March 18, 2017

Where does God want my gaze?

After His resurrection, Jesus told the disciples to be witnesses to Him and then ascended into heaven. Today’s reading asks an important question from Acts 1:11: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?

The author explains that in his five years of ‘studying theology’ in two leading Bible colleges, they spent far more time trying to interpret biblical prophecies about the last days than finding answers to essential questions such as: ‘How can a man be just with God? “How can he be clean that is born of woman?” “How can God be just and yet, justify the ungodly?” This certainly explains why nearly every day of this devotional book he focuses on God’s salvation message.

Instead of gazing into heaven and endless discussion of when Jesus will return, God’s people have work to do. I am to trust and obey, not ‘trust and speculate’ or ‘trust and wait and see’ what happens.

Peter wrote that scoffers with sinful desires would do that sort of questioning. He said . . .

“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”

As for me, I am to remember that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” and that “the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”

The important question is not about gazing into heaven trying to figure out when Jesus will return, but what sort of person I ought to be in the meantime. God wants a life “of holiness and godliness” as I wait for and hasten the coming of the day of God. Not only will Jesus return, but “the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:1–13)

That prophetic announcement alone ought to motivate obedience, not speculation. Jesus told His disciples to “Stay in Jerusalem until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit, and then to go into all the world to preach the gospel,” not speculate about the time and manner He would fulfill this prophecy! He has not given one bit of information concerning when, and as Fortner says, only fools pry into those things which God has kept secret.

I’m prone to procrastinate about the tough assignments. Maybe some of the study of future things is procrastination. However, while I am eagerly expecting His return, I’m not ever to use the study of it as a way to avoid my responsibility to obey Him. There are millions if not billions who have never heard the Gospel, and millions of needy people who would be blessed by experiencing His love through His people.

Jesus, You love me and have set me free to love others by sharing You with them. You command me to do your will until You take me home. If I spend my life wondering when that will be (either Your return or how long I will live) then I am wasting time and energy instead of using it as You desire. Keep my heart in anticipation of seeing Your face, but also filled with overflowing joy because I know You. Forgive my myriads of excuses for not being about my Father’s business until You return. May I never stop talking about You and what You have done, or stop obeying you, even when obedience is difficult.

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