KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE TIME
Dear Friends in Christ,
Lutherans are a liturgical church. What does that word mean?” Liturgy is derived from a Greek word that means “the work of the people.” Short and sweet, when we Lutherans worship, we don’t watch, we participate. We have work to do. We confess, we sing, we listen, we profess, we pray, and we receive the sacrament. When we worship, we don’t play it by ear. There is order to our worship. It fits with what the apostle says, “Let all things be done in fitting and proper way.”
We also follow a church calendar. We celebrate important days in the life of Jesus and His Church. Readings connect with those days. When we follow a church year we get to hear all the teachings of the Scripture and not just the pastor’s favorites.
Today we begin a new church year. This is the season of Advent. The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word “adventus,” meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word “Parousia.” We celebrate the coming of Jesus. During Advent we put ourselves in the position of the Old Testament people who waited for Jesus. Israel looked back to God’s gracious actions in their past and on their behalf and waited until Christ came. In the same way, the New Testament church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming the first time and we wait in eager expectation for him to return again. Today “We Keep Our Eyes on the Time.” 1) Beware; 2) Be prepared; 3) Behave.
Beware! The Lord says that it won’t be long. The apostle writes, “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”The final and full salvation is nearer than when we first believed. God’s celestial clock is set. Time is winding down. All things are coming to an end, but only God knows when. We often play games where answers must be given within a certain time frame. We must be done with certain tasks within a certain time frame. Sales people have three months to hit pre-set quotas. As a pastor, the pressure starts to produce another sermon for next week the moment the one for this week is done. The world and the universe, as we know it, is set to exist for a finite time. Then all will end.
Yes, scoffers laugh. Peter said, “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” Should we be alarmed that a couple thousand years have come and gone since Jesus said he was returning a second time? Give this some thought. Christ was first promised 4,000 plus years before he came. 1900 years later God said to Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 700 plus years before Christ came Isaiah spoke about that virgin who would have a son. Immanuel, God with us, would be his name. Malachi, 400 years before he came, spoke about the “Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings.” Then there were 400 years of silence. But he finally came. Hey, it will happen.
But don’t be lulled to sleep. Don’t be tempted to think it won’t happen. The clock is running. It won’t be and hasn’t been reset. Every breath you take is one less than the number you are destined to take over a lifetime. “Your salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
But remember this: the pressure is off. Our salvation is complete. There are no quotas to meet; no conditions that must be met. Nothing that has been left undone. In fact, the quota has been met. Jesus met it. He did so with a life of perfection…for us. Thank you, Jesus. That’s what you did when he came the first time as our Savior, so we could be ready the second time as our Judge. Don’t push it away. Don’t say that it is foolish. Jesus did it for you. Beware of his coming. Be aware, because of him you are ready.
Let’s talk preparedness. George Foreman once said, "I think sleeping was my problem in school. If school had started at four in the afternoon, I'd be a college graduate today." While sleep is good for the body, it is not good for the soul when it takes precedence over feeding the soul with the Living Bread and the Living Water. That’s what Jesus called himself. Not bragging, just fact!
A missionary’s wife who was living in the Caribbean and said she slept soundly as a hurricane passed over the island. She said she slept through the whole thing because she grew up in the Dakotas where the howling winds of blizzards were common.
I would never suggest to anyone to try to sleep through a hurricane. Danger lurks. Look what happens when people fall asleep at the wheel of cars. Paul says that the eyes of the soul should never shut. Peter warns, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Don’t allow a spiritual sleepiness entrap you. The Lord can come at any time.
Paul says further. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Christianity cannot does not exist if someone is in a spiritual coma. Everyone needs to be alive and alert in the faith.
You can tell Paul wrote the letter to Romans as well as the letter to the Ephesians. He speaks about wearing spiritual armor in both places. In Ephesians he goes into more detail. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
He starts with the “belt of truth buckled around your waist.” Satan is the “father of lies.” That’s a title Jesus gave him. In fact when we speak a lie, Jesus says we speak Satan’s “native language.” Proverbs says that a “lying tongue is detestable to Him.”
God’s people must speak the truth and be grounded in the truth as the end approaches. We must be guided by the truth. Where is truth found? Jesus says with exclamation marks what truth is when was praying to the Father in heaven. “Your word is truth.” Speak the truth and be grounded in the truth. Wear the “belt of truth buckled around your waist.”
Wear “the breastplate of righteousness in place.” A breastplate shielded a warrior’s vital organs from blows that would otherwise be fatal. The breastplate was vital. The righteousness that Paul refers to is the righteousness not done by us but the righteousness that was given us. Remember that the standard for getting into heaven is perfection. That’s what the Lord said, “Be holy for I the Lord your God am holy.” “Be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Alarming? Does it cause your heart to skip a beat? Protect the heart with the breastplate of righteousness. We have the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We received that righteousness at our baptism. Now not even Satan accuse us.
Have your “your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”. You don’t go into battle wearing flip flops. The foot wear suggests we advance the Gospel. While we go forth daily into a sinful world, Satan lays traps in the way. When we go into the Devil’s territory we go with the message of peace. We can stand our ground not matter what Satan throws our way.
Wear the “shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the
We get so accustomed to sinning that we begin to think it is natural and not so bad. Everyone does it. Hollywood jumps on the pile and says that sin is not so bad, but intensely pleasurable to the sinful flesh. Get your shield of faith in place. Faith in the Lord act like a shield, faith in God promises are like a shield thwarting every attack he tries. We remember the Lord’s shield keeps us from falling prey to such nonsense.
Take the helmet of salvation. The head is the seat of the mind, which, when it lays hold of the Gospel, will not receive false doctrine or give way to Satan’s temptations. The unbeliever has no way of discerning between truth and error. They don’t value salvation. We do when we wear the helmet of salvation.
Wear the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Remember Jesus' temptations in the desert. When Jesus was tempted he replied with a Bible verse. The word was the sword with which Jesus fought Satan. Every soldier needs a weapon. So do you. It needs to be known so it can be ready and available. It is fool proof when used against Satan.
As you keep your eyes on the time, behave yourself. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. The King James Version of the Bible said we need to “put off chambering and wantonness.” How the KJV says it makes it seem like it isn’t so bad. But it is.
Paul instructs us to behave as in the daytime. Crime stats would really go down if we didn’t need to count the ones done in the cover of darkness. There is a reason God refers to sin as darkness. There is a reason why Jesus calls himself the Light of the world. That’s why we need to behave like one of his children.
A life of sexual immorality and debauchery, a life of pleasing self are incompatible with Christ like-living. Back in school days, my teachers in high school and college reminded us all the time that we represented our schools on and off campus. Our coaches would say the same whenever we put on a uniform for our school. They stressed good sportsmanship. We were good sports, we let the other teams beat us an awful lot. That might make you smile a bit, but we do have the uniform of Jesus. We do wear the robes of righteousness and the garments of salvation. We are wearing the armor with which he armed us. As we keep our eyes on the time, live accordingly as people saved, as citizens of heaven.