Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

“Thank You Jesus…For Endings That Give Birth To New Beginnings!”

Mark 13:1-8

1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

 

            There is a line in this Scripture that grabs me. Jesus says, “The end is still to come” (Mark 13:7).

            People have an incredible interest in knowing the “end.”

            People want to know what the future brings. Perhaps that’s why horoscopes, astrology, psychic advisors, and such, are so popular.

            That also explains in part the publishing success of the “Left Behind” book series a few years back.

            Jesus spoke often of “the end.”

            In this phrase, “the end is still to come” Jesus provides both hope and caution.

            We have hope that “the end” is not now, but we have the caution that “the end” will come, and we are to be prepared for it at any time.

            When it comes to the idea of “the end” how do you feel?

            Does it leave you feeling apprehensive and afraid, or confident and expectant?

            When Jesus spoke of the end, He wanted us to understand it as a hopeful beginning, rather than a disappointing conclusion.

            In fact, the teaching of Jesus on “the end” is one of the things this year that we can be thankful for!

            Let’s look and see what He has to tell us about this important subject.

            Jesus tells us in the end:

1) The temporary is replaced by the everlasting.

Mark 13:2

2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

            Jesus taught us not to confuse the temporary with the eternal.

            When Jesus and His disciples left the Jerusalem Temple one day, the disciples said, “Look at this beautiful building. Isn’t it impressive? Just look at the size of the stones used to construct this awesome structure!”

            At this time in history, the Jerusalem Temple was one of the most impressive structures in the world. At the time Jesus and the disciples were there, the temple was in the midst of an eighty-three-year building program, and it still wasn’t finished!

            The disciples commented on the amazing stones used to build the temple. Some of its stones were 12 to 60 feet in long, 7 and a half feet high and 9 feet in wide (Josephus Jewish Wars 5.5.1-2 189-90 gives these measurements in cubits; a cubit is eighteen inches). The Jewish Historian Josephus said the Jerusalem temple loomed over the city like a “snow clad mountain” (Josephus Jewish Wars 5.5.6 223).

 

            The disciples were right to be impressed!

            But Jesus said to His disciples, “Do you see this building? It will not last. In fact, it will be totally destroyed. Not one of these stones will be left standing on one another.”

            Today, if you go to Jerusalem, you will that the words of Jesus have come true. Only one wall is left of that amazing temple.

            Jesus didn’t want His disciples to confuse the house of God with the God of the house.

            He didn’t want them to confuse the temporary with the eternal.

            We are continually tempted, it seems, to substitute the things of life that don’t last, with the things of life that do last.

            Jesus wants us to live for more than just the temporary things we can see with our eyes, and buy with our money.

            When the world defines success and prosperity, what are the standards?

            Aren’t they things like this?

1) Big house

2) Expensive cars

3) Thousands of dollars in the bank

4) Thousands, even millions of dollars in investments

5) Expensive furniture

6) The ability to regularly eat at expensive restaurants

7) Expensive clothes

8) Fancy jewelry (Bling!)

9) Vacation homes

10) The ability to travel the globe as your heart desires

11) Expensive toys – motorcycles, boats, RVs, etc.

12) The latest and greatest technology – iPhone, iPod, home theater system, HD TV, laptops, etc.

            But you and I both know, that every one of these success indicators are temporary.

            None of them will last.

            Many of these things will not even last throughout our lifetime, let alone, for all eternity.

            Some years back I bought a lap top computer. It was a top of the line, IBM Think Pad. I used it everywhere I went. I even wrote a doctoral dissertation on that computer.

            But time takes its toll on computers.

            One day, a few years later, I asked a couple of guys I knew who were up to date on computers and technology, what I should do with that computer? Should I trade it in, or should I sell it?

            They looked at it, and then one of the guys said in a polite, tactful way, “I think it would make a very nice door stop.”

            In just a few short years, my top of the line lap top had gone from “must have” to door stop!

            I’m sure that Jesus would say to us, “Look at all this that you work so hard for, and spend so much of your time and money acquiring…none of this will last. One day, it will all be gone.”

            If your life were to end today, would you look around and see that you have lived for the eternal, or the temporary?

            If I were to advise you on how to invest for eternity, I would tell you to focus on just a few important areas:

  1. Invest in your relationship with God (Daily quiet time, weekly worship, spiritual formation, develop your spiritual gifts).
  2. Invest in the Kingdom of God (Tithing, giving to the poor, sacrificial giving)
  3. Invest in relationships with others (spouse, family, friends, a spiritual mentor).
  4. Invest in yourself with focused thinking. (Spend quality time thinking about your priorities in life!)
  5. Invest in financial planning and education. Use the gifts that God gives you in wise ways now, so you will see eternal results later.
  6. Invest time in what really matters in life (where are you most fruitful and productive). Don’t let your days on earth be wasted and spent on meaninglessness.

            Hear the words of Jesus: Don’t let the temporary things of life replace the eternal.

            Jesus didn’t want us to consume ourselves living for the temporary, but to find our fulfillment in the eternal.

            Jesus said, “Don’t live for the temporary. Live for the eternal. The temporary never lasts. The eternal never ends.”

            When the end comes for all of us, will we have lived for what matters?

            Secondly, Jesus tells us

2) The end is replaced by a new beginning.

Mark 13:8

8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

            Listen to what Jesus says: “The End is the beginning.”

            The end of this is the beginning of that.

            The End of this—wars, death, threats, international conflicts, natural disasters, human suffering, the temporary—signals the beginning of that—peace, life, restoration, no more suffering, pain, and death—the eternal.

            Jesus says, “Don’t be alarmed when it looks like everything is falling apart and coming to an end. It is not. Instead, it is actually coming together for a new beginning.

            Christianity is about turning the expected into the unexpected. Instead of the expected beginning and ending, Christianity says there is ending and then beginning. Instead of the expected life followed by death, Christianity proclaims the unexpected: there is death followed by life.

            Think of this: The defining moment in the Christian faith is the cross of Jesus Christ. All the Gospels spend the majority of their time describing the death of Jesus on the cross.

            When Jesus breathes His last on the cross, He is taken down and laid in a tomb. Then His followers go away, dejected, disappointed, and broken hearted.

            It was over. Jesus’ life, ministry, and mission had come to an end. All their hopes had ended as well. That is the meaning of death—the end of life.

            All of the followers of Jesus went back to life as it was before.

            But then Sunday came—Easter Sunday. The report from the grave was that Jesus had risen. New life had overcome death and the grave.

            What looked on Friday like the end, looked on Easter Sunday like a new beginning.

            Jesus told His disciples not to be alarmed when everything looked like it was falling apart and coming to an end.

            “This is not the end,” Jesus said. “This is just the birth pangs of a new beginning!”

            One translation puts it this way:  “These things are like the first pains when something new is about to be born” (Mark 13:8, New Century Version).

            Jesus told us, “Don’t be deceived by those who tell you this is the end.” Instead, Jesus declared, “It is all how you look at it. Some see the end. Others see a new beginning!”

            Jesus did not want His followers going through life, anxiously looking for signs of things ending. He wanted us to go through life looking for signs of new beginnings.

The Parable of the Twins

            Once upon a time, a set of twins were conceived in the same womb.
            Weeks passed, and the twins developed. As their awareness grew, they laughed for joy, “Isn’t it great that we were conceived? Isn’t it great to be alive?”
            Together the twins explored their world. When they found their mother’s cord that gave them life they sang for joy, “how great is our mother’s love that she shares her own life with us.”
            As the weeks stretched into months the twins noticed how much each was changing.
            “What does this mean?”, asked the one.
            “It means that our stay in this world is drawing to an end”, said the other one.
            “But I don’t want to go”, said the one, “I want to stay here always.”
            “We have no choice”, said the other, “but maybe there is life after birth!”
            “But how can it be?” responded the one. “We will shed our life cord, and how is life possible without it? Besides, we have seen evidence that others were here before us and none of them have returned to tell us that there is life after birth.”
            And so the one fell into deep despair saying, “If conception ends with birth, what is the purpose of life in the womb? It’s meaningless! Maybe there is no mother at all.”
            “But there has to be”, protested the other. “How else did we get here? How do we remain alive?”
            “Have you ever seen our mother?”, said the one. “Maybe she just lives in our minds. Maybe we made her up because the idea made us feel good.”

            The other said, “Don’t you feel these squeezes every once in a while? They’re quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful.” 

            “Yes,” the one answered. “What’s special about that?” 

            “Well,” the other said, “I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face-to-face. Don’t you think that’s exciting?”

            But the one was too despairing to respond.
            And so the last days in the womb were filled with deep questioning and fear, and then finally, the moment of birth arrived.
            When the twins had passed from their world, they opened their eyes and cried, for what they saw exceeded their wildest dreams.

            That is the promise we have when we trust our lives to Jesus Christ!

            What looks like the end of the road, is just the beginning of a brand new journey!

            The great promises of God are not about the end, though the Bible has much to say about the end. The great promises of God are about new beginnings and everlasting life!

            God says in Isaiah 43: 18-19a: “Forget what happened before, and do not think about the past. Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening.” (NCV)

            In Revelation 21 God says, “I am making everything new.” (21:5b).

            Jesus wants His disciples to understand two important truths about life.

            The first is that Jesus doesn’t want His disciples to become so focused on the temporary, which will come to an end, that they neglect the eternal, which will never end.

            Secondly, Jesus doesn’t want His disciples to focus so much on the end that they are not prepared for the new beginning.

            So when it all ends, what is it going to be for you… the end, or a new beginning?

 

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