By Reverend Dr. Fontella Irons
Bible Texts: Matthew 24:36-44; Romans 13:11-14
“Gracious Father, we come before you today in the name of our Savior, Jesus, asking that you will glorify your name as only you can as we hear from you. Let us grow more and more in awe of who you are this Advent season. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
On this the first Sunday of Advent, we have as our theme: “hope.” The Bible gives us so many reasons to have “hope.” Looking back, we can have “hope” today because of all of the evidence of God at work in our lives. It is inspiring to remember what God has done in the past. At the Thanksgiving Eve worship service we had a passage from the Book of Deuteronomy as our text. In that passage, the people were told to present the “first fruits” to the priest as an offering to God and, in so doing, they were to declare that God had been faithful by fulfilling promises to them and to their ancestors. I encouraged the congregation to recount the blessings of God by sharing their stories with others on Thanksgiving. I said that it is important for us to share what God has done in our lives because our stories will inspire and encourage other people. The challenge is to open our mouths and speak. My “hope” is that each one of you will speak more about God at work in your life yesterday and today and about your “hopes’ for tomorrow.
The passages before us today point us in the direction of the“hope” of tomorrow – that being the second coming of Jesus Christ. The main text is the passage from Matthew, but the supplemental text from Romans is very important. In that text, the Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Rome, states: “For salvation is nearer to us now then when we became believers…” This is not the “salvation” of accepting Jesus Christ as Messiah. This is a glimpse of Paul’s eschatological expectations. He is speaking about the final salvation and judgment when Christ comes again. And, as a result of what is to come, the believer has certain present-day duties. The final destiny with Christ requires that the believer functions in a particular way right now. What does he say?
The church, the believer, must constantly remember that “the night is far gone.” What he means here is that the Christian belongs not to the old order, “the night,” the “fallen world,” but the Christian belongs to the new order, “the day,” which is to come – this is referring to “the Day of the Lord,” which is mentioned throughout the Bible as referring to the final judgment of humanity. Calvary was part of this total plan of salvation, but there is more coming. Accepting Christ, first, but heaven isn’t our only goal; we have work to do here!
Then, Paul tells the church that the present duty for the believer requires us to put aside “the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” We no longer belong to the old order, “the night.” So, Paul explains, the believer must “live honorably” by not participating in “reveling” and “drunkenness.” We are not to participate in “debauchery (extreme indulgences) and licentiousness (lacking legal or moral restraints, disregard for rules). We are told not to “quarrel” and not to practice “jealousy.” Rather, this is what we must do: we must “make no provisions for the flesh.”
Finally, Paul tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Remember, he has been talking about “armor” all along. At verse 12 he tells us to “put on the armor of light.” Now, he tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” For the Apostle Paul, Jesus is more than an example. When we truly open ourselves to the power that comes from believing in Christ as Savior, Christ then completely fills us. It is this fullness that makes up for all of our shortcomings and failures. It is an amazing paradox, but Paul constantly wants us to know this: that by losing ourselves in Christ we completely discover ourselves. Paul puts it this way in Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me,” Galatians 2:19b-20. Also, in that last verse, he tells us to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” What he is saying here is that do not make room for unregenerate instincts. We are to live in the light, in the “new” order.
This, then, brings us to the passage in Matthew. The message is essentially the same as the message from Romans: The believer must constantly live “ready” for the return of Christ. Why? Because nobody knows when that day will happen, but we can rest assured that the day will come when Jesus returns in judgment. As an example, the days of Noah are recalled. According to verse 38: “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, (39) and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Jesus reflects: Gen. 6/7)
Then, there is another example. People are working in a field. One will be found “ready” and one “will not be ready.” We know this because one is taken and one is left.
Then, there is another example. Twowomen will be grinding meal together;one will be ready and one will not be ready.
So, the believer, says Jesus, must “keep awake” “for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
Finally, the owner of the house did not know in what part of the night the thief was coming. If he had known, the owner would have stayed awake and would not have left his house be broken into. (44) “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
We must work now! Heaven isn’t our only goal. We have work to do here. When Jesus comes again that return will be swift, fast. No last minute repentance or deal making Whatever choice you have already made will determine you eternal destiny….Jesus tells us about his return not to have us trying to come up with calculations, predictions about the date. No, he tells us about his return to WARN US TO BE READY. Will you BE READY? The only way to Be READY for His return is to obey Him today (24:46). God bless you.