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Saturday, August 21st 2010

9:05 PM

"Are You Still Sleeping?"

By Pastor Bruce Sikes

"Excuse me, terribly sorry to disturb you, but there's a war going on." As the old saying goes, "Those who fall asleep during war tend to wake up dead." Jesus knew what was coming. Three times in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus went to his disciples and found them sleeping. On the third and final time He asked, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come.” (Mark 14) He woke them up just as a group of armed soldiers being led by a satanically possessed man came to arrest Him. The war was well under way. In this narrative, the armed men knew they were at war, Satan knew he was at war, and Jesus certainly knew He was right in the middle of a great war. The only ones who didn't seem to be conscious of it were the disciples. Then, like now, I am afraid many of His disciples are still asleep. We need a wake-up call.

Asleep? "I'm awake! I'm awake!" Let's not fool ourselves. If we aren't up speaking and doing we are not awake. It seems many church members are in that groggy, half-awake, half-asleep state. We sense that something is going on, but can't quite figure it out. There are some loud voices and noisy movement going on around us. We know we should get up and check it out, but our beds are so comfortable and we need our rest. So we pull the covers over our heads and say "Just a little longer". Then we fall back into our pleasant dream world.

Whether we want to admit it or not, much of today's modern western Christianity lives in a dream world of faith, a pleasant creation wherein we are presented with the image of a prosaic platitude espousing messiah dressed in a white robe who blithely smiles as he floats from church to church on Sunday mornings to bless our regularly scheduled worship services.

This is not the world we live in. This is not Church. This is not Jesus.

The world is at war. The Church is under attack. And, Jesus is coming soon, "in blazing fire with His powerful angels bringing vengeance on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8)

Wake up call number 1: We are at War.

I once had a fellow pastor tell me that he doesn't believe there is a great spiritual war going on. He just doesn't see it. He and many others like him believe man's problems are to be addressed simply within the context of establishing better inter-personal relationships (based on Godly principles of course!). This theological view is a human nature and natural centered belief, rather than a Christ’s nature or supernatural centered belief. Let's look beyond ourselves at the bigger picture and consider two things.

First, the world is a place where overwhelming sin and moral decay are eroding the very fabric of our society, where there is corruption and growing oppression spewing forth from our governments and rampant greed from mega corporations and financial institutions, where murder and crime are out of control in our streets, and where armies of soldiers are killing and being killed in countries throughout the world.

Secondly, He and others like him are willing to believe in an "invisible" God, an "invisible" Savior, an "invisible" heaven, and maybe even an "invisible" devil and hell (although they rarely mention the last two). Yet to them, the "invisible" spiritual world's existence and influence are completely separate from the physical world in which we live. Any connection between the two is invisible to them. The irony is the hypocrisy of it all.

They say there is no great spiritual war. The only wars visible to them are the earthly physical ones and so the only solutions they offer are earth bound ones. They claim the only so called "war" we may have are the ones brought on by our own sins.

Tell that to Jesus.

If anyone ever knew there was a war going on, it was Jesus. Soon after His birth, countless babies were murdered in an effort to kill the baby Jesus. His family had to flee for their lives to a different country. At the very start of His ministry, Jesus was personally tempted by Satan himself in the desert for 40 days. Throughout His ministry, He was threatened, insulted, and ridiculed by many religious leaders. They repeatedly tried to trap and kill Him. Then, at the conclusion of His earthly ministry He was arrested, beaten and suffered a terrible execution. Sounds like war to me.

And let's not forget the simple fact that during His ministry, Jesus clearly demonstrated the direct connection between the spiritual and physical when He confronted and delivered pain afflicting and often violent demon possessed persons.

From the events in Jesus' life, two things are obvious:

None of Jesus' "problems" were brought on by His sins. He had none. None of His problems were solved by "developing better inter-personal relationships", particularly with the worldly corrupted religious leaders and demonically possessed persons. If we judged Him through the lens of our modern church sensibilities, we'd have to brand Him a troublemaker at the very least. Nearly everywhere He went God's people were divided. "Thus the people were divided because of Jesus." (John 7:43) His goal wasn't to avoid conflict at all costs and have everybody think He was a "nice guy". Quite the contrary, Jesus spoke the truth of every Word of God to everyone regardless of what might happen to Him.

Secondly, it wasn't about Him. His goal wasn't to maintain his own personal happiness and to achieve worldly success. Jesus lived His life to serve God and gave His life to save others. The words He spoke, the actions He took were not merely physical; if they were, He was a failure, and we know He wasn't.

Every physical action He did, every spoken and unspoken word He voiced had direct repercussions in the Spiritual world. He knew this. Indeed that is why He did them. His thoughts and desires were not only on this life, but on Eternity. Wars come and go on this planet, but spiritual warfare transcends time, place and situation. Jesus knew He was in a great spiritual war. He lived, fought, and triumphed in it.

He also taught us how to fight in spiritual warfare, by bathing every word and deed in prayer, through studying and speaking God's Word, through denying self, and complete obedience to God.

More than a few church leaders will be called into account on judgment day for failing to prepare and train God's people for the ever growing war waging around them. There are ebbs and tides in war as any military historian can tell you. Often the most deadly and horrific battles are fought at the war's end. When the enemy knows his time is short, he will attack with every weapon at his disposal.

"...woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short." (Revelation 12:12)

Wake up call number 2: The Church is under attack.

Always from without of course, but also most painfully from within...To that end, Jesus warned us in advance that there will be "false prophets", "deception" and an "increase in wickedness" as His return draws near. (Matthew 24)

"Increase in wickedness", that means things will change and not for the better. So, should it be business as usual, or, should I say, "church as usual” for us? What should the church be teaching, and what should we be putting into practice?

Too many are still being taught to ignore the war "for their own good", rather than standing up and obeying the scriptures to "fight the good fight of the faith". (1 Timothy 6:12)

The primary purpose and goal of our lives on earth is not to get through it as comfortably and pain free as possible. Ours is not the attitude of, "Well, if I keep my head down, don't take any risks, not make any noise, maybe the enemy won't notice me. I'll be safe!" In reality, the enemy (Satan) certainly wouldn't bother with you. You are no threat to him, nor are you any help to God's kingdom. You are already conquered, and have done it to yourself.

All of this might make us want to pull the covers back over our heads and go back to sleep! Unfortunately, that is what some church members do. They find preachers to tell them what they want to hear, and there are certainly many of those! More interested in numbers and job security, these preachers of politically correct propaganda administer a purpose driven pep talk to appease the masses. The goal is to keep them quiet and cover the cries of war. Once they have sedated the spiritual senses of their congregations, they send them back out to live peacefully in the war zone.

This is nothing new. The Bibles gives us many examples of this.

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Timothy 4:3)

"They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace’, they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)

"They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.” (Isaiah 30:10)

"The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But “What will you do in the end?" (Jeremiah 5:31)

As the Apostle Paul prophesied to Timothy, such a time has come, and the Prophet Jeremiah is asking us the right question, "What will we do?"

Wake up call number 3: Jesus is coming soon!

Jesus is our role model in this fight. I'll repeat the earlier verse about Jesus. He is returning "in blazing fire with His powerful angels bringing vengeance on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8)

He is not the cartoonish passive father figure who quietly walks around carrying a little white lamb and kissing every baby He can find.

That is not the Jesus of the Bible. That is not the Jesus who conquered death and hell and is described in Revelation as the Rider on the White Horse:

"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

(Revelation 19:11-16)

The Bible has benefited believers throughout the ages, whether teaching us through examples from the past, providing us truth to live our daily lives, or giving us future hope. God knows what His people need and when they need it.

The end time scriptures have been written for the people of the end times. It tells us what we can expect. More importantly, it tells us what kind of people we ought to be at this culminating time in human history.

We need Warriors for Christ, not wimps.

With our citizenship in Heaven, we put on the full Armor of God and arm ourselves with the weapons of spiritual warfare. We are Citizen Soldiers of Heaven, weak and humble jars of clay overflowing with the all surpassing power of God. Through constant prayer, the reading and speaking of the Holy Scriptures, through exercising our God given discernment, and with continual self sacrificing acts of love, we fight the good fight of faith until His return.

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved."

(Hebrews 10:35-39)

God's Holy Spirit is calling forth a Remnant in preparation for His return. Pray and seek His guidance. Respond to His call. Leave your earth bound civilian life behind and be all you can be for Christ. The time is now.

"Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed." (Revelation 16:15)

For Christ and His Remnant,

Pastor Bruce Sikes

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