The past several months have been a time of growing anxiety for many. Some expected Y2K to cause mega problems. Others predicted the end of civilization as we have experienced it. Others expected the world to end with the return of Jesus Christ.

Paul said that the day of the Lord would come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2). For a thief to be successful, he must be unpredictable. He comes when no one expects him. He gives no advanced warning.

That is my understanding of the Lord's return. I do not doubt that Jesus Christ will return. I do not doubt that this world will come to an end. I do not doubt God's judgment will occur. I, personally, am not concerned about "when" or "how" all this happens. The "when" and "how" require an enormous amount of human speculation. Just as a successful thief comes by total surprise, my understanding of Paul's statement is that the Lord's return will be a total surprise. My only concern is that I belong to God by allowing God to place me in Christ. Then the "when" and "how" are unimportant--whenever that moment arrives.

Play a game with me. Let's play as if Jesus is making an inspection tour of his congregations on earth. This tour has nothing to do with the end of time. He just wants a personal, direct report from his congregation on how things are going. It is like our "on site inspections."

We are informed that he will visit West-Ark the first week in February for three days. We are to be prepared to provide him an insightful report on this congregation.

The congregation appoints a committee to meet with Jesus. This committee will do two things: (1) welcome Jesus, and (2) inform Jesus about West-Ark.

I understand that this is a ridiculous game. I certainly realize that Jesus knows everything about this congregation and everyone in the congregation. But I have a reason for playing the game, so humor me.

  1. Suppose that you are on the committee.
    1. You are in the meeting that will decide what to do when Jesus visits.
      1. Each committee member states what he or she thinks we should do to give Jesus a good picture of West Ark.
        1. It is your turn to state what you feel we should do.
        2. What would you recommend?
      2. Would you suggest that we give Jesus a tour of the facilities and explain what has happened in the last eighteen months?
      3. "Jesus, this is the foyer. Let us explain what it used to look like."
        1. "Just look at how much warmer and attractive it is now!"
        2. "Now it creates a more positive impression when a person comes in."
      4. "Jesus, this is what our seating arrangement used to be. Can you see what an improvement it is now?"
        1. "This arrangement has a positive effect on our fellowship and worship."
        2. "It looked like a great big cave with isolated groups all over this room."
        3. "The atmosphere is much better, and the fellowship has really improved!"
      5. "And, Lord, we used to have a terrible problem with water with a heavy rain."
        1. "Why, I remember a heavy rain about two years ago when you could actually see the water flowing on top of the carpet on the east side."
        2. "And you could have floated a canoe in the office area."
        3. "Now the leaks have been stopped."
      6. "And you simply must see our new Family Life Center and our new elevator."
        1. "Our entire facility is so convenient now."
        2. "The Family Life Center just brought our whole complex together."
    2. Some wonderful things have happened with our facilities in the last eighteen months.
      1. I am profoundly grateful for the many things that have happened.
      2. Some truly beautiful things have happened. But the most beautiful things have little to do with the paint, the carpet, the arrangements, and the space.
      3. To me, the most beautiful things that happened have to do with people.
        1. I watched as a new sense of identity came to life in the congregation.
        2. There is a sense of togetherness that thrills me every time I see it.
        3. So many people involved themselves and shared their talents and time.
        4. So many have been and are so willing to help in any way that they can.
      4. And I want every person who has helped to know that I take none of you for granted, and I deeply appreciate everything that you do.

      C.But, if I were on that committee, my interest would not be in showing Jesus our facilities.

      1. I think it is safe to guarantee you that Jesus' interests would not be in touring our facilities.
        1. Though he was a carpenter, we do not know one object that he built.
        2. He lived in a time of massive, impressive building projects in Israel--while he lived, things like Herod's palace area at Massada, Herod's palace at the Herodian, and the Jewish temple were either under construction or recently completed.
        3. In Luke 21 some people discussed the beauty of the Jewish temple under construction.
          1. Surviving information declares that it was a magnificent building project that produced an incredible building complex.
          2. It was about half complete when Jesus was executed.
          3. As beautiful and impressive as it was, Jesus said, "The day will come when one stone will not be left on another" [Luke 21:6].
          4. To the disciples, that must have sounded impossible.
      2. Jesus did not build buildings; Jesus built lives.
        1. Jesus was in the reconstruction business.
        2. He specialized in rebuilding lives.
      3. When I think of the lives that Jesus rebuilt, these are some of the people that come to my mind.
        1. Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast seven demons [Mark 16:9].
          1. She was one of Jesus' closest friends.
          2. She was the first person Jesus appeared to after his resurrection [John 20:11-18].
        2. The sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50 who probably was a prostitute.
          1. She came uninvited into a home to wash Jesus' feet with her tears.
          2. Jesus forgave her sins.
        3. The man who was possessed by a legion of demons in Luke 8:26-39.
          1. He was totally out of control, dangerous to himself and to others.
          2. Jesus freed him from his demon possession and told him to stay there and tell his family what God had done for him.
        4. Zaccheus, the chief tax collector in Jericho [Luke 19:1-10].
          1. He collected taxes for a profit for the Roman government.
          2. Jesus brought salvation to his house.
        5. The thief on the cross who was crucified beside Jesus [Luke 23:39-43].
          1. As a criminal dying for his crimes, he recognized and confessed Jesus to be who he was.
          2. Jesus told him that he would be in paradise with Jesus that day.
        6. Nicodemus, the well educated, prestigious member of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin [John 3].
          1. He was the religious expert who did not understand the new birth.
          2. He was still Jesus' devoted friend when Jesus was executed.
        7. The Samaritan woman, who had been married and divorced five times and was living with a man to whom she was not married [John 4].
          1. Jesus offered her the water of life.
          2. She led the village of Sychar to believe that Jesus was the Christ.
        8. The man who was born blind in John 9.
          1. Jesus restored his sight.
          2. He also revealed himself as the Messiah to this man.

        9. Peter, the committed, confident, self-assured disciple [Matthew 23:69-75].
          1. He was certain that his loyalty and devotion to Jesus would make the ultimate sacrifice of death if necessary.
          2. On the most tragic night of Jesus' life, Peter denied him three times.
          3. After his resurrection, Jesus asked Peter to feed his sheep [John 21:15-17]. Jesus used Peter to present him as Lord and Christ [Acts 2:14-36].
        10. Paul, the scholarly fanatic who arrested and voted for the death of Christians [Acts 8:1-4 and 9:1-25].
          1. The resurrected Jesus converted Paul in a most unusual confrontation.
          2. He also commissioned Paul to a special work as a preacher and teacher.
          3. God used Paul's letters to comprise most of the New Testament.
        11. John Mark, the young man who began mission work with Paul and Barnabas, but quit [Acts 12:25; 13:13; 15:37,38; 2 Timothy 4:11].
          1. Disagreement about this quitter broke up the greatest mission team that ever existed.
          2. One of the last persons Paul wanted to see before his death was John Mark because "he is useful to me."
        12. Onesimus, the slave who ran away from his Christian owner [Philemon].

  2. If Jesus made "an on-site" inspection of this congregation, these are the things I would want to share with him.
    1. I would want him to see:
      1. What is happening in our benevolent programs.
      2. Different facets of what CURE does (Compassionate Utilization of Resources).
      3. Our use of the Discovery Dinner.
      4. The His Needs/Her Needs seminar and the Healthy Parent/Healthy Kids seminar.
      5. The inner city ministry and the jail ministry.
      6. The counseling work we do.
      7. The youth programs.
      8. Kids for Christ.
      9. The various mission works we are involved in.
      10. Those helped by the Quilters.
      11. The Care Groups.
      12. Our hopes for the small groups.
      13. The people we reach out to in our different forms of visitation and outreach.
      14. The various works we do with those in the 60+ group.
    2. I would want the one who rebuilds lives to see what this congregation is doing to help and encourage people.
      1. That is what he would want to see.
      2. That is what Jesus is all about; that is what Jesus' people are about.

  3. I thank God for our facilities.
    1. I wish that conditions in our culture did not make facilities necessary.
      1. But the reality is that situations and conditions do make them necessary.
      2. Their importance is not seen in their existence.
      3. Their importance is seen in their use.
    2. Our facilities are nothing more than tools for us to use to bless people.
      1. May God give us the wisdom to use them to give glory to God and Christ.
      2. May we have the faith to use them to bless and help people.
    3. If Jesus made an "on site" inspection of this congregation:
      1. I would not want to show him our tools.
      2. I would want him to see how people are being blessed because we use our tools to help people and to bring glory to God.

[Prayer: God, help us place our faith in you. We are so grateful for our tools. May members of this congregation be brought closer to you and to each other because we have them. May we use them to bring this community closer to you and your people.]

If Jesus asked you to report on your life, would you tell him about what you own or about the way you use your life? Would you talk about your possessions or your heart?

Jesus examines your life everyday. What does he see?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 2 January 2000

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