Before you send me my P45 let me explain.

It's not that I don't believe in God. I do. It's not that I don't believe in Jesus Christ. I do. It's not that I don't believe the Bible is true. I do. It's that a lot of the time I live like someone who doesn't believe any of those things.

Now you might say, "But you're a pastor! Isn't every day filled with doing Jesus stuff?" And it is. 

"And you're a preacher. Don't you get up each week and declare God's word in the Bible?" And I do.

But I'm not sure that my heart is controlled by the truths that I believe. With the result that I don't think that my behaviour is sufficiently controlled by the truths that I believe. Especially the fact of Jesus imminent return to judge the living and the dead.

I've been thinking about the Day of Judgement quite a bit recently. Firstly because of the dreadful events that have dominated our news for the last month or so. The proximity of terrorism and the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire have made me long for a better world. They've reminded me of how helpless humanity is to sort out it's own problems. They've sharpened the reality that anyone could die at anytime - without Christ.

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The second reason that the Day of Judgement has been brought in to focus is that I am studying the book of Zephaniah, so that I can preach it on the next three Sunday evenings. In it God declares through his prophet the reality of the Day of the Lord, when he will rid the world of evil and gather in his people. 

The Bible's view of the world is very different to our culture's. Our culture assumes the the world came into being billions of years ago through random forces, and it will potentially end sometime in the future through equally random forces. Though I think most people assume that the world will go on forever. Certainly for as far into the future as they can imagine.

The Bible says that the world was created by a good and loving God. That he rules over all of history and that he has set a day when he will end history as we know it, by judging the world through his Son. In the words of Acts 17:31 "He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead."

We don't know when that day will come. We just know that it is imminent. So in the Bible there are only two days that really matter. The Day of the Lord and today. And the key thing is to be living today in the light of the Day.

That should mean that I see everyone today first and foremost and those saved or condemned on The Day. But I don't.

That should means that the priority that I have for my children today should be that I help them to live trusting in Christ's death for their salvation and living to honour him in all they do. But it isn't.

That should mean that my life today should be lived in worship and praise and wonder at the Lord my loving saviour, because that is what I will be doing on The Day, and all the days that follow it. But in reality it will involve a lot more thinking about me and my comfort than that.

In Zephaniah the Lord tells his people of his judgement to come and who will be condemned. The shocking thing is that he gives most time to those who would regard themselves as being safe from judgement, those who are in his people. One group that gets a special warning are the practical atheists:

'At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps
    and punish those who are complacent,
    who are like wine left on its dregs,
who think, “The Lord will do nothing,
    either good or bad.” ' (Zephaniah 1:12)

The complacent who live as though the Lord will never really act in his world. As though he will never judge.

It would be easy to write this off as a bit if Old Testament blood and thunder - if it wasn't for Jesus. He soberingly said:

‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?”  Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”' (Matthew 7:21-23)

Saying (or singing!) "Lord, Lord" is not a test of genuine faith in Christ. Only doing the will of His Father in heaven demonstrates the genuine believer. Being a practical theist.  

I have found the combination of world events and Zephaniah a sobering wake up call to my failure to live out what I believe. It has also brought into sharp relief the dangerous position of a number in our church who will live today without any reference to The Day at all. Secure in their assumption that tomorrow will always come. It won't.

 

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