Great Days in History (Part 8): Today

Great Days in History

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me’” (Hebrews 3:14-15).

In this final lesson, we are not going to keep moving further down a timeline. There is nothing past the day of eternity. Instead, we are going to talk about today to see what we need to do with what we have learned in this series.

The Background

We have experienced God’s blessings in this life – James wrote, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). Though the context was specifically addressing the fact that God will not lead us to sin (James 1:13-16), the principle applies broadly. Everything good that is available to us has been made possible by God.

However, experiencing God’s blessings in this life is not a perk exclusively for Christians. Jesus explained that both the righteous and the wicked receive God’s blessings: “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). The blessings that we receive from God and the goodness we experience in this life should lead us to put our trust in Him. Paul told Timothy, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). Since God has richly blessed us, we should respond by doing “good” and being “rich in good works” (1 Timothy 6:18).

We have also experienced hardships in this life – Even though God richly blesses us in this life, not everything that we experience is good or pleasant. Job said, “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil” (Job 14:1).

Just as God’s blessings are given to both Christians and non-Christians, both the righteous and the wicked will also experience hardships in this life. On one hand, the wicked will often suffer as a result of their sin. The wise man noted this: “Good understanding produces favor, but the way of the treacherous is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). However, there are also times in which the righteous suffer in the same way that the wicked suffer even though they do not commit the same sins. “There is futility which is done on the earth, that is, there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked” (Ecclesiastes 8:14). Yet regardless of who faces these trials, the suffering should cause us to turn to God. The Lord said, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me” (Psalm 50:15). Both experience and divinely-inspired Scripture show us that all people will suffer hardships and trials in this life.

God did everything necessary to make salvation possible – Paul told Titus that God made salvation available to everyone: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). Jesus used a parable to indicate that preparations have been made to bring about this salvation:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast”’” (Matthew 22:2-4).

This series has been about the plan that God carried out to bring salvation to men:

  1. He created a perfect world and then, after the world was marred by sin, delivered a prophecy that promised the coming of Christ to defeat sin and the devil.
  2. He made a promise to Abraham that through his seed the world would be blessed, then preserved that seed in the nation of Israel through generations.
  3. He sent His Son – Jesus Christ – to earth in order to suffer and die on the cross for our sins.
  4. He raised Jesus from the dead, proving Him to be the Son of God and giving hope for those who would faithfully serve Him.
  5. He established the church and a plan whereby the saving message of the gospel could be spread.

God did everything that was required to make salvation available for us. Nothing was left undone that needed to be carried out.

The Events on That Day

Life goes on as it always does – Today, just as it was in the day which Peter wrote, everything “continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Though “mockers” will use this fact to ridicule the idea of the Lord returning (2 Peter 3:3), we understand this to be a proof of God’s providence as it represents the continued fulfillment of the promise to Noah: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). However, everything continuing in this way is not just until the end draws near; it will continue up until the moment the Lord returns. Notice what Jesus said:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. […] Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:36-42).

While there were warning signs that signaled the coming destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:4-35), Jesus explained that there would be no such signs at the end of the world. Life would go on as normal, just like it had in the days of Noah before the flood. The only “signs” that warned of the end were Noah’s preaching (2 Peter 2:5) and preparations being made by God’s people (Hebrews 11:7). The same is true today. Though people may look for various signs that indicate the end is close, the only “signs” are the gospel being preached and Christians preparing for the Lord’s return.

Part of the fact that life will go on as normal means that we will continue to face hardships in this life. As we already noticed, Job articulated the reality that all of us experience: “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil” (Job 14:1). Yet these trials should only make us long for our reward in heaven. Paul wrote, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Despite the fact that he faced intense hardships, the apostle was able to describe his sufferings as “momentary, light affliction” when he compared it with the “eternal weight of glory” which will be experienced after this life (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

God continues to be patient – This patience is not to be interpreted as God condoning sin, but it is to give us time to repent. Paul explained this when he wrote to the saints in Rome: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). We should not remain in sin because God is patient; instead, we should repent of sin in the time we have been afforded by His patience.

We should remember what the Bible says about sin: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This “death” is not physical death, but is eternal separation from God. Not only must we understand the “wages of sin,” we also need to realize the universal problem of sin: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Every one of us has sinned and, therefore, deserves the punishment that comes as a result.

If we have all sinned and eternal destruction is the punishment, why has this not happened yet? It is because God wants us to repent: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). As the Lord said through the prophet, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies… Therefore, repent and live” (Ezekiel 18:32). God wants us to be saved and avoid the punishment that comes with sin. Therefore, He continues to be patient to give us time to repent.

We will make choices regarding our conduct and manner of life – Joshua told the Israelites, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). In the same way, we must choose what we will do in this life. We have many different options as to how we will live our lives. The wise man said, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). Our plans are many, but they do not change God’s word. This is why persuasion is used to lead us to obey the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:11). We must make the choice for ourselves – based upon the incentives that God has revealed to us in His word – to repent of our sins and serve Him so that we can reach the reward of heaven.

Key Lessons

Now is the time to prepare – Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “For He says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:2). While God continues to be patient in order to give us time to repent (Romans 2:4), one day His patience will no longer be extended. The reality is that we have no promise of tomorrow. Consider what James wrote on this:

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14).

In the parable of a rich land owner, Jesus described one who believed he had plenty of time to take care of his soul later: “‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many good laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’” (Luke 12:19-20). Jesus made it clear that it is foolish to put off preparing our souls for eternity. The time to prepare is today.

Therefore, we cannot allow tomorrow to distract us from where our focus needs to be. Jesus said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:33-34). Our priority for each day must be doing what is necessary to be pleasing to the Lord and serving Him faithfully in His kingdom.

Our past does not have to hinder us – As Paul looked forward with anticipation to the hope of the resurrection, he wrote, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Because the reward was in the future, he was determined to not let anything hinder him from reaching it – including his past. In the same way, we must not allow our past to hinder our pursuit of the goal of heaven.

  • No matter what sins we have committed in the past, we can start living righteously today – Paul was “formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” and was the “foremost of all” sinners, yet he was “shown mercy” and was able to be saved and serve the Lord (1 Timothy 1:12-15). This was “an example” to show that anyone can be saved, regardless of his past, if he will serve the Lord as Paul did.
  • No matter how much time we have wasted in the past, we can begin serving God today – In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, Jesus explained that those who were hired at “the eleventh hour” received the same reward as those who worked from the start of the day (Matthew 20:1-16). His point was that it is never too late for one to start serving the Lord.
  • No matter what good we have done in the past, we must continue serving the Lord today – This is also important for us to remember. Paul recognized that though he was faithfully serving the Lord, even he as an apostle could “be disqualified” if he did not continue run the race before him (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). The same is true for us. We must remain faithful throughout our lives (Revelation 2:10).

We cannot afford to let anything from our past keep us from the future happiness and security in heaven.

We must decide what we will do – We already noticed the challenge issued by Joshua: “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). No one can make the choice for us. Each one of us will make our own decision. We need to realize that not making a commitment to serve the Lord is a decision in itself. Making a decision is not just something that we ought to do, but is something that we most certainly will do. Therefore, we need to be sure we make the right decision.

Conclusion

God’s eternal purpose has been to save a people for Himself. As we have studied in this series of lessons, He has done everything necessary to make that salvation possible. Now it is up to us to take advantage of the salvation that He offers.

Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Today is the day be right with the Lord.


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