Roger's Postings

Saturday, November 12, 2011

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11                        Living together with Christ    13/11/11

(1)                Now, brothers, 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 labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. {4} But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. {5} You are all sons of the light and sons 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 alert and self-controlled. {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 self-controlled, 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.

You and I have been appointed to live together with Christ, now and for all eternity. Christ himself died in our place on the cross so that this might be so. Then at our baptism he inexplicably joined himself to us so that we can be absolutely sure that this is so for each of us personally. Thereby we have been appointed to live together with Christ for time and eternity. This is a wonderful message for us as we go about our daily lives.

However here at this time of the year we are reminded that we need to be careful that we do not take these things for granted: There will come a time when we will be called to give account of our faith and life. Also the message here is that we do not know how soon that might be for us. It will come suddenly; as a thief in the night.

The danger for us is that we will fall into the pattern and ways of this world: that we will be caught napping. Paul likens this danger to living in the night: and what do we do at night? We sleep or we get drunk: we mostly don’t function as we are intended to do.. Now is that not life for most people today? And is there not that danger for each of us as well?

When it comes to our spiritual lives there is that danger that we fall asleep on the job. ‘She’ll be right. I’m OK. It is all under control. So what if I don’t go to church much at all. I’ve got my faith.’ So we nod off to sleep. But even if we are regular and active we can so easily fall into the trap of thinking that we are living in peace and safety and so there is not too much to worry about; so we relax in our thinking and attitudes with regard to the faith. The truth can be bent a little here and there; we can give way in many different ways. We can get drowsy and nod off so easily.

 At the same time there is that temptation to drink on the job. In fact we are in serious danger of becoming drunk. We have so much sought pleasure and enjoyment from life that we have lost touch with reality. Our thinking becomes so easily, ‘what is good for me from my perspective,’ is what is important: even when it comes to the faith and our worship. In fact, seeking our own pleasure and gratification so easily becomes paramount in our lives, and we more and more lose perspective of that which is truly good and right.

Now in the face of this we need to remember, that it is at those times that we can so easily be caught out by the thief. The thief in fact chooses those times when we are not vigilant to get to us. We are easy prey at those times. We only need to look around us to see all those that have been caught out and who have not just drifted, but have even become anti-christian. Sadly there are so many of our friends and neighbours who will lose out all together.

But hey look, that is not what God wants, or surely, what we want either. God did not die for us, and come to us in baptism, to then go and appoint us to suffer wrath. He has saved us; he has appointed us instead to be together with him, whether we are awake or asleep: whether we are here or in eternity. He wants to be a part of our lives always. He wants us to have peace, hope and confidence as we go through life, and to enjoy eternal rest with him in heaven.

That is why Paul goes on to encourage us to be alert and self-controlled. We are children of the light; so we are called to live as though we are in the day. We get on with the business of life that we are called to do as God’s people. Now that of course is far from easy, for society operates with different values and a different focus. It is so easy to get caught up in the thinking around us that has little time for Christianity and which promotes ethics and morals that are not good and compatible with how God would have us live, so that we can be at peace with God and with one another.

 So we are called to be alert. Just as if we are at work, operating machinery, where our mind needs to be on the job; so also we need that same kind of thinking when it comes to living our lives as Christians. We need to be aware of the dangers, as well focussing on what has to be done and the opportunities that are before us.
At the same time he tells us to be self-controlled. In an age when the attitude is that we are to give free rein to self and what we want, God calls us to keep a good check on our desires. Our thoughts need to be again on loving God and our neighbour: that is giving thought to them and what they want, rather than on what we selfishly want for ourselves.

 That is where Paul’s next thoughts turn. To be self-controlled for him means, putting on faith and love as a breastplate. The breastplate covers the vital organs and so spares our life from death. So in order to be protected from coming to spiritual harm, we are to cover our lives with faith and love. That is, to place our complete trust and confidence in God and who he is and what he has and is doing for us through Jesus Christ and what he has done for us through his death on the cross, and to look to him first and foremost in all that we do. We are to love the Lord our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as we do ourselves. Then he is suggesting that we will be significantly protected from having our life being stolen from us.

To add to that he says that we need to have the hope of salvation as a helmet. To protect our head; that is our thinking and reasoning capacity, we are to hold in the forefront of our thinking the sure and certain hope of eternal life that we have as a result of Christ living in us. Because of him we have salvation, guaranteed; and no one and nothing can take that away from us. Because that is certainly the greatest trick in Satan’s armoury: He constantly seeks to get us to doubt whether we really are saved; and he seeks to get us to think that we need to try harder and do more and be better; and then when we fail to despair.
However as we remain alert and self-controlled in this way, we can continue to have that sure and certain hope that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Christ. He does now live in us, and as we continue to remain in him, nothing in all of creation can separate us from this love.

 Paul then concludes, therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I believe that this is also God’s message to us here this today. He would have us also encourage and build each other up in this way by continuing to work together as his people, and as we particularly encourage one another to look to and focus on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for us. That we gather together as often as we can so that he can strengthen and encourage us as individuals and as a whole. We gather in worship knowing that because Christ is in each of us, we are one with each other. Also in that worship God continually reminds us that we, in our baptism, are joined to him, and that at the Lord’s Table we again receive his real presence in our lives; and so are strengthened in our knowledge that nothing in all creation can separate us from his love. Then he sends us out into our daily lives with the assurance of his blessing.

 With that knowledge we can go forward with hope and confidence into each day of the rest of our lives, giving all glory to him who is our Lord and Saviour. We can face the Last Day with certainty and the assurance that all will be well for us. While destruction comes on those who have turned their backs on Jesus Christ, we can have the certainty that we are  sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. We are and will live together with our Lord, giving him the glory that is due to him. For again, to him alone belongs all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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