2010-03-14 (am) 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Hope of Salvation
Last week we looked at the Apostle Paul’s timely message concerning the hope we have in the face of death, the hope that was powerfully remembered in the celebration of Lord’s Supper.
This week, we will consider the hope of salvation, the celebration of life, witnessed by the sacrament of baptism.
If last week was all about comfort for those who mourn, this week is all about comfort for all who live.
And as we saw in KJ’s baptism, we celebrate the salvation paid for us by Christ. His death, remembered last week, brings life, true life to us, even to those as young as and younger than KJ.
This week, we look forward to the plans that God has for us, for KJ, for Kyle and Suzy for our children and grandchildren, indeed for all who are yet far off.
Paul begins this part of the letter reminding the Thessalonians of what he’d already taught them. Likely, he had quoted Jesus’ own words stating that only the Father knows the time of the second coming. Jesus, though God himself, while he was on earth, did not have that knowledge.
Therefore, it is ridiculous when people declare they know when the end will come. In fact, in light of our passage this morning, it is ridiculous to suppose we know if the end is even near!
These first few verses of chapter 5 are often misunderstood even though the explanation is quite simple. Paul says that the second coming of Christ will come like a thief in the night. While people say, peace and safety, Christ will come.
Isn’t it interesting that our preoccupation for peace and safety was common even in those days! But the point is this and only this: Christ will come suddenly, when he is least expected. My guess? Jesus will return not when there’s all kinds of destruction, but when the church universal, worldwide is really doing what Christ calls it to do. Things will be going so well that Christ’s return will be the least expect thing, and yet when he does return, the church will rejoice like crazy.
Christ’s return, says Paul will be unexpected, like being burglarised. No one goes to bed with the expectation you will be robbed that night. Sure, you’ll lock your doors, set an alarm, take certain precautions to prevent it, but no one goes to bed saying, “Too bad, tonight we get robbed.”
The point is, you don’t know. If you did, you’d be prepared. You’d make sure you’d stay awake; you might even invite a friend to help you protect your home. You’d program 911 into your phone and be ready, finger on speed dial and waiting.
But we just don’t know when a thief might come. And when a thief does come, it will come as a great surprise.
It is interesting, most people prepare themselves for a burglary, hide valuables, lock doors and windows, etc. Even though statistically robbery might be quite low on the major events to rock your world, most people do it. And yet, though we all know that Christ will return, most people are not at all prepared, indeed they even less prepared than they are for a burglary!
Though this is a useful analogy, there is one aspect that has caused some confusion. Christ’s return will be sudden and unexpected, like a burglary. But it will not be quiet and sneaky like a burglary. It will be with a loud trumpet, and a host of angels. Indeed when it happens, everyone will know about it.
But we who are in Christ are prepared for Christ’s return. We look forward to it eagerly. We pray for Christ to come. We long for the end of suffering, the end of evil. We cannot wait to see Christ, to live with him forever.
There’s a completely different attitude for those who are in Christ. Instead of worrying about Christ’s return, we anticipate it, and in anticipation, begin living as those who are with Christ already. In Ephesians, Paul explains that we are already seated with Christ in heaven.
We are children of the light, children of the day. We live our lives as those who are sober minded. We are aware of reality. We know that Christ could return at any time, and we prepare ourselves for it. We seek to live godly lives. Determined, we choose to live lives worthy of the calling of Christ.
We teach our children to live as children of the light.
Now this is not as simple as it sounds. Sometimes we get so fixated on sin or our sinfulness that we forget our true identity in Christ. Now, we don’t want to minimise it, we don’t want to pretend there is no such thing as sin, for that wouldn’t help anything either.
Let me explain. Adam and Eve were created with the ability to obey all God’s commands. Tempted by Satan, they chose to sin. As a result, God cursed them and the earth, but at the same time, he promised that he would provide a solution, a grand rescue plan.
Every generation from Adam and Eve are sinful. That was their default position. Among these, a few struggled hard against their sin. And through the power of the person of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives, they lived in righteousness. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Israel, David and others strived to live righteous lives.
All these righteous people were pointing to, leading up to the one seed, the one child who would be born to save people from their sin. That person, of course is Jesus. He finally came nearly two thousand years ago, lived a perfect life and died a perfect atonement, payment for sin. For all who receive him, for all who believe in his Name, he gives the right to become children of God.
And that’s what we are. Once we were sons and daughters of darkness, now we are sons and daughters of light.
When you raise your children, teach them who they are. Let KJ’s baptism remind you of who you are, first and foremost, you are a child of God. God claimed you. God calls you his own. Today he confirmed, by the visible sign and seal of baptism that KJ belongs to him.
Because we belong to God, because God has chosen us, let us put on, like clothing, that identity, our identity as Gods’ children. Rather than going about lamenting how sinful we are, let us go about remembering what Christ accomplished so that we could really live.
If you go about this life thinking about the darkness, thinking about your sin and your sinfulness, then you will set yourself up for more sin. But if you have the mind of Christ and consider yourself dead to sin, then you will live for Christ alone.
So, Kyle and Suzy, God has charged you with a big job. Not only does he call you to raise KJ by providing food, shelter and clothing, all of which he’s equipped you to do admirably. He has charged you and us also, to raise him to know Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.
It is your task, and the task of all of us here, though of course the burden will be upon you, to teach him about Jesus. Because of your love for Jesus, this task won’t be much of a burden at all. Your delight in Christ will overflow into KJ’s life. Continue to develop your relationship with God, so that KJ will see you and will obtain salvation for himself through our Lord Jesus Christ.
To this end, let the apostle Paul’s words encourage you and all of us.
This is how to fulfil our vows as parents, as a congregation in raising KJ, in raising all our children in the Lord.
Let us put on the breastplate of faith and love. The breastplate covers one of the most important parts of our bodies, our heart. With this protection in place, our hearts will be protected from Satan’s attacks.
It is called the breastplate of faith and love for this reason. We must remind ourselves of the truth. Jesus came to live and to die so that by believing we might live, truly live also. This truth is fact. You can take it to the bank. You can trust it. You can stake your life on it.
And you can live in confidence, because of Jesus; you are in the process of being transformed. God is teaching you how to live. He will give you the strength to live as a person of faith. He will give you the wisdom you need to raise KJ. He will give you the power of your faith in Christ, as you study his word, as you teach it to KJ, as you attend church, as you model your faith for him.
You also put on the breastplate of love which will enable you to continue to make fantastic sacrifices for KJ, for your family for your church. We will see such sacrifices and we will be encouraged. We all are making sacrifices for our faith, we are choosing to do things that are contrary to the ways of the world. We are living as the set apart ones, living up to the calling to be holy as God is holy.
But we also, importantly, put on the helmet of the hope of salvation. The helmet of course, protects the head. It also is the means by which we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Think about it. KJ is born into a completely different worldview than the rest of the world. He will grow up knowing what Christ has done for him. You will be able to tell him stories of how Christ held him in the hospital when you were unable to hold him. How Christ gave him breath, even when he could not breathe. You will tell him of the May family and baby Isaiah and how he will be able to see him one day. You will be able to share the truth of the hope that we have in Christ.
That hope translates into a life lived in confidence in Christ. We can face each day, each challenge, because we have put our trust and our hope in Christ. We can face whatever comes because we know that God’s promises are forever, extending even to our children. We can approach whatever is out there and in here, because the resurrection is real. Jesus is alive.
After the last song, Kyle and Suzy have asked to show a two minute slideshow from when KJ was just born, during the time he was in hospital. As you look at the pictures, realise that they could as easily have been your pictures. Remember that there are many children like KJ. See in these pictures, Christ holding KJ. See in these pictures, Christ holding Isaiah May, whose family we prayed for this morning. In Isaiah’s case, Jesus carried him home.
As you look remember you are a child of God. You are in God’s hands. Nothing can take that from you, nothing at all. Remember your baptism, remember your identity. Live in the hope of Christ your Lord, your saviour, amen.