Let us pray: Dear Savior, equip us spiritually, emotionally and physically to always be ready for Your second coming! Keep our minds alert, our souls sharp, and our bodies in shape to the ravages of evil that tempt us, while also keeping our faith strong so that we may be able to welcome You with pure hearts and open arms! And above all, banish any and all forms of fear over our blessed future which has been guaranteed by You! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR COMING LORD!
TEXT: I Thessalonians 5: 1-11
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
An early secret code employed by believers to alert others to their faith was the sign of a fish. It was derived from some of the Greek letters in Christ’s name. The early Christians also employed a not-so-secret greeting when welcoming their fellow saints. It was the word: Maranatha. It means: “The Lord has come,” or simply: “Come Lord Jesus!” It was an audio reference to their longing for Christ’s second coming and their assumption into heaven.
So, imagine my pleasant surprise when I was perusing the natural foods section of our local Shaw’s market and spying on the shelf: Maranatha Peanut Butter! It told me that the company’s founders were Christian. I like supporting my fellow believers. I bought a jar. It’s really good. And I still purchase it today.
As faithful believers, we emotionally swerve back and forth between anticipation and perhaps a bit of fear when it comes to Christ’s 2nd coming and judgment day. I have a relative who is single and who has battled a lot of health concerns in his life. He literally hopes that judgement day would come tomorrow! He longs for it. He’s ready for it. Emotionally it would be a release for him and physically it would mean his pain would cease. Sometimes we all feel the exact same way. But then, when things go more smoothly, Christians would just as soon put any thoughts of judgment day from their minds and embrace life on planet earth. We don’t want to be “gloom and doomers.” We want to see our children grow up and be happy. Christ’s second coming would put an end to life as we understand it, so most of the time we adopt a “don’t worry, be happy” mentality. The psychology behind Maranatha is varied among God’s children.
But, earthly life will end—whether it be in some fireball which destroys the planet or simply our own death. As I’ve said before, “We all suffer from a terminal illness, called death.” Getting ready for it, being ready for it, is St. Paul’s focus today.
Dr. Stephen Hawking, the noted physicist, came out this past week with a dire warning. He said that the planet will be destroyed around the year 2600 and so we have to get busy with colonizing space to preserve the human race. Well, I don’t know about his dating system, or about trying to avoid God’s destruction of the solar system, but he is correct in that death for humankind will occur. It’s inescapable. The Creator of all has ordained it. But, God’s inspired mouthpiece, St. Paul, gives us insight into what we can do to avoid our eternal destruction.
First, he tells us this: “Now, brothers, about the times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. We are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.”
It’s been about 2000 years since Christ walked the earth and prophesied His 2nd coming. I’ve preached 33 years worth of sermons on judgment day. And yet it hasn’t happened, yet. During my lifetime I have seen and heard a whole lot of babble about the future of humankind. And it’s always been proven fanciful. Growing up, the Soviet Union was the boogy-man that would destroy the world in a nuclear Armageddon. We had nuclear fall-out shelters in every school. But, that worry came and then went, to be replace by something new. The ‘60’s race riots would tear America apart during the Vietnam War—that’s what we were told. But they didn’t. In the late ‘90’s the stock market would never go down—but then Black Friday came and it crashed. In the ‘70’s we were told that 15% inflation and gas prices to match were the norm, so get used to it. We didn’t, and it’s a good thing. And today that same market is making new highs every day and the pundits tell us the business cycle is a forgotten relic.—But is it? My point is that a thief doesn’t come when expected, but when least expected. Destruction comes when complacency sets in. That’s the history of human woes and it is also the history of Godly judgment. The Bible says so right here. So, never, ever, fall asleep at the switch when it comes to your faith. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”
“Those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. (This is a reference to complacency.) But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Recall I Corinthians 13, the famous “Love” chapter of the Bible. At the end of it, Paul says: “These three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.” Here we have an echo of those earlier words. Whether our bodies are physically sleeping or wide awake, faith is always with us. God put that gift into you. It comes from the Spirit. It never sleeps. And like its Creator, it is eternal lasting forever. Good thing, too, since it is always protecting us by linking us to Christ’s power. And faith breeds hope which never disappoints. That’s because our hope for the future is always in Christ. And Christ is perfect God Who gives us His perfection which lasts forever since He rose from the grave to prove it. And finally, there is also love. There is grace, forgiveness for every sin purchased by Christ for us while nailed to a cross. If death could not destroy His love for us, and if Christ now reigns in heaven, why should we ever fear the mere destruction of life on planet earth and a final judgement proclaimed to us by our loving Savior? It will be emotionally trying with the attendant human fears attached to it, but in the big picture, we know the outcome: God the Father already judged Christ in our place and found us “Not guilty” in Him!
So, we come back to that word: “Maranatha.” Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, Lord Jesus—it’s calming and comforting. So today I share it with you thereby following St. Paul’s command: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” You, Go and Do Likewise. Amen