top of page

In the middle of the 1800s, the middle and early part of the 1800s, there was a Russian
author that I don't think we hear very much about. Krylov was his name. And he wrote stories
and he wrote books. And he wrote one story about a man, we don't know who this was, probably
a creation of the authors, a man who visited a museum. He spent some time in the
looking around the museum and all its items on display. And when he left the museum, he gave
to his friends some sort of account of what he had seen in there. And they said to him,
but you said you saw this and you said you saw that and this little piece of pottery and that
coin. But didn't you see the elephant in the middle of the room? And that's where it comes
from. That's where it comes from. The elephant in the room. The thing that's most obvious about the
thing that is ignored. The elephant in the room. And I don't know really what we would say at the
present time might be the elephant in the room. But I think some would say it's the very state
of the world in which we live. And we've heard enough about that this past week. Devastation
caused by fire and intense heat in the southern part of Europe, Italy and Portugal and Greece
and Spain. And then we've heard of floods, tremendous damage caused by floods in China
and Korea and India and Pakistan. And we've heard of forest fires raging, extreme forest fires,
evacuation of whole islands taking place at the very moment that I'm speaking. Can't remember
the name of the island, but you will. That's right. Yeah, that's right. And forest fires in
Canada and the United States. Intense heat. So in a sense it's the elephant in the room. Not because
we don't know about it, but we seem to take no notice of it. Or very little. We hear politicians
talk about it. But really very little, very little seems to change. But I don't think that's the
elephant in the room. I think the elephant in the room is what the Word of God points out to be the
elephant in the room. And that's repentance. We might be very mindful of the state of the world.
We might be very mindful of the climate chaos. But the one thing that we hear nothing about is
repentance. Which is the very thing that the Word of God fastens on when it speaks to us as it does
directly of the situation that we're facing. Of the state of the world that we see and know. It's
not unknown to us. It's not a surprise to us. It's there stated with great clarity in God's Word.
Particularly of course in the book of Revelation. Now I know it's very possible to be very cranky
about the book of Revelation. I don't aim to be that at all. I just listen to what it says. And
what it says very directly is the state of the world. The situation that will confront us. And
is at the present time confronting us. And I would like just to point out to you what it says very
briefly. It speaks of pollution. And it speaks of worldliness. And the attitudes of men because
of their worldliness. It speaks of the inability for those who resist that worldliness to buy or
sell. That's been quite contemporary this week isn't it? We can see a seed there with the way
banks operate. And that's in this country. If we were living in China it would be even more
obvious to us. Prohibited from buying and selling. We read there of seas and rivers and water that
become polluted and cause great damage and death. We read of extreme heat that causes death. We
read of disease that causes death. And these things have never in the history of the world
combined together in the way that they do at the present time. We are facing challenges that the
world has never before known. Let me remind you of some of the things we read. I've put together
from the book of Revelation, rather than reading one particular chapter, I've put together some
short passages which just emphasize what I've been saying. We read this. A third of the rivers
and streams of water and a third part of the seas became polluted. A third of people died
because of the waters which had become poisonous. A third of all the people were killed by fire,
smoke and burning. Those who did not die refused to repent of their evil deeds. They continued to
worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood. Idols that neither see,
nor hear, nor walk. They did not repent of their murders, their witchcraft, their immorality or
thefts. No one who stood against evil was allowed to buy or sell. The sea became deadly poisonous
and everything in it died. The rivers and springs became deadly poisonous. The sun was made to
scorch everyone with its fire. Everyone was burned by its intense heat and they cursed the name of
God who sent all these plagues, but they did not repent or give him glory. The kingdom of evil was
plunged into darkness and its people gnashed their teeth in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for
their pains and sores, but they refused to repent of all their evil deeds. That's a key and central
theme of the book of Revelation. And the situation that we're in is not that nothing is being done,
but what's being done will come to nothing and it will come to nothing because the most vital thing
which these passages point to is ignored and that is repent. That, if you like, is the elephant
in the room. That's the one thing that is most obvious. Do any of you have their hearts and minds
opened and it's the one thing that is ignored? Which means to say, of course, that God is ignored
and his part in all this is ignored. His will is ignored. His word is ignored.
His ways are ignored and his wrath is ignored. Nothing of what is happening is related to him
at all by those who speak out on these subjects and the command clear in God's word
repeated time and again in those passages is the command to repent. Repent and believe the gospel.
The very first words in the ministry of Jesus as recorded in Mark's gospel. Repent and believe the
gospel. It's one and the same thing. To repent is to believe the gospel. To believe the gospel is
to repent and that's the great stress and emphasis that is made. And what does that mean? Well, it
means a number of things. It means to see things as God sees them, not just as men see them because
they're mistaken. To see things as God sees them and as he tells us of them. To put him at the centre,
not men's ingenuity and ideas and imaginations, but to put God at the centre. To look to him to
guide. This is all that's involved in this powerful word, repent and believe the gospel. To turn from
self to God. From darkness to light. From death to life. That's the pattern. That's the great emphasis
and that's the one thing that is ignored. And the warnings are stark. I want to remind you
some words of Jesus from the beginning of the 13th chapter of Luke's gospel. There was a disaster
and they say to Jesus, what about those who died as a result of that disaster? Were they worse than
us? That they died and we haven't? About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered
some people from Galilee as they were sacrificing in the temple in Jerusalem.
Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than other people from Galilee? He was asked.
Is that why they suffered? And his answer is no, not at all.
And this. And you will also perish unless you repent and turn to God.
And he said, what about the 80 men who died in the tower of Siloam when it fell on them? Were they
worse sinners than others in Jerusalem? No. And I tell you again, unless you repent,
you will perish. That's the stark warning. Either or. Couldn't be clearer. Either you repent
or you perish. And what about John 3.16? Possibly the most well-known verse in the New Testament.
For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish but have eternal life. The contrast is stark. It's either eternal life
through believing or perish. And that's the same pattern that we see there in Revelation.
But what Revelation warns in those passages is this, that the world will not repent. Regardless
of the tragedies and catastrophes that take place, they will not. Repeated four times,
they did not repent. They did not repent. They won't believe the Gospel. The world won't
see life as God sees it. It will go on in its own blinkered way. The world will not put God at the
centre. The world will not look to him to guide. And it makes for a fatal choice, doesn't it?
The world invariably makes this fatal choice. It chooses money. It chooses wealth.
It chooses riches. It chooses pleasure. And it forgets the word of Jesus who says you cannot
serve God and wealth. You must make a choice. And the world is continually making the wrong choice.
It forgets and doesn't want to know that the blood of money is the root of all evil.
And the catastrophes that we're facing on every side are a consequence of that.
The remedy is repent and believe the Gospel. Adopt God's agenda. Listen to his word. Take
God's remedy. Put first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. And ignore those who say, well,
that won't work. His wisdom is that we care for the stranger, the poor, the homeless,
the widow and the orphan. That's not an economic theory. That's God's command of justice and mercy
and compassion. Malachi, I will put you on trial and witness against the sorcerers and adulterers
and liars. I will speak against those who cheat their workers of wages, who oppress widows and
orphans, who deprive foreigners living among you of justice. They do this because they don't fear
me, says the Lord. There's the problem. And the solution is to repent, believe the Gospel.
Put God at the centre. Adopt his agenda. Listen to his word, his ways. Judge fairly and honestly,
says Zechariah. Show mercy and kindness. Don't oppress widows and orphans, foreigners and the
poor. Don't plant evil and harm. That's what it is to repent. Do you remember Zacchaeus?
He repented. He believed the Gospel. And what does he say immediately? Lord,
half my goods I will give to the poor. What I've robbed I will give back four times as much.
You see, what changed was his attitude to money, to wealth, to riches, to pleasure.
That's a sign of repentance and that's the downfall because men love money rather than God.
The call to repent. The call to repent isn't a plot to shame us. It's an invitation
to return to the Father who knows, who knows us, who knows this world that he has created,
who knows the way that it can go and knows the way that it will go. An invitation to return to
the Father to share his joy and his peace and his safety, repent his rescue and recovery and welcome.
The situation we're in will not be solved
however ingenious men think they are, however careful their planning may be. Because the world
is not fighting climate change. The world is fighting God and his claims and it cannot win.
Read the first chapter of Romans to see the analysis of God for the situation that we are in.
The stark realities. Repent, believe the gospel or perish.
So one more thing before we finish.
What for those and what of those who do repent and who do believe the gospel? Well the first
thing I would say is first of all be realistic. We are told that we will be a minority.
That doesn't run counter to the fact as we've already said this morning
that the church of God, the redeemed of the Lord, are a host that no man can count,
innumerable. But it does reflect the teaching of Jesus that we are a little flock and his words
they do not repent. The world does not repent, does not repent. They curse God, they will not
repent. It also reflects the warning of Jesus when he says when the son of man returns
will he find faith on the earth? That's a challenge to us that we are amongst those
where he will find that faith. But his very question puts the perspective as we need to
see it and be realistic about it. So we're in a minority but also let's be realistic about this.
If the stark choice as it is, if the stark contrast is as it is that unless you repent you will
perish then it's equally this that if you repent you won't perish. If you believe the gospel you
won't perish. But they did perish didn't they? Peter, Paul, Peter was crucified upside down,
Paul was beheaded, Stephen was stoned to death and are we told that in heaven there is a great
army of martyrs who were put to death for their faith and loyalty to Christ.
There are Christians who are perishing in these disasters.
Christians homes are swept away in floods. Christians lose their life in floods. Christians
lose their life in this heat. The fires of these wild forest fires will destroy the homes of
Christians as much as anyone else. We're not immune from these present dangers.
Christians will lose their lives, their families, their homes, their jobs, their food, their water,
their support. We're not exempt from these things. We will suffer too. The Lord is perfectly clear
about that. But we will perish. To die isn't to perish. To perish isn't to die. To perish
is to lose everlasting life. That's the contrast isn't it that the Lord puts before us in John 3
16. We've mentioned it. For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. He doesn't say they
won't die but he does say they will perish. They will have everlasting life. We'll go through the
valley of the shadow of death but that's not to perish. Death for us through the grace of God,
through the promise of the gospel, to those who repent, to those who believe the gospel,
the promise of God is that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives
and that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. So we're a little flock in a dangerous
place, in a dark place, where men will not look and see the elephant in the room which is the
commandment of God, the word of God, the invitation of God to repent. So they won't. So the situation
will get from bad to worse. It will. It is. I don't want to refer to any particular expert or
scientist but I did hear this week that people who apparently really do know about these things
say that the situation is beyond recovery. I don't know about that from a scientific perspective.
I do know about it from the word of God because it categorically states to me they will not repent
and therefore these things will come upon them. But what we go with twofold. We go with the comfort
of the gospel, with the promise of eternal life, with the promise of God's mercy and goodness and
faithfulness following us all the days of our lives, of his protection of his provision,
whatever may come in the outward and of the certainty that we will dwell in the house of
the Lord forever. That's what we go with. We also go with a commission. Go into all the world and
preach this gospel whether they hear or forbear to hear. This is what we take. This is the truth.
This is the reality. This is what we must confront people with. Loving being compassionately as we
have opportunity. As we are asked, we give a reason for the hope that was within us,
which is based not upon men's constructions, ideas and skills but God's promise that this
world is passing away. That it will be consumed by fire. That it will be folded up like a sheet
and put away. There will be a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells
that we look for and as we look we hasten his coming. It's at the beginning when we sang our
first hymn, Come, Lord Jesus, and that's the cry of his people, the bride of Christ,
in the midst of this darkness and turmoil, Come, Lord Jesus.
May your kingdom be consummated. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


bottom of page