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Get Ready for Jesus to Come

Mark 13:35-36

Pastor James F. Wright

Last Sunday of the Church Year
St John Lutheran Church  
Champaign, IL

Sun, Nov 26, 2000 

In the name of Jesus,

"Keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back. . . . Do not let him find you sleeping." (Mark 13:35-36)

Get Ready for Jesus to Come

In the name of Jesus, our righteous judge and merciful king. With the passing of Thanksgiving people are preparing for the Christmas holiday: shopping furiously, stocking the refrigerator, mailing Christmas cards. Only 28 days left!

There is a much greater preparation all Christians must make. We prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ when he will come with power as judge of the whole world.

Jesus warned his disciples to be ready for his coming. He said it was like a man who went away and left his servants in charge, telling them to have the house ready for him whenever he got back.

No one knows when this will be. The angels in all their power and beauty do not know. Nor did Jesus himself make use of his divine knowledge to tell us when it will be. That is because God wants us to be ready every day we live. We are to be alert and prepared for his return.

How does the Christian get ready for Christís coming? Today we consider three ways to prepare: Repent, Hold On to Christís Teaching, and Rely On Christís Righteousness.

Repenting means letting go of worldly things. On the last day Jesus is going to return, everything will be burned upside down. The worldly things we rely on now will not help us then. Our great financial institutions will be inert. Our military might will be as good as toast. The fury of Godís wrath will be seen by everyone, and we will all stand before the God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

2 Corinthians 5:10 reads, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive what is due him for all the things while done in the body, whether good or bad."

To be ready, we have to loosen our grip on the things we see here before us, and tighten our grip on heaven, which we cannot see. On that day it will not matter how much money you made, what part of town you lived in, how prestigious your education was, or how many people knew your name. The only thing that will matter is whether or not you are spiritually ready to meet God.

The Bible warns us against falling asleep. Sleep here means giving in to the spirit of the times. We must not be consumed by this world, but resist it. We must not fall asleep to what matters most, letting go of everything and holding on to everything Jesus has said.

Tired people who want to stay awake donít lay down. They nod off gradually. Likewise, the Christian is constantly in danger when he allows small compromises to move him further and further away from Christ.

Letís face it. When the end comes everything will be taken away from us. Everything except what Jesus has taught us to believe. This is all we need to stand before Godís coming judgment.

We must continually repent--turn from our wrongs and seek Godís forgiveness. God will repay everyone who has wronged him. Do not be deceived--the evil that goes on today will be punished on judgment day without exception.

What goes on in courtrooms that is not right will be judged in Godís courtroom. What goes on in politics, and even elections, that is not right will be reckoned on the last day. Nothing is hidden from God Almighty. He will judge the nations. Therefore we must all repent continously. This is the first way to get ready for the coming of Christ.

The second way to prepare is to hold on to Christís teaching. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away" (Mark 13:31). That is a clue as to what we should be holding on to in our lives. Jesus defeated the devilís temptation when he said, "Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). We are to honor Godís word by hearing the message of the Scriptures, by teaching it to our families, and by living our lives by it. We are to uphold our church, for it is the mouth through which God speaks to us, our family, and our community. We should be so moved by the Lordís presence in his church that we give the first and best of what we have to the Lordís work, and use what is left for ourselves. We hold fast to Godís word when we defend his truth against false claims to the truth. Christ commands us to guard the truth, to teach what is right according to sound doctrine (Titus 2:20), to rebuke false teachers (1:13), and to watch out for false prophets (Matthew 7:15). Today people seem to move around in churches as if they were shopping for automobiles. "This one has more options, but that one costs less." They never ask if what the preacher is teaching them is the truth or not. We fall asleep when we forget what Christ has said or are afraid to stand up for his truth. We fall asleep and are unready to meet him when he arrives. The final way we prepare for the coming judgment is to depend on Christís righteousness as our only hope. In the Bible, the righteousness Jesus gives to us is sometimes described as a garment given to us to wear. In the parable of the wedding banquet, for example, the king invites people in off the streets to sit at the banquet, but the one not wearing the wedding clothes is sent away. Revelation 16:15 reads, "Behold, I will come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed." The righteousness of Jesus is what will present us before the judgment seat on the last day. It is not a righteousness we produce by ourselves, for we have none. Only by the perfect sinless life of Christ offered for us in his death and resurrection can we stand before God, clothed in his righeousness. We are to prepare for judgment day by repenting, that is, letting go of worldly things, by holding fast to Christís teaching, and by depending on the righteousness of Christ. This reminds me of the story of a tourist who was traveling in Northern Italy. He wanted to visit a certain castle called Villa Arconti. When he got there he met a friendly old gardener who opened the gate and showed the tourist the grounds which the old man kept in perfect order. "How long have you been here?" the tourist asked. "Twenty-four years," replied the gardener. "And how often has the owner of the castle been here during that time?" "Four times." "When was the last time?" "Twelve years ago." "Never since then?" "Never." "Does he write to you?" "No." "From whom then do you get your instructions?" "From his agent at Milan." "Does this agent come out here quite often?" "Never." "Who, then, comes here?" "I am almost always alone--only once in a great while a tourist comes here." "But you keep this garden in such fine condition and take such excellent care of all the plants, just as though you expected your master to come tomorrow." "Today, sir, today," the old gardener proudly replied. His answer made a deep impression on the tourist. How faithful that old man was to his trust! Day after day his though was not "Tomorrow the master may come" but "Today, sir today."

This is how our Lord wants us to be ready for his coming, not tomorrow, but today. Repent, Hold On to Christís Teaching, and Rely On Christís Righteousness. Amen.



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