Staunton Mennonite Church
“Always be ready”
11And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12The 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. 13Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
If you are sitting there in your pew looking up here and thinking, “Something looks different” you are correct. Something is different. Maybe it is the fact that most of what is normally in place up here on the platform has been moved around. And why is that? Because today is the first day of Advent. Now Advent literally means “a coming.” And what coming are we here to celebrate today? The coming of Christ. A little over 2,000 years ago our world was shaken up by the advent of a little baby, born the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace. For unto us a child was born that would enact the kingdom of God. And that is what we celebrate at this time every year, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So during this time of year we celebrate the first advent of Jesus Christ; we celebrate his first coming to this earth. But today I want to focus not only on this first advent, but on the Second Advent, the second coming of Jesus Christ. Today I want to urge you to not fall asleep because we don’t know when this Second Advent is going to occur. We must be ready at all times.
When Sonya and I went to Trinidad this summer, we were immersed in a totally different culture than we were used to. And perhaps the biggest change we experienced was the laid back lifestyle. Here in the United States, we are always busy. We need to be somewhere and doing something at all times. And if we are late and make someone else have to wait on us, well that is almost an unpardonable mistake. It is built into our American psyche that we cannot be late. People are counting on us.
So when we got to Trinidad, we learned that not all of the world shares this need to be on time. We were running on what is commonly referred to as “Trini-time,” which could be as much as a half hour after you expected someone else. And this was okay. Nobody ever apologized for not being on time. Even though everyone had a cell phone they never called to say they would be running late. As long as they were there within an hour of when they said they would be there, they were on time. Maybe not by our standards, but they were on “Trini-time”.
So what do we do? What are we punctual Americans to do? Do we just wait around the house and not get ready until they show up at the front door to give us a ride? No, we don’t want them to have to wait on us. Then we would just be later. Do we assume they are going to be half an hour late and get ready to go at an appropriate pace so that we are ready to go when they get there? No, because you can never assume that they will be a half hour late. Sometimes they are only 15 minutes late. In fact, you really don’t know when they are going to be there. So what are we to do? We make sure that we are ready by the time when we are told they will be picking us up and we wait for them to come, not ever knowing for sure when that time will be.
Well this is kind of like our scripture for today which also talks about us waiting. Our scripture tells us that now is the time for us to wake up from our slumber, that our salvation is closer now than when we first believed. Now our scripture never tells us exactly when our salvation is going to be fully realized. We know that this salvation will occur when Christ comes back, but who here knows exactly when that is going to happen? If you know, please let me know. I think that it would help me out a lot if I knew exactly when Christ was coming back, when to expect the Second Advent.
We know by looking at Matthew chapter 25 that when Jesus does come back that he will judge humanity. He will separate them like a shepherd separates sheep from goats. And those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, those that have chosen to follow Jesus in word and deed will be placed on his right side and these people will inherit the kingdom of God. And those people that have not known Christ, that have served other gods, will be placed on his left. And the people on his left will be placed in eternal punishment.
So again, when will this happen? The best Paul can do here is say that our salvation is closer now than when we first believed. What he is saying is the second coming of Christ, the Second Advent when these followers of Christ will fully inherit the kingdom of God, is closer now than it was when they first believed. Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Today is December 2nd. We have not celebrated Christmas yet this year. But it is getting closer to Christmas every day. If Christmas had already occurred, we are getting further away from Christmas.
Well if you became a follower of Jesus Christ when you were 20 years old and now you are 50, you are closer to the second coming of Christ now than you were 30 years ago. Because Christ has not come back yet, we are continually getting closer to the second coming. If it had happened already we would be getting further away from the second coming.
So the second coming of Christ is getting nearer, just as it was getting nearer in Paul’s day. It has not happened yet. And we do not know when it is going to happen for sure. To tell you the truth, it kind of bothers me that so many people today think they know when Christ is going to come back. We find people that believe that ever since the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1947 that we have been living in the last days. That Christ will be coming back any day now. But this is no new phenomenon, people predicting when Jesus will come back. Even back in the biblical days the people thought that Jesus was coming back “soon”. Well I don’t know about you, but I think that if they expected Jesus to come back “soon” in the first century that these early believers were wrong. Because a couple thousand years is not “soon” to me.
People have been trying to predict when Jesus would come back even before he was crucified. But what does Jesus say in Matthew 24:36-44? Even he does not know when he is coming back! Only the father knows. So why in the world do certain Christians waste their time trying to predict when Jesus is coming back if even Jesus did not know when he was coming back? That seems kind of conceited to me for people to think that they know more than Jesus!
But we do find signs that Jesus will come back during times of warfare and strife. Jesus says that many people will rise up claiming to be him. And my brothers and sisters, while I don’t believe we can predict when Jesus will come back, we can know that he can come back at any time. The things that are given to us as signs have been occurring every since he went to prepare a place for us in heaven. So I am not going to say that Jesus is coming back today, but I’m not going to say that he isn’t coming back today either.
But this should not change a single thing about our lives. Whether Jesus is coming back today or tomorrow or not for another 1,000 years, it should not change the way we live. We should always be living as if Jesus is coming back today. We have probably all heard people say something like, “I’ll give my life to Christ when I am older and ready to settle down. Right now I am going to have fun.” And I think this is common in our society. We procrastinate with everything. I am as bad as anyone. I don’t tend to finish my sermons until Saturday evening. I don’t even want to think about how many more papers I have to write over the next two weeks for school. But I waste so much time, time that I could be using to do something constructive for God.
I think those that are waiting until they are getting older to give their lives to serving Christ are missing the point. These people are under the impression that the reason for serving Christ is so that you will go to heaven when you die. The people that put off giving their lives to Christ think that they just need to make a verbal commitment to serving Christ someday and that they will go to heaven. But hear me out on this: Christianity is not about going to heaven. Christianity is about serving Jesus Christ. Our goal is to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ. Because of our faith we will be rewarded. We are not rewarded based on our works, because all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We need his grace, but that does not get us off the hook from being faithful servants.
How we live matters. That is why Paul writes in verses 13 and 14, “let us live honorable as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Paul is encouraging the believers in Rome to live as if Christ was coming back today! He is encouraging them to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not live in the flesh. To put on Jesus means to live as he lived. To live as he lived in word and deed. Do as he said, live as he lived. Be as Christ was. Love one another, seek God. If we live in such a way as to simply hope to avoid eternal damnation when we die, we are missing the point. We need to be living for Christ every day, not living in the pleasures of the flesh and relying on his grace.
A life lived for Christ is a life of meaning. And we can live a life for Christ no matter what our occupation. What does it look like to live for Christ as a waitress? What does it look like to live for Christ as a carpenter? What does it look like to live for Christ as a teacher? What does it look like to live for Christ as a retired person? It looks like everything you do, every decision you make, you make with the intention of showing the love of Christ to all you come in contact with.
We have this false dichotomy set up in our world that there is work that we do for Christ and work that we do in our secular society. I think that is wrong. Pastors and preachers are not the only people doing the work of Christ. No matter what you are doing for a living, no matter what you are doing from Monday through Saturday, whether you are a stay at home mother or trash collector, you have the ability, no the obligation to make Christ the center of your life. Christ must be the center of all that you do.
Paul says that we must wake up from our slumber because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Are we slumbering throughout our days? Have we gone to sleep in our service for Jesus Christ? Or do we live for him every day in every way? We must always be ready for the Second Advent because we never know when he is coming back.
I gave you three options that we explored when Sonya and I were in Trinidad and we did not know when our ride was coming to pick us up. We could either wait until they showed up and then get ready to go with them, we could try to estimate when they were coming and assume that we would be ready when they got to our place, or we could just be ready when they told us that they would pick us up and be ready when they got there.
Well let me tell you something about Jesus, he won’t wait on us to get ready if he comes back before we expect him. If we are not ready when he comes back he isn’t going to sit in the car and listen to the radio until we are ready to go with him. We need to wake up from our slumber and live for Jesus Christ. We don’t know exactly when he is coming back, but we know that he is. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Let’s make sure we are ready. We must live for Christ and rely upon his grace when we fail.