A State of Readiness
Although this particular political doctrine is undergoing a certain amount of change these days, the basic thought in the United States Military Strategy was that the American military be ready to fight two wars at the same time. So all that they did, all that they do, every training mission for every branch of the armed services, was geared towards being ready in the event that it would have to fight two wars at the same time, and isn't it strange the way things are happening these days? That strategy was a pretty good strategy because it seems that there are two other world powers that are applying pressure internationally. This is not a speech about politics, but it's just interesting how things seem to be working out.
There's a parallel here between this military type thinking and our own experience as Christians because we also have to maintain a state of readiness. We have to be ready for the coming of Jesus Christ, our Lord. He's either going to come for us in death, because if you die, the Lord is coming for you on that day or He'll come for us in the twinkling of an eye at His return at the end of the world, either way, He's going to come for everyone of us in one way or another.
A State of Readiness
Jesus is coming one day and Christians need to be ready for that day. It's inevitable, can't escape it. In Luke 12, Jesus explains to His disciples how they should prepare for His return. We get the idea we need to be ready, but in Luke 12, Jesus explains how you go about being ready for his return.
1. Prepare through service
35"Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.
- Luke 12:35-37
The image He presents here is of servants waiting for their master to return from some trip or something. And they are getting ready by preparing everything that he will need when he returns. In the passage it says, "immediately open the door," meaning everything is ready, even the watch on the door is set. So when he comes the door will be open to him, people will be ready to receive him. It's like when company comes to your house, usually their hosts are already on the doorstep. As soon as they get out of the car, somebody looks into them, and then you open the door, you're on the doorstep, you see them coming out of the car, you're welcoming them while they're walking up the steps and the hugs and come on in. When you're received like that from someone when you go visit someone, you know that they were expecting you, you know that they knew you were coming, you know that they're ready for you, they're already out on the patio waiting for you to come in.
Years passed, some have thought that being "ready" meant, to retreat from the world, to join a convent or a monastery, and to wait for Jesus to return. There was this idea that that's how you waited. We in the churches of Christ may see this as a foreign idea, a misguided effort by mostly Catholics to create a state of spiritual readiness, retreat from the world, hide out, so you can just be ready for the return of Jesus. But we shouldn't be too smug because we've done our own type of monastery. We've built our own monastery of sorts and retreated from the world by creating comfortable, homogenized churches in which we recline at ease, and we wait for the coming of the Lord. I mean, look around where are the poor? Where are the outcasts, the handicap, the broken? Where are those who are different from us? You see, we do our work without getting our hands dirty. We send a little money to poor countries and think, "well, we've done our part, I'm ready."
A state of readiness requires that we be serving others in His name. We're such a long way from being ready because so many have yet begun serving their own brothers and sisters in Christ, let alone begun caring for the needs of the lost and the needy, do you get what I'm saying? When it's difficult to get us to serve, our brother and sister who are sitting next to us in the pew, how we ever going to, get the spiritual maturity to serve people we don't even know? People who have needs that we could care for, but that we're not aware of. There is a great danger in "building programs." They seem to take on a life of their own and we forget their purpose. It would be dangerous to our spiritual wellbeing, if we thought that this building here for example, is the thing that pleases the Lord. I'm sure he is pleased with those who sacrificed to build it and pay for it. But his pleasure in us will come if we use the building to serve Him and not just use it to keep ourselves comfortable and sheltered from the outside world.
There was a time when there was a remember the big tornado that happened, the F-5 tornado that came to through many, many years ago. I remember it was the church across the street, they were the center, they were like the mission control and the red cross had set up there and so on and so forth, and I was here at that time. I was disappointed because we didn't get a chance to, have an opportunity to say, "hey, use our building." As a matter of fact, I remember our building didn't have an electricity, that's why we couldn't be that church. It's the one across the street that got the opportunity to serve. I was envious of them because they had that opportunity, and for certain reasons we didn't. How will Jesus find us when He comes? Will He find us feeding the hungry? Are we doing that? Will He find us visiting the sick and the lonely and the imprisoned? I mean, actually doing that. Will he find us comforting the people who are hurting? Or sharing the gospel and teaching His word to a lost world or to others who are even in the church that come to visit us? When He comes, He will bless the ones he finds actually doing these things, not just watching others doing it. It doesn't count if all you do is watch somebody else minister. It counts if you yourself are doing the ministry and we have the opportunity.
I'm very encouraged to see just the announcements that Marty was making this morning. We're talking about rebuilding and COVID and all that stuff. And people stopped coming and are starting to come back and all that business. And just the announcements that he was making about different individuals that have taken the initiative to start organizing various events that will get people involved in church ministry and involved in reaching out, involved in teaching others, VBS, good old VBS comes back every year. But I mean, there's at least a third of the church involved in putting on VBS and inviting people from outside of this congregation to participate. It was just good to hear announcements that encouraged individuals in our congregation, come on, get up, get out of the pew, get involved, help other people. Like I said, Christianity is not a spectator sport, in Christianity, everybody gets to play. Ministers are not employees paid to minister on our behalf, they're teachers, they're coaches who train each member, how to serve that's the biblical view of ministry.
I will be in a state of readiness for the return of Jesus when Jesus comes if I'm actually busy in preaching and teaching and training others in ministry, not just trying to promote my own career. You will be in a state of readiness, if you are actually serving in ministry in some way, and not just observing and commenting on how others are doing their jobs.
That doesn't count as ministry, doesn't count as ministry if you're sitting around talking about how somebody else is doing in the church, that doesn't count. Feels good, because your ideas are do this a different way, or we're spending too much time over here and ah, I wouldn't invest money in that particular ministry. Well, that's all good and well, you know that you have your opinion about that, but that doesn't count as far as being ready is concerned. Being ready means you're on the playing field, you're playing, you're involved.
So when Jesus returns, He will know who is prepared for Him and who is not.
It'll be too late to give excuses, that's the hard reality of this particular passage. All right, so a state of readiness requires that we actually be serving in some way when he comes.
2. Be Ready at All Times
38Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39"But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect."
- Luke 12:38-40
I've learned a lot about one branch of the military, the Marines, since as you know our oldest son and daughter, Paul and Julia, both served in the Marine Corps. And one thing I remember is that they were always practicing being at war because war could break out at any time. I remember our son, Paul once explained that they trained to be deployed within 24 hours anywhere in the world for any type of conflict. In other words their training was, you've got to be ready to be ready at all times. For example, they practiced being awakened in the middle of the night or being called suddenly on a day off, to drop everything and within a 24, within a few hours, be packed and ready to go, and on the airplane within 24 hours. I mean, they would actually get on the plane, not just pretend to get on the plane, they would get on that plane. That's what you hear military types they say, "yeah, good to go, we're good to go." Well, that's what good to go meant. It meant you were geared up, you were ready, you were packed, you were loaded, you were on the plane, you were ready to go within 24 hours anywhere, anytime to face anybody. That was the pride of the Marines.
Christians need to be ready in the same way. We have to be ready for the Lord's coming at any time. You want a real example of being ready, the necessity of it? I don't have to explain it, just listen to the elder's prayer, one guy's up on a ladder, boom, he falls off the ladder, and he breaks his neck. He was planning to finish this branch and then I'll go in for lunch. Instead, he's in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. We have people in the church who are fighting for their very lives as we speak. We have others that know that they perhaps don't have very long to live. You're doing fine, you go to the doctor just for a routine checkup, blood work, you've got your vacation plan, we're going to Florida, we're going to the beach, going to be great. And they call you back after you sent your blood, and they say, you need to come back in, but I feel fine. Yeah, that's all right, but you need to come back in. We found something and all of a sudden your life takes a U-turn and you're on a road that you're not expecting. I mean, we could tell stories over and over. I could get each one of you to stand up and you could tell me a story like that, about a brother or a father or a mother, one moment they're fine, the next moment they're either dead or fighting for their lives.
A sermon about being ready is like, we could be preaching one every single week and it wouldn't be a waste of time. We're not ready if we're putting off obeying the gospel in repentance and baptism until we feel like it or until the situation is right, or until my birthday. Or until I get a hold of a particular sin and I start to do better with that sin, and I start to kind of overcome it, and then I'm ready to be baptized. You've got it backwards, if that's what you're thinking.
You need to be baptized now so that God can give you His spirit. And now you've got a fighting chance with that particular sin or with that particular struggle that you have. You're not ready if you're continuing in your secret sin or your bad habit until you get caught or until you get tired of it. If that's your life, you're not ready. You're not ready if your service to Christ consists of an occasional visit to church service or doing only what is convenient for you, never sacrificing your comfort, never going out on a lim, never compromising your security for Christ. You're not ready. You're not ready if you're still in love with something in this world, it doesn't have to be something immoral, it just has to be something or someone that we make a priority over the Lord or his service. If He's not first on your list, you're not first on His list, that's the hard reality.
In order to be truly ready, a Christian must be ready at all times, not just some of the time. Remember, He warns that he will come at a time that you least expected. Brothers and sisters, what is it that we don't understand about that particular verse? Can you twist that verse to make it mean something else? He says more than once, I'm going to come at a time that you least expect, I'm going to come at a time when nobody knows. And yet we have entire religious groups figuring out the day or the week that He's probably going to come, wasting their time. And the Bible says everything's going to be like it always is, people marrying, people giving in marriage. Could you believe that Jesus may return on a day when you're planning your daughter's wedding? You've already paid for the band and Jesus comes. Like the military, Christians need to practice being ready, that's why he created the church.
Individual believers could be encouraged and trained to maintain readiness at all times. Our drills are not physical, they're spiritual in nature. Things like daily prayer, regular Bible reading, not for the sake of just being able to say, I read my Bible regularly, but for the purpose of taking in God's word on a regular basis, why? Because I want to be ready. Faithful attendance at all services, why? Because I want to break up the hold that the world has on me. I'm out in the world 24/7 day after day after day, then one hour in the middle of the week, the believers get together to kind of, get the dust and the dirt of the world off of ourselves and sing spiritual songs and speak spiritual words and exchange spiritual ideas and renew our faith through prayer and through confession, through loving one another, because what we get here, we don't get anywhere else. I mean the greeter at Walmart, is a nice person, but he's not going to give you what the greeter here gives you. The greeter here welcomes you as a brother or sister in Christ. The greeter at Walmart is just happy you came to buy stuff, not the same thing.
You need to be ready by finding a way to serve in the church, finding a way to share your faith, finding a way to minister to those who are lost, finding a way to grow personally in purity, in love. I'm going to have a more pure mind and a more pure mouth than I had last week, and I'm going to continue fighting for that. I'm going to respond and act in a loving manner in a greater way this week than I have in the past. We do these things not so that we're going to go to heaven, we're already in the kingdom of heaven, we're actually in the waiting room, waiting for death's door to open and let us into paradise.
Brothers and sisters, we do these things so we won't lose our place, so we won't be lured away from our position. At any moment, the door will open, we won't expect it, we won't be able to make up for lost time and get ready. If we're not ready, when death's door opens and Jesus steps in, we lose, and when we lose, we lose forever. And so a proper state of readiness for the Christian requires him or her to be ready for the coming of Jesus at any time, because he can come at any time.
Three States of Readiness - vs. 41-18
Now in the following verses Jesus talks about the results of readiness. After He finishes speaking, Peter asks him a question he wants to know, "who needs to be ready at all times, just disciples or everyone?" And Jesus responds by describing three people in three different states of readiness and what will happen to each.
1. The Faithful Steward
41Peter said, "Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?" 42And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 44Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
- Luke 12:41-44
He will refer to all three as slaves because before God, all persons are servants, the only difference between each is, who they choose to serve the true and living God through Jesus Christ or any number of pagan God's, philosophies, religions, powers, self interests, pleasures, whatever. The first slave, he calls a steward who is faithful and sensible. In other words, he's busy in effective service at all times. In other words, he's ready. His reward will be greater responsibility and position in the master's house.
For Christians, this reward would include:
- The resurrection from the dead (I Thessalonians 4:16).
- The reception of a new glorified body that will never corrupt (I Corinthians 15:42-49).
- The seating at the right hand of God with Jesus in power (I Timothy 2:12).
The Unfaithful Steward
45But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes,
- Luke 12:45-47
This is another steward who has been given much responsibility by his master, but he uses his power to serve himself. He abuses his authority, he wastes his time on sinful activities. He ignores the warnings to be ready, thinking he can pull it all together in time when he has to. But he gets caught by surprise, just like the master said. This person is rejected and severely punished. Interesting, Jesus goes into detail in this parable to describe the punishments cut into pieces, I mean, he gets graphic. This person is rejected, severely punished. The parallel here is with an unfaithful disciple who because of his backsliding and return to the world is not ready when Jesus comes, the Lord clearly marks him for eternal suffering.
The Lost Servant
but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.
- Luke 12:48a
It's an interesting one, I call him the lost servant. The last slave represents those who do not know the gospel because of ignorance. We have a hard time accepting that those who've never heard the gospel, will be punished. But Paul explains in Romans 1:20 that those who haven't heard the gospel message are still without excuse, why? Because the creation demands that an individual seek the Creator because every person has a conscience that yearns to know and seek out God. So Paul explains that God has provided enough evidence of His presence that anyone who would try to seek Him, would actually find Him.
But as he goes on to explain, men love to sin, they love darkness and evil more than the measure of truth before them and their continued ignorance of God simply because one more sin becomes one more sin against them. Jesus however gives us a rare glimpse into the spiritual world by saying that those who knew and disobeyed will suffer greater punishment than those whose disobedience was based on ignorance. The lost servant too lazy or complacent to seek his masters will, will also be punished, but not at the intense level reserve for those who knew the truth, but ignored the truth or put off the truth.
From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
- Luke 12:48b
Jesus summarizes the entire section as well as our lesson on it with this last comment, Christians have received a priceless gift, eternal life. Would you not say that all of us in this room, we are the ones who have received much, I don't mean just physical much, I don't mean just money, freedom, we live in a free country, we drive cars, all that stuff, that's much, but he's not talking about that. Wouldn't you say that we have received much, we know who Jesus is, we have a Bible, we have the word of God, right? Every one of us, we have too many Bibles. There's always 10 Bibles in the lost and found box. We have people to teach us God's word, encourage us in God's word. We can hear it on the radio, we can watch it online, we can listen to the audio Bible. We don't even have to read the words, we just put our earphones on and hit play and just sit back and someone will read it to us.
Are we not the ones who have received much?
Along with this gift comes responsibility. For example, the responsibility of preserving it through faithful effective service to the Lord, the responsibility of being ready at all times for the final transformation that will take us to the right hand of God. The responsibility of sharing the good news of our gift with as many as possible, knowing full well that ignorance is no excuse. If the gift had not been so great, the responsibilities would not be so demanding. But as it is, we have the greatest, imaginable gift possible, the promise of eternal life to be poor stewards of it is enough of a sin to merit our eternal punishment. And so there's only one question that flows naturally from Jesus' teaching here.
What kind of steward are you? Are you an ignorant steward who hasn't yet known the will of the Lord, is that you? For some reason or other, you've refused to obey the gospel, you've never even bothered to find out what state your soul is in. If Jesus came today, you'd be lost. And even though the punishment would be less, it would still be punishment.
Or are you the unfaithful steward? You're Christian in name and in superficial habits, but at the core, you're still in love with this world, giving no thought to the return of the Lord. If Jesus came today, you'd be surprised, but you'd also be saddened because you knew the truth, you had the blessing, but you squandered it away and now you're lost. Maybe be that's the additional suffering that Jesus is talking about. The fact that you knew it all along and you still wasted it, or are you the faithful and sensible steward? Faithful because you've obeyed the Lord in repentance and in baptism, faithful because you practice obeying the word of the Lord. The term sensible and wise, the Greek word meant prudent and practical, intelligent in the sense that you know that you have the work at being ready. That there are many temptations to distract you, but nevertheless, you fight always to be ready.
In the end, your obedience, faith, and your prudence at knowing and hanging on to a good thing when you have it, will result in your eternal love and joy with Christ. There's surprise, oh, no, there's that kind of surprise. Which kind of surprise do you want? You want the "ah, oh no." Do you want that surprise? Or do you want "ah, oh, here you are at last." Do you want that kind of surprise?
If you're that faithful and sensible servant, thank God for you. Thank and praise God for your work and your example in this congregation, continue in the Lord and we have, I would say the majority here fit this category. If you're that unfaithful steward or that ignorant one, check your pulse. Can you do that? And if your pulse is still beating, you still have a chance to change and become ready for his return. If your heart's still beating, you still have a chance to be ready.
And so I encourage you this morning, anyone here who feels, who knows that they're not ready. I encourage you to do what you need to do to be ready today.