We are coming round to Easter again! (April 9, 2023) the remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. God sacrificed for us, to save us. Not just from this wretched world, but from ourselves and our actions in it, on that Good Friday long ago. And then 3 days later: Easter, resurrection – death defeated. Halleluyah!
Look now: 3 years of pandemic, inflation with ‘not sure this is going right’ by raising interest rates, war (utter demonic) devastation in Ukraine; earth quakes (50,000 cries), water and wind catastrophizes, embezzlements, frauds, lies, unsafe media, racism, intimidation, food and housing insecurity, unwilling to tell the truth, lost in creature `identities, youth hopeless for the future, unable to find our Saving Grace. These are the times we all experience. For this reason I recently listen again to a sermon preached over 30 years ago by Rev Andrew Kuijvenhoven * @ Bethel Church in Waterdown, probably in 1991.
Here is the Biblical TEXT for the Sunday afternoon Sermon Gospel of Luke chapter 18 : (Jesus speaking): There was a judge living in a certain city. He showed no respect for God or humanity. 3 In that same city there was a widow. Again and again she kept coming to him seeking justice: “Clear my name from my adversary’s false accusations!” 4 He paid no attention to her request for a while, but then he said to himself, “I don’t care about what God thinks of me, much less what any mere human thinks. 5 But this widow is driving me crazy. She’s never going to quit coming to see me unless I hear her case and provide her legal protection.” 6 Did you catch what this self-assured judge said? 7 If he can be moved to act justly, won’t God bring justice for His chosen people when they cry to Him day and night? Will He be slow to bring them justice? 8 Mark My words: God will intervene fast with vindication. But here’s the question: when the Son of Man comes, will He find anyone who still has faith? (translation ‘The Voice’ from biblegateway.com)
My sisters and brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ: What is the most serious question?
Often I will be requested to write a few articles for the Banner **, that’s a long time ago of course and I used to go out speaking on church speaking engagements for the Banner and in many congregations then they tell me: “the biggest problem in the Christian Reformed Church was congregationalism, those congregations do exactly what they want and never mind the rest. But there is also feminism, ecumenism, liberalism, fundamentalism, materialism, scientism, all these isms they said were all bad. Of course Calvinism was fine!”
Then sometimes they would press me to say what I thought was the biggest problem. And I would say that the biggest problem is that the Lord Jesus hasn’t come back, and then they would say: “Oh yeah…. that….But what about all the today problems we face? Those are the biggest problem, it is not that the Lord Jesus hasn’t come back, for 2000 years ago they promised but it hasn’t happened yet.”
Now, you cannot go into the Bible very deeply without being struck by the fact that Jesus is coming. The last chapter of the Old Testament ends with: He is coming like a fiery oven unless you repent, and the last chapter of the New Testament He is coming! Come! All throughout the Bible there too is the cry: Come, Come, why do you tarry? why Lord, why?
We have this in Psalm 13*** and in the book of Revelation 6*** the cry of the martyrs under the altar whose blood is dripping from the altar. Come! how long before you will avenge our blood, yeah I think that if you take the Lord Jesus promises seriously, not for like, – well that’s in the book, I belong to church too – but if you take him seriously, then this is a great thing to be concerned about and prayed for. Yet today, it is not so much when is the Lord coming? but the question is actually will you be…..will you still be there when he comes when the son of man comes and will he find the faith on the earth. So the other side of the coin is when is he coming but can we persist in waiting………..because this parable will teach us also to persist in waiting, it says: Jesus makes the application, for he told this parable to show that they (listeners) should always pray and not give up. Now the parable is clear enough: there is a woman to whom has been done an injustice. We don’t know what that was, but you can imagine let’s say: that somebody, somebody took your house away or some fellow with a lot of money didn’t pay her because she was only a widow and a widow especially in those days had no clout, you can still get away doing a lot of stuff to people who have no clout, but (on the other-hand) you’ve got to be very careful with people, who can hire lawyers or so. But for those with no clout you can get away with things. So that is what the judge did to her. But this woman was the first to put on a demonstration parade that’s been recorded in the Bible. She was there every day! Yes, she said: ‘do me justice’ to that judge. Now the judge is described here as someone who didn’t fear God and he didn’t care about anyone. Now that’s callous, isn’t it, he was a careless, selfish, unconcerned, son of a – – – – – , – he didn’t fear God and didn’t care about people. But whenever he came out of his chambers, there was that woman again, ‘Do justice to me!’
Finally he said to himself: ‘If I don’t do something about this, she’ll drive me nuts’. So he relented and gave her justice. And now we read the Lord’s application of this parable. Jesus says: “If even an unjust judge will do a thing like this, how much more should you (and I) be persistent with the loving, the righteous judge in heaven?! Persistence, Jesus says, pays off! You know that persistence pays off, you just keep going at it! How is it again, ‘a persistent water drop hollows out the stone’. And so it is also in your prayers, it isn’t just once or twice, but keep praying! If an unjust judge will listen in the end, how much more this One, because for him someone is praying whose causes is his cause. “Saints their watch are keeping!” How long before you do justice to us. Yet though the unjust judge lets her wait and wait, Jesus says, you must know that the saints must never give up, their cry goes on: how long, how long! And you must keep knocking on the doors of heaven, until he does justice to us. Hear your servant Lord, for your namesake, pay attention to our pleadings, hear O Lord, hear! And when he opens that door and comes will he find faith in Waterdown, in Burlington?
Faith means here, the persistent pounding on heaven’s door. Faith here means that you’re still hungering and thirsting in and for righteousness, that’s persistence in waiting. So that’s the most serious question when he comes, will He find faith? We talk about Jesus coming, he came; and if it is true that he came, you should be overjoyed that he is coming again. Now when He comes will you have faith? will you still be waiting for him by the time he opens the door? will the pure still be pure and the meek still waiting to inherit the earth or will the weak meek have said: well enough is enough; I waited long enough, now lets grab, while the grabbing is good. Or will you continue to pray and continue to wait as Psalm 43 is one of these: ‘vindicate me O God! – plead my cause against an ungodly nation, rescue me from deceitful and wicked people!’ Will there still be people waiting and saying day and night: judge us, do it now. Reveal your righteousness.
When he comes will he find the faith? Now there is that problem of course of his not coming, or his delay in coming and that should puzzle you too, once in awhile. In the catechism class over this questions about the coming and not coming of the Lord Jesus, we must and they must learn, I must learn, you all must learn, to persist in prayer that the Lord will do now what He has promised. The Bible hardly ever addresses the question why it takes so long. The only place that I know where he addresses that is in second letter of Peter’s chapter three, that’s one of the last books in the Bible, I quote: “Dear friends this is now a second letter. You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come scoffing and following their own evil desires they will say: where is this coming he promised. Ever since our fathers died everything goes on as it has been from the beginning of creation…………but do not forget this one thing dear friends, with the Lord a day is like 1000 years in 1000 years like a day, the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance”. So that’s one of the reasons why he postpones, there must be greater repentance, more must be saved. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. Well, 1000 years may be a day for the Lord but for us as we are, a 1000 years, 20 years, 30 years is a long time and you must not give up, and not give in, and not fall over, but you must keep saying, do justice, O God, bring it about. The question then this evening is, the question is not, when will He come, but can you keep waiting. I too, every time, I go to the other questions, I go, – when will He come, but the question the Lord now puts before us is: ‘Can you keep waiting! can you keep knocking on the door! pleading on the promises and calling on heaven to burn away the thistles from the earth. The question is not, if God will hear, but the question is whether you can keep asking. It is not, that the judge will listen but, will the woman (you) keep knocking, that’s the question.
Now, you see you and I can get used to sin, for you see it everyday and you get used to living in a sinful world. For there are lots of things in this world that are basically unacceptable to a Christian but then slowly you accept them because everybody does it. These things happen all the time and that’s how the ‘cookie crumbles’. And then somehow you must keep your bearing and so must I. For the pre-occupation of this world, as the Bible calls it, and the interests of the followers of Jesus Christ are totally opposite (different). You can lose your perspective in your sense of Christian justice demands for righteousness. The world is unspeakably superficial. Last week, we were in Florida and what did the ‘Miami Herald’ have on its front page. Mr. Kennedy-Smith**** and his alleged rape and what did the ‘Toronto Star’ have on its front page when we came home, Mr. Kennedy-Smith and his alleged rape. That shameful behaviour, whatever, was lifted up. Justice is not done with dignity because justice should be administered in the name of the judge but it has becomes food (tit-bits of gossip) for everybody. That should irritate us, it’s unfair in this world, where the rich get richer and the poor cannot make it, although the trouble is not easy to resolve. It is not something that we should take for granted, you must say: God come and straighten it out! There is no reason why everybody should lose money but the banks make record (years) profits. Sin therefore also, you must not take sin for granted. You must not say: ‘I am a sinner, always been a sinner’, good thing Jesus died for my sins; that’s no attitude, that’s not a Christian attitude. I must say: sins been paid for on the cross and has been overcome by the resurrection and that I don’t want that ugly thing in my life anymore. I don’t want it! I want to get a new Monday tomorrow morning, I don’t want one ugly sin to spoil it again. God come!
Don’t accept the world as it is and don’t simply accept yourself as you are that you cannot change because you can, God says that. All around us there are sordid things going on; pornographic peddlers poisoning the tender beauty of awakening sexuality and making unstable individuals totally unfit to live. And that goes on and on and on because it makes money and you and I must get angry sometimes, you may not always have it out with them immediately, but you must knock on the gate of heaven and say: Lord come now, do it now! Terry Anderson****** said: that during seven years in chains, in Lebanon the Bible was a book of comfort and strength and he also said he could forgive his enemies because he’s a Christian. Why isn’t that ever front page news for our newspapers, why does every kookie religious group, like one in Toronto get all the attention and acknowledgement. But why only look at them: Why can’t brothers and sisters in one house live together in harmony?
So, Lord come forgive us and restore us. Don’t let us get used to it, don’t just simply say: well that’s the way it is. The widow in the parable, she does not take it, for she says: ‘do me justice’ and so we must have the same perseverance, you must keep at it. There’s plenty of food to go around in the world, yet thousands are starving, why should that be? That should not be so. Why do people every day get away with this; the denial of God, he is Lord! but they paid no attention to him at all, they just go their own sweet way and that goes on, and on, and on, and you get used to it, you get so used to it, you take it for granted and you shouldn’t. You should pound the door of heaven and say: Reveal yourself! Why must we, in the church or for a good cause always beg for money, can’t people simply give 10% and if all of us did it, we would have more than enough. Why does cancer still kill? it doesn’t belong in you. Why is death still around? even death you should not take for granted, Jesus is the victor, the resurrection has begun. Now you want God to bring it all to give it all to us, don’t you Lord? That is what we should be praying for. Is it not terrible how people grow old together, as some people do, and then are separated from each other long before death by Alzheimer’s disease? My good professor Herman N. Ridderbos (Professor @ Theological School of Kampen, Netherlands) wrote to me a letter about that. Seven to eight years he took care of his wife and for the last years she didn’t know him at all. He was sweet to her, I know, it is a sweet burden and God can make it good for us, nevertheless, but it is hard and it shouldn’t be! We have been promised a new heaven, we have been promised a new earth and we have been promised perfection. So you must pray, the church must pray, this Christmas (Easter) season. When we look back and we look forward what do you really want, what are you praying about and what are you doing about it, yes, you must work hard, we must work hard, there must be no apathy among us. Any organization that brings about something of the just world should be supported by Christians, no apathy and yet the answer to our deepest problem is not that we finally get a majority (elected) vote and then we can straighten things out. Oh, how I wish we could get that far, but you must persist in prayer!
The question is not if God will hear, but will we keep asking. When the Son of man comes will he find you pounding heaven’s door; will he find you persisting in your prayers; that’s the question. The good judge will listen, if even an unjust judge listens in the end, the good judge will surely listen and he will intervene and ‘all flesh shall see the token, that his word is never broken’.******* So he says, he said to you and he said to me: “I’m coming soon!” and we say: Yes, come Lord Jesus! ……..and to that the church answers: AMEN (congregation response)
* Andrew Kuijvenhoven was a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. He died December 1, 2015. He was 88 years old.
** Banner is a church magazine of the Christian Reformed church
*** from Biblegateway.com translation ‘The Voice’ – book of Psalms 13: How long, O Eternal One? How long will You forget me? Forever? How long will You look the other way? 2 How long must I agonize, grieving Your absence in my heart every day?
How long will You let my enemies win? and from book of Revelation chapter 6: Murdered Victims cry: How much longer, O Lord, the holy One, the true One, until You pronounce judgment on the inhabitants of the earth? Until You avenge our blood?
**** Mr. William Kennedy-Smith was acquitted of rape in the courts (1991) He was a nephew of President JFK.
***** At the Toronto Airport Vineyard church miraculous events occurred during the services. There were physical healings, people reported a new sense of God’s love, freedom from fears, anger, and life issues. Claims of God putting gold fillings into people’s teeth and uncontrollable laughter. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_Blessing
****** Terry Anderson, a reporter in Beirut for the Associated Press, was taken captive in 1985 by Shia Hezbollah militants and held for 6 years, till 1991.
******* Last line of the hymn: Comfort, Comfort Ye my people, says the LORD.