Pastor Crutcher and I have been down at Minister's Meeting in Orlando, Florida with our family and we just got back yesterday. My wife and I got back just before sunset so I didn't have a chance to prepare a sermon so, you know, you might have to get by with something bad today.
I want to speak with you about Religious Liberty. I want to ask you a question. Since September 11, 2001, do we have more freedom or less freedom? We have less, don't we. And that should not be. Someone did a survey and they found out that one third of Americans now think that the government should violate our civil liberties that we might have safety, in order to prevent terrorism. (USA Today CNN Gallup Poll, 9/2002) Isn't that amazing that Americans would think that? There is a great fear that freedom, now, is quickly becoming an endangered species. It's not what it used to be. The USA Patriot Act allows our government to search citizen's homes without a warrant. It allows expanded wiretapping and detaining of suspects. Americans, so far, appear to be willing to trade their liberty for a sense of security. (Waymarks May, 2002 page 2.) Old Benjamin Franklin, a pretty wise old man, made this statement: Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." That's what we are doing today.
Because of terrorism, do you realize that the Pentagon is considering a program called "Total Information Awareness Act." The purpose of this program is to collect information about Americans so that we can keep track of who might be bad and who might be good. And so, your credit card or debit purchases will be stored in a master computer. All your medical data, travel, trips through electronic toll plazas, books checked out, videos rented and the complete text of every E-mail you've sent or that anybody else sent, would be stored in a single government computer. USA Today, 2002. THE WEEK 11-29-2002 page 17) Then this master computer would crunch numbers and connect all the dots and would put out the information as to who it thinks are the possible suspects. And all this would be done without the supervision of Congress. It sort of sounds like a spying operation. It sounds like the Gestapo or something, doesn't it. Orlando Sentinel, A14, Jan. 6, 2003) And yet, this is what Americans want because we want safety, and so we're allowing this to happen.
In many big cities today, the technology exists that they have cameras mounted along the roads and freeways. Have you noticed some of these cameras as you go along some areas? Right now it's being used for traffic control, but beginning February 17 in London, England, the first city to do this, They're going to photograph license plates and keep track of everybody that goes into the city of London and they will charge them ten dollars on their credit card for each time they go into the city. And they are going to keep track of who does this, and if you don't pay, you're going to be assessed a big fine. The World in 2003, The Economist, page 79).
So, 9/11 has changed the world. And this is about to happen in America. In a rare reversal, the U.S. House of Representatives has now called on public schools to go ahead and designate a time when students can pray. Not out loud, but they want them to pray. Waymarks, Vol 7 No. 1 Jan 2002, page 3). Many School districts and local governments are now opening official meetings with prayer. Waymarks, Vol 6 No. 6) Chattanooga has tried to establish the Ten Commandments and put them on the wall of the judicial center. They had to take them down, but things are changing. Attitudes are changing.
The 9/11 attack has triggered a drive for a national identity card for all Americans. This would possibly make things safer, but it would also oppressively limit our fading freedoms.
Many folks have personally asked me, "Well, what do you think? Since 9/11, do you think that these Muslim terrorists, these extremists, is this going to result in a battle between all Christians and all Muslims? Is that what's coming?" Well, some people think that Luke 21... Come over here to Luke 12 in your Bibles. They feel like maybe that could be possibly suggested here in verse 10. Jesus spoke in Luke 21:10 and He said, ..."Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." So, it's not only nations but it's kingdoms like religious kingdoms against each other. So, the last day events could be various religions pitted one against the other. Now, Franklin Graham, the son of Billie Graham, said this: "The God of Islam is not the same God the Christians worship. It's a different thing. He is not the son of God of the Judeo- Christian faith." Waymarks, Jan. 2002 page 2.
Are we in the beginning of a last day terrorism that only the second coming can end? Maybe. I don't know. What about Islam? Why are they so aggressive? Well, for one thing, it's found in their Bible, the Koran. I'll read book 5:51, where it says "Those who resist Islam shall be put to death or crucified, or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides." So, it's in there. It's in a lot of places. I have a lot of references here. Islamic terrorists fully justify the acts of September 11, 2001. Bin Laden calls for a holy jihad even now to restore Islam to it's place of power that it used to have many years ago. Al Qaeda forces have a lot of things at their disposal. They have chemicals, they are trying to use terrorism, hijackings, bombings. Even nuclear agents are, they think, in the hands of Al Qaeda. And all this is meant to basically bring America down. The twin towers of the Trade Center were the highest symbols of American power, so those were the first targets. The 2003 World Almanac, I enjoyed reading that. I read every page of it, the first 200 and some pages. Isn't it an exciting book? It admits that we are now living in a more dangerous world, and it has a whole lot to say about it. You ought to read some of what they have to say. So, what is next?
Come over here to Matthew 16. I think Jesus makes an interesting prediction. Jesus does not urge that we all be weather forecasters, but it is interesting what He does say. Matthew 16:2,3. He was talking with the Pharisees who demanded a sign. He replied, "When the evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather for the sky is red,' and in the morning, "Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." In other words, Jesus is saying here, "We, as last day Christians especially, should interpret the signs of the times." Is He not saying that? We should know these things.
Come over here to Revelation 13 in you Bible. Adventists believe that Revelation describes none other than the United States of America in the last days. Look over here in Revelation 13:11. This is about the beast that came up out of the Earth. If it came up out of the water, it would represent populated areas. If it comes up out of the earth, it would be an area where practically nobody was living. Verse 11. Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. Now we feel, and rightly so, that this represents the United States of America. This lamb- like nation, this Christ-like nation, is represented here in this verse. And our great nation is shown here as being exceedingly strong until the very end of time. With great authority. Now, Adventists also believe that verse 15 speaks of a forced world- wide worship. Revelation 13:15 says, He was given power to give life to the image of the first beast so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image of the beast to be killed.
How does a nation speak? Through its legislature. So, this is speaking about a law that is going to come to force you to worship in a certain way, or you will not be able to buy or sell anything, not even a rummage sale.
This act will compel worship. Now, we feel that it will compel all people, in the United States first, and eventually in the world, to go to church if they want to continue buying and selling. And, Seventh-day Adventists believe this will be a Sunday Law. Because, would Christian America choose any other day except Sunday? We don't think so. We feel this pictures here a National Sunday Law soon to be followed by a World Sunday Law.
Rev 13:17. So that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. What number is that? 666. "But," you might ask, "how could Jews who keep Saturday and Seventh-day Adventists who keep Saturday, ever join in with the Sunday-keeping situation? And how could Muslims? They keep Friday. How could they be involved in a Sunday-keeping situation?
I think the answer is: the terrorism that we are seeing today. I firmly believe that the brand of terrorism we are beginning to see will result in these types of laws. In fact, I think the public will demand a Sunday Law from their Congressmen and women. I think it will be demanded. That popular book that you have probably read, called, The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, p. 592 says, "Even in free America, rulers and legislators, in order to secure public favor, will yield to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance. Liberty of conscience, which has cost so great a sacrifice, will no longer be respected." That's what's going to happen. So, the people will demand a Sunday Law. Why would they ever do that? Because they will be afraid of what's coming upon the United States. All the fear, the terrorism, the natural disasters, and all these things.
I believe this could be caused by the wave of terrorism that we are seeing, that our leaders are warning us of. In fact, did you know that not 12 hours passed after the first airliner struck the World Trade Towers before the newscasters on CNN began to talk about how much freedom Americans would be willing to give up in order to feel safe again. They were already talking about it. That's exactly what it says in Grat Controversy. People willing to trade their freedom for their safety. That's amazing to me. I think that when everything breaks loose, I mean, Los Angeles is due foe a humongous earthquake, there are all... When things all break loose at the same time, we'll have a Sunday Law just like that. And this could happen very quickly. Now, does all this sound fearful to you?
Well, look at Luke 21. Jesus tells us how we should react to this. Here's the reaction Christians ought to have to these things that they're going to be seeing in the last days. Luke 21:26 KJV. Jesus said that in the last days we would see Men's hearts failing them for fear for looking after those things which are coming upon the world.. And, sure enough, you read the New Yorker's with heart problems had more than double the number of life-threatening arrhythmias in the month following September 11, 2001. THE WEEK, December 13, 2002 page 20) Jesus knew what He was talking about. That's exactly what happened.
And The Los Angeles Times says "We are now living in the Age of Fear. Everything has changed. This new Paradigm marks a shift in consciousness as fundamental as those wrought by the Great Depression." (The Week, 11-22-2002 page 12) Now you think about what that says. 9/11 has marked a shift so great in the consciousness and the thought patterns of Americans that it's as great as the Great Depression. That's a phenomenal statement.
Unfortunately we may only be seeing the tip of the terrorist iceberg. Did you know that 84 one kiloton "Suitcase" Atomic Bombs are missing from Russia? Did you know that, according to CBS 60 Minutes, 9/7/97, terrorists are thought to have a good number now of those suitcase bombs. (General Alexander Lebed the former Chief of the Red Army, 9-7-1997 CBS 60 Minutes). I'm not just quoting from those tabloids. These are major sources here. Each bomb measures 24" x 16" x 8". Each was made by the Soviet Union to look like a suitcase, and can carried by one person, and can be deposited somewhere and set off remotely. Each one could kill up to 100,000 people in a city situation. And the terrorist have them. Al Qaeda has them according to 60 Minutes. They are missing and the terrorists have a goodly number of them. If these Islamic terrorists, these extremists, should set off one in New York City, half an hour later, one in Chicago, half an hour later, one in Los Angeles, half an hour later, one in Atlanta. Do you have any concept of how that would change the world? The world would become a world that you do not know. Do you have any concept of what that would do to your freedoms? They would be gone in a heart beat.
The New York Times says that compared to 9/11, "the next attack will result in even greater casualties and widespread disruption to American lives and the Economy." (The Week, 11-8-2002 page 12). The stock market? Zap. It's going to happen. And you add to this the threats from North Korea and all the other things that are going to happen, we are facing Anthrax, highjackings, we're facing snipers that shoot from the trunk of their automobile, we're facing child abductions, we are facing shoulder-fired missiles, fired at our own aircraft, nuclear bombs, who know what else.
I think the laws could be passed very quickly compelling everybody to attend church on Sunday if they wanted to buy and sell anything. Our liberties and freedoms would be non-existent and so, I think during these hard times, the cradle of Liberty is going to have to have some pretty serious baby-sitters to watch it. Thankfully, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is working very hard in Congress to keep our freedoms.
So, what should you be doing? Should you be in college? Should you be in Southern Adventist University at this time, going to school? Should you buy a house? Should you buy a car? Should we as a church family be building that building out there? These are some literal, practical questions here. I think there is an answer. I read in Ellen White's writings: "The last days are upon us, and you, my brother, are devising ways to consume means (for yourself) which could be better invested by building churches for the people..." (Manuscript Releases, Vol. 15, 251.4) That's an interesting thought, isn't it. In the last days, she said, we should be building churches for the people. Making accommodations for the people. We should be doing it.
You see, we ought to live our lives spiritually as though Jesus were coming this afternoon, but we ought to be planning in this world as if He were not coming for a hundred years or more. Now, you know, that doesn't make any sense. You think about what Jesus said. Luke 19:13 KJV, Jesus said, ... Occupy till I come."
What does that mean? It means you need to keep taking care of yourself. If you plant your potatoes, you need to dig your potatoes. Do you see what that means? We need to take care of the things, we need to occupy and handle things, but we need to be ready spiritually right now.
Now, is all of this good news or bad news? What do you think? Well, it's good news. Why is it good news? Because it means that Jesus is coming. I think that's what it means. That depends on where you are with Jesus Christ. Now, if you're not ready to go, then it could be bad news. The world is going to end someday. Do we want the world to end? Yes, we do want the world to end, don't we. Do we want it to end in our lifetime? Yes, we do. Are you excited that it's about to end? We should be. In this age of fear true Christians know there is hope. Jesus is coming to rescue His people. We know the times are evil. We know that we are now living in a new level of danger we have never faced before. But we also know, Psalm 46:1,2: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. 2 Tim 1:7 KJV, For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
If the outward look is gloomy out there, try the upward look. It's pretty good. Luke 21:28 "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." It's about to happen. And there are many signs of Christ's coming. Many many signs.
Not only are our freedoms melting away, but so are the glaciers melting away. Did you know that we have a Park in the United States called Qaterton-Glacier International Peace Park? I think it's in northwesern Montana someplace. Did you know that in just thirty years they are going to have to re-name that park because there won't be one glacier left. -Dan Fagre, LA Times 2002. Global warming. It's happening. It's happening right now. The world is winding down.
The signs are all around us that Jesus' coming is near. There's a sign over here in Daniel 12. You're very familiar with this one. Daniel 12:4 KJV. But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. I am sure you are very aware that the Internet now has 2.5 billion documents on it. And the Internet is growing at a rate of 7.3 million pages each and every day?! - Context Magazine, 2001. Do you keep up with all that's on the Internet? I'll tell you what you ought to be reading. You ought to be reading the Bible. The Internet is important. 7.3 million pages will be there tomorrow morning that weren't there this morning. Nobody is keeping track of all this. We can't, unless we could read a hundred thousand pages per minute. It would be a lot of pages. I don't know of anyone that can read that much. We have some speed readers in our church, but not that. Knowledge is increasing. I'm not sure all this knowledge is worth reading on the Internet. If only wisdom were increasing as fast as knowledge. Right?
True Christians do not spend time worrying about what is coming upon the world. Luke 21:14 "But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves." You shouldn't be worrying beforehand about this. Luke 21:15 "For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict." Luke 21:17,18 "All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish." None of them.
So, the true Christian hears about all these evils that are coming and is stimulated by it. That's what happens. This is not bad news. When the signs of Jesus' Coming are happening before our very eyes we ought to be excited. Jesus is getting ready to come. He's packing His bags. He's getting ready to come to take us home.
The true Christian hears about all the terrors of the last days and the problems of the world and determines to work even harder finish the work of Jesus Christ and to finish the work..
The True Christian is not fearful about the last days. Jesus said in John 14:1-3 KJV. "Let not your heart be troubled: Ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's household are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." So, we're not supposed to, let our hearts be troubled about things around us.
Rev 12:12 "Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short." The old Devil knows that time is short. It has been short for 2000 years since that was written. Just when Jesus will come no one knows. But with all the currant troubles that are coming upon this old earth we can say with John the Revelator that the time is near. Revelation 22:10 .
So, I have super good news for you! Even though it is true that our freedoms are fading fast on this old world, the day is soon coming when we will have unending freedom. Liberty to do anything will be unlimited! Well, they will be limited, won't they. Limited only by our fear of sinning again. That's about the only thing. Otherwise you can do about anything you want to do when you get to heaven. You won't want to do what's bad. That's the thing that will limit it.
Jesus said in Rev 22:12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done."
What have you done with Jesus. That's how you will be rewarded. Have you accepted Him as your Savior? Or, are you stockpiling funds and stuff for the last days? You do understand that someday that $400,000 retirement investment you have been saving up will be taken away. Immediately after 9/11, both the cash and savings of many suspected terrorists were frozen. They had no access to their money. Are you investing your means in building up the Work of God?
Hymn of Praise: #249, Praise Him! Praise Him! Scripture: John 14:1-4 Hymn of Response: #593, In Times Like These 030111#156
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last updated 1/12/2003 by Bob Beckett.