In his tremendous sermon delivered last Sunday, July 19, Pastor John MacArthur demonstrated once again the qualities of a superlative shepherd.
After Memorial Day he planned to go on vacation as usual. He delivered a sermon to help his flock prepare for events that may occur while he was gone. He said in his good-bye for now sermon, "Hope for a Doomed Nation" that
So as we look at our nation – and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few weeks when I’m not here. I’m just kind of preempting that a little bit by helping you to be able to think through whatever happens. I have to say at this point that there are many churches who aren’t helping.One event was obviously what turned out to be the devastating Supreme Court decision to legalize homosexual marriage in all 50 states as the law of the land. We knew that the Supreme Court decision was coming out in early June, and we knew the decision would not likely swing to the moral side of the compass. So the Pastor was preparing his flock to receive bad news and retain their spiritual equilibrium (and ours too, if we listen to GTY). However, in addition to the SCOTUS decision, we also endured the Charleston church shooting, Chattanooga military base terrorist shooting, Louisiana movie theater shooting, and the Planned Parenthood videos. A lot happened while their senior pastor was away.
So much so, that the rapidity of our moral collapse as a nation is dizzying. The collapse is coming from many different directions. That's partly why it's dizzying, our heads are swinging from this side to that to detect all the incoming. So though Pastor MacArthur's vacation was going to be the usual length, most of the summer, MacArthur had an opportunity to return and preach for one Sunday, July 19 before resuming this week. In the face of moral collapse, heightened danger physically and spiritually for every Christian in this country, and grief over the heinousness of the Planned Parenthood videos, how can a pastor best help his flock at such a time as this?
He opened that sermon, We Will Not Bow by saying,
A lot is happening at a very rapid rate. And with all the discussion that’s been going on, I’ve been kind of eager to get to you, and maybe help to give you a perspective.His phrase, 'get to you', was filled with urgency and the word 'to' was emphasized. You'll hear it if you listen. It reminded me of a mama on a playground suddenly hearing her child cry because he fell down, and her instinct is to rush over and scoop him up and protect. That was the attitude in his statement, a shepherd rushing over to protect the sheep, to calm them and give them food. This in itself is encouraging.
The sermon was encouraging as much as it was informative. Toward the conclusion of it, MacArthur focused on the relief that is in store.
No matter what is occurring in the world or the United States ultimately there will be an end. The end for believers will be blessed relief from the corruptions of our flesh, the battles against the temptations of the world, and the deliverance from the presence of satan and sin. It will all end and for us, the end will be a holy blessed relief. It all can be summed up in one word: Jesus. He gives the relief and His work on the cross actuated it.
Part of that relief will be the righteous satisfaction in seeing evildoers punished. The end for those who do not love Jesus is eternal conscious torment after having been judged at the Great White Throne Judgment. I know this isn't a palatable statement for many to read, but once we are glorified at the rapture and the end of all things plays out, we will be part of Jesus in every way. He longs for making all things right and we will too. Sinners' sins are so terrible against our Jesus that we will want to see Him enthroned, claiming His position as dispenser of justice.
But that same event brings us relief, relief. Verse 6, “It is only just for God to repay with affliction.” And implied, it is only just for God to give relief. He will give relief to His own. Affliction will end. Persecution will end. Suffering will end. That’s His promise. And it will end for those that belong to Him—those who have been afflicted by a God-rejecting, Christ-rejecting world.I began this essay saying what a good shepherd John MacArthur is. I have several friends who had opportunity to hear the sermon live last Sunday. They both tweeted how blessed they were to hear it and be comforted along with many other solid believers. I write this essay because not everyone has such a blessing.
And what does that relief look like? Verse 10, we’ll be glorified with Him on that day, “to be marveled at among all who have believed.” I love to think of that. We’re going to look at each other and say, “Whoa, did you turn out amazing! I never could have imagined.” I’ve told you before, I know there are many of you, that when we get to heaven, I won’t recognize. Perfection with obliterate any memory of what you used to be.
We’re just passing through, aren’t we? We’re just passing through. (John MacArthur "We Will Not Bow")
As the moral slide gains steam and hurtles down that downgrade, many discerning believers are left adrift inside their local congregations with unworthy shepherds. Some pastors are just plain unskilled at being able to comfort through scriptures. These pastors preach topically, usually three points of self-help sermons such as "Three Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen to You" or "Six Ways to Change Your Life". Self-help is no help at all when trials come.
Other pastors are ignorant of eschatology or are unwilling to give it credence. Thus they avoid scriptures that refer to the end of all things such as the Matthew 24 or 1 Thessalonians verses, which actually are designed to comfort. (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
Other pastors are not saved and are actually agents of satan. We don't like to believe this, but it is true far more often than most people realize. S. Lewis Johnson preached,
And so it was inevitable, Paul says, that factions would exist in the church. For there must also be factions among you that those are approved may be recognized among you. In fact, the factions and the process of being approved by the way in which we respond to the problems of the local church is really an anticipation of a separation that is to occur at the judgment seat — well, at the Great White Throne judgment.For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)
There are people who are in ostensible fellowship with local churches that are not going to be in heaven. We know that. The Bible details that, too. Satan is very active in the Christian church seeking to overthrow the ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And so, consequently, he infiltrates the Christian churches. And if it’s a Christian church that is a fruitful church there will be some there that are not emissaries of our Lord but are really emissaries of Satan. Paul talks about that in 2 Corinthians chapter 11.
And he says “not only are they sitting in the pew, they’re standing by the pulpit.” As a matter of fact, the ones standing behind the pulpit are more dangerous and more likely to upset the Church of God. And so Satan is very anxious to have one standing behind a pulpit, or standing behind this pulpit, too, for that matter.
So for those who do not have the blessing of a faithful pastor, and/or are attending a church filled with false doctrine but don't know where else to go, or are dealing with factions and disgruntled members, or who simply feel alone even in the middle of a local congregation, take heart.
We are sojourners on this hostile planet. But that will end. Relief is on the way. Praise Jesus.