The World’s Trouble: Introduction

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
– Hebrews 9:27

Introduction

You are in trouble. You may know that, or feel it. You may have come to this book sensing that something is wrong. The truth is: something is wrong with the world and something is wrong with you. You see things. You hear things. You know there is groaning and suffering. You are not the only one.

Maybe you came here thinking everything is fine. Sure you have had discomforts and inconveniences, but it all works out and it will be okay in the end. You have heard of some who have a hard time but they are in faraway places, and things will pick up for them. You are enjoying life. You are not the only one.

Whether you think you are in trouble or not, you are likely wrong on both counts. If you think you are in trouble, you do not know the half of it. If you think you are not in trouble, you are deceiving yourself into false security.

Those are strong, direct statements. You may think I am rude, harsh, or even unloving in making them. You may think I am arrogant and judgmental. I don’t even know you so how could I say such things about you? It would be unloving and judgmental if I were saying that about everyone else but me. The trouble I am talking about is the world’s trouble and I am in trouble as much as everyone else. At least, I was. There is one, and only one, way out of trouble and I am writing to tell you about it.

What is the trouble? Before I answer that question, let me ask another one. What is wrong with the world? You can offer several good answers to that question—crime, war, poverty, wealth, religion. All those things contribute in some way, but all the answers to that question can be bundled into one answer—sin. Sin is what is wrong with the world. You can look out around you today and see it. You can look back through history and see it. Sin is the problem.

You are probably thinking: Okay, here we go with the fundamentalist rant about cussin’, drinkin’, dancin’, and smokin’. It might surprise you to hear that those types of things are not the real problem. We could stop all that tomorrow and the world would not be out of trouble.

Sin is what is wrong with the world, but that is not the whole picture. You can point to sin to account for human atrocities and evil deeds in the past, present, and the future, but the world’s trouble is after that. The Jewish prophet, Jeremiah, wrote of a future time known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). The trouble he referred to is a time of judgment on the nation of Israel. The world’s trouble I am referring to is the future, final judgment that all men will face.

The biblical record is clear that this life is not all there is. If this present life was all there is, then sin would still be a problem, but at least death would end it. Sympathies to all those dealt a losing hand, but at least it is over. But, this life is not all there is and the grave neither ends nor solves the problem.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment
– Hebrews 9:27

The judgment that is the world’s trouble is a judgment where every violation of God’s law will receive a just punishment (Hebrews 2:2). Jesus warned that everything will be judged, even the idle words we speak (Matthew 12:36). That’s the judgment the world is going to and that’s the trouble the entire world is in.

I did mention there is one way, and only one way, out of this trouble. I am writing to tell you about this way. No one is excluded from this way because of their gender, ethnicity, or social class. No one is excluded from this way because of the mountain of sins casting a shadow over their life and darkening their quiet times. This way is good news and our only hope.

I invite you now to think about sin, what it is and why it is a problem. You will see how, from the greatest to the smallest, the whole world is guilty before God. You will learn about the way of escape God has made and how to distinguish the one true way from all other ways that promise deliverance. By the end, you will know how this way was made in the wisdom, mercy, and grace of God. You will know what it cost and what it is worth.

If I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee, this is what I would want to say to you.

This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

The Gospel in the Hole

They took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. ~ Acts 18:26

They took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. ~ Acts 18:26

Have you ever noticed a hole in personal testimonies?

A personal testimony is a relating of our own experience of salvation. It is an account of the powerful work of God in our own life. Some berth must be given for the “personal” aspect, though certain things are always, or should be, the same. Some allowance must be made that not everyone is a theologian or preacher on the order of Paul, yet all testimonies should have some things in common with Paul.

Paul had a dramatic experience on the Damascus road, but he didn’t consider himself to be in a different class of conversion from others. He wrote:

Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
~ 1 Timothy 1:16

If I were to combine and summarize many testimonies I have heard, it would go something like this:

  • Personal crisis. This could be a financial loss, medical issue, death of a loved one, etc. In this part, words like “strayed” and “disconnected” are common.
  • Help. This could come from a friend, family member, or through a church. In this part, words like “reconnected,” “community,” and “serving” are common.
  • Solution. This is where the crisis is resolved or worked out in some way. Words like “peace,” “victory,” and “blessing” are common.

My comments are not intended to be negatively critical of those elements. It’s not so much what is said, but what is not said that is concerning. Such testimonies rarely refer to sin or repentance and you seldom hear much about God or Jesus Christ. There is a gaping hole in these testimonies and primarily the Gospel is missing.

Paul gave his testimony before Agrippa in Acts 26:2-23. There are some marked differences between Paul and what we hear prevalently today. It’s not that Paul did not relate personal experiences, he did. But he also told the truth of the Gospel that gave meaning to his experience.

Consider some of what Paul included.

  • The hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers (v. 6)
  • That God should raise the dead [resurrection] (v. 8)
  • The name of Jesus Nazareth (v. 9)
  • I was not disobedient I (v. 19)
  • They should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance (v. 20)
  • Saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come (v. 22)
  • The suffering of Christ, His resurrection, and light to the people (v. 23)

I don’t suggest we have to be theologians or preachers to give our testimonies. I don’t suggest we should embellish our testimonies to sound like we are saved. I do suggest there is a hole in our testimonies and we should put the Gospel in the hole.

Tea Time

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-2

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Political and Civil Involvement for Christians

While preaching, I have made a few references lately that I thought could stand a little more explanation. They were just passing references and far from main points. Nevertheless, it would be good to make intentions and meaning clearer when possible.

One of the greatest happenings in all church history is what happened in Ephesus when the Gospel was preached there in the middle of the first century. I don’t know of anything else quite like it in the annals of history.

Ephesus was one of the great cities of the ancient world. To talk of Ephesus then would be like talking of New York, Hong Kong, or London today. Ephesus was home to the temple for the goddess Diana, who was worshiped throughout Asia. There was a thriving manufacturing industry that sprung up around this temple to supply people with small shrines to Diana they could purchase and keep in their homes. From the biblical account, it seems there was a high concentration of demonic activity there that went along with dark occultic practices.

Paul had made a brief visit there and then returned to spend two years preaching the Gospel, organizing a church, and discipling the believers. Acts 19 recounts how this whole city was turned upside down by the Gospel. Let’s look at what happened.

  • Paul baptized the twelve followers of John the Baptist who had not even heard of the Holy Spirit. (1-7)
  • Paul went to the synagogue and later to the school of Tyrannus to preach the word of the Lord. (8-10)
  • Paul worked an unusual number of powerful miracles, including healing diseases and casting out evil spirits. They even took pieces of cloth from Paul to the sick and possessed and they were healed. (11-12)
  • Traveling Jewish exorcists began invoking the name of Paul to cast demons out of possessed people. Seven brothers, sons of Sceva, did this in one particular instance. The evil spirit answered by acknowledging Jesus and Paul, but asking who they were. The possessed man then beat all seven of them until they were naked and wounded and they fled. (13-16)
  • Great fear came on all the city because of the power of the Gospel. (17)
  • Many believed and actually confessed their sins. Many were involved in various occultic aspects and their confession and repentance involved the burning of numerous monetarily valuable books. (18-19)
  • The Word kept spreading and Paul stayed for a season. (20-22)
  • Demetrius, a silversmith, raised a complaint against Paul and the Christians because their idol trade was being ruined. (23-41)

The whole socioeconomic climate of the city was affected by the preaching of the Gospel. A major city was turned upside down in two years by the preaching of the Gospel.

I have referenced the happenings in Ephesus several times. I typically point out that Paul turned the city upside down in two years and he did not do it by having a million man march on the courthouse, hosting a tea party, or endorsing a particular candidate for public office. He did it by preaching the Gospel. He did it by determining not to know anything among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Whenever you pit preaching the Gospel against political action, you are running a few risks. Certain apathetic people use that juxtaposition to do neither thing. Some assume you are saying Christians should neither care about nor be involved in civil and political concerns. Here is a good place to add some clarification.

The Bible does speak to our relation to civil government.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Romans 13:1-7

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. Matthew 22:17-21

And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. Jeremiah 29:7

Certainly we should be good citizens and we should take a serious interest in the government of our land. In saying what I did about Ephesus, I am not suggesting Christians should not care nor participate in any way in politics or the government. I am saying that however that concern and participation is manifested, it should not be in a way that obscures, neglects, adjusts, compromises, or forsakes the Gospel. Also, whatever form that involvement takes, it should not assume the place of our ultimate hope nor obscure the fact for us that our great warfare is not physical and neither are our greatest weapons.

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