We are in the central and longest section of the Belgic Confession, the section that deals with the Doctrine of Salvation. It started in article 16 and continues through article 26. Article 21 opens up for us the biblical understanding of the atonement and of Christ’s satisfaction of our sins. I would like to address this issue this evening through four questions. What are we saved from? Who saves us? How does He save us? What are we saved for?
This morning we will conclude Mark 13 and then break for Advent. When we come back to Mark in 2014 I have timed it so we will finish the last three chapters through Lent and end with the resurrection on Easter. When we moved here from OKC back in 2007 I remember driving west through Kansas and Colorado and beginning to see the Rockies loom in the distance, a huge line of majestic mountains. As we got closer we began to make out the difference between the front range and the back range. When we read in Scripture prophecy about the end times it’s like looking at a mountain range. From a distance it looks like a bunch of mountains, but as you get closer you realize some of the prophecies are about the near future and some are about the distant future. The first half of Mark 13 was about the near future, things that happened in the apostles’ life time. This week we will look at the back range, prophecies of what is yet to come. It’s possible they could take place in our life time so we ought to pay particular interest.
God of love. “Smile, God loves you” or “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Most people today think God went through a huge makeover in the NT. In the OT God was a God of justice and judgment and wrath, but in the NT He went through a personality change and is a God of love and mercy. Others say God is just and Jesus is merciful. Either way the God of the Bible ends up looking like a schizophrenic or bi-polar. To suit our sensitivities we have made God in our image. Our culture exalts love and self-esteem and feel-good religion. We have churches and pastors preaching positive thinking and nice thoughts like Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller and Joel Osteen. We don’t want a God who is a judge, we want a God who is a loving, kind grandparent. We think that a God of justice and mercy is mutually exclusive or contradictory. God can be one or the other but not both. But we can’t be guided by the sentiments of our day, we must be grounded in God’s Word. Article 20 of the Belgic Confession focuses on two qualities or characteristics of God, the attributes of justice and mercy. God is a God of love and justice, mercy and wrath, grace and righteousness. He reveals Himself as Father and Judge, Shepherd and King, Savior and Master. Why do we insist on and maintain both God’s divine justice and divine mercy? To answer that question is to answer the question, why did God become man?
If I said that in less than forty years the United States will cease to exist, our democracy will be destroyed, Washington DC will be razed to the ground, our military crushed and our way of life completely wiped out, would you find that hard to believe? If I said a foreign nation would invade us and when they got done you wouldn’t even recognize this as the United States, would that sound utterly impossible and crazy to you? Of course it would. No one could imagine such a scenario. No one could imagine such a thing in Jesus’ day either. The complete eradication of Jerusalem and the Jewish way of life was beyond belief. No one ever conceived of the possibility that God’s covenant people and God’s temple and God’s prophets and priests and sacrifices would cease. No one ever dared to consider such a great divorce of God’s people from God’s land. The Jews were constitutionally incapable of considering that God would allow their sacrificial system to end. They were firmly attached to their way of life, and were not able to hear all the prophecies about God’s judgment. The disciples could scarcely take in the words of Jesus as He spoke of a great tribulation and a great deception.
From the beginning of time man has been in search of God. Man has looked for ways or paths to get to God. But no satisfactory way has been found. There have been thousands of attempts, but none of them have opened the door to heaven. As the saying goes, “You can’t get there from here.” But God Himself has opened the door and shown the way. From the beginning Christianity has been called The Way. John 14:6-7 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.” Hebrews 10:19-20 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh. I Timothy 3:16 Great indeed … is the mystery of godliness; He was manifested in the flesh.
Any fans here of the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? This morning we will look at a temple’s doom, the great temple in Jerusalem. As we turn the page to a new chapter in the Gospel of Mark we come to the longest section of Jesus’ teaching and to what is called His farewell discourse. We have to be careful interpreting these texts. First, this is one of the most Jewish chapters in the NT in terms of Jewish history. Second, this chapter contains predictions of future events and sometimes it’s easy to get confused as to how far in the future the events are. Are they during the time of the NT or are they about things that haven’t happened yet? Some of the events are far off such as the return of the Son of Man in the final judgment and some events are near such as the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem.