Friday, July 8, 2016

Waiting for Jesus' Return

We are called to live our lives with expectancy. The early believers inspire us by their outlook; they expected Jesus Christ to return in their lifetime.  Here are ways they expressed their faith that Jesus Christ could come at any moment:


Romans 13:12 (NIV) The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.


1 John 2:18 (NIV) Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.


The fact that Jesus did not return in the first century does not invalidate God’s promise. Jesus never promised to come within a certain window of time. From the Creator’s perspective, a thousand years is only a day. Regardless of when we think Jesus will return or how we view prophecy, we know that one day we will stand before God. We have to be ready to meet him. Expectancy must categorize our lives!


I’m sure that expectant believers don’t sit around in prophecy Bible studies and wring their hands about all that is wrong in the world. Likewise, God is not pleased when we lapse into laziness and live as if Jesus Christ will not return. What does an expectant believer look like? How does a person live in such a way that he or she is ready for the return of Jesus Christ? Peter gives us the insight we need to live as expectant believers.


In this little summary, Peter gave what has been called the “ten commandments” of 1 Peter. He offered these commands to us to keep us prepared for the return of Jesus Christ.


1 Peter 4:7-11 (NIV) The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.


The “Ten Commandments” for Waiting on Jesus Christ’s Return


1. Be alert! (v. 7)


The Bible reminds us that we are to “be sober” and “alert.” Being alert means that we are to keep our mind steady and our thoughts clear. Stay calm! We cannot get frenzied and get off onto tangents—becoming impulsive and purposeless.


I play trumpet, not as well as I once did. When I played in the school band and later in brass ensembles, I enjoyed playing classical pieces of music. In those pieces, you aren’t playing the entire time. The composer writes “rests” in the music. For many measures, you may not play a single note. Often, I would sit during the rest and get caught up in hearing the other instruments play and miss my cue. Undoubtedly, this frustrated the conductor.  I think many of us can be lulled into a trance by the routines of life. We miss our opportunity to be an influence for Jesus. We have to be alert so that we do not miss our cue.


We must not be swayed by emotionalism, worry, or despair. God’s Word anchors our minds. Trust in God stabilizes our spirits. We don’t get off balance because we lose our focus on Jesus Christ. When we think with biblical wisdom, using the mind of Christ, we avoid impulsiveness.


2.  Pray! (v. 7)


If you want to make the best use of your time while waiting for the return of Christ, do so by praying! You will find the phrase “watch and pray” often in the Bible.  Watching and praying means that we  should approach life with our eyes open to the activity of God and spend our time seeking him in all things. We cannot let our prayer life fall into a rut. Our prayers have to reflect that we are on guard and watchful. We are expecting God to do something!


The most important thing about the return of Jesus Christ is not creating a timeline of events related to the end times. The most important aspect of Jesus’ return is thinking, praying, and serving in a way which prepares us to meet him. Our right thinking and praying will lead to right living.


The older I get, the more important prayer becomes in my life. I think I am learning more and more each year how much I need to depend upon God. When I started out in adulthood, I moved out at seventeen and went off to college. At that time I strung together several jobs. I was proud of myself. I thought my hard work and relentless approach to life was the key. However, the more I experienced in life, I found that my mind, health, and opportunities were gifts from God. Prayer is a way we can acknowledge God in all things.


3. Love deeply. (v. 8)


Peter reminds us here that our love for each other must be fervent. Love for others in the faith is necessary. Peter puts it above all things. Why is love so crucial? Love is the litmus test for our faith before the watching world. In times of trouble, love lets others know that we are united in mission and heart.


The word “deeply” is used here. The original word gives the mental picture of an athlete striving to reach the goal. Christian love is intense. It doesn’t always come easy. You have to work at it like a runner has to build up endurance on the track. This kind of effort makes it possible to love people that we don’t even like!


A key obstacle to love is brought up in this Scripture. “Love covers a multitude of sins.” In this phrase, God’s Word reminds us that sins will come between believers from time to time. Love can cover those sins. When love covers sin it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t see our sin; only Jesus can atone for our sin. So, love doesn’t condone sin, but it can cover sin and not allow it to come between people.  In other words, love forgives.


At times, I have made choices in my life that were selfish and immature. I reflect back on some of those choices and the people who dealt with the consequences. Many of those people were kind enough to overlook my stupidity. They graced me with forgiveness. Some of them gave me the benefit of the doubt that I meant well. A few of them tried to make me pay for my failures and mistakes. I have decided that I want to forgive and try to give grace to people. Life is too short to hold grudges.


4. Offer hospitality. (v. 9)


Hospitality is commanded in the Bible. The hospitality of the ancient Middle East is renown. One of the most condemnable acts in biblical time was to be inhospitable. In New Testament times, families could house travelers for two or three days with no expectation of being paid. This kind of hospitality demanded personal sacrifice. Believers were to do this cheerfully without complaining.


Many hospitable people have blessed me throughout the years. I have stayed in dozens of homes when traveling to churches for various reasons. In doing so, I have been able to share life and friendship on a deeper level. Before Carol and I had children, we had three different college students live in our home over extended periods of time while they were away from their parents. What a joy and a challenge hospitality are!


Some of the most hospitable people in our church are those who have hosted community groups and church events. I know that these incredible people have made new friends and have been blessed.


5. Use your gift to serve others. (vv. 10-11)


God gives every believer gifts to use through the church. Both speaking and serving gifts are important to the church. Not everyone can or should be front and center. Not everyone is a teacher or preacher. However, God has given everyone a gift to use. If God has given you a gift, he will provide opportunities to use your gift. When you take advantage of those opportunities, make sure that you give God the glory!


Many years ago, my pastor asked me to play guitar in church and to give a brief presentation to a Bible study group each week. Being invited to volunteer was a beginning point for my calling in life. I met up with a group of guys at a local music store, and we started a band. God opened a lot of doors for me to use my gifts and talents.


I think many people want a title. They want recognition. I understand this. I know that at moments in my life, I have sought to be acknowledged for something I felt was significant. During the first decades years of life, we want success. We hit a certain point when we realize that what we achieved was, in part, due to circumstances and the grace of God. I am suggesting that we strive for eternal significance by pleasing God and not worry so much about winning in the eyes of other people.


“Preach the Gospel, die, and be forgotten.”― Count Zinzendorf


6. Don’t be surprised by opposition. (v. 12)


Peter said, “Don’t be surprised by suffering.” It is possible that some of the believers of that day were shocked that they had to suffer. The Greek word “fiery trial” was a term used in purifying metal. For Christians, suffering is a process that allows one’s true character and nature to remain after the dross of sin is removed.


Persecution or suffering is something that we should expect. If we evaluated history beginning with the time of Jesus, we would see that many incredible Christians suffered for their faith. Christians approach life and go through difficulty differently than unbelievers. A believer in Jesus is to face life with humility, integrity, and a desire to honor Jesus Christ.


7. Rejoice. (v. 13)


We are to rejoice, according to verse thirteen. Our rejoicing is to be continual. In verses thirteen and fourteen, God’s Word reminds us to rejoice four times. Our joy, even in the trials, is something that those who do not believe cannot understand. When the Apostles were arrested for preaching about Jesus, they rejoiced in their suffering.


Acts 5:41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.


8. Do not be ashamed of your faith. (vv. 15-16)


In verses fifteen and sixteen, we discover that we are not to be ashamed of our faith, even when we suffer as believers. At times, being a Christian has been punishable by death or other penalties. Many have been killed for admitted to following Jesus. Think about this:


Jesus is not ashamed of us.


Hebrews 2:11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.


God the Father is not ashamed of us.


Hebrews 11:16  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.


We are not to be ashamed of the name of Jesus.


Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.


9. Glorify God. (vv. 16-18)


Instead of being ashamed of God, we are called to glorify him. We bring God glory with our lives regardless of the cost! Remember, God doesn’t give us too much. He is faithful.


1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.


10. Commit yourself to God. (v. 19)


Have you committed yourself to the will of God? The word “commit” is a financial term in the original language. The word means to place a deposit for safekeeping. Paul put it this way:


2 Timothy 1:12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.


We are of value to God. He created us. Jesus redeemed us. The Holy Spirit lives in us to guard us and encourage us. Whatever we invest in the stock market can lose value. However, when we deposit our lives with Jesus Christ, we never lose value. He will keep us.


“Unsaved people have a present that is controlled by their past, but Christians have a present that is controlled by the future.” Warren Wiersbe


Focusing on the future is how we live in light of the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus is coming again! While we wait on him, we have our instructions.