Episode 1. Living for Today
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Man, we would all love to believe that life as we know it is going to go on forever. But it isn’t one day, sooner or later – we are going to breather our last breath on this earth. So – let’s …
Man, we would all love to believe that life as we know it is going to go on forever. But it isn’t one day, sooner or later – we are going to breather our last breath on this earth. So – let’s say it’s sooner. Let’s say it’s tonight. Are you ready for eternity?
The Day is Coming
Most people live their lives as though things will be okay. You know the story – chugging along … chugging along – a few little ups, a few little downs but basically same old same old. By and large we don’t plan for disasters; we don’t plan on there being tsunamis, silent and deadly, hitting us tomorrow at 9.41 am.
We don’t plan on having a heart attack or a stroke; we don’t plan on losing our jobs; we don’t plan on our children disappearing or our marriages falling apart; we don’t plan on a stock market crash, wiping out half our wealth or if not our wealth then the wealth of the companies that employ us and the consumers who keep spending money to keep us in a job. We don’t plan on our house burning down or a war breaking out and above all … above all, we don’t plan on dying.
We kind of know, one day, I guess, we will, but surely, yes, surely that’s a long way off. We don’t plan those cataclysmic events hitting us, but here’s the thing: as sure as God made little green apples, some of those things – not all of them – but some of them are going to hit you and me in our lifetimes.
Bit of a gloomy way to start off a new series, isn’t it? But you know what I’m saying right? Beyond perhaps having house insurance and car insurance and life insurance, those can afford it and those who own things worth insuring, we don’t plan on cataclysmic events hitting us, impacting us and robbing us of the plans we have. After all, our plans are good plans. We plan on bringing up our children and having them succeed. We plan on this and that – good things – things that we look forward to.
People who are listening to this programme; people right now, some of them living in the middle of a war zone, some of them living in extreme poverty. And given all the places where this programme is heard, there are more of those people listening today than there are in the wealthy West, I have to tell you. Those people, if you are one of them, you have good plans for peace, for enough money to feed your children and a roof over your head and perhaps, some clean drinking water.
Doesn’t matter who we are, where we live or what colour our skin is, we have good plans for our lives. And most of us kind of live in this delusional state, as though our here on this earth are going to go on forever. I know that I don’t give an awful lot of thought to dying – I just don’t. I’m planning the next programme, the next series, the next book – I’m working hard as though I’m going to live forever, on the one hand, but knowing, on the other, knowing that one day I am going to die. But that second part is much more in the background.
There’s a real danger here: if we live only for today as if the good things in our lives are never going to end, one day, we are going to get a rude shock. The stock market is a great case in point. I’m no expert but what I see is this: stocks start low, they go up, they go up, company profits go up, people who are in the market get richer and richer and, all of a sudden, greed cuts in.
“Let’s borrow lots of money and buy shares” (it’s called “margin lending”) “so let’s buy big houses and have lots of debt, after all, look how wealthy we are; look at the value of our stock portfolio”.
And then, almost like a thief in the night, the stock market crashes! Lots and lots of men in particular, commit suicide because their hopes and dreams are dashed. It’s a familiar cycle; it’s a cycle that repeats itself ever few years in fact – the market goes up and up and up and up and up … how long can it keep going up? I don’t know but let’s keep believing it – it’s going to keep going up and up and up and up.
But there is always … always an end to that “Bull Run”; either a small correction, a major correction or a crash. As sure as God made little green apples! Yet people spend and create debt and live out their greed as though that won’t happen, even though (wait for this), it’s an absolute … ABSOLUTE certainty that it will!!
I was interested in two quotes from the so called ‘experts’ on the 1987 stock market crash. Have a listen to these: On the one hand Rob Hagstrom on ‘Investing in the Last Liberal Art’ wrote this:
The market crash of 1987 caught most economists, scholars and investment professionals by surprise. Nowhere in the classic equilibrium based view of the markets so long considered inviolate, was there anything that would predict or even describe the events of 1987.
So, this guy is saying it was completely unpredictable. On the other hand George Soros in “The Alchemy of Finance” writes this:
Technically the crash of 1987 bears an uncanny resemblance to the crash of 1929. The shape and the extent of the decline and even the day to day movements of stock prices track very closely.
So one guy says it was completely unpredictable and the other guy was saying it was completely predictable. What do you think? Of course, it was completely predictable! Maybe not the exact timing or the extent but stock markets can’t always keep going up. Sometimes they have to come down.
And here’s something else that’s completely predictable – with absolute certainty – one day, maybe today, maybe tomorrow or in fifty years time – but one day, my life and your life on this earth are going to end. BANG! Finished! The statistics are that out of every hundred people – pick a sample of a hundred people out of six point five billion alive on the planet today – out of every one hundred people, precisely one hundred are going to die at some point.
Would you agree with that? And the only way that’s not going to happen is if Jesus comes back before they’re due to die. But either way, their lives here on this earth are going to be over at some point. My life; your life is going to be over at some point – with absolute certainty.
So, let me ask you this – when that happens – no ifs; there are no ifs about it – when that happens are you ready to face eternity? Well, are you? Are you so busy living for today; are you so busy believing the stock market is always going to go up that you have lost sight of the absolute certainty of death? I’m sorry to be so direct but this is so important that it demands directness. Listen to this: John chapter 3, verse 36:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.
That’s the reality – that’s the certainty and that demands our attention, so over the next few weeks on the programme, this is what we are going to be talking about. I have called this series, “If You Die Tonight Would You be Ready for Eternity.” So let me ask you, if you die tonight, are you ready for eternity? Are you ready to stand before God and give an account on that day? Well, are you?
The Rich Fool
One of the great distractions from living a life here today that’s bound for eternity with God are the pleasures and the trinkets and the treasurers of this world. And Jesus knew that when He spoke these words. If you have a Bible, grab it – open it at Matthew chapter 6, verse 19:
Do not store up for yourself treasures on this earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where the thieves do not break in and steal.
Doesn’t matter how much we store up here on earth, we can’t take it with us when we die. We all know that but we kind of forget it. I used to say, “Well, you know, if I can’t take it with me, I ain’t going!” Nice theory, but you and I both know it doesn’t work that way.
Over these next few weeks on the programme, we are taking a bit of a journey to answer this question: if you or I died tonight, would we be ready for eternity? I wonder, as you ask yourself that question, I wonder, what’s your answer? On a scale of zero to ten, how would you score your life right now?
If you were in bed tonight and suffered a massive heart attack or a stroke or if you crossed the road tomorrow and stepped into the path of an oncoming vehicle and in an instant your life was snuffed out on this earth, on a scale of zero to ten, how ready are you to stand before God and give an account of your life? Well?
The problem is that with most of us: most of us are so caught up in the minutia of here and now. We’ve completely had this distorted sense of reality. To us we are the centre of the universe – my life, my family, my wealth, my job, my feelings … they’re all that matters.
Let us step back and get a grip on reality for a moment. Let’s see it for what it is. Each one of us is just one … just one out of the six billion, seven hundred and eighty seven million people alive on planet Earth today and we are one of just over a hundred billion people who have ever lived on planet earth. We live on a tiny, tiny rock called Earth, which is one of nine planets around a star called the Sun. And that star’s a pretty small example of an estimated trillion, trillion stars in a universe that’s so big that we can’t even measure it. For all we know it could go on forever – we don’t know what lies beyond.
Are you starting to feel really, really small? Good! That’s because you are and so am I but we carry on as though the whole universe … the whole universe over all time revolves around us and our lives – even though we are so small and here for just an instant in the overall span of time.
And then … then there’s the God who created the whole universe. How mighty, how powerful must He be? Isaiah chapter 40, verses 25 to 26:
To whom then will you compare me, says God, or who is my equal? Lift up your eyes and see on high: Who created these? Who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them by their name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one of them is missing.
See, God’s talking about the stars here and we behave as though all that matters is us. We live life as though it will go on forever, here on earth, when we know deep down it won’t. Let me ask you again: how ready are you to face eternity? How ready are you to stand before God and give an account of how you spent your life on this planet.
Jesus told people a parable about this very thing. Let’s have a listen together – Luke chapter 12, beginning at verse 16:
The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops? Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.
But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.
How ready are you? So many of us store up riches for ourselves here on this earth but we are not rich towards God. I kind of imagine this rich man standing before God, prepared to point out all his achievements and looking around and discovering all his riches; everything he built is gone. The only riches that will matter on the other side of you and me breathing our last breath here on this earth; the only sort that will matter are the riches that we have laid up for ourselves in heaven – the eternal riches that in this life we’ve deposited there – our richness toward God.
Am I suggesting that I need to do anything more than put my faith in Jesus in order to stand clean and pure and holy before God on that final day of judgement? No, not at all but putting our faith in Jesus isn’t just ticking a box with a mental ascent to the proposition that Jesus is who He said He is and that His death and resurrection have purchased for us a free ride into heaven. In fact, that’s not it at all – not at all! Listen again to the Lord’s Words – Matthew chapter 7, verse 21:
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
And again, Luke chapter 6, verse 46:
Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I tell you?
My friend, when you examine your life, how ready are you to stand before God on that day of judgement? Is your life; is your faith, what it should be? I’m not trying to cast doubt in your mind. I guess what I’m saying is best summed up by the Apostle Paul. Second Corinthians chapter 13, verse 5:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realise that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!
So, over these coming weeks on the programme, that’s what we are going to be talking about – examining ourselves – you examining you and me examining me. Are we ready?
The Wrath of God Revealed
Now I’ve sometimes heard God presented only as a loving Father, and He is that. His love is awesome, but just like any father, there are two sides to fatherhood and the side that we don’t like to talk about is the ‘just’ side of God. But unless we do … unless we have a handle on the ultimate judgement and punishment that we can avoid by believing in Jesus Christ, then grace simply doesn’t have any value. “God is love” is one of the Scriptures we love to remember and He is! The other one about God’s love that I truly delight in is this one – Ephesians chapter 3, verses 18 and 19:
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
God creates us, we turn our backs on Him and that turning away from God, which is what sin is, brings punishment because God is a just God. And we wouldn’t want it any other way! I mean, imagine if God wasn’t just; imagine if He was a despot – it would be a pretty scary thing, wouldn’t it? This short verse from the Old Testament Book of Hosea sums it all up – Hosea chapter 12, verse 6:
But as for you, return to your God, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.
See, God is both love and justice; not just love without justice and not justice without love. And it is precisely because God is both love and justice that He sent Jesus to die on the cross because this is the only way that the requirements of both love and justice can be met.
If He were just love without justice, well, who needs the cross? Forgive us … just forgive us – no punishment; no one has to pay the price but imagine how we would feel if our legal system didn’t give a criminal what he deserved? The criminal deserves punishment! That sense of justice comes from God. We are, after all, made in God’s image.
If He were justice without love, well, ha, He would simply punish us. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans chapter 6, verse 23:
The wages of sin is death.
If God were justice without love, well, the whole problem is easy fixed but because He is both love and justice, He sent His Son to take my punishment; to take your punishment so that we can be as clean and as pure and as forgiven as God wants us to be. Do you notice what Jesus says: John chapter 3, verse 16:
For God so loves the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Let’s unpack those three verses for a minute – chapter 3, verse 16: God is a God of love; He sends Jesus so that we won’t perish but have eternal life. Chapter 3, verse 17: God sent His Son, not to condemn us but to save us. Question is: to save us from what? Well, that comes in verse 18 – let’s read it again:
Those who believe in him are not condemned but whose who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
God’s judgement – that’s why Jesus came, to save us. Do you see how love and justice require Jesus to die on the cross for you and me? Now let me share very clearly with you – should there be any doubt – that one day … one day God will judge and punish those; ALL THOSE who haven’t believed in His Son!
Next week we are going to look at exactly what that means ‘to believe in His Son’. There’s so much more to that than we think, but that’s next week’s programme. Now let’s be clear – as much as God is the God of love and He made provision through Jesus for each one of us to be saved from His judgement and His condemnation, He is also a God of justice and justice demands that if we don’t avail ourselves of His love provision through Jesus, then we must bear the punishment. Listen to these three passages: John chapter 3, verse 36:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.
Romans chapter 1, verse 18:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness, suppress the truth.
Acts chapter 17, verses 30 and 31:
While God’s overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed the day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by an man,(that’s Jesus), whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising Jesus from the dead.
My friend, could it be any clearer? Unless we entrust our lives to Jesus, who He is and what He has done for us – unless we live our lives believing that we are truly forgiven through His death and resurrection, then there is an eternal punishment and an eternal separation from God; an eternal hell coming our way. Let that be very, very, very clear. Jesus told a parable about this very thing and in that parable God is the King and this is what happens to the people who reject God – Matthew chapter 22, verse 13:
Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
My friend, let me ask you again, right here, right now, right where you are standing or sitting or walking or running – if you die tonight, are you ready for eternity? Would you stand before God completely forgiven, with the gift of eternal life because you’d not only believed but lived your life for Jesus? Or would you be like those in the parable who either didn’t except the invitation or didn’t live the life that God wanted them to live? We’re going to look at that parable in a few weeks time. Would you be cast in the outer darkness for all eternity?
In a moment I am going to give you the opportunity to pray a prayer with me … a prayer that gives your life over to God, wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever you have done, if you know in your heart of hearts that you are not ready for eternity or if somehow you’re not sure, then I implore you to pray this prayer with me.
Father God, I have Your Word today and I know that I’m not ready. And so today, Lord, I want to tell you that I accept Jesus Christ in my life. I believe He died for me, and by trusting in Him, that I have complete forgiveness and eternal live.
Father God, I’m sorry for all the things I’ve done wrong in my life and I turn away from all that now. But I know I can’t do that on my own, so I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit everything that I am, everything I have, every hope and every dream I give to you.
Show me now, Lord God, how to live this new life, this eternal life that you’ve given me in Jesus name. Amen.