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TEXT: Luke 11:35-48

SUBJECT: Luke #50: Living in Light of the Second Coming

If you knew that Jesus Christ would return at 11:30 tonight, how would you spend the next twelve hours?

Some of you would spend that time pleading for mercy.  You're nice people and somewhat religious, but your sins are not forgiven and you know it.  You want to be saved, but not now; you'd like to go to heaven when you die, but you've got plenty of time for that.  But if you knew the Lord was coming for you tonight, you'd pray with a fervor and a humility you've never felt before.  Like the publican in the story, you'd spend the rest of this day beating your breast and crying out,

"God, be merciful to me-a sinner".

Most of you are believers, of course, but you've still got issues.  Maybe you would spend your last twelve hours apologizing to people you've done wrong.  Or forgiving people who have hurt you.  Or paying off an overdue bill.  Or witnessing to someone you've been scared to speak to in the past.  All of us, I suspect, would spend more than our customary time in praying and reading the Bible.  And I wonder if anyone would turn on the TV this afternoon if he knew the Lord was coming back tonight?

This is what today's sermon is about; it's about the Second Coming of Christ and how it affects your life.

CONTENT AND FORM

No one taught more often on the Second Coming than the Lord Himself.  Yet His teaching is remarkably free of detail.  There is a reason for this: we don't need it!

If every so-called Prophecy Expert followed the Lord, the Church would be far better off than it is.  Putting too fine a point on prophecy is sure to result in confusion, division, disappointment, and heresy.  It has happened a thousand times in the past, but the lesson has not been learned.  When it comes to the Return of Christ, we would do well to stick with the things we can be sure about; the big ideas are enough!

The Lord Jesus teaches us about the Second Coming without using a theological word of any kind.  Even the term Second Coming or Return of Christ is not to be found here.  The Lord is a very wise Teacher who knows how to get through to His audience.  They don't understand big words like eschatology, but they know very well what it means to have the boss drop in without notice!

The Lord uses this common knowledge to remind us that He's coming again some day-and like servants waiting for their master-we've got to be ready.

The story is made up of, well, three stories.  The first is encouraging, the second is alarming, and the third is both-depending on what kind of servant you are.

A WEDDDING

First we have servants waiting up for their master after his wedding.  In Israel at the time, weddings weren't conducted in churches or courtrooms, but at the bride's house.  The groom would show up at the appointed time, the guests would gather, food and wine would be served and the whole thing lasted for seven days!  The couple would then go back to the man's house and make it their home.

If he was a man of means, he had servants-often a lot of them.  They did not attend the wedding, of course, but they had a share in the master's joy.  They were to put on wedding clothes, keep the lamps burning, and wait for the newlyweds to come home.

If the servants were dressed and ready, the master would come in with the leftovers and wait on them while they ate the rich man's food.  This was a rare experience for the servants and a very happy one as well.  Just imagine a maid or a cook sitting down at a feast with her master pouring the wine and clearing the table!

The Lord says His Second Coming is like this-for those who are ready for it.  For faithful servants, the Return of Christ is not a scary thing!  There is no terror in it for those who are doing the Master's will!

The opposite is true: For faithful saints, the Second Coming is a day of unnamable happiness!  It's something like a wedding, a feast, a coronation, and a celebration of victory all in one.  Except better.  On that Day the sick are healthy, the poor are rich, the old are young, the lonely are popular; the ugly duckling is now the swan and the wandering bum is now a king!

Is there anything in the world more enjoyable than laughing?  Everyone likes to laugh-even the hypocrite does it on the sly!  But no one has ever laughed the way faithful servants of Christ will when their Master catches them-and they're ready for Him!

Think of the happiest day of your life.  It will seem like a funeral compared to the Day when Christ returns.  If you're ready.

The purpose of this story is to make us look forward to the Master's Return.  And in light of the future happiness of those who serve Him, to make us serve Him.now.

A BURGLARY

The second story uses pretty much the same cast of characters, though this time the surprise coming is not so happy.

There is a man sleeping who ought to be awake.  While he's sawing logs, a robber breaks in and ransacks the house.  Had the man been awake, he would have stopped the robbery and kept all his goods.  But because he dozed off, he lost everything.

The Lord compares Himself to the thief.  Just as burglars don't notify the people they're planning to rob, so the Lord does not say when He's coming back.  His people, therefore, have to be ready for Him all the time.

This does not mean we should try to guess the time of the Second Coming.  We cannot do that; no one can.  Many have tried in the past, but every last one of them has been proven wrong.  Some are still doing it, but their dates, too, will come and go.

Do you know why we should not try to figure out the time of the Second Coming?  There are two reasons:

First of all, we shouldn't try to guess the date (either exact or approximate) because God has not revealed it to men or angels.  Our Lord once said,

"But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know

In the second place, we're to prepare for the Second Coming by being ready for it at all times.  The Lord does not give Bible verses to serve one generation only, but all of His People over long centuries.  Saints in the First Century got as much out of these verses as we do; it meant as much to believers in 1850 as it will to the Christians who are alive when the Lord comes again.

If the Lord is like a crafty burglar, sneaking in when no one expects Him, how do we prepare for the His Coming?  By being ready right now.

Christians are ready for the Lord to come-not so much when they're doing something extraordinary for Him--as when they're going about their daily business in a distinctly Christian way.  Paul says,

"Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men".

The Christian carpenter is ready for the Lord to come when he's working hard and with a good attitude, thankful to God for the job He has given him.  The man sitting down at dinner is ready for the Lord to come when he's eating his food with thankfulness or when he's sharing the table with others in love.

For some, the Return of Christ will be like a burglary-only far, far worse.  In a break in, you only lose your money or silver or TV.  But those not ready for the Second Coming lose all these things-and their souls too!

If the Return of Christ is a feast for the ready, it's a funeral for the unready.  Only it's a funeral that never ends.  On that day, the rich will be poor; the healthy will be sick; the young will be old; the king will be a wandering bum.  It will be a catastrophe for those not ready for it.

To the unready, I can only quote the prophet Amos,

"Prepare to meet your God".

AN ASSESSMENT

The third story features the same master and servants.  But this time, instead of coming home from his wedding and sharing his joy with them, he's come home from a business trip and is not entirely pleased with what he finds.

The master, it seems, finished his business early-much sooner than the servants thought he would.  When he comes in without notice, he finds some of his servants doing their job.

He is so pleased with them that he promotes them all and gives them a big raise.  The assistant butler, in particular, has worked hard in the master's absence, and is put in charge of the whole estate.  The faithful servant becomes lord of all (under his master, of course).

But the chief steward is not so faithful.  He serves the master well-when he's looking.  But when the boss is gone, he begins to gobble up his food, drink his best wine, and abuse the workers under him.

Hung over one morning, maybe, the steward sleeps in late, only to be woken up by the master who's home early-and plenty mad at what he found!

The master is so angry at the butler's evil ways that he has him thrown in jail--and after cooling off a bit-he orders him.cut in half!  The wicked servant is executed for his selfishness and infidelity.

The ignorant servants got mercy because they didn't know better-at least, not fully.  But the chief servant, and those who were with him, were severely punished for their crimes.  When the Master came in unexpectedly.

The Second Coming will be like this.  When the Lord appears in the clouds, He will see everything His Church is doing.  He'll like some of it; the true and consistent servants of Christ will be recognized and amply rewarded.  In another parable, the Lord says,

"Well done, you good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your Lord".

But not everyone who claims to be a Christian really serves the Lord.  Many-like the wicked servants in the story-only serve themselves.  They enjoy the blessings of life, but they don't appreciate them.  What they do is use them; they use the power and brains they have to bully the true servants of Christ.  For a time, they get away with it.

But only for a time.  The Lord will come unexpectedly some day and He'll catch them red-handed.  And then they'll pay dearly for their crimes.  The servant in our story only died physically-and that's not too bad.  The people he represents however, will die in other ways: they'll die spiritually (being cut off from Christ) and they'll die eternally (cast into the Lake of Fire where the worm never dies and the fire is not quenched).

You are in the Lord's employ.  He's your Master and you're His servant whether you like it or not.  But how are you serving Him?  No one is perfect and the best Christian could serve Him far better than He does.  But do you want to serve Him?  Are you trying to serve Him?  When you don't, are you confessing your sins and asking for mercy?  In light of your many past failures, would you serve Him better?

If you want to, He'll accept the offer.  In fact, He'll take your wanting to serve Him for serving Him.  What a kind Master He is!  The desire to serve pleases Him!  Even if you mess up and leave things undone, He takes the desire for the act.

But though He is full of patience and mercy, you cannot make a fool of Him.  Your Master is coming back and then He'll set things right.  The faithful will be rewarded; the unfaithful will be punished-some with a few stripes, others with a punishment a lot worse than that.

So, what will you be doing when the Lord comes again?  Will you be serving Him and His other servants?  Or will you be ignoring Him and mistreating His servants?  The choice is yours-but the consequences are His!

The only way to be faithful when the Lord comes is to be faithful right now.  Because you do not know when He's coming.  But He is coming.  Maybe at 11:30 tonight.  Or before then.

CLOSE

If you knew the Lord was coming back tonight, what would you do today?  Well, He may be, so why don't you live today as though He were?

Are you saved?  Not everyone is.  Some people in this room are not saved.  Don't you think it would be a good idea to be saved before the Lord comes back?  If you do, there's no time like the present-because He may be back any minute now.

Are you on the outs with people?  If you are, don't you think it would be a good idea to make up with them before Christ returns?  If so, make up with them today.  If you have to swallow your pride, go do it-it's good for you!

Do you have an unconfessed sin in your life-something you know is wrong, but you don't want to admit to or give up?  If so, would you want the Lord to come back with it still on your conscience?  If not, confess it now, pray for pardon, and do what you can to overcome it, trusting the Lord to do what you can't.

"Surely I come quickly. "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"

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