ', and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows', or the beginning of the birth pangs, 'Then they will deliver you up to tribulation', or trouble, 'and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come'. A perfect storm. Now preachers in every era have used these words of Christ to insinuate that His return is imminent, it's going to happen at any moment. I heard that as a young person, and at times it frightened the living daylights out of me. Some of us who have grown up in Christian circles, we have been under that teaching for a long time - and we do believe it, that the coming of Christ is nearer than it has ever been. But all of us, I believe, have come to a place - even the most cynical among us - where we have at least the faintest sense that we are living in unparalleled times. Our world is changing, society is different, it has become more fragile than ever in modern memory, but there is a perfect storm brewing where certain ingredients are coming together, being aligned.
Let's look at the present landscape as it compares to some of Jesus' words. Persecuted Christians are being run out of Iraq en masse as we speak, beheadings, crucifixions, children being sawn in two. Of course, fundamentalist Islam is engaged in jihad, and they believe that they are serving Allah by slaughtering the infidels - that's you and me - believing they are doing God a service by making martyrs out of us. There is war in the Middle East, of course our own nation has now gone to join that war - but I'm led to believe, and figures vary, that there are about 30 or 40 global wars current at this moment. Aeroplanes are being shot out of the sky over Ukraine. The World Health Organisation has declared that Ebola, the outbreak in West Africa, is an international public health emergency. Ebola experts are warning of an African apocalypse in the face of unprecedented outbreak that has left hundreds lying dead in the street - pestilences, diseases. There are apparently increased levels of natural disasters, earthquakes. Not to mention the 'culture wars', as it has come to be known as, over God's word and morals that have been monumental in society, derived largely from the Bible and a Judaeo-Christian ethic - and now it is being chipped away and completely devastated.
The words of Christ are coming true, the world is ultimately heading toward a perfect storm. Some commentators have suggested that this perfect storm will combine five factors at least: religion will be involved, politics, economics, war, and geophysical events. These will all have national and international, global, effects. Jesus says that there will be a time that will come when men's hearts will fail them for fear. Now I think there is no doubt - and I hope you agree with me - that we are living in monumental days when we are beginning to see the things that can be shaken being shaken, in order that the things that cannot be shaken might remain. Who can deny the shaking that society, global society, is experiencing just now? In almost every sphere of existence the tremors can be felt!
Turn with me to that portion in Hebrews 12, I'm going to read it in the NIV, Hebrews 12 verses 25 to 29: 'See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks', that's God. 'If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens'. The words 'once more' indicate the removing of what can be shaken - that is, created things - so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire''.
Now let me ask you: how will you survive this storm? This storm is coming! It is very possible that this storm has begun! How will you survive? Now we need to beware, and rightly interpret Scripture and not engage in manipulative scaremongering or tactics to try and get people to believe - but, that being said, Jesus has forewarned us to expect such times, and they are here! How will you survive? But whatever is the case prophetically in a global sense, practically - if we're honest - life has become a storm for most people. Maybe you're not so much concerned about all this biblical prophecy stuff, you're just trying to weather the storm in your own heart. It could be a description of your recent experience: a great crash has come! You have gone through a disastrous fall, and you're not surviving. You can't cope, you don't know what to do or where to turn. Maybe you're young here, and things aren't too bad for you, the horizon is promising - but when the crises come, as they will come because that's life, what will your life be built on? How will you survive the storm?
The times are very uncertain and precarious in both our own personal experience and the global environment and, I believe, in light of biblical prophecy, how near we are to the coming of Jesus Christ. But listen: this is meant to be the Gospel moment and the evangelistic time, it's meant to be good news! How do you get good news out of this? Here's the good news: this ought not to be a time of fear or of losing hope and despairing, because for the Christian - the one who has come to Christ, the one who has dug up in repentance and laid the foundation of Jesus Christ, and built the edifice of their existence on His truth and sayings - this is a time of hope, this is a time of excitement, this is a time of adventure! This is a time for those who know their God to do great exploits for Him! Amen? It's a time to shine, because you are the light of the world, you are like a city set on a hill. As the environment of our global community gets darker, as the experiences of your own personal walk in this life get more traumatic, then the light that is in us - in these earthen vessels - the light will shine all the brighter! At least, that's the way it's meant to be.
Under the menace of the darkening gathering storm clouds, Jesus Christ is building a triumphant church. He is purifying a bride, a people gathered to Himself - we read it in Hebrews 12 and verse 28: the things of this world that can be shaken, and of life that can be shaken, are being shaken; so that the things that cannot be shaken, eternal realities that this world generally denies, at least in the West, so that they will remain that people might know what the truth really is. Look at this verse, verse 28: 'Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire''. The kingdoms of this world are being shaken, everything that we have known as the insurmountable, seemingly eternal objects of time are crumbling around our ears - but the reason is that God wants us to see that His Kingdom is coming, His Kingdom that cannot be usurped. His Kingdom is coming, and it cannot be shaken - and we as God's people, those of you who are Christians, are meant to be receiving that kingdom. Now I know there is a prophetic consummation of that in the future and all that, I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about the Kingdom coming now in spirit - 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven'. I'm excited, I'm excited, because as I look out and see what's going on every day of our existence - on the 24/7 news we are constantly bombarded with it, and it's an awful lot of bad news - but it's wonderful to know what God is doing in this world. Like two parallel lines, as darkness seems to be exalting itself and Satan seems to be on the ascendancy, the Kingdom of God is coming with great power and demonstration!
I want to ask you today: which parallel line are you on? Are you with the things that cannot be shaken, or the things which are presently being shaken? Do you feel that your life is crumbling at this very moment in time? If ever there was a time, Christian, to be bold and be strong, knowing that God is with us, it is now! I think we need to equip ourselves, we need to equip ourselves - not sitting around (and I'm not going against anybody's prophetic view, or my own for that matter) but we're not to be sitting around gazing into heaven, waiting on Jesus just snatching us out - because that mightn't just come right away. That's why many in Eastern Europe buckled in their faith when communism arose and a wall was built, because they were expecting Jesus to pull them out. Don't be talking to the Iraqi Christians today of whether they are pre-tribulation, or mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation - they're going through great tribulation now! How will we survive the storm? The only way is to be welcoming the Kingdom that cannot be shaken, and be living for it with our lives built firmly on the teaching of Jesus Christ our Lord. That we might say with the psalmist: 'Though the earth be removed, and though the mountains - those great, seemingly everlasting obstacles - though they be swallowed up in the midst of the sea, we will not fear, we will be still and know that He is God'. Now, that isn't natural.
So, what is your life built on? What's your foundation? Is it Jesus Christ? What is it? How are you weathering the storms in your own personal experience, in your family, in the workplace, in your health, in your mental health? What about the global scene? What's your answer for world chaos? What I'm saying to unbelievers is applicable to those of us who are Christians - because, let's face it, a lot of us live our lives no different than the people next door that don't know Jesus Christ. Though we may have laid the foundation of Christ, we are building edifices that are only wood, hay, and stubble - and they're going to go up in the fire at the Judgement Seat of Jesus Christ. That's not a very pleasant thought, but that's the Bible.
Listen to what John says in his epistle, 1 John 2:17 - listen, just listen to it: 'The world', this world, 'is passing away, along with its desires; but whoever does the will of God abides forever'. Isn't that good? The perfect storm is coming, it may have begun - how will you survive? This is the only way to survive, Jesus says: 'Come to Me. Take your shovel today and start digging. Take the pick today that I'm going to put in your hand', Jesus says, 'and you start repenting, you start breaking up that hard infertile ground, unproductive ground in your heart - you break it and make way for Me. Turn from your selfishness and sinful pleasure, turn and turn to Me and embrace Me in all that I am, in all that I say, in all that I have done on the cross for you, and rising again for you. Embrace Me, and lay Me and My claims as a foundation, and start building your life on Me, start to obey Me, start to listen to what I'm saying about this world, the universe, and everything'.
Will you do that today? So that when the rains descend and the floods come into your life or into this world, you will be secure in Jesus Christ. Let's pray. I'm conscious that God has been speaking. If you prayed at the beginning that God would speak to you - well, there you go, He hasn't disappointed. But, you see, there is an obligation upon you now to respond, and you will respond. You remember, it was the guy who just did nothing - heard the word of God and did nothing - that was likened to the house built on the sinking sand. You just don't have to do anything, you don't have to oppose Jesus, or contradict anything that I'm saying - you could agree with it, but if you don't build your life on it you will be lost. That's what Jesus says.
Is there anyone here, or more, right now, and you've heard God and you've realised that you can't fiddle about any longer. The times and the seasons around you and your own personal circumstances, you're going to sink soon. Your head is going to be submerged soon, and you're not going to be able to get a breath. You're clawing, at the moment, for survival. You need Jesus and you need Him now, right now. If there is any one or more in the gathering just now like that, I want you to respond to the word of God in the way we said: come to Jesus, repent of your sin, believe in Him, and receive Him as your Saviour and your Lord. Lay Him as the foundation of your life, and start obeying Him and believing in Him - and He will give you the power, by the Holy Spirit, to do that. If that's you, would you just pray this prayer with me now, from your heart to the Lord. And if you're a Christian, as well, and you realise that you're not ready, you're not ready for Jesus to return, and you're certainly not ready for any persecution to come to your back door - I think we're all in that boat to a certain extent, we've had it too good for too long, and we've been living for other things, the love of other things. We're not living for the Kingdom that is coming, we're not really receiving that now, we're living for earth - and so it is likely that we will not overcome when the trouble enters our lives, because we're living for things that can be shaken rather than the things that will always remain. You can pray too, and you know enough to amend the prayer to suit yourself and your own circumstances.
Pray after me if you want to trust Christ or return to Him just now: 'O God, I come to You' - just repeat it from your heart to the Lord - 'I come to You in the name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I confess He is the Son of God, and the only way to God, and He died on the cross for my sins and rose again that I might have eternal life. I repent of all my sins, turning from them I turn to You, asking You to save me - because Jesus died for me. Forgive me of my sins, cleanse me and wash me clean, and make me Your child. I choose to believe that You receive sinners, and You now receive me. I confess Jesus Christ as Lord of my life, I renounce Satan and all his works, and I ask You now - Heavenly Father, my Father - to fill me full of the Holy Spirit, to build my life on the Lord Jesus Christ'.
Now I'm just going to pray for you all and close the meeting - but let me say that if any of you have the desire to talk afterwards, if any are concerned, or if you've prayed that prayer, why not tell me at the door as I greet people on the way out? Or tell a friend that has brought you? Or if you need a bit of help over the line, we'll be glad to spend that time with you just now - but before I close, Christian, are you ready? Are you ready? Ready for what? Ready for anything! Are you ready? Are you ready for the great showdown of the ages? I believe we are the generation upon whom the ends of the world is coming - are you ready?
Father, help me to be ready. Lord, please deliver us from evil, and lead us not into temptation. When we are called upon - I don't have the grace for that now - but Lord, grant that whenever we are called upon to take a stand and to pay a price, that the grace will be there and we will have faith to receive it to follow our Lord, taking up our cross. Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ right now in Iraq, right throughout the persecuted world, in Asia, in South America, in Africa - Lord have mercy. But help us to learn from them, Lord. Help us to invest our lives here on earth in the things that cannot be shaken. May those things so infuse our being, the welcome of this eternal Kingdom, that we will become a people who stand firm, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Lord, for those who have not yet received Jesus here today - Lord, would You please help them now, and give all of heaven behind them to enable them to reach out and trust Christ. Now take us with Your blessing, we pray, and let nothing be lost or snatched away of the seed of the Word. May a consciousness of eternal realities be our focus today and every day as we build our lives on that only foundation that man can lay, Jesus Christ our Lord - in whose name we pray, Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "The Survival Plan For Life" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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