In a society so plagued with the fear of the “what ifs”, how can Christians fight this narrative? In this message on Mark Chapter 13, Pastor Mike Kelsey guides believers through what it looks like to resist the culture of fear. As Pastor Mike Kelsey unpacks this message, he analyzes the false sense of security, stability, and identity that this world offers. Succumbing to such false ideas of safety only leave us feeling like the rug is pulled out from under us when everything comes crashing down. How, then, do we fix our eyes upon the lasting protection of the One who holds it all? Pastor Mike Kelsey reminds Christians that we are able to rest in the arms of a Father who holds it all.
- The Desolation of Temporary Security
- Resisting the Culture of Fear Because We Know the Truth
- Resisting the Culture of Fear Because We Know the Future
Resisting The Culture of Fear
Good morning. It’s good to be together today. I want to welcome those of you visiting here at Tysons and everybody who’s not visiting at Tysons. I also want to welcome those of you watching online and at our different locations. We’re going to be in Mark chapter 13 continuing in this series that we have been in where we’ve been studying the Gospel of Mark. So go ahead and make your way there. I want to give a shout-out to all the fathers who are here and watching. Can we just give it up for all the dads? Oh, yeah. Thanks for shouting me out too. I appreciate it. Yeah, man, I’m tired, man. I deserve some claps for these kids, man. Dads, mothers get a nice encouraging message on Mother’s Day and today we get a message on the cataclysmic judgment of God from Mark 13. So you’re welcome.
Before we dive in, I do want to remind you and invite you really to be praying for our students that are going to be away at Rock Summer camps this summer. We got high school camp July five through nine and middle school camp July 13 to 16. Be praying this is a really formative time in the life of our students here at our church, across all of our different locations. It’s a fun time. Get to hang out with friends, do a bunch of cool stuff, but also really learn more about Jesus and study the word together and worship and seek God together. And so I want to invite everybody to be praying for our students that God will really work during those camps. And then also parents, it’s not too late for you to register. Our registration closes on July 6th. You can go to McLeanBible.org/SummerCamp to register your students, so make sure you hop on that. You don’t want your middle school or high student to miss out on that opportunity.
The Importance of Your Bible
Now, if you have your own copy of the Bible, it’s going to be helpful for you to follow along. Now, if you don’t, no problem. You might be new to our church or might be new to church period. Didn’t bring a Bible, forgot your Bible, but we’ll have the verses up on the screen for you to be able to follow along as well. I mentioned you have in your own copy of the Bible because anytime you attend a church service, whether you’re visiting or not, I would encourage you to bring your own copy of the Bible, even if that’s just your phone or iPad or something like that for you to have the passage of scripture right there in front of you.
Even if you’re not a Christian and you say, “If I’m not a Christian, I’m not even sure I believe in the Bible. Why do I need a copy of the Bible myself?” Because you’re in a Christian Church that’s preaching the Bible and here’s why it’s important for you to have it in front of you because I can put anything I want up on the screen. I can cherry-pick verses I can leave out important context. I can distort or even contradict the clear teaching of scripture to make whatever point I want to make. And so whether you’re a Christian or not, if you’re a thinking person, I would encourage you to have your own Bible in front of you whenever you’re sitting under biblical teaching so that you can see what God is saying for yourself.
Now we’re going to jump right in and read chapter 13 and I got to say upfront, there’s no way I can cover all 37 verses in detail in the time that we have. We’re going to read through those verses, but I’m going to read the chapter and make some clarifying comments as we go through it just to make sure we’re all on the same page. And then we’re going to zoom out and reflect on what God might be saying to us.
Let me say this up top before I pray and we dive in here. A while ago, some of you may have done this before, but a while ago I made the unfortunate decision in Jamaica to jump off a cliff into the open sea. Now, I remember feeling the initial exhilaration of just free-falling. Some of you have experienced that before and you’re like, “This is fun.” And then you realize, “This cliff was higher than I thought because I’m still falling and I don’t want to be anymore.” And then I remember feeling that initial feeling of relief when I just pierced through the surface of the water, immediately followed by a feeling of absolute terror when I realized that the force of gravity does not stop at this surface of the water. So now only did I realize that the cliff was higher than I thought, but I realized that the ocean is deeper than I thought and I’m still going down. I want to be going up and I’m realizing I don’t think I took a deep enough breath. I don’t know what’s down here. I don’t know if I’m going to make it out of here.
And so I hit the surface, I realize I’m alive and now I’m going deep down and I’m like, “I’m going to die. It’s a wrap. This is it for me.” And I’m trying to get back up to the surface. Here’s why I shared that. That’s how some of you are going to feel as we’re diving into Mark 13, we’re going to keep going and going and going and at a certain point you’re going to get lost because this is one of the most controversial, confusing chapters in the entire New Testament. And you’re going to be like, “Can we please come up for some air? Can we come back to the surface of everyday life and see what in the world does this have to do with me?” I promise you we’re going to get there, but bear with me. We’re going to work through this together.
No, y’all don’t sound like… Sound like everybody… Locations everywhere. Here at Tysons, are we ready?
A Prayer Before the Sermon
All right, let me pray and then we’re going to dive in here.
Father, we thank you so much for your word that you have set before us today. God, I pray we would feast on your word and I pray that you will not only work in our hearts, but Lord, that you would change, change our lives, Father, as we sit under the authority of your word and the power of your spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
All right, Mark chapter 13 verse 1, it says, “And as Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, teacher what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings.’ And Jesus said to him,” we don’t know which disciple this was, but Jesus said, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown out.”
Now, sometime later, Jesus and the disciples are now across the Kidron Valley sitting on the Mount of Olives, which overlooks the entire temple complex. In verse 3, as he’s set on the Mount of Olives now opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew ask him privately, they’re like, “Jesus, can we run this back? Tell us when will these things be and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” Jesus has just said, “The temple is going to be torn down, it’s going to be destroyed.” The disciples are like “Jesus. Can we circle back to that? You just slid that one in there. Can you explain when is this going to happen? How will we know when it’s going to happen? Because that seems like a significant thing.”
Jesus Preparing the Disciples for His Death
Now, in classic Jesus fashion, he doesn’t really answer their question. If you are new to the Bible, this is extraordinarily frustrating, not just for the disciples but those of us who read the Bible. But I think part of the reason why Jesus doesn’t answer their question is because as serious and sincere as our questions may be, Jesus knows that oftentimes we need something more than the answers to our questions. There is more that he wants to say to us and more that he wants to do in and for us than simply answer the questions we have that really just scratched the surface or maybe even missed the point.
So you remember what’s been happening leading up to 13 and what’s about to happen after chapter 13? We’re going to study what happens after chapter 13 later where Jesus is going to be betrayed, arrested, tortured and crucified, and the disciples will be left to continue his ministry. We’ll pick up there next week, Lord will it.
But leading up to chapter 13, which we’ve been studying, Jesus has been preparing them for that moment where he’s going to die, he’s going to rise, he’s going to ascend, he’s going to leave them. He’s been preparing them and that’s exactly what Jesus is doing here in chapter 13. He doesn’t directly answer their question. Instead, he begins to warn them about some of the things they’re going to experience after he leaves. So verse 5, Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name saying ‘I am he,’ and they’ll leave many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars,” this is important. Underline, circle this in your Bible. “Do not be alarmed,” which is the opposite of what many people do. Jesus says, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There’ll be earthquakes in various places. There will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.”
Do Not Be Alarmed
So Jesus says, “Don’t be alarmed when you see these things happening,” but verse nine, “Be on your guard.” “Don’t be alarmed, but be on your guard for they will deliver you over to councils and you’ll be beaten in synagogues and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be pre proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial,” remember he’s talking to his disciples “When they bring you to trial and deliver you over. Don’t be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death and the father his child and children will rise against parents and have them put to death and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”
And Jesus says, “Now I have good news and bad news.” The good news is verse 13, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” “You’re going to make it. I’m going to sustain you. You endure. You’ll be saved through all of that distress and persecution.” He says, “The bad news is that the initial persecution you’re going to experience is only a preview of a more devastating time of tribulation that’s coming.” And this is where Bible teachers begin to disagree. Almost everybody agrees that when we just finished reading, it’s talking about the destruction of the temple and a persecution that breaks out during that time period. But verse 14 is where Bible-believing, spirit-filled Bible teachers and Bible scholars agree to disagree because what we’re about to read in verses 14 to 20 could be interpreted in a few different ways.
Here’s where you’re hitting the surface and you’re about to start going deeper and running out of breath. Okay, let’s dive in. Let me read it first and then I’ll explain. Verse 14, Jesus says, “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be, let the reader understand. Then let those who are in Judea,” which is the broader region surrounding Jerusalem, “Let those who were in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who was on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house to take anything out.” They had these flat roofs in Judea and he’s saying, “If you’re standing on a top of your house, working on your house or drying some fruit or whatever is going on, when you see this happen, the abomination of desolation, don’t go back down and get anything, go down the steps or outside of your house and just flee.”
Be On Guard
Verse 16 “And let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas, for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days, pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved, but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here’s the Christ,’ or ‘Look, there he is.’ Don’t believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders to lead astray if possible the elect. But be on guard. I have told you all things beforehand.”
Now pause. Some of y’all are like, “See, that’s why I don’t read the Bible. This is why it is June and I’m six months behind in the Bible reading plan because I can’t do this. What is Jesus talking about?” The abomination, let me explain this as best as I can, the abomination of desolation is picking up on language from a prophecy in the book of Daniel where a foreign ruler would come and desecrate the temple in Jerusalem. So there’s two main ways to interpret this. Some scholars believe this abomination of desolation is referring to the destruction of the temple which Jesus has already been talking about. And in that case, the abomination of desolation would be referring to the Roman army who made pagan sacrifices in the Jerusalem temple before they destroyed it and the destruction would be so catastrophic and horrific, this destruction of the temple, that Jesus says “When you see this happen, fleet of safety as quickly as you can.”
In other words, he’s saying, “When you see this happen, it’s time to roll out. At this point you become a political or religious refugee.” That’s why he says here, he’s like, “Man, I hope this doesn’t happen while women are pregnant. If it does, it’s going to be rough for them” because they’re going to be refugees having to flee their homeland while they’re pregnant. That’s why he says “Hope that this doesn’t happen in winter.” Because the weather conditions and the rain that happens in the previous season, now the ravines and the waters are super high. It makes it difficult to get out of that region. Jesus says, “When you see this happen, it’s time for you to flee to safety.”
So some scholars believe what Jesus is talking about here, destruction of the temple. Others believe this is referring to events toward the end of human history, a period of time called the Great Tribulation where the antichrist will lead and unprecedented time of persecution and supernatural deception that triggers the return of Jesus. And you see this referenced in Second Thessalonians chapter two and throughout the book of Revelation. So you say, “All right, Mike, which one is it?” I’m honestly not 100% sure. I’m not a hundred percent sure, but as of today at 11:41 AM on June 18th, I lean toward the first interpretation that the abomination of distillation in this passage refers to the destruction of the temple.
For several reasons, but mainly because it seems to me to fit the flow of the passage more naturally and it makes the most sense of some of the things that Jesus says. So for example, in verse 14, Jesus says to the disciples, “But when you disciples, when you see the abomination of desolation,” he says, “This is something that you’re going to actually see.” And then in verse 26, it seems like he’s talking about something different because he says, “And then they will see the son of man coming on the clouds” clearly referring to the second coming. And then later in verse 40, Jesus explicitly says “These things will happen within the disciples generation.”
Tribulation is Coming
So I think my best guess right now, email me tomorrow and ask me what I think. But my best guess right now is that what Jesus is talking about in verses 14 to 20, he’s continuing his train of thought. He’s still talking about the destruction of the temple. Now, I do think there will be an eschatological time of tribulation right before Jesus returns, but I think 1:14–20, it’s talking about an earlier time of distress that the disciples, these disciples themselves will actually experience in the first century. Either way, what’s clear is that there is going to be a time of intense persecution and tribulation. Something foul is going to happen in the temple. There’s going to be some type of abomination in the temple that will desecrate the temple and will ultimately lead to destruction. Now, almost all scholars agree that verses 24 to 27 are definitely referring to the second coming.
So let’s pick up in verse 24. Jesus says, “But in those days after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light and the stars will be falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” This is apocalyptic language. This is a cataclysmic cosmic event and here’s what is going to happen. Verse 26, “And then they will see” some other group of people in the future will see “The Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elects from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” This is the final consummation of salvation at the end of human history when Jesus returns.
And then Jesus begins to wrap up this teaching in verse 28. He says, “From the fig tree, learn its lesson. As soon as this branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves you know that summer is near.” He says, “So also, in the same way, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass until all these things take place.” Verse 31, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But concerning that day or hour, no one knows.” And here again he’s talking about the second coming, he’s talking about that day, the full consummation of the kingdom. “No one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the son, but only the Father.”
Now you pause for a minute and you say, “Wait a minute. I thought y’all believe as Christians, Jesus is fully God and you’re saying there’s something that he doesn’t know when he’s going to return?” And I wish I had time to dig into that fully, but just let me give you a quick summary here. The incarnate Jesus. So we believe that Jesus was fully God, the second person of the eternal trinity, but that the incarnate Jesus who became fully man took on human flesh, limited aspects of his divine power or limited his access to divine privileges. This is what Paul talks about in Philippians chapter 2. In order to intentionally identify with us in our humanity, he subjected himself to the limitations of humanity in order to identify with us and ultimately in order to represent us and to save us. And part of that limitation was that he gave up access to certain divine knowledge like when his second coming would be.
We Do Not All Have to Agree
Now, some of us in this room may disagree about how exactly to interpret various parts of this chapter, and that’s okay because Christians have never been able to completely agree on how to interpret this chapter, but those differences don’t actually change any of the key principles that Jesus clearly wants us to understand. What we know for sure just by a simple reading of the passage is that this chapter is precisely not about obsessing over and trying to predict specific details about the end times. Jesus is very clear about that.
We just saw that in verse 32 and then in verse 33, keep going. He says, “Be on guard, keep awake for you do not know when the time will come.” Jesus says, “I don’t even know. You surely don’t know.” He says, “It is like a man going on a journey when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge each with his work and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake, for you do not know when the master of the house will come in the evening or at midnight or when the rooster crows or in the morning, unless he comes suddenly and finds you asleep. And what I say to you, I say to all, ‘Stay awake. Stay awake.'”
The Majesty of the Temple
All right, let’s come up and breathe. Like I said, there’s no way I could cover all 37 verses in detail. We read through them, I commented on them. I just want us to be able to wrap our arms around what’s happening in chapter 13, but I do think God has a clear word for us in our context from this passage, and I want you to put yourself in the disciples shoes for just a minute. Go back to how this chapter starts. The disciples are blown away by the beauty and majesty of the temple, and when you read about the temple, you understand why, it was absolutely breathtaking. It was stunning. In fact, historians write about this and you can just see how breathtaking it was just in their description of it.
They described the foundation stones of the retaining wall, just one stone being like 42 feet high and 11 feet wide and 14 feet deep. Some say one stone was hundreds of thousands of pounds. Josephus, the Jewish historian, he said that one stone was over a million pounds. Now, Josephus was a little bit of a hype man. Sometimes we know he would exaggerate some things a little bit to make a point, so we don’t know the precise measurements, but the point is very clear and you see it corroborated across different historians. The stones that just laid the foundation of just the retaining wall were massive. The temple was not just some like little church building. This was a sprawling campus, a whole complex, and it was stunning.
The columns of the temple historians say it would take three large men to completely stretch their arms out to get their arms, the three of them together to get their arms around one of the columns and the edifice of the temple was overlaid with these gold plates so that when the sun was shining at its brightest, historians say it would be absolutely blinding because of the sun reflecting off the gold. Historians say it was by far, by far the most incredible architectural structure in the ancient world at that time. It was stunning. But by Jesus’ time, the temple was also corrupted.
We don’t have time to turn to it, but if you go back in read chapters 11 and 12, you see that Jesus was so angry about what the temple had become, that when he got to Jerusalem, he barged into the temple court. Some of you heard the story before. He barged into the temple courts and he starts flipping tables over, and this wasn’t just an emotional outburst. This was a foretaste of coming judgment against Israel’s religious leaders. It’s a foreshadowing of divine judgment. And so in chapter 13, Jesus says, “Yes, this temple is outwardly impressive, but soon it will be completely destroyed.” And this is a helpful reminder that our evaluation of something may not be God’s evaluation, that what’s impressive to us in our culture might actually be repulsive to God from his divine perspective.
Jesus says, “Yes, it may be impressive, but it will be completely destroyed.” And that’s exactly what happened. We know that almost 40 years later, a Jewish uprising broke out against the Roman government and in 70 AD the Roman military surrounded the city of Jerusalem, breached its walls and completely decimated the city. Literally burned it to the ground and it has not been reconstructed yet. In fact, you can visit the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount and you can see the remains even today.
The Panic That Comes With the Destruction of the Temple
And here’s what I want you to think about. I want you to imagine the kind of panic and pandemonium that would have filled Jerusalem during that time. Put yourself in their shoes. The walls are gone, your military defenses, done. The temple which symbolizes the presence and favor of God among his people and have become this cultural institution in this place of national identity, the temple now has been destroyed. The things that had given them a sense of security, stability and identity have come crashing down, and our lives can feel that way sometimes. It can feel that way personally when challenges and circumstances just knock the wind out of you. When pain and doubt just torture you. You just feel like the rug has just been pulled from under you.
Our lives can feel that way personally, but things can also feel that way culturally, and some of us feel that in 2023 in our culture today. In fact, Mark Sayers, who’s a pastor and theologian does a lot of cultural commentary. He says that in 2023, right now, particularly in the West but all over the world, he says that we’re in this transitional period that he calls a gray zone. And a gray zone, it’s a… I won’t get into all the background of it philosophically, but a gray zone is basically this time of overlap. It’s a transitional period where one era is ending and another era is beginning. He says it’s this transitional period where it feels like everything is just up in the air.
The Cultural Shift Today
Everything that you’ve come to know and rely on, everything that was at one point predictable and seemed normal and may have even been desirable. It feels like those sands are sift underneath your feet. And some of us feel that in our culture today. We are in the midst of not just a generational shift from one older demographic of people to another, but we are in the midst of a cultural shift, a deep cultural shift, and we feel that morally as we look out in our culture as what is normal and what is acceptable and what is even seen as virtuous in our culture, we feel it politically. Just the conflict, the tension that our politics tends to produce, how divided and hostile things have become.
Many of us even now are bracing ourselves for 2024. We feel it technologically. Some of y’all are excited about ChatGPT, others, if y’all are like “It’s the end times, Jesus is coming. AI is the downfall of the world.” We feel it demographically in our country. Things are changing, things are changing. The demographics are rapidly changing ethnically in our country, but also like I mentioned generationally it’s changing. Millennials now are in positions of cultural authority and Gen Z is coming up behind. There’s these seismic demographic shifts and we ultimately feel it spiritually, unprecedented numbers and percentages of people in our country today identifying with no religion at all.
A Culture of Fear
It feels like this transitional time where one era is ending and another era is beginning. And this is where some writers talk about in those transitional times, what tends to happen is that a culture of fear begins to fill that vacuum. And in a culture of fear because there’s so many questions and there’s so much unpredictability and instability and there’s so much anxiety in a culture of fear.
Now what tends to happen is we begin to look at other people who disagree with us as threats and as enemies. We begin to lose our civility in a culture of fear. In a culture of fear, conspiracy theories begin to fill the vacuum. We begin to suspend reason and reasonable dialogue and engagement, and we begin to isolate ourselves in these little pockets, these little echo chambers that just already resonate and reinforce what we already fear and what we already believe. This is the culture of fear.
And I could go on and on and on about what a culture of fear looks like and what it does in a society, especially when it begins to bleed into the church. And Jesus speaks into what you could imagine would be a culture of fear when the temple has been destroyed, Jerusalem is finally, in AD 70, completely decimated, and he says, to his disciples, “That time is coming and it is going to be a time of absolute panic and pandemonium. A culture of fear is going to sweep in and all kinds of stuff is going to be happening.” And he says, “I want to prepare you to represent me during that time.”
Three Reasons Christians Should Resist the Culture of Fear
And so before we close, there’s three things that I think Jesus says to us today. Three reasons why we as Christians should resist the culture of fear that we see around us. To not buy into that culture of fear on Facebook or on Instagram or on TikTok, to not buy into that culture of fear in the political sphere, to rise above that cultural fear as citizens of a different kingdom, as people who represent Jesus, the king, as those who understand how the story ends. Three reasons to resist the culture of fear.
We Know the Truth
Number one, we should resist the culture of fear because we know the truth. We know the truth. Jesus says this to his disciples. Verse 5, Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name saying ‘I am he,’ and they will lead many astray.” We know from Jewish history that this happened, that prior to Jesus there were several leaders who claimed to be sent by God, some even claiming to be the Messiah, and Jesus says, “That’s going to continue. People will continue to show up teaching all kinds of doctrines and ideologies,” and Jesus says, “And they will attach my name to it.”
And he warns the disciples that if they’re not careful, they can also become susceptible to false teaching, especially at a time when false teachers will try to exploit current events for their own personal or political agenda. That’s why Jesus says what he says in verse 7 and 8. He says, “Don’t be alarmed by natural disasters. Don’t be alarmed by escalating national conflict.” He says, “These things are going to happen in general because we live in a fallen world under the curse of sin,” and in our particular context, the disciples in their first century context, we’re going to experience some of these things, these troubling things happening, and we will have our own set of troubling things happening.
And Jesus is very clear with his disciples and very clear with us. He says, “While other people obsess over and try to interpret divine meaning behind those events, I want you to hear the truth directly from me. These things are not signs of the end of the world. Do not be distracted by current events. Don’t become obsessed and engrossed in trying to figure out and parse out all of God’s divine purposes and divine meaning of that calamity or this event or this particular policy.” He says, “These are all the beginning of birth pains. Listen, there’ll be popular leaders and teachers who sound impressive and seem trustworthy, and that’s why we can’t evaluate a person’s ministry based on their personality, their popularity, or our own personal preferences. We have to evaluate a person’s ministry based on how it aligns with the truth of God’s word.”
Listen, listen. Otherwise, we become susceptible to all kinds of false teaching. We see this from the beginning of human history. Listen, you’re here. You’re not a Christian. You’ve probably seen Christians falling for all kind of stuff, and you’re like, “How can Christians be so gullible to believe that?” Listen, we’ve seen this from the beginning of human history. Back in Genesis 3, Satan prayed on Eve’s desires and fears and drew her away from God’s words. She wanted the fruit that God had forbidden, and Satan was able to turn that desire into a fear that God was withholding something good from her.
The same thing happens in Jeremiah 29 where God’s people are in Babylonian exile because of their disobedience. They want God to end the exile and bring them back home to Jerusalem, and so they become susceptible to false teaching, listen false teachers who prophesy exactly what they want to hear. And God says in Jeremiah 29, similar to what Jesus says in Mark 13, he says, “Don’t listen to them because they have not been sent by me. What they’re prophesying, even though it scratches an itch, even though it resonates with your desires and seems to relieve some of your fears, if it does not align with the truth of my word, you know that it did not come from me.” There’s so many examples of this throughout the Bible, and Jesus warns the disciples, “Do not allow yourself to be deceived by false teaching.”
Now, listen, here’s how this works, because fears are just desires turned inside out. We’re afraid that what we want will be taken from us or will be withheld from us. And when we fear that what we want will be taken or withheld, then we can become susceptible to false teaching if we’re not careful. So here’s how this can work out. This is why the prosperity gospel spread so quickly in poor countries and poor communities because you have false teachers who manipulate a very good desire. “I just want to be taken care of. I just want to be able to provide for my family” and that desire is preyed upon. And false teachers claim things that God never actually claims.
Some people are afraid of evil spirits or bad luck. And so they straddle the fence between Christianity and ancestral religion. They say, “I’m a Christian and I believe in the gospel and I believe in scripture and I have the Holy Spirit, but just in case I’m going to still hang on to some of this sage, I’m going to still pray to these ancestors. I’m still going to do these ancestral rituals just in case.” And you fall prey to all kinds of false teaching and demonic activity because you allow your desire and your fear rather than driving you to God and his word to drive you away from God.
Some people are afraid and they say, “I’m afraid of the changes happening in my country. I’m afraid of losing my way of life.” And that fear gets stoked by the media and your echo chamber and it makes you susceptible to all kind of false teaching. Some people say, “I’m afraid of losing my racial heritage.” And because of that you fall prey to all kind of teaching. I mention this all the time, like Black Hebrew Israelites on the nation of Islam. Because you want to cling to Black heritage, which is not bad, but do it in a way that makes you susceptible to people who make claims about the Bible that are not even consistent with the Bible itself.
“I’m afraid of being alone.” And so you become susceptible to false teaching about sexuality and about marriage. I can go on and on and on. Our fears can make us susceptible to false teaching. And in a culture of fear, Jesus says, “You know the truth, you have my word.” And he says in verse 31, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. All these other things will prove to be unreliable and unsustainable and untrue. But my word will never prove to be untrue. My words will never fall to the ground void.”
We Know Our Mission
We should resist the culture of fear because we know the truth that’s revealed in God’s word. Secondly, we should resist the culture of fear. And I got to hurry up and wrap it up. We should resist the culture of fear. Listen, not only because we know the truth, but because we know our mission. We know our missions. We are citizens of another kingdom. Jesus says in verse 9, “Be on your guard for they’re going to deliver you,” he’s talking to his disciples, “Over the councils, and you’ll be beaten in synagogues and you’ll stand before governors and kings for my sake to bear witness before them.” And we know from the book of Acts that this is exactly what happened.
And Jesus said in verse 10, “And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” Jesus says, “In the midst of a culture of fear, when pandemonium is breaking out and chaos is breaking out, I don’t want you to be distracted to the point where you forget you’ve been sent out on a mission.” You’ve been given orders from a higher king, from a different kingdom, and it’s to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. This good news, the great news that although you and I and people we know and love and people we don’t even know yet, you and I have sinned and we’ve rebelled against God, we have willfully, willfully conspired with our sin nature and with Satan himself to rebel against God. And because of that, we have fallen under the judgment of God. And because he is just and he’s equitable and he is fair, he will judge every single one of us by the same standard.
And it will not be your standard or your grandmother’s standard or an African standard or an Asian standard or whatever. It will be the perfect, holy, righteous standard of God. And God says in the gospel that he loved us so much that he wanted us to be rescued, saved from his judgment, and he sent Jesus to do the unthinkable that God, the Son of God came, put on human flesh, lived a perfectly righteous life in our place to fulfill the standards of the law, and he died a sacrificial death in our place to pay the penalty for our sin. And he rose from the grave defeating death and proving that he is the one that has authority to offer forgiveness of sins.
And he invites you and I to trust in him, to turn from sin and our way of life and our way of thinking, and to trust his truth and his word to trust what he’s done for us.
And for those of us who have trusted in him, he sends us out to share that good news with everybody we can. Not just our neighbors, but all nations, every people group. People from every nation, tribe and tongue. God tells his disciples and he tells us, “When the chaos breaks out in the culture of fear, I don’t want you to lose sight of the fact that I am still at work. I’m still at work.” “Persecution,” God says, “Cannot stop me from accomplishing my redemptive purposes. Tribulation cannot stop me from saving and redeeming those that I sent my son to die for.” Says “The gospel must be preached to all nations and it will be empowered by the Holy Spirit. It will be a supernatural proclamation of truth that will produce supernatural eternal results.”
Proclaim the Gospel
We resist the culture of fear because we know our mission and it is to proclaim this gospel of the kingdom and then to demonstrate the gospel of the kingdom in the way that we love, and we show compassion, and we speak the truth and we serve and we bring blessing to people. Even people who disagree with us, even people who persecute us, even people who we might consider enemies or might consider us enemies. We are to reflect our savior who while he was hanging on the cross looking at those who have put him there, said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” and he gave his life for those who hated him. We know our mission.
We Know the Future
Lastly, We should resist the culture of fear because we know the future. We know the future. God has not left us in the dark. He has not left us groping around and left to come up with our own theories and ideologies about what will happen once this candle gets blown out of human existence. He has not left us in the dark.
God has actually spoken and he’s spoken through his son and he says very clearly in verse 24 that “In those days after the tribulation, the sun will be dark and the moon will not give its light and the stars will be falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” And this will not be a sign for you to get ready for Jesus to come. By that point, it will already be too late. This is when everything in the cosmic universe will be bearing witness to the fact that Jesus, this man who walked the earth and was crucified on the cross and rose from the grave, this Jesus is who he said he is.
He’s the Son of Man. He’s the Son of Man and he’s coming again in clouds with great power and glory. This is a fulfillment of prophecy from Daniel 7, that the Son of Man will come in the clouds of heaven, but it is also a revelation of the glory and power of God. When you read through scripture, you see it over and over again that when God shows up in glory and power and when he shows up in justice and salvation, he often manifests himself with clouds. This is a divine revelation of who Jesus really is, that this time he is not coming as a baby and a manger, but he is coming as a king on the clouds. This time he is coming and there will be no confusion. There will be no disagreement in that moment about who Jesus really is.
And in that moment, although you will agree, if you have not put your trust in him, it will be too late. Jesus is coming again in glory and that righteous indignation we feel when we see sin and evil and injustice, he will come as the perfect fulfillment of that flicker of indignation that we feel He will bring perfect justice and judgment on all sin and on all evil. And if you and I have not trusted Jesus as the only way to be rescued from that judgment that we deserve, then we will have to face that judgment on our own. But hear me. Better yet, hear what we’ve been reading from Jesus that he came the first time to give his life as a ransom for many. He came because he wanted you to be in this eternal kingdom with him forever, and he’s coming again.
And the reason that he hasn’t come yet is not because he forgot or because he lied or because he was delusional. But Peter says the reason he has not come yet is because he has you in mind and he has given you an opportunity to repent. And so you have questions, but what about people who have never heard. You got questions. What do I do with my desires? You got questions still, “Mike, your sermon wasn’t super helpful because I still don’t understand what the abomination of desolation is.” You got questions. Okay. But you’re breathing right now because God and his love for you has said, “I am willing to bring you into a relationship with me, even with all of your questions. If you would just trust me and trust what I’ve made clear in my word, I will walk with you and you will walk with me. And over time, some things will become more clear in this life. But one day all things will become clear when you see me face to face.”
Listen, if you haven’t put your trust in Jesus, I want to encourage you today to turn from your sin, turn from your way of life, turn from your way of thinking and trust the one who said the temple is going to be destroyed within this lifetime. And 40 years later, it happened. Trust the one who said that he was going to die and he was going to raise his own body up three days later and three days later he did it. And no one has been able to prove otherwise since. Trust the one who says, “I have the authority to forgive your sins. I have the authority to completely transform your heart and change your eternal destiny.” And for those of us who know that and trust that, this is the day that we long for, this is the future that is the foundation of our hope and our joy, and our confidence and our perseverance. When we are in the midst of a culture of fear, we can rise above it in confidence because we know how the story ends. It ends with glory.
Let’s pray together. Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you for pursuing us, speaking to us, redeeming us, persevering with us. And Father, I pray for anyone here who has not yet put their trust and the sacrifice of Jesus for their sins. Lord, I pray that today, today, even now or at home in the quietness of their bedroom or watching on their laptop, that they would say to you from their heart that they want to be saved and they are putting their trust in you. And I pray that you would save them. I pray for those of us who have experienced salvation, Lord, help us to long forward and look forward to and live in light of that day. Come Lord Jesus, we pray. Amen.