Well, let me start out this weekend with a big shout out to our students and our student leaders, our volunteers, our worship leaders, Pastor Curtis, and so many others who are part of a group of about 600 students and leaders who went to our student camp in Ocoee, Tennessee last weekend. In fact, if you went on that trip, whether you are a student or a paid leader or a volunteer, would you stand up on your feet right now at any one of our campuses? Why don't you stand up and put our hands together for them? Hey, stay standing here for just a minute.
Can we give you some more good news? 71 students. 71 students made a first-time profession of faith. 71. By the way, that's not just 71 hands raised, but 71 students who took the initiative to come and identify themselves to a leader to indicate that they were serious about this.
It is amazing. Let me give you just one story out of that 71. By the way, you can go ahead and be seated now. One story out of that 71, I can share dozens, but I just chose one. On night number two of camp, Pastor Curtis, who spoke the first three nights of camp, Pastor Curtis asked all the students to write down things on a list that they were struggling with or maybe even things that they were ashamed of. The next night, he had the students raise their notebooks where they'd written those things down. If for the first time, they recognize that Jesus's blood had the power to cover these sins and make them new. There was a student who raised her notebook during that time, and one of her friends saw it.
One of her student friends saw it. But instead of waiting for an adult or leader to go to that girl, instead of saying, hey, you need to go talk to her, she pulled the girl aside that night and talked with her, prayed with her, and asked her if she wanted to receive Christ, and she did. That is students leading other students to faith in Christ. Praise God. Praise God. I want you to take time with God. I want you to make it a matter of prayer that as our student teams and volunteers follow up with these 71 and others that the word that was sown in their hearts would go deep, and it would take roots. Okay?
All right. In the sixth Harry Potter book, there is a scene that might want to be one of the most confusing, bewildering moments I've ever encountered in literature. Now that all the movies and the books are out, it's hard to capture the shock of reading it live when it first came out, and I know some of you are like, wait, is this going to be a spoiler? But I feel like this is now part of our shared cultural knowledge, like the fact that Darth Vader was Luke's father. And if you were like, what?
Then I got nothing left to say on that, okay? But Albus Dumbledore, this has kind of become that, Albus Dumbledore, who's the wise sage of the Harry Potter series, Gandalf, the Godfather, Santa Claus, and Nicolas Cage, all wrapped up into one, has been severely weakened through a battle with evil Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters. And as the battle is ending, he is dangling from the top of a tower, holding on for his life. Severus Snape, who is a teacher at Hogwarts Castle, and Harry, who is the protagonist, his nemesis throughout the series, is holding on to Dumbledore, keeping him from falling. You've always been a little unsure about Snape, not sure where his loyalties lie.
You don't like him because Harry doesn't like him, but you're just not sure where he stands. Dumbledore makes eye contact with Severus and says, Severus, please. And Severus, instead of pulling him up, opens his hand and drops him. The ultimate act of betrayal drops him to his death, by the way, a moment when evil triumphs over good and everything is lost. In the next book, however, you learn that Professor Dumbledore had secretly confided to Snape that he was dying of a slow and irreversible curse, and that through his death, he could grant to Harry a power that Harry would not have as long as Dumbledore was alive, a power that could defeat Lord Voldemort. So Dumbledore makes Snape promise that when the moment comes, Snape will let him die. And suddenly that meaning of Dumbledore's plea there on that tower, the plea, Severus, please, gets reversed. Dumbledore's death was not an act of chaos or betrayal. It was all according to plan. Many great stories, many great stories involve chapters where the characters go through something that at the time feels chaotic, tedious or tragic, only to learn later that it was all part of the plan.
I'm thinking, in case you're like, I totally did not track with the Harry Potter today, I'm thinking of Daniel LaRusso's training at the hands of Mr. Miyagi, Luke's exile in the Dagobah system, Lightning McQueen getting stranded in Radiator Springs. We've even seen it this week in some of the weird strategies of some of our Olympic athletes. The commentator comes on, you've seen things like this where the commentator comes on and says now, now just because we're in the seventh of eight laps, and our runner is still in 14th place, that doesn't mean that she'll lose. No, this is all part of her her weird plan to sprint past everyone at the last second. And sure enough, that's exactly what happens. I mean, just so you know, if I were an Olympian, I would never have the discipline to pursue that strategy. I would go out hot. And if I got ahead, I would try to stay as far ahead of everyone as I could for as long as I could, which is probably reason number 424 why I never made it as an Olympic athlete.
And coming in last is the USA's JD Greer, who actually led for the first three seconds of the race. The point is, the point is a lot of things that turn out quite well. Have sad, confusing chapters, but they're all part of a plan. That is Daniel's message to us in the last three chapters of his book. Things are dark, he says, and they're about to get a lot darker, but don't despair.
It's all according to plan. If you got a Bible, Daniel chapter 10 is where we're going to be. We'll be in the last three chapters, 10, 11, and 12. We have called this series Shining in Babylon, because the book is about shining with the light of an uncommon hope in an increasingly dark place. It's a dark world. Make no mistake, the backdrop of Daniel's book is somber and heavy, and the world for the foreseeable future is not going to get much better, Daniel says. In fact, it's going to get a lot worse. Several prophetic visions in Daniel teach us that very thing. And I know everybody today wants to think that the world is the opposite. It's gradually progressing toward a utopia where we got no more political or economic problems, where everybody lives in abundance and prosperity, where we're all united, holding hands across the globe in one multi-ethnic village. But that's not where Daniel says the world is going, nor is it where Jesus said it was going to go in Matthew 23 and 24, where the apostle John says in Revelation that the world is headed. Bible writers consistently tell us that the world is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. So be encouraged, okay? Let's close in prayer.
No, I'm kidding. All right, if you have your Bible, Daniel chapter 10, I want you to look at the bad news and the good news that Daniel uses to conclude his book. These last three chapters are Daniel's record of his final visions. Now, there's a lot of details in here.
We'll go ahead and warn you. And I know some of you totally want to geek out on those details. And we are going to touch on a few of them, but we're going to focus mostly on the bigger picture, the bigger point that Daniel's trying to make. And that is why he is telling us these things. I love what Martin Luther, the reformer, said about this passage.
He said, and I quote, Daniel concludes the record. Of his terrifying visions and dreams on a note of joy, pointing to the coming of Christ's eternal reign of glory. Whoever wants to study Daniel's visions profitably, dare not focus his attention on the details of the visions and the dreams, okay? We'll touch them a little bit.
We're not going to focus on them. But instead, he says, you should seek comfort in the Savior, Jesus Christ, whom they portray, and in the deliverance that he brings from sin and its misery. You see, if you listen really closely this week, again, in the details of these prophecies, you're going to hear the footsteps, so to speak, of Jesus as he begins to run through the corridors of history, coming first to a manger in Bethlehem, and then ultimately to his place on the throne of the Ancient of Days.
Bad news first. Daniel 10, verse 1. Daniel mourned for three entire weeks. During that time, he says, verse 3, I did not eat any rich food.
No meat or wine entered my mouth, and I didn't even put any oil on my body. You know it's bad when you're too overwhelmed even to rub in your essential oils. Daniel can't even make it across the room to flip on his lavender diffuser.
So verse 4, an angel comes to comfort him, and he puts a little dab of chamomile behind his ear. He flips on the lavender diffuser, and he begins to explain the meaning of his visions. A lot of things in this second vision of Daniel overlap with the previous visions that we've studied in Daniel. In fact, learn this, all the visions and dreams of Daniel, whether they are given to pagan kings or to Daniel himself, all of them are about a series of world kingdoms that are going to arise, each one oppressive and hostile to the gospel. After Babylon came Persia, and after Persia was Greece, and after Greece was Rome.
And then after Rome, there's a final kingdom that's headed by someone we now call the Antichrist. Daniel explains to us that certain elements of the first few kingdoms of Greece and of Persia and Rome, certain elements are going to give us a foretaste of what that final kingdom of the Antichrist is going to be like. For example, chapter 7 and 8, when we studied that a few weeks ago, we saw that Daniel prophesied that a ruthless king was going to arise out of Greece, who was going to be particularly hostile toward God's people.
That prophecy, I explained to you, was fulfilled 300 years later by a leader of Greece named Antiochus Epiphanes, who came to power around 160 BC. And I showed you when we studied Daniel 7 and 8, that just like Daniel prophesied, Antiochus Epiphanes was particularly blasphemous toward God, and he was particularly vicious toward God's people. He has been called the Hitler of the Old Testament. He slaughtered in cold blood tens of thousands of Jewish men, women, and children. He desecrated the temple by sacrificing pigs on the altar and then forcing the Jewish leaders to eat pig flesh. He then committed what Bible writers call the abomination of desolation by setting up a statue of himself in the Holy of Holies and making the Jews bow down to it. I told you, you can read about all that in 1 and 2 Maccabees, which are historical books that are written by Jews who lived right before Christ's first coming.
Those books contain a lot of helpful historical information, although they are not scripture, and I explained to you why. Daniel explains, though, that Antiochus Epiphanes was a type, a prefiguring of a future world king who was going to be everything that Antiochus was, but much, much worse, and that was going to be the Antichrist. I share all that because the first part of Daniel 10 is again about Antiochus Epiphanes, and Daniel is describing the devastation that Antiochus is going to bring to the Jews, devastation we've already gone over. And suddenly, in verse 36 in chapter 11, he switches from talking about Antiochus to prophesying about a future king, another king, way off into the future, a king he calls the king of the north, the Antichrist. That switch happens in verse 36.
Let me get you to take a look at it. Verse 36. Then this king, he says, is going to do whatever he wants. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god. He will say outrageous things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath has been completed, because what has been decreed will be accomplished. He will not show regard for any other god, because he will magnify himself above all. Instead, he will honor a god of fortresses, strength, and he will deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Remember how I showed you in Daniel 7 that Daniel says the Antichrist has the eyes of a man, but when you look at them, you see something at work behind them that's not human.
That's what Daniel is saying again here. The Antichrist, he looks like a man, he is a man, but he's empowered by a foreign god, namely Satan himself. He will greatly honor those who acknowledge him, and he will make, the Antichrist will make rulers of many and distributing land as a reward for serving and following him. In chapters 7 and 8, Daniel had said three things we're going to characterize the rule of the Antichrist. I'm going to review those really quickly because we see echoes of these here again in these verses.
Remember, if you remember, if you got your notes out, flip back, you can see these. First thing we said is he devours much flesh. That was in chapter 7 verse 25.
His aim is to destroy, and all the slick talking and all the flattery and the rewards, hatred, prejudice, genocide, slavery, human trafficking, the commoditization of the vulnerable, abortion, militarism, those are all tools in his arsenal. Secondly, we said after devouring much flesh, he doubts God's word. That was chapter 8 verse 25. He publicly undermines what scripture teaches about things like humanity, sexuality, salvation.
He even uses supernatural power from Satan to do miracles to deceive people into believing what he says. Third, third, he exalts man. That was also verse 25. The first one he's going to exalt, as Daniel says again here in chapter 11, is himself, but he's also going to get people to do the same thing with themselves, to focus on themselves and glory and their capabilities and accomplishments.
He's kind of the ultimate humanist. Now, what we saw in chapter 7, and this is really, really important, right, is that even though the Antichrist himself is not here yet, the spirit of Antichrist is. 1 John 2.18, the verse we looked at, 1 John 2.18, children, it is already the last hour. And as you have heard that Antichrist is coming, and he is, even now already many Antichrists have come. We can see the spirit of Antichrist at work in our world all around us. Again, I know we went over this in detail, but just because it's going to set you up for what happens next, look at where he is devouring flesh. In all of our progress, in all of our civilization, the last 100 years have been the bloodiest century in all of human history.
More people have been killed by genocide and war and abortion than any other century in history. He is at work, I told you, in your life to destroy your flesh. And some of you are experiencing that.
You come in here, and I don't have to persuade you of that. Through alcoholism and addictions and pornography and materialism and narcissism, he is working to erode and destroy the foundation of everything good in your life. And your marriage is in shatters, and your relationship with your kid is in shatters, and everything in your life is being destroyed because he has come to devour much flesh and he deceived you into that. He is working to make you doubt God's word. He's always where, everywhere, in very smooth sounding presentations saying, is that really what God says?
I'm not sure that's really what, I'm sure that's pretty outdated. That's why I told you, some of you were like, well, I'm just questioning what the Bible says about sexuality and I'm just trying to find myself. And I'm like, no, you're not. You are dabbling with hell. That's what you're doing.
Our enemy begins every attack by making you question God's word. I explained that he's at work trying to get you to exalt yourself. To think that your agenda is the most important. That you know best for your life.
Through things as benign as Facebook and Twitter and Instagram reels and consumer driven commercials and leadership seminars. He is trying to get you to fixate on yourself. He whispers in your ear that you know what's best for your life. That no one's ever unlocked your potential. That nobody appreciates you. That you better look out for you because nobody else is going to. That you can only be happy when your kingdom comes and your will is done.
Make no mistake about it, my friend. The spirit of Antichrist is already here. Daniel tells us that he employs the powers of the state and the machinery of culture and media to promote those three things. He's basically in control of politics and media and culture.
That doesn't mean everybody working in those things. There's a lot of people like Daniel that are going to be in there that are witnesses for Jesus. But the general control of that, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is at work in the unbelieving world, he is already here and he's already using those things to shape the world. You know, the bad news is that things are only going to get worse as the Antichrist coming nears. Daniel says at the beginning of chapter 12 about the end, chapter 12 verse 1, there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since nations came into being until that time.
The worst is yet to come. Critics often say that evangelical Christians have a persecution complex. We always imagine everybody's out to get us. And honestly, can I go ahead and say it? That's a valid critique. Just watch cable news. We can be a little paranoid and way over sensitive.
But, but we might be like that sometimes because we understand who is at work in the world and what his game actually is. Daniel tells us, listen, let's be under no illusions. Persecution against Christians in the world is as high as it has ever been.
And it is likely only going to get worse. Open Doors, a group that our church and I have partnered with for many years. It's a ministry that helps persecuted Christians around the world. Tells us today, get this, that over 340 million Christians today, right now, this weekend, 340 million Christians live in places where they are experiencing high levels of persecution.
Not sideways looks and not job affliction, but like going to jail or losing your life, right? That is the highest in history. Last year, almost 5,000 believers, they say, were martyred because of their faith. Not just 5,000 believers, but they're dying because of their faith in Christ. Over 4,000 Christian churches were burned. Another 4,000 Christians were imprisoned, most of them without trial because of their faith. And even right here in our own country, where we supposedly have a guaranteed freedom of religion, we are seeing the steady erosion of those things. Already in some places, if you hold to what scripture teaches about sexuality or gender or the way of salvation or the preciousness of life from the womb to the tomb, you can be labeled as a bigot and canceled or fired.
Dr. George Yancy, who is an African American professor who's taught here at our church about overcoming racial strife. He's got a new book out on anti-Christian discrimination in America. He points out in this book that 32%, get this, I need you to let this sink in, 32% of all Americans identify theologically conservative Christians as their least favorite group in society. Liking them significantly less and rating them as more dangerous than other groups. By comparison, only 31% identified Muslims that way. So it is fair, Dr. Yancy says, it is fair to say that if we are concerned about anti-Muslim prejudice, and we should be, we should also at least be aware of anti-Christian prejudice. Dr. Yancy documents with a pretty impressive compilation of statistics that being a professing Christian who holds to what Christians have believed for the last 2,000 years about sexuality and gender and the way of salvation will hurt you significantly in the academic world, the journalistic world, the political world, the artistic world, the medical world, and increasingly even the business world. So yes, I'll say it, we can be a little paranoid, but you will forgive me if we see a trajectory in those things that Daniel warns us about. Listen, I do not want to contribute to conspiracy theories, so if you're going to clip this on YouTube, then clip this part too. In fact, I would say the spirit of the enemy is every bit as much at work in QAnon as he is in the ACLU.
He's at work in every culture shaping institution seeking to foster hate, doubt God's word, and exalt man. Make no mistake, we are sending our kids out into a hostile world and we got to prepare them for that. And cute little songs and little habits and learning to say the right words, that's not going to cut it in the world that's to come. We have got to teach them that there is something worth living for and dying for that is stronger than all the opposition of the world and is better than any of the world's affirmation. And that they're never going to be applauded by the world if they're going to hold fast to their confession of faith, and it's okay because Jesus is worth it.
And that's why we've got to move beyond just this sort of lazy kind of discipleship where we're content with Christian children who don't have sex and know what way to vote, and we've got to teach them to be overcomers who love Jesus enough to give their lives for him. Now I say all that. Because I read this. I read this and you should too and I said well no wonder Daniel's grieving. Dark view of the future.
Right? We should grieve also. Y'all the world generally speaking is a tragic place. God's people suffer. And are sometimes tortured and slain again and again.
And justice never comes on earth and it's only going to get worse, he says. Jesus is like they hated me, they're going to hate you. Be assured, John 16, in this world you're going to have tribulation. Sometimes in church we're in such a hurry to rejoice that we overlook the grief that some people coming in are feeling, some of you coming in this weekend, you're facing pressure at your job to conform. You're suffering from the scorn of friends for the sake of godliness.
Or maybe you're just suffering. The world can be a dark place and we want to grieve with you and not get so close to the happy songs that we don't take time just to acknowledge. I know that it's dark and I know that it's painful and that's exactly what scripture tells us we should expect.
You say this is the worst sermon I've ever heard. What is the good news? I thought you'd never ask. I've been waiting to tell you and you just haven't asked. Here we go. I'm going to give you three elements of hope that Daniel gives you.
They're bright and they're shiny and they're awesome. Number one, he says the suffering is limited. The suffering is limited. What stands out to me as I read this is how in control God seems to be of all of this. Daniel drops little hints about that along the way. Look at 1136 which we read a second ago and look at it again. He will be successful. The antichrist will be successful until the time of wrath is completed. Because what has been decreed, not by him, but by God, what has been decreed will be accomplished. The time of wrath is completed. What has been decreed is accomplished. In other words, this is all part of the plan. And the persecution is real and it's painful. It's all been decreed by God.
The time has been set and not an ounce more of it comes than God has intended and determined. It's like that terrible scene where it was Snape and Dumbledore. It looks bad. It looks bad but it's all according to the plan. And one day the meaning of these tragic events is going to be reversed.
One of my favorite aspects of the book of Daniel is how specific God is about where it's going to come from and how long it's going to last. By the way, if you've never seen what I'm about to show you, it will blow your mind. Okay? I want you to go back. Hold your finger in chapter 12. Go back to chapter 9 real quick. I want you to tighten your belt and put on your nerd glasses. You're going to need them here for a minute. Verse 24, Daniel 9.
Watch this. Seventy weeks are decreed, God says to Daniel, or through the angel, about your people and your holy city. To bring the rebellion to an end, to put a stop to sin, to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. A week, follow me here, okay, nerd glasses on, a week in the Jewish language just means a period of seven. That could be seven days, a week of days, or it could mean, like it does here, seven years, a week of years.
So how many weeks of years are prophesied? Seventy. So it's seven years times 70. Seventy weeks.
Seventy sets of seven weeks. That's 490 years, okay? And what happens at the end of those 70 weeks of years, into that 490 years? It says, well, at that point, rebellion is going to be brought to an end. Stop will be put to sin, iniquities will be atoned for, everlasting righteousness will be brought in, all biblical prophecy will be fulfilled, and the most holy place will be restored. Okay, when do those 490 weeks start, you ask? Great question, right? It tells you in verse 25 exactly when they start.
No one understand this. From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. That's when you start the stopwatch. From that moment until an anointed one, the ruler will be seven weeks and 62 weeks. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with a plaza and a moat, but in very difficult times. So again, the clock starts ticking at the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. That decree was given by King Artaxerxes of Persia in around 445 BC. You can read about that event, by the way, in Nehemiah chapter 2.
That's the story of that. At that date, he says there's going to be seven weeks and then 62 weeks. Seven weeks, again, nerd glasses, is 49 years, which is roughly how long it took to rebuild Jerusalem. Then 62 more seven year periods pass after that.
Now watch this, verse 26. After these 62 weeks, plus the first seven, the anointed one will be cut off. Seven weeks and 62 weeks means 69 weeks, and then the anointed one is going to be cut off. 69 weeks of years, that's 483 years. I did the math for you, but that's 483 years. 483 years. Now using the Jewish custom of a 360 day year, 483 years after 445 BC, when Artaxerxes issued the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, that would land us at AD 32. 32 AD, which is the date that Jesus, scholars tell us, was crucified. That's when the anointed one was cut off. God gave to Daniel the date that Jesus would die some 480 years before it happened. The point is, a God who can prophesy the details of something like that is in control of all of it.
Wouldn't you agree? It's all part of the plan. Verse 26, watch this. Then the people of the coming ruler will destroy the city and the sanctuary. That happened in 70 AD.
The Romans are going to re-destroy the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. Then watch this, verse 27. He will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering, and the abomination of desolation will occur again.
After the anointed one, another way of saying, by the way, the Messiah, anointed one, that's what it means in Hebrew. After he is cut off, there is one more week of seven years, the 70th week. Now, there are two ways you could interpret this. One way is that the last week of years are not literal years, that that week represents the final chapter of human history, which we're in now.
It's just stretched out for a long time. The second way you could interpret this, and I believe the correct way, is that after the Messiah was cut off in 32 AD, the timeline was paused, and we are now in a parenthetical period, commonly called the church age, where God has shifted the focus of his activity away from the nation of Israel and onto the church, which is comprised mostly of Gentiles, non-Jews, most of us. But at the end of time, when the Antichrist officially makes his debut, the focus is going to re-shift back to Israel, and we will enter into that last 70th week, a seven-year period that we call the tribulation. The tribulation of the book of Revelation is all about Daniel's 70th week. Now, here is why I strongly prefer that second interpretation, and not the one where it's just kind of like this metaphor for what we're in now.
First, here's why. The first 69 weeks were literal. Like I showed you, it was roughly 483 360-day years to when Jesus died, so why would you suddenly switch the last seven and make them an elastic metaphor? Second, like I noted, the book of Revelation is all about this 70th week, and the book of Revelation strongly implies that this is something in the future and not something we're living in now. There's a few commentators that try to argue we're living in the midst of Revelation right now, but I just don't find their reasoning that compelling.
I could be wrong, and it's not a first issue order of faith, you don't have to leave our church if you disagree with me, but it just doesn't seem to me to be written that way in Revelation. Third, verse 24 says that 70 weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city. For Daniel, your people would be the Jews, and your city would be Jerusalem.
These 70 weeks focus on Israel and Jerusalem. Well, right now, like I've said, the focus of God's work is in the church, which is mostly made up of Gentiles, non-Jews. In fact, Paul says in Romans 9 through 11 that God has temporarily set aside his focus on Israel to build the church among the Gentiles. But one day, Paul says, one day in the future, God's going to resume his focus on Israel, and when he does, man, more people are going to get saved than any previous chapter in human history.
It's going to be awesome, Paul says. But the point is, Daniel says these 70 weeks are about Israel, and so we live in an ellipsis right now, and there's another really, really terrible week coming. You're like, JD, when do we get to the encouraging part? Listen, the encouragement is in the word decreed. If God decrees all this with this amount of specificity, doesn't that show you he's in charge of all of it? And what that means is that what looks to us like bad news is going to one day be reversed to be good news.
Snape drops Dumbledore. It's okay. It's all part of the plan. And that means that when something feels dark and chaotic to me right now in my life, I can still rest in it because, say it with me, it's all part of the plan. And one day, the terrible meaning of all these things is going to get reversed.
It's not Dumbledore's tragic death, but part of his ultimate victory. I'll give you just one quick story. I heard a man named Steve Saint speak at a Desiring God conference in 2005. Steve was the son of Nate Saint, who was one of the five young missionaries who were brutally and tragically speared to death on the beaches of Ecuador in the 1950s. They had been trying to establish contact with this isolated tribe called the Alcas in order to bring food and supplies and eventually the gospel to them.
But on January the 8th, 1956, they were deceived by the tribe and murdered in cold blood. Steve was the son of one of these slain missionaries, Nate Saint, and at this Desiring God conference some 50 years later, he recounted how, as a young boy, he had struggled with the way he said it is why God had allowed that to happen. Why did God let my daddy die? He could have prevented it. They were trying to do the right thing.
Why not stop it? Now, here in his late 60s, he said he realized that God did not just allow it to happen. He said God planned it.
Let that sink in. He didn't just allow it. He planned it. And Steve said 50 years later, we can see that God used the incident to pave the way for that tribe of Alcas to be saved because after the murder of those five men, their wives went back into the tribe, the tribe was so moved by their generosity and their forgiveness, they'd never seen anything like it, that peace was established, and eventually nearly the whole tribe came to faith. Several years later, in fact, Steve, who I was hearing speak, got to baptize the very man, the very man, Mincayi was his name, who had put a spear into his father's heart. And that man, Steve said at this conference, became the surrogate grandfather of my children, a beloved member of my family. Then Steve said this to that conference. It was one of the most powerful statements I have ever heard.
He said, why is it that we demand every chapter to be good when God promises only that in the last chapter, he will make all the other chapters make sense? It's all part of the plan. I know it's hard to believe in your life, but it's all part of the plan. And I know it's dark and I'm trying to communicate that to you.
It is dark. I understand that. I need you to understand that it is limited.
It is limited. And one day it is coming where that gets reversed. That's your first element of hope. Here's your second and third.
And these are much quicker. Number two, the suffering is limited, but number two, the resurrection is eternal. After Daniel tells us about this time of untold suffering, there's going to be a time of distress.
Such has never occurred since nations came into being. He says, but at that time, all your people who are found written in the book will escape. Many who sleep in the dust of the earth are going to awake, some to eternal life and some to disgrace and eternal contempt. Just as a time of persecution is decreed, watch this, so is a resurrection. And as certain and as real as our suffering, so is the certainty and the reality of our resurrection, the ancient of days who sits on his throne of wheels saying, I have decreed it all, sits above it all and will restore it all.
He had the first word, Daniel says, he's going to have the last. Our hope, friend, is not in success in this life. If you're coming to this church thinking that Jesus is going to give you your best life now and success in your job and a perfect marriage, you might be disappointed. Our hope is not in perfect marriages or prosperous businesses or in political power. Our hope is in the resurrection of the dead. Our hope is in the certainty that Satan and sin and death are going to ultimately be defeated and that just as hardship and persecution have been decreed, so is the eternal reign of the anointed one, Jesus, who is going to renew and restore all things and let us rule with him forever.
All right? But note, note, this is very important, friend. Note that not everybody participates in this blessing. For not everybody is this coming of the ancient of days is the coming of this Messiah.
Not for everybody is it not joyful. Verse two says, many who sleep in the dust will awake. Many means not all. Verse one says that it's only those who are found written in the book that will escape. The book of life is what Revelation calls it, the most important book in history.
Book of life contains a list of all those and only those who have repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as Savior. Might be the most important question somebody's ever asked you. Is your name in that book?
If we looked over the names this weekend, we went through alphabetically. Would we come to your name in that book? You know, one of the worst feelings in the world to me is when I show up at some hotel late at night to check in after traveling all day and I give them my name, Greer, expecting them to say, Mr. Greer, your room is ready. Only to have the hotel clerk look back at me and say, I'm sorry, sir, your name's not on the reservation list. And let me tell you, I stand there and I argue like there is no tomorrow. Well, I know I told my assistant to make this reservation, but inside I'm thinking, did I? Did I drop the ball on this?
By the way, my assistant, Allie, will want me to point out that this has happened only like once, maybe twice in all the many years she's worked for me. But the point is, how tragic to find out on the most important list ever compiled that your name is not on it. Whose names are written in that book? Is it church members? Is it people who live mostly good lives? No, it's those who have repented of their sins and surrendered control of their lives to Jesus and trusted in Him as their only hope of salvation. Those who have been born again.
Has there been a time that you can point to when you were born again? Because listen, salvation is a gift that's offered freely to all who will receive it. No matter who you are, what you've done, Jesus' death has paid for your sin. He's atoned for it, covered it.
Atoned just means covered for. Covered it forever, but you've got to receive it. It's not yours until you claim it. I read this week that last year, Americans left over three billion dollars unclaimed in gift cards. Three billion.
Just wasted. Never claimed. This offer is worth far more than three billion dollars. It's the price of your soul.
Do not leave it unclaimed. The suffering is limited. The resurrection is eternal. Finally, the power is available. In this in-between time, y'all, between Daniel's 69th and 70th week, Jesus has inaugurated something new. Daniel alludes to it in our key verse for this series. Verse 3. And those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the sky above, and those who turn many to righteousness are going to shine like the stars forever and ever.
Jesus talked about it this way. All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. So go and preach the gospel in my power and make disciples of all the nations. The power and the authority of the kingdom is now here upon us to preach the gospel and make disciples. In other words, like Daniel says, to turn many to righteousness. The full measure of the kingdom may be coming in the future, but the power is here now. Repeatedly throughout the gospels, Jesus kept telling people, y'all, you keep looking for the kingdom of God as if it's something that's only coming in the future. But I'm telling you, it's right here in front of you.
I'm here. I'm the power of the kingdom. And the Holy Spirit, that power has taken root in us. So in the midst of a dark world ruled by the spirit of Antichrist, we're supposed to set up little outposts of the kingdom like bright stars dotted on an ink black sky landscape. With the power of the kingdom, we're to preach the gospel that sets people free from sin and then work with our hands to restore justice and demonstrate the kingdom and lift others out of poverty and break chains of oppression and promote peace. Our lives ought to give glimpses of that coming kingdom whose power is at work in us right now in the Holy Spirit. That's what it means to shine in Babylon.
That's why we called this series what we did. Those who are wise, those who have turned their lives over to Jesus are going to shine like the brightness of the sky above. And those who turn many to righteousness are going to shine like the stars forever and ever. That's who we are as a church. That is who God called us to be.
So here's the question. Are you ready to be part of this movement? The whole reason we did this series, are you ready to be a part of this movement as we shine in Babylon? Why don't you bow your heads if you would? I got two invitations for you.
With heads bowed, two invitations. Some of you need to trust Christ. That's the first one. You need to use an old fashioned word, get saved. Are you sure your name is written in the Book of Life?
You sure we'd find it there if we looked in? You say, I'm not sure. Let me give you a prayer that you could express to God that would receive Christ. That would be a prayer of repentance.
These are not magic words. Simply repeating them after me is not going to do anything. But if they come from your heart, this is a prayer of salvation that God will hear. Lord Jesus, I know that I cannot save myself. And I know that you did everything necessary to save me when you died on the cross. Tell him you believe that his death on the cross was for you.
Tell him that. Say, I'm ready to receive this gift and I surrender my life to you right now. I'm turning from my sin and turning control of my life over to you right now. Now, I can't see everybody at our church, obviously, but with heads bowed and eyes closed. Listen, if you prayed that prayer right now, would you just hold up your hand? And just say, this weekend I'm praying that prayer.
There's several of you that I can see and a whole lot more that I can't see. Put your hands down. I pray for every hand that is raised. I know that you're doing something in them.
And I know that God, if they prayed from their heart and repented of their sins and received Christ, you heard them. If that's you again with heads bowed and eyes closed, I'm going to ask you to do what I often do. And that is if you prayed that prayer, the action step is I want you to text the word ready.
R-E-A-D-Y. It's the word ready to 33933. I want you to do it before you walk out of your campus. Text the word ready to 33933. That's my action set for you.
Here's my second invitation. For a lot of you, it's time for you to get involved. You're in Babylon. It's a hostile world.
There's no neutral ground and you need to start shining like a star. The only way that you can do that is by becoming wise, and the only way you become wise is by submitting to Jesus. So we want you to get off the sidelines. We want you to get involved here. In just a moment, your campus pastor is going to give you an action step or a handful of them so you can connect to the mission. But maybe right now, just with heads bowed, just say, God, I'm ready. I'm ready to get off the sidelines and I'm ready to start shining in Babylon. You tell Jesus that right now. I'm going to leave you here for a few seconds, a few moments, and then at all of our campuses, our campus pastors are going to come. They're going to pray with you and then give you the next action step.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-07 22:44:51 / 2023-09-07 23:02:38 / 18