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When is it Right to Fight, Part One

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DISCIPLESHIP

When is it Right To Fight? Part Two

By Pastor Rick Warren
Saddleback Church

CBN.com - 3. WILL THE WORLD EVER HAVE PERMANENT PEACE?

Yes, someday, but it's not going to happen until Jesus Christ comes back. The Bible says that one day Jesus Christ is going to come back to earth a second time. In fact, the Bible talks more about Jesus' second coming than it does about His first. There are far more verses in the Bible about Jesus' second coming than there are about His first coming at Bethlehem. In John 14, Jesus said it like this, "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house 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 you may be also." Jesus said, "I'm going back to heaven and if I go, I'm going to prepare a place and I'm coming back."

Did He go? Yes he did. Is He coming back? Absolutely. As surely as He said He was going, He's coming back. The Bible says that when He comes back, He will set up a reign of peace on the earth. Isaiah and many other scriptures describe it. This is what it's going to be like: "He (Jesus) will settle disputes among nations. They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again to go to war, never prepare for battle again." That sounds pretty good to me. This verse is over the United Nations. "They'll hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives." But they forgot the most important part -- "He will settle the disputes." He -- Jesus! Not the United Nations. We'll never have ultimate peace until the Prince of Peace establishes His reign on the earth. So there is going to be a day of permanent peace someday when Jesus comes back.

The question I've probably been asked more than any other one ...

4. IS THIS THE FINAL WAR?

Is this the war that's leading up to the Second Coming of Christ? We don't know. It could be. But we don't know. The Bible makes it very clear that history is moving toward a climax. One day it will be climaxed by a great battle which will involve Israel called the Battle of Armegeddon. It will be fought in the Valley of Megiddo.

About four or five years ago, Tom and I went to Israel and stood on the mountain that overlooked that great valley of Megiddo. The Bible says there will be a great war there. Anytime an outbreak occurs in the Middle East, people start asking, "Is this it? Is this the end war?" And the answer is, "We don't know."

You need to understand that the Arab-Israeli conflict goes back thousands and thousands of years. It's all Abraham's fault. It is. God told Abraham that he was going to have a son one day that would be a great nation, the nation of Israel. He was going to have the son by Sarah. At 80 years old, Sarah still hadn't had a kid. At 89 she still hadn't had a kid. So Abraham said, "Maybe I'd better take matters into my own hands." He had a child through Sarah's handmaiden. Her baby was Ishmael. God said, "He's not the one I wanted, but I'm going to bless him anyway. He will be a great nation, too." Ishmael is the father of the Arabs. Then later Isaac was born who's the father of the Jewish nation. So Ishmael and Isaac were half-brothers. What we've got going on over there is a family feud.

The Bible says that one day there will be a climatic battle, but we don't know if this is it or not. I'm no expert on the Second Coming, but I do know somebody who is so I thought I'd invite Him here today. His name is Jesus. He knows a little bit more than anybody else. Let's look at what He has to say about the end of times.

Luke 21:8-9 "Don't be fooled. Many will come in My name saying, `I am He!' and `The time has come!' But don't follow them. Don't be afraid when you hear of wars and revolutions; such things must happen but they don't mean the end is near. Countries will fight each other and kingdoms will attack one another."

First He says, "Don't be fooled..." Circle that. Don't believe everything you hear or read. I used to have a collection of books that proclaimed This was the last war. In the twentieth century, every single war practically that's been fought somebody's written a book on it and said, "This is the end!" There were people who said World War I was the end war. Kaiser was the antichrist. Then they said World War II was the end war and Hitler was the antichrist. On and on.

I want to say this: There have been dozens and dozens of books that have set dates and time. Every one of them have been wrong. One hundred percent wrong.

Notice it says "...such things must happen..." Underline that. In the last 3,421 years there have only been 268 years that have seen no war. During the last 5,560 years -- recorded history -- there have been 14,531 wars averaging a little over 2.6 wars each year. In the history of 185 generations, only ten of those generations have experienced unbroken peace. So when Jesus said "There's going to be wars and rumors of wars" He knew what He was talking about. We live in a fallen world.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 "No one knows that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Look who Jesus said knows about the Second Coming. Any time you read a book on the Second Coming that says "This is when it's going to happen. This is the day," I can guarantee you one thing. They're wrong. Anytime someone picks a date and says, This is it, you can know it won't be on that date. That's one you can mark off. I can have a picnic that day. Why? No one knows! Jesus said, "I don't even know." Jesus said, "The angels don't know, I don't even know the time of the Second Coming. Only the Father."

People ask me why I don't preach more on prophecy. I say, "Why? Nobody knows" I could get up here and make some good guesses but they'd all be speculation. Jesus said, "Nobody knows when it's going to happen."

Not only did He say nobody knows, He said it's none of your business. Acts 1:7-8 "It's not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you are to be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the world." He says it's not for you to know. It's none of your business.

Three times in Matthew 25 He says, "Be ready!" He could come at any time but nobody knows the time. Acts 1:7-8 are the last words of Jesus before we went back to heaven. You figure the last words are probably the most important thing He wants to talk about. What do the disciples come and ask Him about. They ask Him about the Second Coming. When are You coming back? In Acts 1:6 they say, "Lord, when are You going to restore Your kingdom to Israel? When are you coming back?" Jesus turns around and says, "It's none of your business. Now go out and start sharing the faith."

Isn't it interesting how they asked a question about prophecy and He turns the question to evangelism? They want to talk about when He's coming back. He wants to talk about winning the world. That's the priority of Jesus' heart. That's why He talked more about winning the world because that's what Jesus is interested in. He wants everybody to know Him. In fact, in Matthew 24:14 it says "And the good news shall be preached to all the world to every nation for a witness and then the end shall come." One of the signs Jesus gave was the Good News is going to be shared with all nations. All peoples. Every people, every tribe will have a chance to hear the gospel before He comes back.

Why hasn't Christ come back yet? Because He's waiting until everybody He wants to have heard the gospel has heard it. Once everybody He wants to have heard it has heard it, He's coming back. So if you want the Lord to come back soon, it's simple. Get out and start sharing your faith. Every time you tell somebody about Christ you're shortening the time. Every time you share the gospel with somebody it means it's getting shorter. He says, "It's not for you to know. Nobody knows. You just concentrate not on when am I coming back, but you concentrate on sharing the good news with people who are here so I can come back."

How should we respond during war? What's the Christian response? Four things:

1. Pray. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 "First of all pray for kings and all others who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceful life." The first things you're to pray for are our leaders. They make the decisions. Pray for the president, pray for the generals, pray for the congress, pray for leaders. Notice the benefit of praying for your leaders: You'll end up living quiet and peaceful lives. We're to pray for leaders.

We ought to pray for our soldiers, the men and women who are over there. The Bible says we also ought to pray for our enemies. Matthew 5:44. We need to pray for our enemies. "Pray for those who hurt you and despitefully use you and persecute you." We ought to pray that they will have a change of heart.

2. Trust God. Trust God in all situations. The Bible says "The Lord is my light and salvation. Whom shall I fear? Though an army besiege me and war break out against me, even then I will be confident." While we pray for our soldiers, we also accept the fact in reality when war happens, there are casualties. There will be people who lose their lives. So we're to pray and trust God realizing that God can be counted on, that God is in control, that God knows what He's doing, and that God will carry you through whatever situation you face.

We have many families in our church whose husbands, fathers, brothers, sons are in the Gulf right now. Many were here at the base and are now in the Gulf. I want to say to those of you who have relatives there, God is with you. He will help you face whatever the future brings. So we pray and we trust God.

3. Seek peace. What does it mean to seek peace? "Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it." Seek peace means do whatever you can to bring about peace. I think that's what it means. I think it not only means peace between nations but I think it means peace everywhere else. You need to seek peace in your family. You need to seek peace with your husband/your wife. You need to seek peace with your children. You need to seek peace with people you are estranged from at work. That's the mark of a Christian. "Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the sons of God."

Whether you feel that the world has waited long enough or not before they started into war I think we'd all agree that during the last five months, there have been a lot of attempts to make peace and they saw war only as the last resort. Over thirty different national delegations went to Iraq and said, "This is wrong. Get out." We sent our Secretary of State, Gorbachev called, the U.N. Secretary General went, one delegation after another, seeking peace. It was the right thing to do. Not just jump into war but seek peace.

William Temple: "We Christians in war are called to the hardest task of all -- to fight without hatred, to resist without bitterness and in the end if God so grants it, triumph without vindictiveness." We seek peace.

4. We need to support each other. The Bible says "Carry each other's burdens and fulfill the law of Christ." In a crisis time like this, I think this is when the church really shows itself as a family. We are to be a family, an extended family, where we are an extended network of support for those lives that are influenced and affected by this war. We need to support the soldiers. One of the things that was mentioned earlier -- if you've got old tapes, Saddleback tapes, bring them to the office. We're going to send them over there. Right now my tapes are being played each week on one of the carriers in the Gulf. We're going to be sending more. Anybody who wants a copy of this tape, we'll send it to them in the Gulf. We need to support our soldiers.

We need to support the families of our soldiers and have a prayer chain and be an encouragement to them. If you're not in a small group, I encourage you -- get in a small group. You need one especially in a time of international crisis like this. I ask all of our groups this week to pray specifically for peace in the Gulf and that God's will be done.

Our eyes are focused on a war in the liberation of Kuwait right now. But there's another war going on. It's been raging a long time. There is another rescue operation going on. In fact, it's far more important than the one that's going on in the Gulf.

The Bible says that there is a war going on for the souls of men between God and Satan. The most used analogy for a Christian in the New Testament is a soldier -- fight the good fight, put on the whole armor of God, fight, strive, conquer, overcome, victory. Those are war terms that the Bible uses to represent the Christian life. The devil is trying to pull people away from God. It is our job as agents of God to go out and reach them with His love.

If you've never opened your life to Christ the Bible says you're in a war with God. What you need to do is make peace with God. If you don't have peace with God, you're not going to have peace with other people. The Bible says that Jesus came to earth -- Hebrew 2:14-15 "Jesus came so that through His death He might destroy the devil who has the power of death and so set free those who were slaves all their lives because of fear of death." He wants to set you free from the fear of death. He wants to give you real freedom.

Galatians 1:4 "Jesus died for our sins just as God our Father planned and rescued us." That's what salvation is all about. Jesus said, "If the Son sets you free then you're really free." Free to a new purpose in life, a new meaning in life. Free to significance, free to break bad habits and begin new ones. God wants to rescue you. You need to take sides -- today, if you haven't. Say, "I'm on God's side and I want to go with Him."

Prayer:

If you've never said "Yes" to Jesus Christ, the Bible says that you're in a war with God. You need to make your peace with Him today. You need to ask Christ to come into your life and forgive you and make you a new person. Would you say in your heart, if you haven't, "Jesus Christ, I want peace with You. I don't want to be at war with God. I want to go Your way. Come in and save me and be my Savior. Rescue me from wasting my life." Many of you have already made that decision. You're Christians. You'd say, "God, I need to be a soldier for You. I realize that there are people all around me that are dying who've never heard the Good News. Help me to share it with them, to not hoard it but to share it with others."

Lord, we do pray for peace in the Gulf. We pray that the war may be over quickly. We pray for strength and wisdom for our leaders. Help them to lead with compassion, integrity, sincerity, and wisdom. We pray for our enemies, that they may change their mind and that peace may come quickly. We pray for the families in our church and all over who are being affected by those who are in the war right now. We ask Your protection and grace and blessing on them. Help us as a church family to reach out to this community and to the base and to all who need encouragement and support during this time. In Jesus' name. Amen.

When is it Right to Fight, Part One


Rick WarrenArticle by Rick Warren, Saddleback Church. Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA., a congregation that now averages 16,000 in attendance each weekend. Rick is also author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church, and founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for those in ministry. From Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox, a free weekly e-newsletter for those in ministry. Copyright (c) 2003 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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