Reading: John 11:21-27
All over the world, there are millions and millions of people who go to Church every week. It is estimated that in America that 80% of the population say that they believe in God. It is also estimated that 39% of the people in this country attend a church on a weekly basis. Considering the times that we are living in, those are pretty high numbers. Many of the churches around us are places where people find strength and encouragement. People find companionship.
In one survey 81% of church goers said that they go because they want to become closer to God. 68% say that they go to be a better person. 66% go to find comfort. 59% find the sermons valuable.
On the flip side, 31% go because they feel obligated. 16% go just to please a family member.
Those are interesting numbers and basically they tell us that there is a hunger inside of people to want to do what is right, to want to believe in something that they can trust.
We meet in this place every week and are very careful not to call this building a church. We use the term ecclesia, which is a Greek word meaning assembly or congregation, to refer to the group of people who meet here. Our core beliefs tend to differ sharply from many of the churches around us. There are distinct differences to what is taught here when compared to what is taught by many other churches.
So what does that mean? Are we better than the people around us? Are we right and everyone else is wrong about everything we understand the bible teaches? Does it even matter what we believe? After all pure religion is about being a good person who takes care of those in need. Isn’t that all we should focus on?
Churches that have focused less on doctrine and more on music, entertainment and uplifting talks have prospered. They have created an environment where everyone feels welcomed, no one is turned away and salvation is pretty much guaranteed. You can do just about anything, believe just about anything and still feel like you are close to God.
People who focus on doctrine seem to be more cold and unforgiving. They tend to divide themselves from others and put down any who don’t believe exactly what they believe even in the smallest of matters. They tend to not have any tolerance for anything outside of their comfort zone.
So where do we fit into all of this? I believe that we have been blessed with wonderful insight into the plan of God. I believe we have been given deep understanding of the concepts and details of that plan and that God has revealed to us things that are coming on the earth.
But I also believe that we should never use any knowledge, wisdom or doctrine to tread down our neighbor, or to think ourselves to righteous to be around other people.
Now having said that, I would like to look closer at what we read in John Chapter 11. This is a good chapter to use when talking to others about if it really matters what we believe? We have a conversation happening between Jesus and Martha. We know that Martha has a brother named Lazareth, who had just died. So this is a tough moment. The reality of life was really setting in here. The pain of death, the pain of losing a love one is real. So real it hurts. So real you go numb. There is no hiding the tears and they will come.
And they even came for Jesus. He saw firsthand the pain of death. He knows what we feel when someone dies.
In verse 24 Martha tells Jesus “I Know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day”. So as sad as the day was, Martha had a belief that Lazareth would come out of the ground at that resurrection in the last day. Listen closely to that.
Listen closely to what Martha said. “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day”. Martha is testifying that she believes in a doctrine, a teaching about some event that would happen sometime in the future.
Now the words that Martha said are heard all the time in any Christadelphian ecclesia that you visit. We say them every time a brother or sister falls asleep. We believe that one day they will rise again at the resurrection in the last day.
Sadly, and this is why it matters. Sadly, if you were to go to 90% of the churches in the land around us you will never hear these words. If someone said them, nobody would really understand what they were talking about. There is no teaching about the last day. There is no teaching about a coming resurrection.
In the minds of many people who profess belief in God, they think something entirely different happens than what Martha believed.
How is that possible? None of us have a degree in biblical theology. None of us have been through a ministry degree program. We are just common people. We are mostly family members holding simple jobs. This is a small meeting house in the middle nowhere. And yet for some reason in this uneducated place, we believe a truth taught in the bible – its black and white right in front of us – this truth is lost in the religious world around us. No one teaches a resurrection. No one talks about the last day.
But those two things are heard here almost every single week. That has to mean something. That has to matter.
Why does it seem that so many basic bible truths have been buried and covered up with all sorts of wild doctrines that many people cling to? Why can’t religious people see through all the delusion and understand what we see right before us in black and white. “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day”.
But all around us Pastors are teaching their congregations that when you die you go to heaven. This false teaching has spread like wildfire and even former Christadelphian young people believe it. The sad thing is that there is not one verse in the entire bible that teaches that you go to heaven when you die. In fact the bible teaches that only one man has ever gone to heaven. That is Jesus. And Jesus didn’t go to heaven when he died. He went to heaven after he was raised. We know this because after he is raised he says to Mary “I have not yet ascended to the Father”. And you say that doctrine doesn’t matter? You say that it doesn’t matter what you believe?
Do you think God wants us to believe in what is false? God detests false teachings. False teaching is what got man into the mess he is in in the first place. Why is it that so many people in the world around us don’t know basic bible doctrine?
I think that in the religious world around us that there is a push to elevate the second commandment so high that we forget the first commandment. That is that we love our neighbor more than we love our God. And most of what is taught in the churches today is how to love our neighbor. And that is good, but it can lead people down the wrong path.
Think about it. We all fall in love so the concept is simple to understand.
If we say we love our spouse. We love our spouse with all our heart, soul and mind. But we have no idea who they are. We don’t know their favorite color, we don’t know what they like to read, we don’t know what makes them happy; we don’t take any interest in the things they do or have done. How then can we really say that we love them with ALL our heart?
Well the same is true with God. He wrote us a book. He shares with us in that book who He is. He shares with us His plan, His purpose, and His love.
And so many people take this book and just discard it. Hardly anyone reads it. It collects dust. People are bored by what is in it. People are confused by what is in it. It has no place in modern society. Well it’s no wonder that the truth that Martha believed in is lost. If you don’t read the bible you have no idea what really happens at death. You have no idea that a last day is coming. You show no interest in the Lord God.
This is the problem. I do not want this to puff us up and make us arrogant over our neighbors. Instead we need to take this as a warning, because in this age even in Christadelphian meetings we may begin to forsake reading the bible. We may reach a point where we think we already know everything and there is nothing left to learn.
But Martha knew the Old Testament. In particular she knew about the prophecy in Daniel chapter 12. Let’s turn to that and read it:
Daniel 12 “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Here it is. Daniel talks about people sleeping in the dust of the earth. This doctrine which is almost unique to Christadelphians is not a Christadelphian doctrine. It is a bible doctrine. A basic bible teaching that Martha believed and its right here in black and white. How could there be any confusion about what the bible teaches?
This chapter in Daniel is one of the most valuable things we have been given from God. Because He is not only teaching us that there will be a resurrection, He also tells us when it will happen. The world around us doesn’t even have a clue about what is in this chapter. But if you trust the bible, if you trust God, it is right here in black and white.
Look at verse 11:
Daniel 11 And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. 12 Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. 13 But go thou thy way till the end be (the last day): for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.
Using a little bit of bible study, and I am not going into the detail now, we learn that the abomination that makes desolate was set up in Jerusalem in the year 692 AD. Adding 1335 years to that date brings us to 2027 AD. We believe if we understand this correctly that in the year 2027 AD Daniel will be resurrected from the dust of the earth and will have received his inheritance.
This is only 8 years from now and the bible also teaches that between now and then some very critical things will happen on this earth. Jesus said it himself “the powers of heaven will be shaken”. So if you don’t think it matters what you believe, then go your way, have your fun, enjoy your life. But be warned these days are coming to an end.
I know that we have all felt regret. There are things that we have done that we really wish that we could take back. We are sometimes in shock when we think back on our life at all the foolish mistakes we made.
In the last day there will be a lot of people who will feel regret. The time will be filled with people weeping and crying because they realized all too late that they had been given a gift and they rejected that gift. There will be people gnashing their teeth. They will be angry. They will blame everyone but themselves. They will say that God is unfair.
I would like to be able to tell you that for everyone who in that day feels remorse that there will be mercy. I would like to be able to tell you that all will be forgiven and welcomed into the Kingdom. But all I know is what the bible teaches. All I know is that those who despised the Law of Moses died without mercy. All I know is that those who despise the spirit of grace will suffer a more severe punishment.
This is the day that each of us has to decide who we will trust. We have to choose right now. Will we trust the God of heaven and the bible He has given to us? Or will we trust the world around us and spend our days enjoying life and ignoring God. Will we spend our days rejecting the gift that is represented by this bread and cup?
Doctrine gives you a foundation to stand on. Without it you are like a ship on the ocean that gets tossed around by the wind and waves. You tend to go with the flow and if you had lived 2000 years ago you would probably be right there with all those people, your fists would be in the air and you would be angry. After all in your mind he was just a trouble maker. The leaders, the people who you respect were so upset with him and you agree, he needs to go, he is a problem. We don’t need people like him in our society. We don’t need people like him stirring up trouble. We don’t need people like him teaching us stuff that doesn’t matter.
So you join the crowd, you display righteous anger. You feel justified and right. And when they ask you say Crucify Him. Let’s get this done you cry because you have things more important to do, you need to go to the temple and make your sacrifice. As for this criminal, nail him to the cross, let him bleed. Let him die we have no use for him.
It does matter what you believe.