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  • Kurt Reiter

Maybe Today?!

Third Sunday in Advent

 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

 

In 1789, in a letter to a Mr. Marshall LeRoy, Benjamin Franklin wrote the famous line, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” But the Bible assures us that this is not true! Taxes are certain; but death is not! The Second Coming of Christ is more certain that death. His coming will find a whole generation of believers who will never experience physical death.

 

St. Paul writes clearly to the Corinthians: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (I Cor. 15:51,52)

 

He underscores the same truth to the Thessalonians: “The Lord Himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the Archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (I Thes. 4:16,17)

 

Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, from which today’s Epistle lesson was taken, is very much an Epistle of the Second Coming – or Second Advent – of Christ. The last verses of every chapter mention Christ’s coming again:

 

  • In Chapter One, Verse 10, Paul says he’s heard that the people “Wait for (God’s) Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”

 

  • In 2:19 he asks, “What is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes? Is it not you?

 

  • In 3:13 Paul prays “That you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.”

 

  • I’ve already quoted 4:16-17

 

  • And finally our Epistle for today echoes the same refrain: “May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (5:23)

 

A lot of centuries have passed since these promises were written, but that doesn’t make their fulfillment uncertain in the least! Thousands of years went by between God’s promise of a Savior to Adam and Eve, and the fulfillment of that promise in Christ. 700 years passed from the time that Isaiah wrote, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders.” 700 years before Jesus’ birth. And now, 2000 years later, the governments of the world are not yet His. But just as certainly as the child was born and the Son was given, so the second part of that promise will be completely fulfilled when Christ comes again. We can be sure – Christ’s coming is certain!

 

I had a Jewish man working for me a number of years ago. And I asked him one day, “If you Jews don’t believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, are you still looking for the Messiah? And if you are, what do you expect Him to be?” And he said, “I’ll tell you what most Jews believe: Messiah will come – but not in my lifetime!” I said, “In other words, you don’t really believe He’s coming at all.” And he said, “That’s just about right.” And I thought – I didn’t say it, I just thought – “How stupid!” But as I thought about it more, I realized that that’s probably where most Christians are – most of us! We say, “Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!” But do we really believe He’ll come again? Maybe in our lifetime?

 

Not only has the Lord promised to come again, He even prepares us for His return! What did Paul write in our Epistle lesson? “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls is faithful and He will do it.”

 

Think of it! Sanctified through and through. Our body, soul, and spirit kept blameless at the coming of our Lord. Blameless! That’s hard to imagine. How can it be that sinners like you and me, who sin every day, who know our real self – how can it be that we will stand blameless before God at Christ’s coming?

 

In one of his most famous sermons, Martin Luther spoke to this truth that seems too good to be true. He said, “A Christian is at once a sinner and a saint; he is wicked and pious at the same time. For so far as our persons are concerned, we are in sins and are sinners in our own name. But Christ brings us another name, in which there is forgiveness of sins, that for His sake sins are remitted and pardoned. So both statements are true: there are sins, for the old Adam is not entirely dead as yet; yet the sins are not there. The reason is this: for Christ’s sake God does not want to see them. I have my eyes on them. I see and feel them well enough. But there is Christ, commanding that I be told I should repent, that is, confess myself a sinner and believe the forgiveness of sins in His name. For repentance, remorse, and knowledge of sin, though necessary, is not enough; faith in the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ must be added. But where there is such faith, God no longer sees my sins; for then you stand before God, not in your name but in Christ’s name. He adorns you with grace and righteousness, although in your own eyes, and personally, you are a poor sinner, full of weakness and unbelief.”

 

Can we even begin to comprehend this awesome message? Jesus Christ, who will one day judge the world, came to be one of us that first Christmas Day. He lived the blameless life that we’re not capable of living. And then He died the death that we deserved to die because of our failures. And now He gives the gift of His own blamelessness to those who will simply believe that He’s done this for them!

 

Is that amazing? Astonishing? Awesome? Yeah, but it’s true! As Luther would say, “This is most certainly true!”

 

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “God made Him who had no sin [or blame] to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God [blameless]” (2 Cor. 5:21). And he put it this way in his letter to the Romans: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners [filled with blame], Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

 

One day a traveler in Switzerland discovered a beautiful but secluded estate on the shores of a little lake. He knocked at the garden gate, and an old caretaker invited him to come in. The caretaker acted glad to see another person, and he eagerly showed him around the elegant gardens and grounds.

 

“How long have you been working here?” the traveler asked. “Oh, a very long time, “ the old man answered. “And does your master spend much time here?”

“No, he’s only been here a couple of times in all these years.”

“When was he here last?”

“Over 10 years ago, I think. I’m almost always alone. It’s very seldom that anyone – even a stranger like you – stops by.”

“And yet, you have the garden and the grounds in such perfect order,” the traveler said. “Everything looks as if you were expecting him sometime this week.”

“Oh, no sir,” exclaimed the caretaker. “I keep it fixed up as if he were coming today!”

 

Christians are to be ready for the Lord’s return at any moment too. As Jesus himself said, “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” (Matt. 24:44)

 

The first time Carol and I went to Israel, our group was sitting on the Mount of Beatitudes. We’d been singing different songs and hymns that people had suggested, and then we were all just sitting there, quietly, looking out at the Sea of Galilee and thinking of all that had gone on there so many years ago when suddenly one of our group said, “Here comes Jesus!” Well, we all jumped!! “You know that song,” he said, “Here Comes Jesus, See Him Walking On The Water.” Whew! I don’t think any of us were the same after that!

 

We live each day trusting in the mercy and grace and love that God has shown toward us in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Maybe we don’t always stop and think about what He’s done – and is doing – for us. Maybe we don’t always live as if we expect Him to come again. Maybe it’s good that we have this Advent season as a reminder that Christ has come – and will return, and we should be living accordingly.

 

Christ has died!

Christ is risen!

Christ will come again!

 

Perhaps it will be this coming year. Maybe – today!

 

Amen

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