Endure ~ 20200802 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
08/02 Endure To The End (Matt.10, 13, 24; Jude); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200802_endure.mp3
Jesus calls us to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus taught, and who pass on everything Jesus taught. What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to be a disciple?
Did you know Jesus gave us some precious and very great promises? Let’s look at one in John 16
Jesus promises us peace in him through his word. We love that. He declares that he has overcome the world. Amen! He also promises us that in the world we will have tribulation. Ooof! We don’t like that promise. But following Jesus is a package deal, not a smorgasbord. We don’t get to pick and choose among the teachings of our Lord. We have to take everything, obey everything he said, cling to his every word. And this is a hard word. ‘In the world you will have tribulation.’
Matthew 10:22; Endure to the End
Here’s another promise Jesus gave his followers:
How’s that for a promise? You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. And here’s the command. Endure! The one who endures to the end will be saved.
This is serious. Your salvation is at stake. You are going to experience persecution. But endure. Remain steadfast. It is the one who endures the world’s hatred, tribulation, to the end, who will be saved. He said this to his 12 apostles when he sent them out. So we can say that this was specific to them, and we don’t need to worry about it, right? The problem with that is that what he says is much bigger than just the twelve on that specific mission he sent them on.
He said in verse 16 that he was sending them out ‘as sheep in the midst of wolves’. He said they would stand before courts, synagogues, governors, kings, even the Gentiles. None of that happened on this original mission. He says in verse 23 that these instructions apply until his return. So that is much bigger than the 12. He says in verse 24 ‘A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.’ This applies to every disciple, every follower of Jesus. He continues in verse 28:
Don’t be afraid of the one who can only kill your body. Fear God who can send you to hell for eternity. Don’t be afraid of people, because God knows you intimately, and you are more valuable to God than many sparrows. They may kill you, but you will not fall to the ground apart from your Father and his good purposes for you.
Stand firm. Endure to the end. Don’t deny Jesus. Acknowledge him before people. It is those who endure to the end who will be saved.
If self-preservation in this life is your god, you are not really a follower of Jesus.
Matthew 24:13; Endure to the End
In Matthew 24, Jesus reiterates some of these words he gave to his 12, this time in the context of his disciple’s question ‘what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?’ If there is any doubt in Matthew 10, Jesus makes it clear here in Matthew 24 that he is speaking to us. He warns us to be on guard; ‘see to it that no one leads you astray.’
You will undergo tribulation, you will be hated, you will be put to death. Many will fall away or be led astray, but the one who endures to the end will be saved. ‘Saved’ in this context clearly means saved in the eternal salvation sense, because we are not promised rescue or deliverance from persecution or death.
So what does it mean to endure to the end?
2 Responses to the Gospel; no understanding, no root
Jesus helps us think through what it means to endure in Matthew 13, where he described four different responses to the gospel. The word of God is scattered widely. Some hear without understanding.
Luke records it this way:
They hear the word and do not understand it; the devil takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The gospel as it were falls on deaf ears.
The second hearers immediately receive the word with joy. We often get too excited about those in this category.
There is an immediate response with joy. They endure for a while. But when faced with trouble or persecution, they fall away. They do not endure to the end, and they are not saved. There was an initial response to the gospel, a flash in the pan; but there was no root, and when it gets hard they walk away from Jesus. Luke records it this way:
They believe for a while, but under testing they fall away.
Tested Genuineness of Faith
Peter learned first hand about this. Peter learned the hard way. When Jesus predicted that “You will all fall away because of me this night.” (Mt.26:31)
That sounds great. He received the word with joy. And he was vocal about his determination to follow Jesus to the end, whatever the cost. But Peter learned the value of pressure. Pressure taught Peter that his faith was not what he thought it was (or more precisely his faith was not in who it ought to be in). And he came to thank God for trials. Listen to what he writes after Jesus’ resurrection, after Jesus restored him to faith and usefulness. And listen for the contrast from his earlier self-confident proclamation ‘I will never fall away! ...I will never deny you!’ In 1 Peter 1:3 he writes:
Peter came to see tribulation as a blessing. Faith that has not been tested may or may not be genuine. It is better to find out now that your faith is false than to find out after it is too late; ‘depart from me, I never knew you’. Persecution turned Peter’s eyes away from himself and his self-confidence to a humble dependence on God and his work.
Paul and James concur that ‘we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance’ (Rom.5:3-5). ‘Count it all joy ...when you meet trials ...for ...the testing of your faith produces steadfastness’ (Jam.1:2-4).
2 More Responses to the Gospel; choked out or endures to the end
Back in Matthew 13 Jesus lists two more responses to the gospel in addition to hearing without understanding and an immediate receiving with joy that is proved to be false through testing.
This is similar to the rocky ground, but the source of the testing is different. Genuineness of faith can be tested in different ways. It can be revealed through trials or through ease, through pressure or through pleasure. In the rocky ground faith was proved false by persecution. Here in the thorny ground faith is proved false by competing affections. The cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the desires for other things choke out the word. We see this in the history of Israel. Moses warned:
When Israel had times of pride, excess, and prosperous ease, she forgot the Lord. The cares and riches and pleasures of this life compete with and kill any short lived affections for Jesus.
Here is what Jesus says about the good soil.
This last person hears the word and understands. And the fruit varies, but he bears fruit. Luke records:
Not only do they hear the word, they hold it fast. They endure to the end and are saved. They bear fruit with steadfastness or patience endurance.
The Steadfastness of Christ
Jesus calls us to persevere in faith, to endure affliction and persecution as well as pleasure and prosperous ease, to not fall away or to be led astray. Jesus commands us to hold fast the word in an honest and good heart, to bear fruit with steadfastness, to endure to the end.
And Jesus gives us himself as an example of endurance.
2 Thessalonians 3:5 says
The Lord is Faithful
We have the command of Christ to endure to the end, and we have the example of the steadfastness of Christ who endured the cross. But how? You might be saying ‘I don’t think I can. After all, I’m not Jesus.’ How can we endure to the end? That verse in 2 Thessalonians gives us a clue; it instructs us to direct our hearts not only to the steadfastness of Christ, but first to the love of God. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul asks for prayer, and then he says:
He doesn’t say ‘we have confidence in you’; that would be misplaced confidence. He says ‘the Lord is faithful. He will establish you. We have confidence in the Lord about you.’ Paul’s confidence for their endurance and faithfulness is in the Lord’s faithfulness.
Kept to Keep Yourselves
As we wrap up today, I want to look at the little letter by Jude, just one chapter, the second to last book in the Bible. Jude tells us in verse 21 to ‘keep yourselves in the love of God.’ How do we do that? Jude tells us, and he also frames this command with some truth we need to see. At the opening of his letter, he addresses:
He addresses us as the called, and he says that we are beloved in God the Father, and we are kept for Jesus Christ. Called, loved by God, and kept. Beloved and kept are both passive; describing something being done to us by another. God is the one loving and keeping us.
He starts by addressing us as the called, loved and kept. And then in verse 20-21 he commands us to keep ourselves.
Keep yourselves in the love of God. That is imperative. It is a command, something we are to do. Aren’t we beloved in God and kept by him? Isn’t that enough? He even starts verse 20 by reminding us that we are beloved. How do we keep ourselves in God’s love? Can we? Jude surrounds this command with three participles that tell us how; building, praying, and waiting. As the beloved of God, we keep ourselves in the love of God by building, praying and waiting. We are to build ourselves up in the most holy faith. Take positive action to dig deep, with a firm foundation of God’s word, Jesus Christ himself the cornerstone, and anchor your faith on him. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Discipline yourself to pray the Spirit inspired words of Scripture back to him. And eagerly anticipate the full realization of mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. Keep yourself in the love of the triune God; building up, praying, waiting in the Son, Spirit, and Father. This is how we keep ourselves in the love of God.
So which is it? Are we kept, or do we keep ourselves? Yes! God keeps us and he uses means. God keeps us by our building up, praying and waiting.
Jude closes his letter with this benediction:
Endure to the end. Don’t be choked out by pleasure or burned up by pressure. Keep yourselves by building yourselves up in the faith, praying and anticipating. Beloved, keep yourselves in the love of the God who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy!
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org