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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Living in Light of His Coming - 1 Thessalonians 5

I don't remember when was the last time I heard a message on The Second Coming of Christ. Today as I was running I realized how I don't often live in light of Christ's imminent coming. I am so focused on the here now that I don't think about this truth. I realize that there are various views on the end times but The New Testament is clear about the fact that Christ is returning (I wrote a paper on my view of The Second Coming titled "The Believer's Hope" when I was in college and still hold to this).

He said he would return: "I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”" (John 14:2-3

When Jesus' disciples asked when the end of the age would come, he answered by giving them a long teaching found in Matthew 24 and 25. Towards  the end of Matthew 24 he says to them, ' “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." (v. 30, 31). Here again he promises to come back.

He tells his disciples "So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (v.44)
Previous to this verse, Jesus tells us that many people will going about their business ignoring the imminence of his coming. Then judgment will come as in the days of Noah.  He promised to come back. We either believe this or pretend he didn't really mean it. As Christians we are to live with the expectancy of his second coming. But yet it is very easy for us to forget it or to live in a way that doesn't really believe it will take place. This is exactly what Jesus warned us about. 
The Apostle Paul also wrote about Christ's second coming in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. He told the Thessalonians that this day would come like a thief in the night (v. 3).  It would be a surprise, but it shouldn't be for Christians. They are not of the darkness but of the light. They are awake and sober. This of course is figurative language that speaks to our moral standing and living as Christians. We don't live our lives immorally.  We don't live the life of a hedonist, living for our own pleasures. We walk in faith and love. We remain hopeful of our full salvation when Christ returns.  Paul tells the believers to encourage each other with this truth. 

Living in the light of Christ's coming is easy to believe when we become new believers. But for many of us who have been walking with Jesus for many years, it is easy to become lukewarm and think that Jesus is not really coming back. We will probably die before then so we might as well enjoy life (and singles hope he doesn't come back before they marry and have kids. How cruel would that be right?). 

The Apostle Paul offers a prayer for the Thessalonian believers, which is for us as well,
 "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (v.23-24).

It is a prayer for me. I need it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Our Success or God's Success

The title in this post is ambiguous, I know. It is meant to be. The title also presupposes that we can understand what God views as success using our own human terms. Yes, all of this is confusing.

Let me explain where I am going with this.

I have been reading the book of Jeremiah from some time. In it we find how God calls Jeremiah to Judah here was the two tribes that had split from the ten tribes of Israel. God chose Jeremiah to be his prophet even before he was born (Jeremiah 1:5). His job was to prophecy (preach) to Judah for more than 40 years that unless they repent, judgment would come to them. This judgment would be in the form of being conquered by the Babylonian Empire and be taken captives for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10-11, notice verse 11 was given to Judah). The interesting thing is that God tells Jeremiah what the the result will be: Judah wouldn't listen, they would mistreat him, almost kill him and continue in their path to receiving the judgment of God (See #29 here to read more about Jeremiah's life events). He gives Jeremiah a promise: "They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1:19)
preach to his people, Judah.

From a human perspective this seems unnecessary. Why would God call Jeremiah as his prophet if He knew that no matter what he said it wouldn't change a thing in Judah's heart? Why all the preaching, crying (A whole short book records this: Lamentations.) and suffering for Jeremiah knowing well what the result would be? In our own eyes, Jeremiah was a failure. He didn't produce positive results. He didn't win any converts. He was too melancholic. If Jeremiah would have applied for a job in today's world, he wouldn't get one. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous but the more I read The Bible I see that what we call success is not necessarily what God sees as success. Put in it in other words, God's plans and ways don't conform to our own standards. They never will.

But Jeremiah was obedient. He preached. For a long time (But he doesn't hold the record. Noah holds this, 100 years or close to that. See Genesis 5:32 and 7:11. Interestingly enough Noah wasn't too successful in human terms. His warnings about the coming flood were rejected. He was only able to rescue his own family). He was faithful to God. Now that is what matters in God's eyes. This is exactly what should matter to us: to be faithful to God in our calling as His children. To be obedient to Him. We may not measure up to what our culture calls "successful," but in the end this doesn't really matter.

I often think about my life as I have passed my 40th year (now 42) that I haven't done much for God. But as I read Jeremiah I realize that what I think I must do for God is not the same as what God wants for me. What I should strive for is to be obedient to Him. To know Him. To follow Him.

In the prayer to St. Richard of Chichester we should say:

"O holy Jesus,

most merciful Redeemer,

Friend, and Brother:

may we know thee more clearly,

love thee more dearly,

and follow thee more nearly,

day by day."

Lord, align my thoughts with your thoughts

My ways with your ways

That I may please you in everything I do

And from you never stray.