You are ready, so be ready for the Lord’s return!

November 12, 2023

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 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.

4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

The teacher passed out a new coloring sheet to all the students and all were told to color inside the lines. When the teacher moved to another side of the classroom some were tempted to stray outside the lines, especially when Halloween candy appeared on the table. A couple of pieces of candy did not affect coloring inside the lines, but after many sugar infused sweets the clear lines disappeared, and the assignment took on a whole new look. Then suddenly the teacher returned from the other side of the classroom catching the students unprepared with coloring sheets that were unrecognizable from what was first handed out.

When you do not know when something is going to happen, it is not easy to be ready for it. The two statements, “Be ready when I get back at 5:00 pm” and, “Be ready when I get back” are very different. One has a fixed time that can be planned for while the other has many possible outcomes which is a planning nightmare. However, Jesus provided an answer to the ambiguous return statements in our Gospel reading from Matthew 25, using a parable about ten virgins or what we would better understand as bridesmaids waiting for the groom. In perhaps typical groom fashion, he was late and half of them forgot their phone chargers, I mean forgot extra oil for their lamps. The bridesmaids who had full oil had enough to follow the groom, while the others who were not prepared scrambled to find some and for their lack of preparation were not allowed to attend the wedding. Jesus then shared what he wanted us to understand about not knowing the time of someone’s return, 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” The way to be ready for someone to return at a time you do not know is to always be ready.

The most important event to be ready for is Jesus’ return on Judgment Day. When Jesus returns, all people will be sent to their final destination, either eternal peace in heaven or eternal punishment in hell. Since this day is so important and affects everyone, God wants us to be prepared for Judgment Day. So, he inspired Paul to write about Judgement Day in our New Testament reading from 1 Thessalonians 5, 1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 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. The exact time for Jesus’ return for “the day of the Lord” or Judgement Day is unknown. It is a day that will surprise like a thief and cannot be stopped like a woman cannot hit pause during labor because she is not ready to have her baby.

You know that you need to be ready for Judgment Day. Paul recognized that believers know they need to be ready for Judgment Day as he continued in 1 Thessalonians 5, 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. God saved you from the darkness and made you a child of the light. You know Jesus has saved you and heaven waits for you, but you treat Jesus like a teacher who gives an assignment and then walks to the other side of the room. You forget that even though you cannot see Jesus, he is here with us. And the things you can see distract you for the faith given to you lulling you into spiritual sleep and dark drunkenness, which is what Paul then warns us against, 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. Paul uses sleep and drunkenness as illustrations for not being prepared for Judgment Day. And although he uses it as a spiritual illustration, actual drunkenness threatens your readiness for Judgment Day. Of course, drunkenness can only refer to a diagnosed alcoholic because I am sure that you have seen the asterisk in your Bible in verses like in Galatians 5, where it warns against drunkenness and has the disclaimer *do not get drunk except at birthdays, weddings, work parties, block parties, college parties, social gatherings, or when you will not be driving and are at home with a few people celebrating or at home alone after a difficult day, week, month or year. No, drunkenness is drunkenness regardless of your definition and whether habitual or occasional. It is sin. It harms your faith and negatively impacts your readiness for Jesus’ return. Our sinful hearts chase after many more things that put us into a spiritual stupor. The world and the devil set a table filled with temptations all to distract us, to fill us with sin and keep us from serving God. Getting lost in the darkness will leave you terrified at Jesus’ light on Judgment Day.

God brought you into the light through Jesus. If you struggle with drunkenness at any level, you are forgiven through Jesus. All the times you can remember or do not remember drinking that fill you with guilt were given to him as we hear in Matthew 26, 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” It was God’s will for Jesus to drink the cup of his wrath for your drunkenness, and for all your consumption of sin and pouring out sin on others. Paul encourages you with the reminder that God has made you ready for Judgment Day through Jesus as we hear in 1 Thessalonians 5, 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. You are ready for Judgment Day because God made you spiritually sober giving you the gift of faith to know it was God’s will to save you. He recorded his plan hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth in our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 52, 3 For this is what the Lord says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.” The Lord pointed to your salvation being bought without money, but the blood of Jesus. Jesus saved you from punishment in hell through his innocent sacrifice and glorious resurrection. God keeps you as his child of the light filling you with his love as you wait with hope in Jesus to return at any time to bring you to heaven.

Keep being ready for Jesus’ return. That was Paul’s encouragement to us in 1 Thessalonians 5, 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Paul has firmly established the truth that you are ready for heaven through Jesus. He also encouraged us to always be ready since we do not know when he will return. And he gaves us practical advice for remaining ready through mutual encouragement. Together as believers, as children of the light, children of the day, those ready, waiting, appointed by God, saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection keep on intentionally interacting, congregating, fellowshipping and living with each other as a family of all ages and all stages learning about Jesus together. Gather for Bible study and worship; gather outside of Sunday one on one or in groups. Interact digitally and cherish in person interaction to keep one another from falling back into the darkness, night, drunkenness and sleep of unbelieving, unprepared surprise at the Lord’s return. This is what we have been doing, and what we are encouraged to continue doing for one another. One other way this takes place is for those who struggle with drunkenness. Point out the sin, and for those who repent point to Jesus’ forgiveness, encourage and build up, and use the other means like counselors, groups and medications for help, and give thanks to God for all of these things that help keep you ready, physically, mentally and spiritually sober waiting for Jesus’ return.

When you do not know when something is going to happen, it is not easy to be ready for it. God made you ready for heaven through Jesus. You are his child of the light and his one of his appointed to eternal life. As the world serves you cups of temptation, pour them out and throw the cup away or Jesus will become blurry. Jesus rescued you and you belong to him. As you keep your eyes on him it is like staying in the lines on a coloring sheet. Keeping your eyes on Jesus keeps you ready for Judgment Day and others will see him through you. Keep on encouraging one another and building one another up by showing one another Christ. You are ready, so be ready for the Lord’s return. Amen.

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