I have mentioned some of the unique cultural challenges that are deeply impacting American Christianity today: emotionally-driven decisions, information overload, sensory overload, and our accelerated pace of life. Today I want us to look at an issue that has been common to humanity since creation itself: our desire to know all that God knows. When we are seeking to know what only God can know, we will not be doing what God has clearly told us we should be doing.
Because I don’t have time and space to start in Genesis and work my way through the Bible, permit me to cherry-pick two very familiar incidents in the life of Jesus that I believe will make my point. Ultimately, my goal is to reveal how far off the mark we have gotten as it relates to having a true Biblical Worldview. We are often focusing on the wrong things, majoring in the minor things, and becoming distracted by the little things that interest us.
The Olivet Discourse encompasses three passages of scripture: Matthew 24:1-25:46, Mark 13:1-37, and Luke 21:5-36. Each opens with Jesus’ statement that a day will come when not one stone of the temple shall be left upon another. And in each passage, the disciples quickly respond with the question, “When will this happen and what signs can we expect to see prior to it happening?” Keep in mind that they had been walking daily with Jesus for three years, and had heard him repeatedly challenge them to be holy, set-apart men who were truly different in a desirable way. Immediately preceding the Olivet Discourse, Matthew records Jesus’ denunciation of the religious elite with a series of woes, because they taught one thing and lived another. His disciples had also heard Him say, “This generation is a wicked generation; [because] it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah” (Luke 11:29).
As we read the Olivet passages we find that Jesus weaves the more immediate fulfillment of the destruction of the temple that occurred in 70 AD with His second coming which is still yet to happen. We also see a strong and repeated encouragement for the disciples to guard their hearts and to not become discouraged.
As Jesus wraps up His discourse, as recorded in Matthew, He tells them to always be prepared by being obedient to all that He had been teaching them, because the consequences of disbelief, disobedience, and distraction are severe.
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
The same strong exhortations are recorded by both Mark and Luke:
“Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping” (Mark 13:35-36).
Having heard Jesus tell them to focus on being an obedient disciple instead of worrying about when and how He will return, it should be instructive to us that they repeated the process a few months later. If it happened to them, it can and will happen to us. Just prior to Jesus’ ascension Luke tells us:
"Then they gathered around Him and asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
I must admit that my pragmatic nature kicks in when I hear Jesus repeatedly states that knowing the time of His return is not something we can know. Instead, He repeatedly told His disciples to focus on knowing and obeying God’s commands. With that in mind, I have summarized the book of Revelation and eschatology into one very short statement and two short questions: God wins! Are you on His side? If so, are you helping others find out how to get on His side?
Ultimately, our focus should be on the things that interest God and not what interests us. There are plenty of difficult and obscure Biblical passages that can distract us. And there are plenty of Biblical Doctrines that we seek to rationally explain that we are asked to simply accept by faith: the trinity and the humanity versus deity of Jesus are just two of them. Don’t get distracted! Keep the main thing the main thing—making disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples…for the Glory of God.
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott, AMS
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.
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