Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sermon: 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11 Walking Worthy for The Day

This week I did one of my traditional summer things. It had nothing to do with eating ice cream, although I do that in the summer. There were no walks along the beach. I did what I always do in the summer - ordered my new diary. I don’t go in for a calendar year diary (Jan-Dec) - I like the academic diary from August right through. When it comes, I’ll take some time to write in all the dates and events and meetings, to start planning out the new church year. Birthdays and anniversaries go in so they’re no forgotten. But there’s one day that I can’t put in. I don’t know when it is scheduled, but it will happen, according to God’s timing.

Last week, we were reminded of the hope that we have, that the dead in Christ will be raised when Christ returns. Today, Paul continues to think about the return of Jesus, only today, it’s what it means for those of us who are alive and waiting for him. So let’s look at what the Bible says about the return of the Lord Jesus.

‘Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.’ The return of Jesus is described as the day of the Lord. Paul picks up on the Old Testament promise of the Lord winning victory against his enemies and bringing judgement to the earth. It’s a vivid picture isn’t it? The DAY of the Lord will come like a thief in the NIGHT.

Now, I hope this doesn’t happen, but imagine someone breaks into your house tonight. Would they have texted to say they were planning to drop round tonight at 2.30am? Would they make a phone call to check it was ok to rob you? No, the thief in the night goes for surprise. It’s the sudden, unexpectedness he wants. And the day of the Lord will be just like that. Sudden, unexpected. You’re lying in bed, all is well, you’re turning over for your second sleep, when the window breaks and you don’t know where you are.

‘When they say, ‘There is peace and security’ then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape.’ Jesus’ return will be sudden. A pregnant woman might have a bag packed for the hospital, but she doesn’t know when those labour pains will kick in. And once they do, that’s it. You can’t say to the baby, oh, just hold on a wee minute, I’m finishing watching this movie or whatever...

The Day of the Lord will be sudden. ‘They’ will be caught out, not expecting it. Paul is writing to the Christians in Thessalonica. He writes about they and them - someone else, not the people reading the letter. Sudden destruction. But for the Christian, it will not be surprising. We might not know the exact date. We can’t write it in our diary. We can’t put it on the calendar in the kitchen. But we know it is coming.

Do you see the contrast in verse 4? They, them, ‘But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.’

When I was growing up, my granny was turning 80. Mum and dad had arranged a surprise party. All the family were gathered in the function room, keeping quiet. Granny walked in and got the shock of her life! It really was a surprise. But for mum and dad, they knew what was happening. Granny had been kept in the dark so that she got a nice surprise. Here, Paul says that we aren’t in the dark. We know the secret of the day of the Lord. We’ll not be caught out, shocked at the sudden surprise.

Do you see how Paul describes us as Christians? ‘For you are all children of light and children of the day.’ We belong to the light, not the darkness. We are children of the day, we are connected to the day of the Lord. For us, the day of the Lord will be sudden but not surprising. Have you heard the phrase where two things are as different as day and night? They’re so different, there’s no comparison.

In verse 6 Paul continues with this day and night theme. Here’s how the children of day are to live. It’s completely different from those in darkness, because we are watching for the day.

Have you ever experienced jet lag? It’s when you fly far enough around the world to get into a different time zone. Your body thinks it’s midnight and needs to sleep, but actually, it’s just 2pm in the afternoon. Verse 6 is a bit like that. ‘So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night.’

Those in darkness think it’s night, and do night time things - sleep or get drunk. But for the Christian, we’re in the day time. How could we do night time things when the day is here and coming? Verse 8. ‘But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.’

The night time can be a scary time. Paul says we’re to be watchful, alert, not distracted. We’re to guard our heart and our mind - the breastplate of faith and love, and the hope of salvation guarding our head. This is God’s armour, the God-given protection we need for every day between this and the day.

Perhaps you look at the world around, and see the way things are going, and you wonder what is this world coming to? The darkness seems to get darker. Things seem to be getting worse, not better. Paul says to hold on, to keep watching. We already have the day in our hearts, and the dawn will break. Jesus will return suddenly, and your endurance and your hardship will be worth it.

The hope of salvation keeps us going. This is what we’re waiting for, what we can already be sure of. Verse 9: ‘For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.’

In Jesus, we already know the verdict. We know how the story ends. We can be sure that our destiny is not wrath, but salvation. Jesus died to make it happen. That’s how the helmet of the hope of salvation works. We know where we’re going. And that changes how we live each day. Even when we slip (and we all do), we have the assurance that Jesus died for us, and he has destined us for life with him. As we come to the table, we recall Jesus’ life laid down for us to bring us to live with him.

A future with Jesus, secured by his blood, already in promise, and one day made final and complete. No wonder we watch and wait for that day with eager anticipation! We don’t know when it will be. We can’t write it in our diary, that on the 32nd October Jesus will return. But over the top of each day, we should write - maybe today. Today could be the day of the Lord.

The day of the Lord will be sudden, but for the Christian it will not be surprising. So be sober, watchful, as you wait for your salvation. And as Paul says in verse 11, encourage one another and build up one another.

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 5th July 2015.

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