Alfred Place Baptist Church

8:38-9:1 The Son Of Man Is Coming Again In His Father’s Glory

Mark 8:38-9:1 “‘If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘I will tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.'”

If you should ask what spirit characterises our nation today then I’d say that two giants fight for the mastery of every person. They take it in turns in gaining the upper hand.

The first giant is Giant Daydreams, summed up in the phrase, “It’s all goin’ to work out OK.” What reason do we have for believing that? Too many marriages are in trouble, lots of children are unmanageable, vandalism is everywhere, debts are mounting, neighbours are abusive, theft is commonplace, politicians are not trusted, people are demanding boxes of prescription drugs, and we are all getting nearer the day of our death. There is a network of fanatical Al-qaeda terrorists who are ready to sacrifice their lives if they can destroy the Western world. Darkness, despair and death are all around, yet men can shrug and smile weakly saying, “Ah well, it will work out OK.” Why? What rational reason for that is there? Of course all of us are longing for the good to triumph. We want to believe that the nice guys are going to win, that this world’s a friendly place, that our neighbours are decent people. Politicians will get votes saying, “This is the finest generation of young people that this nation has ever known,” but they are covering over a reality they daren’t acknowledge. In fact, men are behaving like the Gadarene swine heading for the cliff top and muttering to one another “Everything’s goin’ to be OK.” No, this generation is going to judgment. Did Noah’s generation listen to his warnings? They all said, “Everything’s goin’ to work out OK.”

Our Lord went to Caesarea Philippi where Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. “I’m going to Jerusalem to be crucified,” he said to them. “Never,” they said. “You are far too pessimistic. Things are goin’ to work out OK.” No, they weren’t. Jesus was right. Wrong won, and the loveliest and the best was nailed to a cross, and the disciples were scattered. The Bible tells it like it is. The men who wrote Scripture didn’t whistle in the dark to keep up their courage. This unbelieving generation does that. They are the fantasisers. They are the eternal children. They are the people of make believe and blind faith. Things are not getting any better at all. “It’s goin’ to work out OK.” I don’t believe it at all. That is infantile optimism is earthed in ignorance, and after the last century with its world wars and holocaust and genocide we have no grounds for believing men are going to make things better.

The second giant is Giant Despair, and his inelegant ungrammatical slogan is, ” Whatever you do, it don’t make no difference.” The same people who one week say, “everything’s goin’ to work out,” are saying the next week, “it don’t make no difference. What’s the point of exams, and qualifications, and getting a steady job, and keeping your marriage vows, and morality, and loving your country, and voting, and living a decent life? It don’t make no difference. So let’s eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow we die. Let’s start another relationship, and let’s try different drugs, because nothing makes any difference.” But it seems to me that there are miles of blue water between possessions and poverty, and between a happy marriage and ‘relationships,’ and between freedom and addiction, and work you enjoy and a dead-end job, and love and lust, and health and sickness, and having Jesus Christ as your Saviour or not. There is a vast difference between life and death, and heaven and hell. You and I know what we should be going for don’t we? Once you utter the word ‘God’ you are saying ‘a purpose,’ and ‘a future,’ and ‘a goal,’ and ‘an end.’ Once you say ‘God’ then you’re saying that life has a meaning, and indeed God has given us a conscience that tells us this is so. Yes, tomorrow we die, that’s true. Nothing can change that for anybody, but after death there’s the great evaluation because we live in a moral universe. Then the difference between what God loves and what God hates is going to count.

Giants Dreaming and Despair have so much influence because unbelief is all around us. The giants have taken over the ground that’s been left by the rejection of Jesus Christ the Son of God. There is never a vacuum when God has been locked out. The merciless giants take over; they have such fearful power because men don’t know God, and so men don’t know why they’re here, and they don’t know what the future holds. Last week there were advertisements on the different bulletin boards of shops, behind their tills and in their entrance ways, all around the town. They were announcing the performance of a play. The drama was called “Today” and the small print under the title on these flyers read as follows, “If you can’t see a future what can you see?” Can you see a future? Do you have a future? Do you know where you’re going? Do you know who’s going with you? I have read to you some of the words of Jesus Christ. He said many things, and all around the world today are groups of people like ourselves thinking about what he said. Isn’t it worthwhile considering what the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount has said? He is speaking here about the future, what lies before the world, how it’s going to end. Isn’t that a fascinating subject? Jesus Christ is the only man who could see the future, and only through his eyes can anyone see what lies ahead of us. What does he say?

1 CHRIST IS COMING IN HIS FATHER’S GLORY.

“He comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (v.38). With what absolute certainty he speaks. It is only about Jesus Christ that anyone can speak with confidence, looking back or looking forward. He alone can say, “It’s all going to work out for me and all who are joined to me.” Only of that we can be absolutely sure. He knows the future, and he tells us what lies ahead. Of course there were times when the prophets of the Lord were telling the people what was heading towards them. They were predicting the arrival of the seed of the woman which would be to conquer the old serpent, Satan. But they also spoke of the coming of the suffering Servant. So they were predicting the coming of the Messiah which would be glorious and triumphant, but yet there was this dark picture of his coming to lay down his life. They were not precise about the relationship of these different events. “He is coming to die, and he’s also coming to reign.” That was their message. They couldn’t see the connection, but Jesus Christ God’s last prophet could. It was the biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgy who once gave a fascinating definition of science. He said that science consisted of seeing what everyone else had seen, but thinking what no one else had thought. The Lord Jesus read these same Old Testament Scriptures as everyone else but he concluded that there were two comings being prophesied, the first in humility and the second in glory.

The Old Testament prophets saw the coming of Christ like men see a range of distant mountains. It seemed one great episode to them – the future appearance of the Messiah, but when you climb and climb and finally get to the peak of a mountain range you discover that there is a vast valley before the second range of mountains. From a distance the ranges seemed very close to one another, but there is in fact one mighty mountain range and then a long journey before the other range of mountains ahead. It is like that with the Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. There is the famous 53rd chapter of Isaiah speaking of the suffering and death of God’s Servant, and the similar 22nd Psalm. But there are also very different prophecies like Daniel 7: 13: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of Heaven.” Now that is scarcely a description of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Daniel’s figure of the son of man is characterised by august majesty and splendour. Or hear the beginning of the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament: “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 4:1). These must be words describing the second coming of the Messiah. There are two comings being predicted even in the Old Testament: he who first came in humility to the stable to save us will come the second time in majesty to judge the quick and the dead. Jesus is coming again in glory. The Lord Jesus had seen this and thought what no one else had thought.

So this is what Christ himself prophesies, that history is not cyclical, it is linear, and the final point of history, its great climax, is his return at the end of the world. Listen to these other words of Christ about this event: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (Jn. 14:3). He said again, “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory, and he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds” (Matt. 24:30&31). Again the Lord spoke to the chief priests and Jewish leaders and he told them, “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt: 26:64). Will you heed the words of Jesus Christ concerning your future?

Or will you hear the words of angels to the apostles on the mount of ascension? The Lord had left them; a cloud had hidden him from their sight and they were bewildered. Suddenly there were two men in white standing there, sent by God, who said to them, “‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Will angels’ words persuade you of what lies before you?

Or will you hear the words of his apostles? Paul says, “We eagerly await a Saviour from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phils 3:20). Again the same apostle says, “The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (I Thess. 4:16). Paul speaks of the day “he comes to be glorified in his holy people, and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed” (2 Thess. 1:10). Or in another place Paul says, “We wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). Or if you are now grudgingly thinking that this is simply Paul’s ideas then the apostle Peter wrote this, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Pet. 3:10). The apostle John says, “When he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I Jn. 3:2). Then the writer of the letter to the Hebrews said this, “He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebs. 9:28). Can’t you see that the apostles, the men who spent three years with Jesus Christ, all had this anticipation about the future? He who had called them to follow him, who had conquered death and risen on the third day and spent forty days with them, they were utterly convinced that he was going to come again. So the whole New Testament church was crying, “Even so, Come Lord Jesus.” That is what lies before the world.

So all that confident anticipation about the second appearing of Christ grew from his very first words to them about this fact, spoken here in Caesarea Philippi, which later he developed and expounded to his apostles. Here he is breaking the news to them of his future. This is what lay ahead; it includes betrayal, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension and his reign. Then Jesus will come back to this earth again. The Lord was revolutionising their thinking of what was round the corner, and what lies ahead for you and me. If you can’t see a future what can you see? Let’s open up this momentous event of the second coming of Christ a little. Two features (let me use a couple of paragraphs of Principal Macleod in his “A Faith to Live By” (Christian Focus, 1998).

i] It is going to be a personal return. “He comes” (v.37): in other words, “It will result in the personal presence on earth of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not going to be simply the presence of his memory, or of his power, or of his Spirit. It is going to be his real, personal presence in the world. The Bible doesn’t tell us by what kind of process this becomes possible or what kind of journey it involves. All it says is that just as Christ was once really present in this world in his incarnate state, so one day that presence will again be a physical reality” (Macleod, op cit, pp. 262 and 262). He is coming.

ii] It is going to be a return in glory. “He comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (v.37): in other words, he will not be as he was standing before them at that moment. “The first advent was a real presence, but it was a presence in lowliness and humiliation. He came in obscurity. He came in hiddeness, in anonymity: incognito. He came into poverty, homelessness, oppression, and weakness. He came into pain, shame, dishonour, rejection, death and the cross. He came in kenosis, as the great Nobody: the one who looked simply like a servant. He came ‘in the likeness of men’ (Philippians 2:7). But when He returns He will return in the glory of the blessed God (Titus 2:13). He will look like what He is. He will look like the world’s Saviour. He will look like God. He will come with the doxa, with the form, the splendour, the majesty, of God Himself. He will come in all the paraphernalia of deity. He will come in the form that He had for a moment on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17; Mark 9; Luke 9). He will come in the kind of glory with which Yahweh came to Mount Sinai in the days of Moses (Exodus 19). He will come in the splendour with which Isaiah saw him in Isaiah 6. He will come with all the accoutrements of deity. He will come ‘in the clouds of heaven’; He will come with the holy angels. He will come with His glorified church. He will come with the voice of the trumpet that awakes the dead (Matthew 24:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). He will come to the accompaniment of events such as never were seen since the first dawn of creation: the resurrection of the dead, the great judgment and the re-formation of heaven and earth.” (Macleod, op cit, p. 262). That’s what lies before mankind. Do you see it with the eyes of faith? If you can’t see a future what can you see?

When the Methodist preacher, John Cooke, became a minister in Maidenhead he had an awakening ministry and various people from the town were constrained to go to the church to hear him. One Sunday night the mayor of Maidenhead went to the service and heard John Cooke preach on Revelation 1:7, “Behold he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him.” It was a word of salvation to him and he became a changed man. From then on attended that church. He had been a well-known figure in the town and his old friends grumbled at the difference they saw in him. He was no longer going with them to the places where the guys hung around and played cards. He listened good naturedly to their criticisms and then he said to them, “I’ll tell you what happened. I went to hear John Cooke preach, and his text was this, ‘Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him.’ Do you see? Your eye shall see him.” And he turned to the circle of men who had come to cajole him for not sitting and chewing the cud with them any longer, and he said to this one and to that one, “Your eye . . . your eye . . . your eye . . . your eye.” This is not some realised eschatology. What the Lord spoke of was future; this is utterly supernatural. Our eyes are going to see Christ with all his holy angels, and then we shall be for ever with the Lord. We shall enter that unknown environment, but with a well-known Inhabitant!

When will this great visible event be? No one can give you the answer to that question. God has given his information to no one, and there is no code in the Bible which some pip-squeak can crack to discover the secret. Not even the angels in heaven know the time, so beware of any Christian who writes a book or preaches a message telling you he has inside information. Whoever has given him that idea it is certainly not Christ. The Lord may come at any time, like a thief in the night when everyone is asleep and the house seems secure, then, out of the blue, a burglar slips into the house. When there’s no warning, when least expected and the world is least prepared for it the event occurs. People will be working in the fields or asleep in bed; then he’ll come in the glory of his Father with all his holy angels, and off to judgment it’s going to be! John Wesley was once asked what he would do if he were told that Jesus was to return that evening. “I should continue to do exactly what I am doing,” he told the inquirer. Are we ready? What changes, what adjustments, would we need to make if we knew that Lord would be arriving this evening? Can you see the future? It’s a great question, because if you can see it then you know what needs to be done to your life today.

2. CHRIST’S COMING – CONFIRMED BY HIS POWER.

You may be thinking that this is all rather vague. We don’t know the time, and all we have are these words about the end of the world made by Jesus and his disciples almost 2,000 years ago. “Anyone could prophesy like that,” you say, “I could say that I will come again to judge the world.” But no one would believe you. The words of our text about Jesus coming in glory are not all we have. In fact we have a whole New Testament with the most comprehensive and profound teaching on the whole of life. The Scripture gives us answers to our deepest questions: What is marriage? What is the good life? Who is my neighbour? What must I do to be saved? What is death and what lies beyond it? Who is God? What must I do to have everlasting life? You can’t answer those questions, but the Lord Jesus can. Then there is also this question, ‘What lies in the future?’ It is just one of the questions which the Bible answers in a great cluster of glorious answers.

More than that, we have the extraordinary life of Jesus of Nazareth, his purity and sinlessness and his great miracles. Most important of all, think of this, these are the words of the man who predicted that on the third day he would rise from the dead, and he actually rose from the dead just as he said he would. I can understand how a man might orchestrate his own death, but only God can orchestrate a resurrection! Christ is the one who is speaking these words about returning in his Father’s glory, and listen to what he went on to say, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1). Do you see what he says? Present kingdom power is going to confirm future kingdom glory?

When I was a boy there would be times when I would walk with my father, a station-master, along the railway track to inspect a signal box. The railways sleepers were just the right distance apart from one another for my stride. If you put your ear close up to the railway line there were times when you could detect a distant rumble and vibration. You could see nothing at all, but the touch and sound of that power in the line indicated that soon you would be seeing an engine drawing three carriages coming round the bend. The present power was an earnest of the imminent coming.

Before Christians die – any Christians – they will all see the kingdom of God coming with power. I have seen this in my life and so have you. The disciples had been with the King for two years and they had seen the dead raised and the winds obeying him, and because of them I have seen it too. Then, within six days, Mark tells us in the next verse (v.2), Jesus takes the three disciples to a high mountain and they see the King transfigured in matchless glory before them. So, because of what Mark writes here, before I die I have seen that glory too. Don’t we all see the kingdom of God coming in power here in the gospel of Mark? These men went on and saw the cross, and the resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ life doesn’t splutter out in failure but in power and victory. The apostles witnessed the ascension, and experienced the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. They saw the kingdom of God coming with power before they died. They saw the gospel transforming Samaria under Philip’s ministry. They saw the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. We read what power they witnessed, the gospel entering Philippi and a jailer being converted. We see a great church planted in Rome itself, and so on. They saw first as eye-witnesses, and we see through their eyes, the gospel being taken to Greece and Rome and the lives of tens of thousands of people being changed. The gospel did not come to them in word only but in kingdom power and with the Holy Spirit and much assurance, like it has come to us. Each August we see Aberystwyth full of Christians coming to an annual conference most of whose lives have been transformed by grace. We have seen the kingdom coming with power.

We’ve seen the kingdom of God come in power in this inspired record, and we know something of 1900 years of the gospel spreading, so that today there is a world-wide church. In the last Prayer Meeting I led I read to you an account of a Sunday service in Nairobi, just a few weeks ago, with standing room only, and the word of God in Romans 12:1 at that morning service being preached by the pastor in the power of the kingdom of God. Could a tiny huddle of frightened worshippers in the catacombs of Rome have ever imagine that one day the nations of the world would be full of gospel churches dedicated to the name of Jesus of Nazareth? Before we die all of us Christians see the kingdom of God coming in power.

With what authority does Christ speak. Hear the confidence with which he preaches to them. He is coming again, but before that his power is going to be seen by all his people. This is as certain as the earth goes round the sun. He doesn’t say to them that if only they’ll pray a lot, and fast, and work hard at witnessing, and ‘lay all on the altar’ that then he’ll be able to come again in his Father’s glory. There is nothing at all like that. He is in absolute control of the future. They are going to see his kingdom coming with power. He is building his church, and when he returns it will not be as a kind of Robinson Crusoe coming back after being lost for years at the ends of the earth. He will not be a kind of Rip van Winkle waking up after centuries of sleep to a world which has passed him by. That happens to others but not to Christ. Fifty years or so ago documents known as the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in Israel. They came from a community of religious people who lived near the wilderness of the Dead Sea about the time of Christ under the leadership a man whom they called ‘the teacher of righteousness.’ What the community actually did we don’t know. Who the teacher of righteousness was we don’t know, just that he existed around the same time as John the Baptist but he’s been passed by and ignored by the world, his very name has been forgotten. Only scholars of the ancient world are interested in speculating about him. It is not like that with Christ. He could speak of coming again to a world that he never really left, at least not in spirit. He will return to complete and extend what has always been going on. There will always be kingdom power in the world and that is the great testimony to the certainty of coming kingdom glory.

Let me give you a striking example of this: I have just been to Newtownards in Northern Ireland for a week of meetings. There was an English teacher at the Movilla High School there for many years. His name is Verdon Edgar. When the Gideons came to his school he too had a New Testament which he put in his drawer and ignored, but his life and marriage fell apart. He ended up in a residence with a number of alcoholics, a place of bickering and bitterness. One night he couldn’t sleep. He tried 50 push ups but that didn’t make him tired. Finally he reached into the bedside cabinet and pulled out that red Gideon New Testament which he had had for years. He thought, “There’s nothing more boring than the Bible, so that’s bound to put me to sleep.”

He actually read four books of the New Testament that night, unable to put the Book down, finally closing it after 4.00 in the morning. He switched off the light to catch some sleep before getting up for school. But, as he lay down, he heard crackling sounds like sticks breaking. The sounds increased in intensity until the awful reality of what was happening hit him. He jumped out of bed and ran onto the landing to find that the house was in flames. More than that, there was a bonfire placed outside another room and he knew immediately that the fire had been started deliberately.

Frantically, he raced upstairs to warn his three friends who were lying in a stupor and totally unaware of what was happening below them. The flames were so intense that he was unable to run downstairs so he jumped through the fire on to the landing below. He then ran to the ground floor to warn the other residents. Unfortunately, his three friends upstairs were trapped. So they jumped from a window and landed on the fire escape 17 feet below. They were all hospitalised, but at least they survived as did the rest of the residents.

The police arrested one of the residents charging him with arson and attempted murder. It was then that the enormity of what had happened hit Verdon. He had never read four books of the Bible in his life and certainly not at four in the morning. But, if he hadn’t been reading the New Testament, seven people, including himself, could so easily have been burnt to death. He knew that that wasn’t a coincidence and he told everyone who would listen. Two weeks later Jesus Christ opened his heart and so he was able to receive him as his Saviour. Since then he has lived for Christ and worked for him.

That is a vivid example of the kingdom of God coming with power, but we don’t need such dramatic cases. Look at a Christian handling suffering, bereavement, loneliness, caring for a demented spouse or parent, or raising a child with learning difficulties. You see in their peace, contentment and strength year after year the truth of Jesus’ words, that the kingdom of God has come with power into their lives. There are millions of people like that, and there always will be until the King and his kingdom come in glory. Saving and transforming grace is the confirmation that their lives are gripped by the power of Jesus Christ who one day is coming again.

3. CHRIST’S COMING – CALLING FOR HOLINESS.

How is this great doctrine of the return of Christ introduced? It is in the context of how we are to live day by day. It is not in a theological framework, that Jesus speaks. He is not giving a lecture on eschatology and the end times. He is talking about how we should live. It is searchingly ethical. Jesus says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory” (v. 38). What we do this very day is going to affect us when we meet the Lord Christ in that great day. There’s an immediate link between how we live now and the response of the Son of Man when he comes. In other words, his coming is not a cosmic spectacle. It certainly will be awe-inspiring, but it will be much more than some almighty fireworks display. It is going to be a day of the investigation of the lives of all men and women, every one of them made in the image and likeness of God, all of them living and moving and having their beings in God, all of them placed in a creation where the heavens declare God’s glory, so that they are without excuse for not falling before this great God in worship and seeking his forgiveness. A great white throne will be set up, great because everyone must appear before it, even the angels, and white because it is a place of the purest righteousness. Everything that is just and fair and straight will characterise all that is said and done at that place. We face the unavoidable judgment of God.

So we are told in our text that when the Lord Jesus Christ comes in glory he is going to be ashamed of some people. How do we show that we are ashamed of someone? We look away. We hide our eyes. We put our face in our hands. We are grieved by certain behaviour. They have been cruel to an animal; they have abused a child; they have stolen from an old person; they have got drunk and as they drove a car they knocked down and killed someone and not stopped. They have mocked what is good and holy, and so on. Many things make us ashamed of people’s behaviour. How crucial is a sense of shame. Animals have no sense of shame. It is part of our being made in the image of God.

The Lord Jesus said that he himself is going to be ashamed of certain people. You remember what he said of Judas that it would have been better for him that he’d never been born. Isn’t that a fearful thing? Not just to think such a thought of someone but to say of a particular person, “It would have been better if he’d never been born,” and those were the words the Lord Christ, the gentle, holy, pure, Jesus said that of one man.

Who will Christ be ashamed of in that day? You say, “an adulterous and sinful generation of people.” Maybe so, but that is not what Christ says. He was talking of a certain constituency, or group within each generation. He was saying that generations of fallen men and women will certainly be obsessed with adultery and sin, with the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh. What an absolutely irrational obsession! On reflection it seems incredible. It is just as if men’s appetite for food were magnified and magnified until it became the obsession that the appetite for sex is today, so that we told sniggering jokes about food, and then sold cars and clothes and flowers and DIY materials by photographs of plates of food, and hundreds of illicit movies were made about eating food, and cookery books were all on the top shelves in plastic wrappers, and there was adult food for over 18s, and men took pills in order to eat food in a more exciting way, and there was a huge drive on about ‘safe food,’ and lessons about eating food were taught to children every year in school. Wouldn’t that be an obsessive and sick society? The Lord Jesus could talk about it as a ‘food-obsessed and sinful generation’! But that is actually what has happened with God’s gift of sex. The God-created desire has been absolutised and tirelessly promoted as the most exciting and satisfying and paramount desire people can have, and this generation in Wales is absolutely crazy about it. A gift of God has been twisted to sin.

You hear people saying that we are actually healthier in our attitude to sex than in the ‘bad old days.’ I believe it not. We smirk and snigger and flaunt a desperate sexual bravado, mocking virginity and holding fidelity cheap. We put exaggerated, superstitious importance on the idea of sex as ‘self-expression’ but fail to give it its proper weight as a testament of committed love and a channel of creating new human beings who are in the image of the eternal God. If it made people happy so that people returned to living in Eden there would be that miserable compensation. That does not exist does it? It leads to obsession and addiction, oppression of the young, and a sort of brutal sexual hobbyism with many poisonous flowers. It leads to children having abortions and girls raising children by themselves; no fun living in an adulterous generation.

As that is true then you would imagine that the Lord Jesus would be saying that he will be ashamed of an adulterous generation. But he doesn’t say that; it’s another, smaller group within this generation which he singles out. Who are they? They are people who actually know something about Jesus Christ – unlike many adulterers who will be gathered on the Day of Judgment from the north and south and east and west who will never have heard the name ‘Jesus.’ These people of whom the Lord will be ashamed actually knew something of Jesus’ teaching, his claims, his sermons, his works, and these men and women were ashamed of Christ and his words. When he claims to be the only way to God, they were ashamed. When he claims to be the judge of the whole world, they were ashamed. When he claims pre-existence, that before Abraham was he was, these were ashamed men and women. They hung their heads and looked away and wanted nothing to do with it. When he claims to be absolute God, saying, I am and my Father are one, they were ashamed. When he said that in the beginning God made them male and female they were ashamed. When he told them of a hell to avoid, a place where the worm doesn’t die and the fires are not quenched, they were ashamed. When he said that he had come to lay down his life as a ransom for many, they were ashamed, and the Lord Christ says that he will be ashamed particularly of these folk in that great day, because they had so much. They had knowledge of the Lord Jesus, which many in the Day of Judgment never had, and yet they were ashamed of him.

Remember how the Lord rebukes the cities in Capernaum where most of his miracles were done and yet they didn’t repent, and he said he would be more ashamed of them in the day of judgment than of the pagan city of Nineveh because the people of Nineveh didn’t have the leper cleansed and the storms stilled and Jairus’ daughter raised from the dead. All Nineveh had had was the appallingly monotonous voice of Jonah, God’s prophet, reluctantly telling them that in forty days they would be overthrown. But at that message they had actually repented, from the greatest of them to the least, and judgment didn’t come upon them. Jesus told them he would be more ashamed of Bethsaida and Korazin, the villages where he’d been, because they had had mighty miracles and preaching by Christ with the Holy Spirit’s enabling, and yet they refused to turn and believe on him. Our Lord is warning us that those to whom much has been given much will be required.

They were ashamed of Jesus and his words, and so he will be ashamed of them. He will say, “Depart from me.” He will say, “I never knew you,” in other words, “I never loved you.” He will say, “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30). What will he say about you? Are you ashamed of Christ? I know a teenager who would not go out of the front door and into the car with his parents to come to church in case any of his buddies saw him. He went out of the house the back way, and walked down a lane to be picked up outside the village and brought here. He was ashamed of being spotted coming to meet with Jesus Christ. Are you? When there is an argument in work or in college are you ashamed of him? Is there a guilty silence? Is he your Lord and Saviour? Salvation is believing in your heart, yes, but it is also confessing with your mouth that you are his. “I belong to Jesus. I am one of those fundamentalists and creationists and ‘born-again’ people that you are disparaging.” Or are you ashamed of him?

Christ is coming again in his Father’s glory and with the holy angels. Are you ready? I do not ask are you a Baptist? Have you been confirmed? Do you sit under evangelical ministry? All that is surface Christianity and anyone can get such things easily enough. I want to know if there is grace in your heart, and steel in your backbone so that you’re not ashamed of the Saviour. I want to know whether you are ready to meet the holy angels, ready for Christ’s return. I want to know, if the Lord should come this week, whether you could lift up your head with joy and say, “This is our God; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” I want none of you to live like a hermit, or neglect your studies or duties at home or at work, but I do call on everyone to live like one who expects Christ to return, to live like a pilgrim and a stranger, to live ever looking unto Jesus and leaning on Jesus, never ashamed of him.

I set before you an open door. I set before you Jesus the Saviour who died for sinners on the cross, Jesus able to save to the uttermost, Jesus willing to receive. Go to him first and foremost. How long will you limp between two opinions? How long will you try to serve the world and God? How long will you be Mr Facing Both Ways? Speak to the Lord in prayer and say, “I am so sorry that I have been ashamed of you. Lord, save me or I perish.” I exhort you to watch against inconsistencies, and watch against compromise, and watch against temptation, and watch against the devil and his devices, and watch against easy religion, and watch against the seat of the scornful. Watch rather for the clouds rolling back and the heavens opening and Christ appearing in majesty as the judge of all mankind. Be ready for that day, your sins forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ, and the garment of his righteousness covering you completely:

“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress.
Midst distant worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.

“Bold shall I stand in that great day
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved from Thee I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.”

(Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, 1700-60 tr. by John Wesley
1703-91).

8th February 2004 GEOFF THOMAS