“For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.”
(I Thessalonians 5:2)
This is Friday, May 20, 2011, and according to radio host Harold Camping, Jesus is coming back this Saturday. Apparently, he and his friends has discovered “that WE CAN KNOW from the Bible alone that the date of the rapture of believers will take place on May 21, 2011 and that God will destroy this world on October 21, 2011.”
Maybe—maybe not. I personally think Harold is a misguided soul, but one thing I do know is that Jesus is coming someday—which I think, and hope, will be very soon. Another thing I know is that we ought to be living like he is coming back tomorrow. Scripture makes it pretty clear that we ought to be living with our bags packed.
The Apostle Paul talks quite a lot about the return of Christ in both of his Thessalonian letters. He concludes the first letter by reminding his readers that this great event will happen when people least expect it—“like a thief in the night.” That means, as believers, we must therefore live each and every moment expecting the unexpected. We are to live with our bags packed, so to speak, ready to leave for our true home—heaven—at a moment’s notice.
What does it mean to live in such a way? Paul gives a checklist of sorts in the final verses of this letter. Perhaps you’ve used a checklist to make sure you have the right things packed in your suitcase before going on an extended trip. As you prepare for this journey home—which by the way, will be an extended trip with no return—here is your spiritual checklist to help you be ready:
Be alert: I Thessalonians 5:6—be on the lookout; remain on guard as to Christ’s return and the evil conditions of the time in which it will take place.
Be self-controlled: I Thessalonians 5:6 & 8—keep your life, your passions, your desires and fleshly drives in check.
Be armed: I Thessalonians 5:8—put on the armor of faith (conviction), love (self-sacrifice) and hope (the assurance of your salvation).
Be edifying: I Thessalonians 5:11—instead of finding flaws in others, build them up and help them to be ready for Christ’s return.
Be respectful: I Thessalonians 5:12-13—treat your spiritual leaders—ministers and lay leaders—with high regard and deep love. Give them respect not because of their position, educational achievements or popularity, but because of the nature of their work.
Be peaceful: I Thessalonians 5:13—seek peace actively, not passively, with fellow believers.
Be involved: I Thessalonians 5:14-15—get involved with others by warning the idle, motivating the timid, helping the weak, being patient with everyone, and exhibiting kindness rather than retaliation toward those who’ve hurt you.
Be joyful: I Thessalonians 5:16—maintain an attitude of joy no matter what.
Be prayerful: I Thessalonians 5:17—stay in God’s presence continually.
Be thankful: I Thessalonians 5:18—not only in good times, but even in bad times exhibit an attitude of gratitude.
Be sensitive: I Thessalonians 5:19-20—develop a sensitivity and an appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ; especially as it relates to prophecy.
Be discerning: I Thessalonians 5:21—be knowledgeable of the Bible so that everything can be tested against it.
Be diligent: Thessalonians 5:21—cling to the truth of God’s Word, being quick to obey it.
Be pure: I Thessalonians 5:22—moral purity should continually characterize your life.
Be surrendered: I Thessalonians 5:23-24—be wholly dependent on God and cooperative with the Holy Spirit to bring about sanctification and blamelessness in your life—body, soul and spirit.
Be interceding: I Thessalonians 5:25—regularly intercede for others before the throne of God.
Be friendly: I Thessalonians 5:26—love and affection must be demonstrative, and an outward expression of your inner affection for fellow believers.
Be unselfish: I Thessalonians 5:27—take responsibility to share God’s truth with other believers.
Be gracious: I Thessalonians 5: 28—live in the light and reality of God’s grace, personally, relationally and continually.
Are you ready to go, or do you need to do some more packing? Jesus may come today, so make sure you’re ready for the journey. And if he comes tomorrow, I’ll see you in a pretty cool place. If he doesn’t, then I’ll see you in another pretty cool place—church this Sunday!
“Our deepest calling is not to grow in our knowledge of God. It is to make disciples. Our knowledge will grow—the Holy Spirit, Jesus promised, will guide us into all truth. But that’s not our calling, it is His. Our calling is to prepare the world for Christ’s return. The world is not ready yet. And so, we go about introducing a dying world to the Savior of Life. Anything we do toward our own growth must be toward that end.” ~Jeffery Bryant