Give It Everything You Got – 05.16.2021

[Luke 21]

            Once upon a time, a man was sitting on the couch watching TV. His wife had asked him to do a couple of projects – get some dishes done, clean up around the house a bit – just a few things. Suddenly, across the house, he heard the horrible screeching noise of their garage door. The garage door wasn’t broken or anything, they just needed to oil the tracks or something because it would make this horrible sound when it was opening. Just an incredibly loud garage door opener. The man leapt off the couch, threw his drink into the recycling, quickly tidied up the living room, throwing things here and there, and made to the sink just as she walked in the door. The wife comes in, saw her husband at the sink, doing the dishes – “oh sweetie, you are so wonderful – thank you for doing the dishes while I was gone. You know what else we really need to do? We need to get that garage door fixed, it just sounds so awful.” And the man nodded, with his hands in the soapy water, but he thought to himself, “not likely, that’s my early warning system.”

            Because of course, the man had figured out that when the garage door went off, he had just enough time to make it LOOK like he was doing stuff before the boss came in the door. Just enough time to get off his butt, to give the appearance of being helpful. I know, all the husbands are gonna be mad at me – I’m up here giving away our secrets. Early warning system – almost like a prophecy, warning him to get back to work. But I guess that’s sort of how warnings and prophecies work, isn’t it? We hear predictions, and we spring into action. We hear things like, “there’s gonna be a gas shortage” and so everybody runs out and buys gas. We hear about the violence in the middle east, and some people claim – “it’s the end of the world.” Have you seen those predictions? We’re going to run out of toilet paper, we’re going to run out of gas, it’s the end of the world – and it doesn’t matter that they are almost always wrong, because it gets us off the couch. We freak out, we panic, I’ve got to do something! And think about this, why is it important? Why do we want to know so bad when the world is going to end? I want to know when the world is going to end, so I can empty my bank account – make sure I get the most out of this life. I want to know when I need to jump off the couch and make it look like I’ve been working.

            Today we are returning to our series called Journey With Jesus. For the last year we have been making our way through the book of Luke, and now we are finally in the final four chapters. This is the finale. And if you’ve stuck through it this entire year, by the end of it you will have read an entire gospel cover to cover. And today, among other things, we are going to be talking about warning signs and the end of the world. Let’s dive in

            And we start, of course, with Jesus hanging out at the temple in Jerusalem. [read v.1-4]. Now that’s a really famous passage. The widow and the rich people. And Jesus says her two coins is more than the rich people. And we’ve heard that passage before. I’ve preached those verses before – because there’s a great message on giving and a really important teaching about generosity. But this time when I approached the text, I found something different. You ever do that? Where you go back and read a part of the bible, and you’ve read it before – but you find a new angle, a new interpretation, a new teaching for your life? Anyways, that happened to me this past week. And I’m looking at these verses, and I think – like, forget about the money for a second. Like, what if that’s not the only thing he’s getting at? The wealthy men contributed out of their abundance. Which is a nice way of saying “out of their leftovers” – right? But the widow put in everything she had. And I started to think about the way we treat God. I mean, how many of us look at faith, like these rich guys? I will contribute to God, I will give to God, I will serve God… out of my leftovers. I will make my life about Jesus, when I get all the important stuff out of the way first. Rather than prioritize God, rather than carve out time FOR God, I’m gonna give him the leftovers of my life. And please don’t think I’m up here pointing fingers. I did this too. When I went off to college, and it was on me to get myself to church. To wake up a little earlier and do some devotions – there were a lot of Sundays when I went to bedside Baptists. But I’ll tell you, when I became a pastor – it was suddenly my job to read my bible and teach it to people, and I became so much more faithful in my connection to God. And the craziest thing happened, my love for God grew. My connection to God grew. And now I look back at the way I used to “do church” and I’m kicking myself because of all those years when I was missing out on a deeper connection to the God who loves me. I gave to God out of my abundance, out of my leftovers, but when I put my entire life in God’s hands, I had no idea how blessed I would be from God coming close to me in my life and in my work.

            It keeps going, [read v.5-6]. So the disciples are walking around marveling at the temple, “wow, look at how beautiful it is.” And Jesus looks around and shrugs, “some day, none of this is going to be here” – and I’ve never read it this way before, but I realized that sort of flows right out of the first four verses. The widow talking about giving everything to God, and then looking at the super fancy temple and saying, “this stuff doesn’t matter” – and I’m getting this strong theme, this message where Jesus is basically saying, “This world is not a big deal. This world is not where we want to be aimed with our life.”

            Verse 7, the disciples ask [read v.7]. Jesus, they ask, Jesus when will this be? You’re talking about signs of the end of the world – when’s it going to be? And Jesus has a very curious response. The first thing he says is [read v.8]. The first thing Jesus said is beware of false teachers who claim this is the end of the world. Now I’m not going to get into all that today, but just – let’s leave with, if there are people out there claiming to know about the end times, Jesus says maybe you shouldn’t listen to that person. Then Jesus starts talking about the stuff that’s coming, and it gets real unpleasant. [read v.9-11]. Awesome – wars, famine, natural disasters – yikes. Then he makes it personal. [read v.12]. It’s going to be terrible everywhere, but first it’s going to be terrible for just you guys. And then Jesus does this crazy change of direction. All this terrible stuff is going to happen, and then [read v13]. You’re going to get in trouble. You’re going to get arrested, they’re going to drag you in front of the governor, what a great opportunity for you to tell the governor about Jesus. [laugh] I just, I read this, and I just get this sense that maybe Jesus’ priorities are a little different than mine. Right? You get arrested, and dragged in front of the governor or the king… all I’m thinking about is, “crap I’m in trouble! I’m in front of the authorities, and I don’t want to be in trouble, because this life that I’m living right now on this earth is the most important thing, and I want it to be comfortable.” And Jesus is there tapping me on the shoulder – no, this is not the most important thing. I am. Jesus is.. This world is not a big deal. Jesus is a big deal. Telling people about Jesus, sharing God’s love – that’s a big deal. In the midst of all the trouble life provides, Jesus says – look for opportunities to tell people about God. It’s almost like the point of all these signs is NOT to help us get off the couch at the last minute and pretend like we were doing something useful. It’s almost like Jesus wants us to be useful, to be working and loving people and sharing God’s love, it’s almost like he wants us to do that all along. Faith is not a bare minimum to-do list, but a lifestyle of sharing God’s love, in word and in deed, constantly.

            The negative signs keep going, down in verse 25, [read v.25-27]. I mean, yikes. That all sounds bad. Here’s the thing I want you to pull from this morning. Every time people read this stuff – they get all hung up on figuring out a timeline for the end of the world. End time prophecies, symbols and signs, makes people uncomfortable – mostly because there’s a history of skeezy con men trying to make money off of it. But I think we’re missing the point, right – because those guys are always wrong. I think the point of these signs is to show us really that there’s just the one sign that matters – these are signs that the world is broken. All this stuff that they list, I don’t think it’s about a timeline of the end of the world, I don’t think it’s about trying to get off the couch before the wife comes home – I think all these signs point to the same thing – the world is broken. All this stuff, wars, persecution, famine, disasters – it all says hey look, the world is broken. And it’s okay, because our God specializes in fixing broken things. The reason Jesus is telling us all this, is to give us hope.

It says, [read v.27-28]. This is world is not a big deal. Jesus, yeah – Jesus is a big deal. It says someday, we will see the son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now, I don’t know what that’s going to look like – but it sounds awesome. This world is broken, and someday Jesus is coming to heal this broken world – and that simple, basic truth gives us hope. So when terrible things are happening, lift your head, because your redemption is drawing near.

            Alright, there’s one more thing I want to show you. [read v.31-32]. That verse used to drive me crazy. This generation will not pass away, well that generation was like… a long time ago. So, what does he mean? I mean, the world didn’t end. But I look at these signs, and I realized – all that stuff did happen. I mean, literally, there were earthquakes, and famines, nations rising up against nations. The book of Acts literally describes how several of the guys got dragged in front of governors and kings, and you know what they did? They used it as an opportunity to tell the governor about Jesus. The world didn’t end during their lifetime, but the church began. The kingdom of God came near. The people of God started working together and loving each other and living as brothers and sisters in a new sort of family community – so all this stuff DID come to pass. This is not about the end of the world, this is about the birth of the church! Do you see it? The kingdom of God has come near, and I think maybe he’s talking about the CHURCH. This place, these people, we have a chance to demonstrate the glory of Jesus, and the love of God to one another. 

            Okay, follow me on this – ask yourself, does this sound familiar? “nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues” That’s a quote from scripture, but I feel like they just stole those lines from Tuesday’s newspaper headlines. Jesus is not just describing the end of the world, he’s describing the brokenness of the world. And that brokenness still exists. We still have work to do. So the end of the chapter makes perfect sense, [read v.34-36]. Be on guard so your heart is not weighed down. Be alert at all times. The world is still broken, the people of God still have work to do. It’s almost like the bible is saying, “yeah, this is the end of the world. Everyday is the end of the world. Everyday might be the end of the story, and so we should live our lives with a sort of radical love that other people might call reckless. Jesus says, “don’t listen to those guys who say they know when the end is, you better get to loving right now.” You might not get to the end of this day. You might not make it to the end of this worship service. I might not get to the end of this sentence. If everyday might be the end of the world, we Christians should live like nobody else in the world.

            This world is not a big deal, but Jesus is. This world is broken, but we have a God who specializes in broken things. The good news this morning is that God fixes broken things. And I’m not just talking about big things, like the redemption of the planet, creating peace between nations and all that. I’m talking about your life. Your world. I keep saying this world is not a big deal, but it’s a big deal to us. It’s hard to shake that off, we think this life is just the most important thing in the world. Some of you walked in here this morning carrying some brokenness. Some of you tuned into the live stream today, and you’ve got a burden that’s weighing you down. For some of you this past week, without even turning the news on, it feels like the end of the world. And you’re not sure how your gonna carry on, you don’t know how you’re gonna make it. For some of us there’s brokenness in our marriages, there’s brokenness at our jobs, there’re shattered pieces in our education. For each and every one of you who are struggling this morning, I have some very good news: God fixes broken things. For some of you – it’s not the job or marriage or school or anything outside of you. For some of you, it feels you ARE the broken thing, some of you are living a broken life- and I want you to understand there is a God out there who is capable of taking the broken shattered pieces of your life and putting you back together. All the signs are pointing to one, simple, inescapable fact – that this world is broken. And through the love of Jesus, shown on the cross – our God fixes broken things.

            So I have two challenges for you this morning. Two ways I want you to take this truth and put it in your life. First, turn your trials into testimonies. This world is full of brokenness, but there is a God out there who fixes broken things. How is that not the most important thing we talk about every single day. Jesus tells the disciples, “hey, some really crappy stuff is going to happen in your life – but you should probably tell people about me.” You’re going to get dragged in front of the governor or the king or whatever, and Jesus doesn’t say, “oh you gotta deal with that first, that’s the most important, you gotta fix all the problems in your life first. Maybe later, when you’re less busy, and you’re not in trouble, you can come back and talk to the governor.” No, Jesus says, This world is not that big of a deal, but Jesus is. Go all in, like the widow – give it everything you’ve got. Turn that trial into an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with a broken and hurting world. Turn your trials, your struggles, your brokenness – take it, and turn it into an opportunity for God’s glory to shine in your life.

            And the second challenge is to be on guard and be alert. Stop acting like the end of the world is some far off deadline, and we’re good to just sit on the couch for a while. We need to be on guard. We need to live like everyday is the end of the world. Take a second think about a nice thing you’ve always wanted to do. Maybe you’ve got a neighbor, and you’ve always wanted to bring them cookies. Or you know someone who struggles with addiction, and you’ve always wanted to confront them with love. To tell them, “I know what you’re going through, and I want to help you get clean.” Or that friend you know is struggling, they’re really affected with COVID fear, or their really beat up by their job, or they got some problems in their marriage. Don’t wait until the last second to get off the couch. Spread the love of Jesus right now. Make those cookies, reach out to that friend, support that co-worker. Tell them about Jesus and how he fixes broken things. And if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, bring them here and I promise I’ll tell them. Turn your trials into testimonies, and be on guard – the world is very broken, and we’ve got work to do.  

            This world is not a big deal, but Jesus is a very big deal. This world is so incredibly broken. There are signs described in the bible, but look out at the world for ten seconds and you’ll see it there too. But God redeems broken things. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you turn your trials into testimonies, and be on guard – the world is very broken, and we’ve got work to do. Amen.

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