What wakes you up and gets your blood pumping – not that first cup of coffee in the morning, but that shot of adrenaline that brings you to immediate awareness? The smoke alarm, a phone call in the middle of the night, those sirens warning of a tornado, the sound of tires hitting the gravel as your car slips off the shoulder of the road? Suddenly you’re focused, alert, ready for anything.
Urgency isn’t always loud, but it is intense. I’m a pretty sound sleeper, but if Diana leans over and whispers, “Honey, wake up, I hear a noise outside” – I’m wide awake with a jolt of adrenaline right to the heart.
Paul writes in Romans 13:11, "The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber." Folks, it’s time to quit sleepwalking through life and start acting like Christ makes a difference in our lives. So many of us walk around in a spiritual stupor, going through the motions, but never showing any signs of life and growth. We attend church, we read our Bibles, we say our prayers, but the excitement has long since faded, the urgency has cooled, and our lives are comfortably routine. Paul says, “WAKE UP!”
Two factors ought to pump the spiritual adrenaline into our hearts:
• First, “understanding the present time;”
• Second, “because your salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
He’s really talking about two kinds of motivation. When he talks about “understanding the present time” – that’s the warning – the smoke alarm, the tornado siren – danger is imminent and we need to be alert and on our guard because danger is all around us.
It’s a reminder of what Peter says about the devil – he’s “a roaring lion, prowling around looking for someone to devour.”
The world is filled with pitfalls for the unprepared Christian. John talks about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life that can so quickly and completely shipwreck a Christian’s faith.
Sin finds us at our weakest point and works its way in and around our defenses – Paul talks about anger giving the devil a foothold in our lives.
When Paul tells us to understand the present time, he is telling us that we need to stand alert to the dangers to our faith and defend ourselves from the attacks of Satan.
Secondly, though, Paul says, “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” This is another kind of wakefulness. This is the anticipation of something exciting. Have you ever had a trip or an outing planned that you had looked forward to, and the night before you could hardly go to sleep, and that morning, you were awake before the alarm went off? There is just something about looking forward to something that makes our whole body expectant with anticipation.
Our son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first baby. We were down visiting them last week in Dallas. Everything about their lives is “expectant” – thinking about names, buying things for the baby, painting the nursery. They are “living expectantly.”
• Paul says, that’s what our salvation is like. Each day brings us nearer to our final destination. Each moment could be the one, when Jesus returns to take us home.
• The expectation of the coming of the Lord permeated the consciousness of the first century church. They looked forward to his return, they talked about it, they longed for it, they had a word for it: Maranatha – “Our Lord come quickly!”
• We’ve lost that. We don’t live like we expect him to return tomorrow, or for that matter, to ever return. We just go about our lives laying up treasure on earth, building our security in bigger houses and bigger bank accounts – we are comfortable.
• We buy stuff we don’t need, invest ourselves in things that don’t matter, our priorities reveal that our hearts aren’t in heaven but firmly planted in the things of this world.
• Paul says to us, “WAKE UP! Your salvation is getting nearer.”
• If you knew that Jesus was coming back one year from today, how would you live differently? How would you priorities be different than they are today? What would you spend more time doing… less time?
Jesus told several parables that drove home this call to expectant living:
Rich fool (Lk 12); Rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16); Unmerciful servant (Mt 18); Sheep and goats (Mt 25); Ten virgins (Mt 25).
Let’s look especially at three parables that powerfully make this need urgent in our lives:
Luke 12:35-40 – (watchful and faithful servants) – “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Luke 12:42-48 – (negligent and faithless servants) – “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked..”
Matt. 25:14-30 – (faithful and faithless stewards) – “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “ ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
The thread that runs though these parables is that our lives should reflect this underlying anticipation in our lives of the coming of our master. We are told by Jesus, and by every NT writer, that the Lord’s coming will be unexpected and without warning – but make no mistake, he is coming.
• So, we should not live in sin and wickedness, we should live righteous lives.
• We should live as though the master will return tomorrow.
• We should live as though everything we have – our possessions, families, our time, our priorities are a stewardship which we will be called to give an accounting for – tomorrow.
• We should live as though the master has entrusted us with his most precious possessions and wants us to use them as if he himself were here and standing by our side.
Peter asks a great question. He has been writing about the coming of the Lord and the destruction of the world, and then asks, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11-12).
That’s the question we need to ask ourselves. Since the Lord has promised his return, what kind of lives should we live until he comes?
• We could say to ourselves (and some do), “let’s just live it up and do what we want, and then take our chances that we’ll have some kind of warning and be able to repent and get our lives in order before he comes.”
• Others say, “it’s been so long since that promise, and nothing has happened in 2000 years, he’s probably forgotten about it and isn’t really coming like he said.”
• Here’s what Paul says, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Romans 13:12-14).
Paul says, “Wake up, get dressed, get ready!” And what are your traveling clothes? “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” He is the perfect / the only garment that is suitable for arriving in heaven. And how do you clothe yourself in Christ? Paul wrote in Gal. 3:27 “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
Are you ready for the Lord’s return? Don’t answer too quickly! Amos, 800 years before Jesus, wrote to a bunch of religious folks, “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord? Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light” (Amos 5:18).
They thought they were ready, they thought the Lord’s coming would be celebration and congratulations all around. But Amos nails them right between the eyes with the hypocrisy between their words and their actions. They sat in church and sang “When the role is called up yonder I’ll be there…” but lived like God didn’t even exist.
If the Lord were to come back tomorrow, how would you live today?
• Would you make some changes, do some repenting?
• Are there some relationships that need to be mended?
• Some of you have been thinking about being baptized – you know it’s something you need to do. If you knew that tomorrow was the day he was coming, how much longer would you put it off?
• How would you live differently if you knew that today was the only day you had left to make your life right with him?
Here’s the point that Paul makes – that is how you ought to live every day.
Illust. – He Hasn’t Gone to Heaven
Two good friends, Robert and Jim, grew old together. They were the kind of friends that confided in each other, and advised each other, and knew everything about each other’s lives. Robert became ill and died, and his family came to break the news to Jim. They told him, “Robert has gone to heaven.” Jim responded, “You are mistaken. Robert has not gone to heaven. There was never a trip or journey that Robert went on that he didn’t talk about and plan for and share every detail with me. He has never mentioned his plans to go to heaven – I am quite sure he has not gone there.”
I want to urge you to live everyday as though your master were coming tomorrow. Not in fear and dread, but living expectantly – joyfully anticipating what God is preparing for you – praying earnestly, Maranatha! Our Lord come!
Posted on Sun, July 8, 2012
by John Roberts