Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

“The Lord IS Coming…To Do What?”

Malachi 3:1-4 (NLT)

1 “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord. 4 Then once more the Lord will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past.

            Author Doug Mendenhall wrote a short parable that made me stop and think during this Advent season. Listen to this:

            Jesus called the other day to say he was passing through and [wondered if] he could spend a day or two with us.

            I said, “Sure. Love to see you. When will you hit town?”

I mean, it’s Jesus, you know, and it’s not every day you get the chance to visit with him. It’s not like it’s your in-laws and you have to stop and decide whether the advantages outweigh your having to move to the sleeper sofa.

            That’s when Jesus told me he was actually at a convenience store out by the interstate.

            I must have gotten that Bambi-in-headlights look, because my wife whispered, “What is it? What’s wrong? Who is that?”

            So I covered the receiver and told her Jesus was going to arrive in eight minutes, and she ran out of the room and started giving guidance to the kids—in that effective way that Marine drill instructors give guidance to recruits. …

            My mind was already racing with what needed to be done in the next eight—no seven—minutes so Jesus wouldn’t think we were reprobate loser slobs.

            I turned off the TV in the den, which was blaring some weird scary movie I’d been half watching. But I could still hear screams from our bedroom, so I turned off the reality show it was tuned to. Plus, I turned off the kids’ set out on the sun porch, because I didn’t want to have to explain Jon & Kate Plus Eight to Jesus, either, six minutes from now.

            My wife had already thinned out the magazines that had been accumulating on the coffee table. She put Christianity Today on top for a good first impression. Five minutes to go.

            I looked out the front window, but the yard actually looked great thanks to my long, hard work, so I let it go. What could I improve in four minutes anyway?

            I did notice the mail had come, so I ran out to grab it. Mostly it was Netflix envelopes and a bunch of catalogs tied into recent purchases, so I stuffed it back in the box. Jesus doesn’t need to get the wrong idea—three minutes from now—about how much on-line shopping we do.

            I plumped up sofa pillows, my wife tossed dishes into the sink, I scolded the kids, and she shooed the dog. With one minute left I realized something important: Getting ready for a visit from Jesus is not an eight-minute job.

            Then the doorbell rang.

            It was that last statement that really caught my attention: “Getting ready for a visit from Jesus is not an eight-minute job.”

            Today I want us to think about what we need to do to get ready for a “visit from Jesus.”

            Last week I began a series called, “Will The World End In 2012?—What The Bible Says.”

            This series idea came from a movie that opened a few weeks ago entitled “2012.”

            The plot of the movie revolves around the predictions of the Mayans, an ancient people, now extinct. The Mayans supposedly expected the world as we know it to end on December 21, 2010. This is the last date on their long-count calendar created hundreds of years ago.

            One of the Mayan elders, Don Alejandro wrote,

            “…on December 20, 2012, Mother Earth will pass inside the center of a magnetic axis and…it may be darkened with a great cloud for 60 to 70 hours and that because of environmental degradation, she may not be strong enough to survive the effects. It will enter another age, but when it does, there will be great and serious events. Earthquakes, [tsunamis], floods, volcanic eruptions and great illness on planet Earth. Few survivors will be left.”

            Lawrence E. Joseph, author of the book, Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation Into Civilization’s End, has stated that “The year 2012 will be pivotal, perhaps catastrophic, possibly revelatory, to a degree unmatched in human history.”

            As I have thought about all this doomsday prophesying lately, two key questions have emerged in my mind.

            One is this: “Do you think the world as we know it will ever come to an end?”

            What does the Bible say about that?

            The second question is, “If the world as we know it will one day come to an end, can we, or anyone else, know in advance, when it will take place?”

            Let’s look at those questions in reverse order.

            Human beings seem to have extreme curiosity when it comes to trying to predict the end of time. I think that accounts for the interest in the ancient Mayans calendar, and the reason Hollywood would spend $200 million to make the film “2012.”

            But can anyone know or predict the time of the end?

            Here is what Jesus said:

32 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. 33 And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!

(Mark 13:32-33, NLT)

            So do the Mayans know that the world will end on December 21, 2012? According to Jesus, no one knows.

            One of my favorite theologians of today is Ben Witherington, a member of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. Here’s his take on the movie 2012:

“…as for 2012, the Bible doesn’t suggest that year will be anything particularly special. But then, none of us know, really. 

God has only revealed enough of the future to give us hope. He has not revealed enough to provide a reliable basis for calculations or prognostications.  And the reason he has not is of course clear— we are supposed to live day by day by faith, trusting God for the future, for though we do not know what the future holds, we do know in whose hands the future is held……. and its not the Mayans.”

            In reality there is one thing that can be predicted with great accuracy according to Dr. Gene Byrd, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Alabama. He says, “The only thing that is predictable is that some folks will be predicting the end of the world a few years from now and making new predictions of the end after [2012] has passed.

            Now think about the first question for a moment: “Will the world as we know it ever come to an end?”

            What does the Bible say?

            The place to start answering that question is with the Old Testament prophet Malachi.

            In Malachi 3:1-2, the prophet tells us that ,

1 ” …The Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant…is surely coming,” says the Lord… 2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?

[NLT]  

            Malachi clearly proclaims that one day…some day, the Lord will come suddenly!

            To me the most important question to consider is this: “What is the Lord going to do when He comes?” Since we know Jesus promises to come again, and we can’t know when that will happen, the Bible does tell us what is going to happen when Jesus returns.

The Lord IS coming:

1) To purify and refine.

Malachi 3:2c-3a

            The New Living Translation puts it this way:

2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal… 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver…” (NLT)

            Jesus is coming as a fire to burn away everything impure. The world is filled with impurity. We see it with our eyes, we say it with our words, we show it with our actions.

            Sometimes I am amazed and ashamed at how impure the thoughts, words, and actions of Christians (me included) can be!

            The Bible promised, “The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord (Malachi 3:1).

            Coming to do what?

            Coming to purify and refine.

            What in your life needs to be purified?

            What in your life needs to refined?

            Why not let Jesus do that work now–today, instead of waiting until His return?

            Wouldn’t it be better to be ready for Jesus to return today, than getting caught off guard unprepared?

Secondly: The Lord IS coming…

2) To cleanse and renew.

Malachi 3:2c

            The New Living Translation says:

2 …Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be…like a strong soap that bleaches clothes.

            When the Lord returns, He is coming to clean things up!

            The Lord is described as a soap so strong he removes dirt and stains and makes everything spotless and clean. This world is filled with dirt. It finds it way into our lives, our minds, our hearts, our homes, and our church. When Jesus returns he is coming to wash away the dirt and make everything clean again.  

            What in your life needs to be cleaned up?

            What in your life needs to be made new?

            Why not let Jesus do that work now–today, instead of waiting until His return?

            Wouldn’t it be better to be ready for Jesus to return today, than getting caught off guard unprepared?

            Robby Robins was an Air Force pilot during the first Iraq war. After his 300th mission, he was surprised to be given permission to immediately pull his crew together and fly his plane home. They flew across the ocean to Massachusetts and then had a long drive to western Pennsylvania. They drove all night, and when his buddies dropped him off at his driveway just after sun-up, there was a big banner across the garage—”Welcome Home Dad!”

            How did they know? No one had called, and the crew themselves hadn’t expected to leave so quickly. Robins relates, “When I walked into the house, the kids, about half dressed for school, screamed, ‘Daddy!’ Susan came running down the hall—she looked terrific—hair fixed, make-up on, and a crisp yellow dress. ‘How did you know?’ I asked.

            ‘I didn’t,’ she answered through tears of joy. ‘Once we knew the war was over, we knew you’d be home one of these days. We knew you’d try to surprise us, so we were ready every day.'”

            The Bible tells us what we are to do to prepare for the end of the world, whenever it may be, is to live ready every day.

            As I read Malachi over and over a phrase kept running through my head, “Purify me from my sins and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”

            I thought to myself, “That’s what Malachi was talking about! Where is that in the Bible?”

            It is found in Psalm 51. It is the prayer of King David confessing his need to get right with God.

            Listen to his prayer:

1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. 2 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin… 4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;  I have done what is evil in your sight… 7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow…. 9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a [right] spirit within me.

(Psalm 51:1-10)

            Can you make that your prayer today?

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