Sunday, March 24, 2013

P3 - F.O.C.U.S on Christ's return

James 5:7-8 "Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."

In yesterday's blog we reviewed the five benefits of focusing on Christ's return. We used the acrostic F.O.C.U.S to see why you and I should be focusing on the second coming of Jesus Christ:

1. Fights against worldliness. James 5:1-6
2. Operates endurance. James 5:7-8
3. Calms the saints. James 5:9-11
4. Undergirds the prayer-life James 5:12-18
5. Strengthens evangelism James 5:19-20

We looked specifically at how focusing on Christ's return operates the ability to endure in the Christian faith.  Furthermore, we also looked at how Christ's return calms the saint by providing a horizon by which to deal better with one another.  The hope of Christ's soon return breathes life into the faith of the believer like a set of bellows blowing fresh air into hot coals.  In today's blog we will conclude this blog series on why it is we are to f.o.c.u.s on Christ's return by noting the final two benefits of doing so, because it....

Undergirds the prayer-life James 5:12-18
James has specific points in this fifth chapter that alert us to when he is moving forward to his next thought.  In 5:1 he begins by saying "come now" to the professing unbelievers in his flock who are wealthy and worldly.  As you move into his second section of 5:7-8 we see him begin that second section with the word "therefore", alerting the reader that he is shifting gears to another topic - patience and endurance.  In James 5:9-11 we see him firing out a series of commands, heightening his emphasis to calm those who are undergoing difficult times.  All of these sections have as their anchoring point the perspective of how we can benefit from focusing on the second coming of Jesus Christ.

In James 5:12-18 we see the fourth section of this chapter start out with another transitional phrase: "But above all".  James is moving the reader forward to consider yet another subject - namely prayer.  All types of prayer are discussed: oaths (5:12), praise (5:13), healing prayers (5:14), confession (5:15-16) and intercessory prayer (5:17-18).  Prayer in the Christian life is oxygen to the lungs of faith.  Without oxygen to our physical lungs - we suffocate.  Prayerless Christianity is like a weight lifter on a ventilator - capable of doing much but powerless to do anything.  Prayer by its very nature is a pouring out of the soul to God, waiting on Him to fill the vessel of the heart.  How is it that we maintain our course in prayer? 

In centuries past the sailors of the high seas used the horizon line of the stars to guide them over dark waterways.  In the seasons of prayer: whether praise, healing, confession, intercession or commitment - we need a reference point to ensure we won't grow weary.  May I suggest that James is casting his conversation on prayer in 5:12-18 in light of the remarks he makes on Christ's return in 5:7-8. 

Jesus gives similar instruction on the nature of praying without ceasing in Luke 18:1-8.1  As Jesus closes out his instruction, He makes this comment in Luke 18:8 -  "I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Clearly Jesus is linking the urgency of prayer to the impending arrival of His second coming to our planet. 

James appears to be connecting his section of prayer to Christ's second coming in much the similar way.  The able commentator Herbert Lockyer in his book "All the prayers of the Bible" lists almost ten prayers in the Book of Revelation.2  If prayer and Bible prophecy are to go hand in hand, then why not use eschatology (study of last things, prophecy) to undergird your prayer life?  

So by focusing on Christ's second coming, we can fight of worldliness, operate in endurance, calm our hearts, undergird the prayer life and fifthly...

Strengthens Evangelism.  James 5:19-20
James 5:19-20 states in the ESV - "My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."  The effectiveness of evangelism over the course of time has been strengthened when hitched to the doctrine of Christ's second coming.  James concludes his masterful epistle with an appeal of repentance to backsliders and lost people.  Again, all of what James writes is cast in light of the second coming that he states in James 5:7-8. 

Just as in the other portions of his writing, James mimics his half-brother in the flesh and Divine Savior - the Lord Jesus Christ.  When Jesus gave His final instructions for the Great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 - we find Christ's own second coming driving forth the mission.  

Jesus asserts His Absolute Sovereignty over all things, communicating His right to rule in verse 18.  In verse 19 Jesus Christ is with his church through the ministry of the Holy Spirit as the church depends upon Him in this church age.  It is in verse 20 that Jesus sets the limit of the mission- the End of the Age.  Evangelism's greatest text is connnected the events surrounding Christ's second coming.  Without Christ's return, we have no basis to urge men and women to repent and escape from the wrath to come. (Romans 5:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10) 

More could be said, but I think you see now the five practical and beneficial reasons for f.o.c.u.sing on Christ's return as spelled out here in James 5:

1. Fights against worldliness. James 5:1-6
2. Operates endurance. James 5:7-8
3. Calms the saints. James 5:9-11
4. Undergirds the prayer-life James 5:12-18
5. Strengthens evangelism James 5:19-20

End Notes________________
1. He tells a parable of a widow in need of justice. She appeals her case to an unjust judge who grants her the request so as to get her out of his proverbial hair. Jesus uses the parable to drive home the point that God the Just judge will hear the cries of His elect saints who pray and seek Him both day and night. (Luke 18:7) 

2. Herbert Lockyer."All the Prayers of the Bible". Zondervan.   The passages in Revelation which Lockyer lists as prayers are the following: Revelation 5:8,9; 6:10; 7:9-12; 8:3; 11:15-19; 15:3-4; 19:1-10; 22:17,20 

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