"Prepare to Meet Thy God"

April 23, 2005

Scripture: “I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name.” (Amos 4:11-13)

In our personal ministry we are amazed to see how the hand of the Lord is at work to prepare His people to meet their God, to bring them into the light of truth, and to see the great lengths to which He goes to place people in our path that we might connect and together be strengthened in faith, in doctrine, and in spirit.

Recently one young man who is seriously being led by the Lord step by step into His marvelous light felt impressed to call the pastor who had been studying with him after weeks of no contact. It was a Saturday morning, and the pastor told him about our Sabbath program at his church in Mississippi and invited him to come. This young man decided to drive 100 miles to “come and see.” What he heard was the good news of the love of God for His children and the power of God to personally save them form the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and the very presence of sin at His soon coming.

He was subsequently so stirred with conviction that after the second meeting of the day he said, “I’m just shaking inside, I am so full. I can’t believe what’s happening.” He told me how the Lord had kept drawing his attention to Exodus 20 in his personal Bible study, and how He had led him to visit the Seventh-day Adventist Church through a dream in which he was given directions to a church where people kept the 7th-day Sabbath. He stayed on into the night through our concert and testimony message. It was about 10:30 that evening before He could finally pull himself away and start the 100-mile journey back home.

I’m reminded of the text, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few, Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37,38)

The next weekend we had a similar Sabbath in Missouri. After the worship service a couple approached me about the possibility of my being related to a lady they had known back in college. She was the cousin of her husband. The lady of whom they were speaking turned out to be my sister. She then said she had written to me when I was in the Army and was “mad” at me for not responding. We both laughed about that, I apologized and then put her in contact with my sister by phone who in turn drove up from Arkansas with my parents to Missouri for our evening program.

After the concert this couple took home my book and testimony tape and 4 CDs. The next morning this mother called my sister and told her how blessed she was with the messages she had heard the day before. Her son had recently announced his choice of an alternative lifestyle that left them devastated. My sister then shared with them that this was the source of my testimony and hence the power of my message that our God is “mighty to save”, the “whosoevers”, from “whatsoever”, even “to the uttermost.”

For a moment this mother was speechless. She had not yet even read the subtitle of my book. And as the realization began to sink in her heart began to thrill with thoughts of hope and encouragement. The next day she called me stating that she had read the book and found in it great comfort and hope.

Now, here is where we see the hand of the Lord. This couple lives in Oregon. They were on a job assignment in Texas. From Texas they had driven up to Missouri to visit relatives who were gravely ill and then decided to drive a bit of a distance to visit this particular church on this particular Sabbath, the only Sabbath we had ever been there for a speaking engagement. Here they met the brother of a dear friend, the wife of their lost cousin, in whose wedding she had participated 30 years ago. A reunion took place, and a message was received that lifted her out of despair into the blessed hope through our Lord Jesus Christ Who can and will save His people personally from sin.

Friends, Jesus truly is working in a mighty way to reclaim His own, to prepare His people to meet their God, for Jesus is coming very soon. We need only to open our eyes, to look around us at current events in the world to know for a certainty that this is so.

Is not the whole world now wondering after the beast? Has not the whole Protestant world through its founders, all the great Reformers, identified the beast and the antichrist as the Papacy? And are they not now themselves wondering and marveling after that very beast power?

I must confess that I, too am wondering in amazement at the continued healing of the deadly wound of this great world power! Even as did John when he wrote in Revelation 17:5,6 “…and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration (astonishment). And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.”

In the past few weeks we witnessed the passing of the prominent Pope John Paul II. We saw the world virtually come to a halt over this event. Royal and political dignitaries alike from around the world attended his funeral. For the first time in history an American president attended the funeral of a Roman Pontiff.

In great anticipation the world again waited two weeks for the conclave of Cardinals to convene for the selection of a new pope. On the major news networks a little window could be seen constantly monitoring the little smoke stack erected on the roof of the Vatican. St. Peter’s Square was abuzz with masses of people wanting to catch the first glimpse of the puff of smoke that would indicate the selection of a new pope. At the end of the first day, the crowd came alive at the white smoke that puffed out of the stack. But as it turned to black the disappointment of the crowd was plainly evident.

On day two, we received a call that white smoke was seen coming from the little smoke stack. So, we went next door to watch the unfolding events on the news, as was the rest of the world. As the bells rang out over the Vatican, St. Peter’s Square filled with thousands upon thousands of eager, expectant “faithful” and “unfaithful” alike. It was very interesting to watch the faces and actions of the people in this expectant throng – expressions of wonder, excitement, awe, enthrallment, reverence, worship, celebration, euphoria. The people were clapping, chanting, cheering, praying the rosary, waving flags of nations from around the world. Very notable to me was the large American flag mounted beneath a Vatican flag, waving excitedly in the crowd.

The cameras were constantly focused upon the window behind which a man was being transformed into a god. Joseph Ratzinger had awakened that morning just a man, a Cardinal, but was now being dressed up in the royal robes of the Pope of Rome, in preparation for the worship and adoration of the masses.

Just as men carve an image out of wood or stone and then fall down to it in worship, they were now dressing up a man like unto themselves in royal garments to be from that day forward worshipped as a god. And the whole world was watching in eager anticipation.

As the curtain was pulled back and the announcement was made, “We have a pope”, St. Peter’s Square became the scene of jubilant rejoicing. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was then introduced as Pope Benedict XVI, later referred to as a “transitional pope…” And all the world was watching, wondering after the beast power of Revelation 13.

Surely now, friends, the world is ready for the masterpiece of Satan’s deception. Are we prepared to face the final crisis coming upon this world?

As I was working on this sermon, 10-year-old Zachary came into my office and asked what I was doing. He then wanted to know the title of my sermon, and I told him, “Prepare to meet thy God.” The following conversation then developed:

“What does that mean to you, Zachary?” “Throw away all your bad habits and prepare for Jesus to come,” he replied.
“How do you prepare for Jesus to come?”
“Read the Bible and pray, and do what the Bible says to do.”
“What does the Bible say to do?”
“The 10 commandments tell you to keep the Sabbath day holy. Also you are to love God supremely, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
“What does this mean?”
“Be reverent during church. And the 1st four commandments tell us how to love God supremely. The last 6 commandments tell us how to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
“What else do we need to do to prepare to meet our God?”
“Help get the message out to the world. And treat others the same way that we would want to be treated.”
“What message to the world?”
“About our God and Creator. That God is Love. That He gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins, and to give us eternal life, if we choose to follow Him. That Jesus is coming soon. That we need to prepare for His coming. And that we need to be prepared for the events that come just before Jesus comes.”
“What events?”
“People will be killed. Many will leave the church while others join the church. Satan will appear to people and say that he is Jesus, but we know that He will not touch the earth when He comes. We will go up to meet Him.
“There’ll be really bad weather, like hurricanes, tornados, droughts, floods, and fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, diseases, plagues, volcanoes. And there will be wars and rumours of wars.”
“What else is in the message we need to carry to the world?”
“Whoever does not prepare for Jesus to come, or chooses not to follow Him, will not enter into heaven. And they will die when Jesus comes, then be resurrected only to burn in hell, (to be destroyed…)
“And what is Hell?”
“Fire from heaven that will burn up everything.”

Friend, we need to seriously ask ourselves, “Are we prepared to meet our God?” “Where do we personally stand with Jesus, really…?”

We can apply these questions to the church, or to our local church, or to our families. However, the primary question should be:

“Am I prepared to meet my God?” “What am I doing to prepare my self?”
“What am I doing to prepare my family?”
“What am I doing to help prepare my church?”
“What am I doing to help prepare my community for the coming of Jesus?”

Sometimes we feel like scolding our denomination for not doing enough, or for at least not doing enough, the right way, to our satisfaction.

Sometimes we feel like scolding our own local church for not doing enough, or for at least not doing enough, the right way, to our satisfaction.

But if we do a thorough self-examination, are we not doing more, the right way, to prepare our local church and our denomination? After all, we are the church.

Ponder the warning: “Not everyone (this is personal, not corporate…) that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven (This is talking about individual Christians who look to Jesus as Lord, not Moslems, those of the Jewish faith, Buddhists, Atheists.); but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you [in the Biblical sense, I never had an intimate relationship with you]: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21–23.)

God longs for His people to repent of their worldly ways, to come to know Him as a personal God and Saviour. We see this in Amos chapter 4 where God delineates the ways He has attempted to get His people’s attention. Notice vss 6-13 [paraphrased]:

“I have brought famine upon you… yet have ye not returned unto me.” “I have withheld the rain… yet have ye not returned unto me.”
“I have caused your crops to fail… yet have ye not returned unto me.”
“I have sent among you disease… yet have ye not returned unto me.”
“I have slain your young men in battle…yet have ye not returned unto me.”
“I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”

God is pleading with His people here to return unto Him, to prepare to meet Him as their God. All will someday meet Him in His glory. Some will perish; some will have life everlasting.

This message in Amos is a Present Truth message and appeal, and we can see it more clearly brought home to us as it is repeated for our benefit with more particulars in the letter to Laodicea, Revelation 3:14-22. Here God calls upon us His people who think we are rich spiritually, increased with goods and in need of nothing to realize that in reality we are spiritually wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. He then calls upon us, like Israel of old, to repent, to return unto Him.

And in Malachi the same thing: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. …Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1-3)

“Everything in our character that cannot enter the city of God will be reproved; if we submit to the Lord’s refining, all the dross and the tin will be consumed… If the knowledge of the truth produces no beauty in the soul, if it does not subdue, soften, and recreate the man after God’s own image, it is of not benefit to the receiver… The truth as it is in Jesus, planted in the heart by the Holy Spirit, always works from within outward; it will be revealed in our words and spirit and actions toward everyone with whom we are connected.” (Letter 20a, 1893)

“The Master sees wherein we need to be purified for His heavenly kingdom. He will not leave us in the furnace until we are wholly consumed. As a refiner and purifier of silver, He is beholding His children, watching the process of purification, until He shall discern His image reflected in us.” (SW 2/7/1905)

“Our trials are all necessary to bring us close to our heavenly Father, in obedience to His will…” (RH 6/22/1886)

Malachi goes on to say that everyone is going to meet their God someday, prepared or unprepared: “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (4:1,2,5,6)

“In this age, just prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, God calls for men who will prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. …Our message is not to be one of peace and safety. As a people who believe in Christ’s soon appearing, we have a definite message to bear, – “Prepare to meet thy God.”

Again we see God’s urgent plea to us in Jeremiah 3:13-22, “Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, …and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord.” [This chapter, friends, is a lesson for modern Israel. Let all who claim to be children of God understand that He will not serve with their sins any more than He would with the sins of ancient Israel. God hates hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong. (Letter 34, 1899)]

“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you.” [Here we see that He intends to have a very close and intimate relationship with each one of us. He wants to “know” us.]

“And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding… Thou shalt call me, [the endearing term] My father; and shalt not turn away from me.”

He continues the appeal, “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” And then comes the response that I pray may be yours and mine, “Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.”

Friends, let us earnestly prepare to meet our God. For surely Jesus is coming again soon.