Last night on the front field, while Jake grilled, I offered some encouragement for the Fall ahead. Here are the notes:
Staying Alert // Labor Day 2017
What Jesus Said:
“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.”
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Mark 13:34-35, 37 34
“It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming–in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning… And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
Luke 12:37, 39 37
“Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. … But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.”
Jesus’ point: The fact that he has already come, died and rose again, and the fact that he told us he’d be returning, soon, and quickly, and that we need to be alert for it, changes life for a Christian—it changes the whole world. We experience everything differently—we think differently, we plan differently, we love and endure differently, because Jesus is coming soon. Most of all, Jesus tells us to resist the huge push of our age, all the energy that comes at us that’s trying to make us spiritually asleep, inattentive and unaware of the spiritual things that give everything meaning and power. So, because Jesus is coming soon, he says, “if you’re my follower, don’t let all the noise and stress and temptation put you to sleep, so that you stop living with my coming in mind—be alert! Stay awake!”
What Paul Wrote:
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;
1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
What Peter Wrote:
1 Peter 5:6-9
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
Peter added another element to motivate us to spiritual alertness—he pointed out that not only is Jesus coming soon, and not only is there cultural pressure in the world to fall asleep spiritually, but there is a personal, spiritual power active in the world too—through all his spiritual allies, and all the avenues he uses in the world of humans, Satan himself is working to ruin and destroy the present lives of people who follow Jesus. He’s alert. He’s on his game 24/7—watching, planning, scheming every possible way to mess up what Jesus is doing in and through his people. So Peter says, “be heads up, never forget he’s out there, never let your guard down—every form of cultural shame, and the discouragement from daily regular life, the fear and depression that comes from catastrophe, and all the temptation that comes through society and technology and our own eyes and ears—all these things are spiritually energized, and personally aimed at you to make you go to sleep spiritually, so that then you get devoured by it all.” Let’s lift up our eyes, if we’ve stopped looking around—a lot of our friends are getting devoured, right now.
Peter and Paul both bring out one of the major ways we can actually stay alert—they say we stay alert by prayer. It’s like sentry duty—getting up and getting to prayer so we can hold specific situations, and specific people, maybe whole groups of people, up before God in prayer. A sentry is the perfect picture here; it’s connected to what this idea of alertness implies when it gets translated with the world “Watch.”
A sentry is only worth anything if he vigilantly watches his area, and constantly looks for what he’s supposed to look for, and does it all to guard and protect what he cares about. So whether it’s the ever present danger of spiritual darkness, or the danger of human opposition in the church like Paul warns the Ephesians about, or the pressures of our age to forget Jesus’s coming (that Jesus himself warns us about), Peter and Paul teach us that one of the major ways we do this sentry duty is by faithfully praying in a focused way for God to guard those we love, to promote his work around the world, and to work in the areas that he’s given us to live in and think about.
What Jesus said to John:
“Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
It’s just interesting, and I think it should drive the point home, that when Jesus appeared again to John, decades after he had risen from the dead, he felt the need to repeat this idea to the Churches he was speaking to.