Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Ready for whenever. . .

Sermon for New Year's Eve preached on December 31, 2016, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

[Jesus said] “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Lk 12:40). 

Every New Year brings with it the expectation of more time: time to change; time to try out new things; time to quit bad habits.  We look forward to the stroke of midnight when we get to say goodbye to time gone and hello to time to come. 

We consider the New Year a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to begin again.  With good intentions we make promises to ourselves, resolutions to do things we should’ve done last year.  We make grand plans to get healthy, to eat right and exercise.  We’re going to save more money and spend more time with our families.  We’re going to stop sinning that pet sin we always give into.  

We expect to have more time to do these things.  We always expect to have more time.  We assume the sun will always come out tomorrow, and we live as if there’ll always be a tomorrow.  Why do today what can be done tomorrow?  Why clean the garage on Saturday afternoon when it can wait till Sunday morning?  Why finish homework on Friday night when there’s all weekend to get it done?  We’re very good at putting things off because we think there’s a guarantee of more time to do them.  We even do this when it comes to getting ready for Christ’s return.

We expect to have more time before Jesus comes.  We know He’ll return, coming again to judge the living and the dead.  He promised this.  But we don’t really think He’ll come back in our lifetime.  So… we put off getting ready for Him. 

I’ll try harder to fight that sinful temptation next time.  I’ll stop lusting, gossiping, lying, and coveting tomorrow. I’ll start reading God’s Word first thing in the morning.  I’ll pray later tonight before I go to bed.  I’ll go to church and Bible Study next week.  There’s more important things, more urgent things that need to be done today, like cleaning the garage and finishing that school project.

We put off living the Christian life, doing those things God calls us to do, doing those things that are good for us, that nurture and strengthen our faith because we expect to have more time to do them.  If we knew for certain that Jesus was coming tomorrow, you bet we’d be in church today.  But we don’t know when He’ll return, and we don’t expect Him to be back soon, so...why bother getting ready for Him today? 

This expectation of more time is a false expectation.  There’s no guarantee of tomorrow.  There’s no guarantee that the sun will come out.  No one knows how much time there’ll be before Christ returns.  Jesus doesn’t even know.  He told His disciples, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Mt 24:36).  Only God the Father knows when God the Son will return, only God the Father knows when the Last Day will be...therefore we must be ready for it now! 

We can’t put off being ready for our Savior’s return till tomorrow because there may not be a tomorrow.  Jesus tells us to stay dressed for action and keep our lamps burning, looking forward to His coming (Lk 12:35).  He tells us to be ready like servants who await the return of their master from a wedding feast.  These servants are ready to open the doors whenever their master comes home, whether it be at 10pm, 2am, or 6 in the morning.  The servants that are awake and ready to serve their lord are blessed because their lord will serve them (Lk 12:36-38).

Did you catch this reversal?  The servants will be served by their master...and this is the same for you.  When you’re awake and ready for your Lord’s return, when He comes back, He’ll serve you.  He’ll serve you by giving you the everlasting life that He won with His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.  He’ll serve you by giving you a seat at the marriage feast of the Lamb that has no end.  Blessed are you, God’s faithful servants, when your master returns. 

But for those not ready, for those asleep, for those who are unrepentant and who live firmly in their sin, they’ll be like a man whose house was broken into by a thief (Lk 12:39).  All the good stuff is taken away.  They won’t be served by the Lord.  Instead of receiving the blessings of Christ’s cross, they’ll receive the punishment of sin: eternal death and hell. 

No one wants to be that person whose house gets broken into.  No one wants to be that person who’s caught off guard.  Therefore, we need to be prepared and ready for Jesus to come back today.  We have to get our house in order before our Master returns, but this isn’t something we do on our own.  We can’t make ourselves ready for Jesus’ return.  Instead, we’re made ready by Him through the work Holy Spirit. 

It’s the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word who makes you ready for Christ’s return.  He brings you to repentance and faith.  He shows you your sin and He shows you your Savior. 

Being ready for your Master’s return means having faith in Him, trusting in His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Being ready isn’t about first cleaning up your act, overcoming all those sinful bad habits on your own.  It’s not about making yourself holy through pious exercises.  It’s about being made holy through Christ’s forgiveness.  It’s about bearing the good fruit of repentance, living out the new life you’ve been given in your baptism.  It’s about continually eating the good and right food of your Savior’s body and blood.  In these things Christ makes you ready for His return and in these things He’ll keep you ready. 

Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rm 8:39).  Nothing in creation can pull you away from your Savior.  Your Lord has come to you to save you from sin and death.  He’s done everything to make you ready for His return.  He was born of the Virgin Mary on Christmas day.  He died your death for your sins on the cross on Good Friday.  And He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday winning life for you.  This life is a life without time.  It’s an everlasting life.  It’ll continue forever. 

When the clock strikes midnight tonight, if our Lord doesn’t come before then, we’ll say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017.  In this New Year, we thank the Lord for the time His given us on this earth and we thank Him for the everlasting life He’s given us in His death and resurrection.  And we pray every day that the Holy Spirit will make us ready for Jesus’ return.  Let’s not take time for granted, let’s not falsely presume that there’ll be a tomorrow.  But in faith, let’s be ready for the Son of Man, let’s be prepared and always praying “Come Lord Jesus.”  In His name...Amen. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Being ready for your Master’s return means having faith in Him, trusting in His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Being ready isn’t about first cleaning up your act, overcoming all those sinful bad habits on your own. It’s not about making yourself holy through pious exercises. It’s about being made holy through Christ’s forgiveness."

If people are immediately judged as soon as they die, then why is there a judgement day when He returns? Isn't being a Christian all about striving to live a squeaky clean lifestyle? What happens when we grow weary of doing so? Isn't going to church about begging for forgiveness every Sunday morning because we despair in falling short of His expectations?

Adult males tend to view the Heavenly Father in the exact same way they view their earthly fathers. What would you say to all of the adult males who had an earthly father who was either absent or abusive. According to the Bible, we are supposed to fear God, but how can we love someone we fear?