Key Studies In Discerning the Times
Keys To Discerning the Times - Study Three!
To introduce our Bible study today, may I direct your attention to something Christ said when outlining the things that will take place on this earth immediately before His second coming to establish His millennial kingdom of righteousness and peace. It's recorded in Luke 21: 25-26. "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."
Notice especially two of the things He predicts:
(1) "distress of nations, with perplexity"; and,
(2) "men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth."
There is a day coming when those in management positions and those responsible for decision making are going to be in a very difficult and stressful position. The national life of nations will be characterized by distress and perplexity. Everyone will be upset, and no one will have a clear understanding of the things taking place or any clear idea as to what to do. "Distress of nations, with perplexity." Many of those responsible for leadership and the management of national and world affairs will break down under the strain and succumb to fear of what may happen next - "men's hearts fail them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth."
In this series of lessons we are trying to respond to Christ's exhortation to "discern the times." It is clear from what He said that God wants us to be able to recognize and under-stand the significance of the trends we see developing around us in the light of what He has told us the future holds in store.
We have discussed the prophetic significance of some of the trends developing in the international political sphere - the current changes taking place within the former U.S.S.R. and her satellite countries, Russia's changing relationship with the Western democracies, the increasing references and attention to North-South international relations, and the movement towards the formalizing of the European Common Market into an autonomous United States of Europe now known as the European Union (E.U.). We have seen how all these trends foreshadow the changed international scene as it will be after this present age ends with Christ's personal appearing to remove His True and Faithful Bible Believing Church from the earth.
Today we look at some equally significant trends in the financial and economic spheres, but first let's consider the significance of some other developments in the light of Christ's statement that there is a day coming when the national life of this and other nations will be marked by distress and perplexity on the part of the general public, and anxiety and fear on the part of those responsible for the management of private, business, and governmental affairs.
Increasingly over the past forty years a significant change has taken place in the attitude of people not only towards life itself but also towards human relationships and human rights, towards social problems, and towards governments.To understand current attitudes we must recognize that over those years there has been a progressive abandonment of moral values based on God's eternal absolutes. There has been a progressive breakdown of home and family life, due to more and more working mothers and single-parent families.
The sanctity of marriage vows has become less and less respected, and "shacking up" without a marriage commitment has become commonplace among those who reject or ignore the fact that marriage is a divinely ordained ordinance between a man and a women and that the family and home are divinely ordained institutions, and the only foundations on which a strong, vibrant, enduring society can be built.
By substituting the wisdom of finite men for the wisdom of the infinite, all-wise God, people progressively have destroyed the quality and stability of organized society. This sad trend goes hand in hand with ever-increasing spiritual illiteracy which results in an appalling ignorance of the eternal truths God has recorded for man's good and well-being in the inspired Scriptures.
As a result of all this, more and more people choose to listen to the word of men rather than the Word of God. They put the will of men ahead of the will of God. They choose the ways of men rather than the ways of God. By so doing, we have brought on ourselves the appalling social and moral mess in which society finds itself today.
Our condition and the conditions around us have a direct bearing upon our attitudes and on how we think and respond to the situations we encounter day by day. The increased concern for human rights which has developed in recent years is good, but too often it is marred by the abuse of such rights to demand things which are morally wrong and an affront to God. Abortion on demand is a good example.
The practice of the abomination of homosexuality is another. In the social and political sphere, too often the "human rights" argument is used to demand from society and from governments things which are unrealistic and wholly self-serving, and void of any genuine regard for the rights and needs of others. One result is that democratic government is becoming increasingly difficult. Those trying to govern are repeatedly faced with impossible demands by numerous special interest groups and a steady barrage of abusive, negative, often inconsistent criticism, whether the government be a village council or the government of a province, state or a nation, or an international institution such as the United Nations.
I do not mean that there should not be criticism of those responsible to govern. But criticism should be fair and constructive, and those finding fault should offer constructive alternatives and a willingness to cooperate in solving problems for the good of all concerned. Fortunately there are those who adopt this attitude, but unfortunately they are the exception rather than the rule. The majority attitude has become one of negative cynicism, quick to criticize and condemn, no matter what is proposed or who proposes it, or how inconsistent and hypocritical the condemnation may be.
Right now, one urgent need in Canada and the USA is to get government spending under control and reduce the annual deficit and the national debt, the servicing of which currently is taking over one-third of all taxes paid by the Canadian and American peoples. There is plenty of criticism of the deficit, and loud demands by the media and public for governments to cut expenditures.
But the moment a government suggests making meaningful cuts in public services, the same news media and the same people who are demanding cuts scream to high heaven that the cuts proposed are wrong and should not be made.
The media and environmentalists scream for effective control and disposal of hazardous wastes. But any proposal to provide a place for their storage and disposal is met with cries of protest and demands that it be located somewhere else.
What I am pointing out is a current trend in public attitudes that is making the management of public affairs increasingly difficult at all levels of government. When, in the future day of which Christ spoke, national and international situation.precipitate worldwide distress and perplexity, you can well imagine what the criticism and numerous - often conflicting - demands that will result, as Christ predicted, in "Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth."
There are within the financial and economic spheres developing trends which, unless halted and reversed, ultimately will precipitate the collapse of the financial and economic structures of what today are the strongest among the nations of the earth.
The greatest threat is the predictable ultimate consequences of pyramiding private, corporate, and public debt. Many of the poor, underdeveloped nations already are so deeply in debt to governments and financial institutions of the Western industrial nations that their situation is hopeless. Many of them are now forced to borrow more to pay the interest on what they have already borrowed. The combined interest payments alone run into billions of dollars. It is impossible for poor nations to pay such debt service charges and ever hope to retire the principal. As these circumstances impose ever-heavier financial burdens on the poorer nations, their standard of living is further reduced by crushing tax burdens, and the gap between the "have" and "have-not" nations continue to widen, fostering growing resentment and social unrest. (Take Argentina as an Example)
Not even the powerful and developed nations are immune to the problem of pyramiding debt and its consequences. The United States has gone from being the world's leading creditor nation to being a major debtor nation in the short space of ten years. Their accumulated national debt is well over $1 trillion, and the annual national deficit continues to increase at the rate of over $100 billion a year. Relatively, we in Canada are in an even worse condition. Our national debt is now over $300 billion and our deficit is increasing by over $25 billion a year. Unless these trends are halted and reversed, it is only a matter of time until we will face a total collapse of our financial system and our currency. The result will be economic and social chaos.
Having regard to the public attitudes which have developed towards governments and the entrenched demands for ever more social services as a matter of alleged right, it is not difficult to imagine what the public reactions will be, and the political and social turmoil that will follow. It is easy to see how Christ's description of nations whose people are in a state of distress and perplexity will be applicable to this and other nations when faced with such circumstances. While the current trends warn us that this is the kind of future into which the world is heading, millions still refuse to believe the danger is real and that the time for remedial action is fast running out.
Christ compared the attitude of people living in the shadow of impending crisis to that of the people of Noah's day and Lot's day, of whom He said, "They did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;" "marrying and giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." All these attitudes and trends cry out that the time is approaching when there will be the literal fulfillment of the conditions of which Christ spoke - national distress and perplexity, and those charged with the responsibility of management becoming fearful and breaking up under the stress of "looking after those things which are coming on the earth."
Against this gloomy outlook for the future, there stands out in glowing contrast the freedom from anxiety and fear that God offers to all who will come for shelter within the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Those who have found their shelter and security in Him are offered here and now His love and providential care amid all the vicissitudes of life, and the blessed assurance that He will remove them from this earth before those times of universal distress and perplexity and fear of which He spoke.
Once more today you have the opportunity to take your place alongside the those who comprise Christ's True Church. Are you interested? Are you concerned? Do you wisely ask, "What must I do to be saved?" Three things:
(1) Genuinly Acknowledge you are a guilty sinner in the sight of a holy God and because of your sins you are under eternal condemnation from which you cannot do anything to save or help save yourself.
(2) Genuinly Believe God's Word which tells you that Jesus Christ took all your sins into His sinless body and died for your sins into His sinless body and died for your sins in your place on the Cross. Your debt of sin has been paid in full by Him, that you might be forgiven and have eternal life.
(3) Genuinly Turn from your old sinful life to Him and in true repentance, by faith, ask Christ to come into your heart and life as your personal Saviour and forgive your sins and free you from sin's power by giving you a new spiritual nature, by being Biblically Baptized you will truly be re-born and receive the infilling of the True Holy Spirit, which will delight in God and His righteousness and enable you to demonstrate by a transformed life that you have been made a new creature in Christ.
What say you? In simple faith ask Christ to come into your life and be your personal Saviour from this hour on.
Let Us Pray Together--
PRAY: "God be merciful to me a sinner. Receive me now for Christ's sake. Cleanse me from my sin by your precious blood, shed on the cross for me; lead me to be baptized and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Teach me to pray each day; to read Your will for my life from your word, the Bible; and help me to worship and serve You in the fellowship of your church. I thank you Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!
May God bless you.
Go To Lesson Four - Keys to Discerning the Times - Study Four!