#1 (The Church’s Stance While Awaiting Christ’s Return Series)
TEXTS: 1 Thess. 5:1-11 Mk. 13 2 Tim. 3:1-7
INTRO: There are many Christians WAITING for the return of Jesus Christ -- but not that many who are WATCHING for the return of Christ! The Bible doesn't teach us to wait for His return; we are to WATCH for His return! What then is the difference between WAITING and WATCHING?
ILLUS: A bunch of navy men were returning from a long voyage in the seas, as the boat approached shore the men were all looking for their wives and girlfriends on the shore ... eager to see them again! As the men looked over the crowd of women lined up the air of excitement and expectancy grew. One man however was all alone as all the other men found their wives and girlfriends and they all embraced ... his wife wasn't there! Worried, he hurried home and found a light on in his house. As he entered he was relieved to see his wife, she quickly turned and said, "HONEY, I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU!" His response showed his disappointment however, "The other men’s wives and girlfriends were watching for them!" The difference between waiting and watching was only too clear! – Source Unknown
ILLUS: What would you rather have when the enemy might attack, someone on guard-duty who is simply waiting for the enemy to show up or someone on guard-duty who is watching to see if the enemy has showed up? The difference between “WAITING” and “WATCHING” here might mean the difference between life and death! – Source Unknown
PROP.SENT: The Bible teaches us that we are to be watching for the return of Jesus, not just waiting for it. Those who watch for it will keep themselves alert and self-controlled; those simply waiting may slip into sloppy business with other things and let their priorities slip!
I. NEED FOR WATCHFULNESS! 1 Thess. 5:1-3 Mark 13 2 Tim. 3:1-7
A. Momentum 1 Thess. 5:1-2 2 Tim. 3:1-7
1. Why do we need to have a watchful attitude?
a. The momentum of fallen man will be toward getting worse and worse if we are not on GUARD, we might allow ourselves to slip slowly away from a firm commitment to Christ!
b. Paul's point in saying that Jesus will come “like a thief in the night” is to emphasize how those outside of Christ will be caught OFF GUARD!
2. The use of the illustration of a woman in labor is to illustrate the fact that the return of Christ is a fact of certainty ... just as labor pains prove a baby is soon to come, so will the rot of sin in increasing measure around the world prove the soon coming of Jesus Christ!
a. And for unbelievers, they will be caught off guard by Christ’s coming!
b. But for those watching for Christ's return it will not be a great surprise!
3. Paul describes these "last days" in his letter to Timothy:
a. “They will be terrible times.”
b. “People will be lovers of self, money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having forms of godliness but denying its power” ... depraved minds.
c. While Paul clearly meant the last days to be from the time of Christ’s first coming until His second the Bible indicates an increasing measure of these attributes of ungodliness as His second coming gets closer!
4. Ironically, during those last days people in the world will think things are really getting good, they will be thinking “PEACE AND SAFETY!”
a. “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly,”
b. The Greek construction "SAYING" is a present subjunctive meaning they will be saying “peace and safety” at the very moment that doom comes upon them!
B. Mesmerized! 1 Thess. 5:3 Mk. 13
1. While the world is saying "PEACE AND SAFETY" doom will hit them at that very moment!
2. The world will be caught OFF-GUARD!
3. According to Mark 13 we as God's people are called upon a number of times in this passage concerning the future to be “WATCHING” ... “BE ALERT” … “DON'T BE DECEIVED.”
a. Six times Jesus uses this phrase when telling His disciples about the future time just before Christ comes!
b. Christians should never be lulled into complacency!
4. Be careful what you grasp onto, what is important in life ... keep watching, don't just grab for this world and lose the next!
ILLUS: A young boy was found to have his hand hopelessly caught in a very expensive vase. Try as they might they could not get his hand free from inside the antique vase! Soap didn't work, nothing did. Finally in desperation they broke the expensive vase only to discover the reason the boy’s hand would not come out was because of a penny he was clutching inside the vase ... to the boy this was a treasure, one he would not let go of! ... and because he continued to make a fist to hold onto it his hand would not come through the opening, and so a greater treasure was lost through the foolishness of a small child! – Source Unknown
5. Let us be careful not to clutch at lesser treasures!
6. Those who are watching for Jesus' return will be less likely to cling to the treasures of this world than those merely waiting for Christ’s return!
II. NATURE OF WATCHFULNESS 1 Thess. 5:4-11
A. Mental 1 Thess. 5:4-6a
1. “We are not in darkness” (meaning without understanding!)
a. It won't be a surprise to those watching for Christ's return ... we expect it!
b. Because we are not “ASLEEP” like the world, we need to be alert!
2. To be alert means to be mentally sharp in this verse!
3. It is not a wise thing to have a guard on duty that is not alert mentally!
4. This involves being knowledgeable about the enemy, aware of the environment around him, understanding of warfare, alert to dangers, planning for the future!
ILLUS: During the Constitutional Convention in 1787 when it was proposed that the National Army be limited to just 3,000 men; George Washington who was presiding made the comment, "Then we should have another article providing that no foreign nation with an army exceeding 3,000 men be allowed to invade!" – Source Unknown
5. Those who simply wait for the future are not alert to the issues of the day, those who are watching out for the future however are alert to the needs now to be ready for tomorrow!
ILLUS: Some 30+ years ago in east Tennessee there was an old man who had an unusual morning ritual. He would fill a shoulder sack with acorns and take a sharpened wood stick and head out each morning to the forest area and the mountains. Here and there he would poke a hole in the ground and place an acorn in it, covering it with dirt with his shoes. He did this every day for years. When asked about it he stated, "Someone has to think about the future!" He was alert, seeing the foolishness of policy back then already got him moving to prepare to restore what was lost ... long before the environmental movement kicked in today! He wasn't just waiting for the future; he was watching it come ... and doing something about it ... alert! – Source Unknown
B. Moral 1 Thess. 5:6b-8
1. "Self-control" is the moral sense of this verse.
2. Those that are really WATCHING and not just waiting are usually those who are SELF-CONTROLLED!
a. They know the seriousness of the coming future ... that is why they are watching and not just waiting!
b. Note verse 7 and the illustration of "SLEEP" and "DRUNKENNESS."
c. This is to contrast the lack of self-control to those who have self-control!
d. God's people need to be alert mentally ... and we need to be MORALLY SELF-CONTROLLED!
3. Morally self-controlled here is much more than just sexual stuff!
a. It is all behavior ... kept in proper balances, not extremes!
b. It is the ability to not only know what is right and wrong, but the ability to do what is right and avoid doing what is wrong!
4. We need to be alert so as not to be taken in by this world's system of values!
ILLUS: The common law in nature is the "path of least resistance." Electricity moving through a circuit will always travel where it has the "easiest" route. Rivers run around mountains and down slopes because it is easier than cutting through a mountain or going up one! It is easier to learn about relationships by watching TV than it is to develop real ones, it is easier to complain about a worship service than to participate in one ... we must constantly fight the battle to avoid the EASIEST WAY – Source Unknown
5. Only those who are really watching will catch the enemy trying to rob them!
ILLUS: Like the bus in Chicago driven by a very alert man. The bus was full of people and had just stopped to take on more. At one street a woman and two men got on and immediately the watchful and alert bus driver announced, "Everybody watch your valuables, there are pickpockets on board." Women clutched their purses tightly and men held onto their wallets ... all eyes fixed on the new trio that just entered ... they looked insulted and harassed, but they quickly made a retreat out of the bus, the driver's watchfulness saved others from loss. They weren't watching, but he was! – Source Unknown
6. We must guard ourselves against the moral influences of this world.
a. For many Christians they feel good about not failing in big ways, but we must guard our hearts against the smaller attitudes that can be just as painful and damaging as those big sins!
b. We tend to be off guard against the smaller things, yet they are the things that trip us up!
ILLUS: Bobby Leach, an Englishman, startled the world some years ago by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel unscathed! ... A feat few have done! Some time later however, Leach was walking down a street and slipped on an orange peel and had to be rushed to the hospital with a badly fractured leg ... he wasn't as watchful on the daily road as he had been with the big river and it cost him! – Source Unknown
C. Motivation 1 Thess. 5:9-11
1. Why stay ALERT & SELF-CONTROLLED!?
a. Because “we have not been appointed for wrath!” 5:9a
b. “We are not children of the dark ... but of light!”
c. God has prepared something better for us than what we have now!
2. Why do guards stay alert on guard duty ... because they know that eventually the war will end and those alive will go home again! THERE IS A FUTURE WORTH STAYING ALERT FOR!
3. We are not simply passing time, we are watching for our Lord's return by staying alert mentally and self-controlled morally!
4. Even if Jesus doesn't come in our lifetime we need to leave the next generation a witness of having been on duty during our lifetime!
ILLUS: When Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius there were people everywhere that were buried by the ashes. Some were found in attics, others were in cellars, obviously trying to find a secure place. Guess where one Roman sentinel however was found? Standing at the city gate where he had been placed by the captain with his hands still clutching his weapon. There, while the earth shook beneath him, while the floods of ashes and cinders covered him, he had stood his post ... and even after a thousand years the impression of his body still standing there unmoved gives testimony to others of his faithfulness during his lifetime to his guard-duty! – Source Unknown
5. When our children look back on our lives will they see servants of the Lord that have been faithful to be watching or adults who were running around waiting for the Lord but passing time doing a thousand different things!?
6. Paul ends here with: “ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER, BUILD EACH OTHER UP.”
a. Those on guard-duty can encourage and be encouraged!
b. There is peace among the soldiers when they know they have good guards on duty!
CONCLUSION: Are you just killing time waiting for Jesus to return, or are you really making time productive while watching for His return? One role of the church awaiting Christ's return is that of a sentry! We are to be "Watchful" or "On Guard" duty. We are to understand the days in which we live. A good guard is alert mentally and disciplined or self-controlled. The church is moving closer to the day Christ will come ... be on guard saints! BE WATCHFUL!