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The Readiness of the Believer (Julius Hovan)

by

Julius Hovan

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

We welcome you to this broadcast of the Words of Life radio ministry to learn more about our wonderful Lord Jesus.

We spent some time in a recent message talking about the believers in regard to the coming of the Lord Jesus for his Church. And we learned in that book of 1 Thessalonians that we need to be ready for the coming of Jesus and not have any idols in our lives. We are going to get a reward from him one of these days and so we must not be idle and we are then going to be in relationships with each other. We must be tolerant and not intolerant of one another. We must believe that Jesus is going to come to snatch out his believers, the rapture o the Church as it is called, and there is no place for us to be ignorant about that great event.  With this position, then, as believers waiting and ready for the coming of Jesus, there is a place for responsibility that we must fulfill and we cannot be indifferent to that responsibility.

My friends, we must be ready for the coming of Jesus. If you are a Christian, if you are in Christ, if you are under the blood of the Lord Jesus, then you, indeed, can be ready. And you, an unbeliever, if you are tuning in today not a Christian, never having even heard about Jesus and the gospel, oh, how it would thrill us to help you learn about and become a follower of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. How tragic not to be ready for such an event as the coming of the Lord Jesus. How often for a wedding or for some other great event a great deal of effort is put forth to have everything ready.

We are told that there are two immanent events taught in the Word of God. One of those is the second coming of Jesus for his Church. The second one of those is death. So we can say Jesus could come at any moment to take out the Church. It is a scriptural truth.  And the fact is that any one of us could die at any moment with an accident, with disease, a heart attack, with whatever horrible thing can happen, young or old. It matters not. Death can come instantaneously. And the result of that is very dramatic. When we die, we step out into eternity.

We want to go to the Christians at Thessalonica and we want to learn about why Paul could say to them that they were ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus.

You may be familiar with the passage and so we will not belabor the point, but you will see there are three characteristics of all Christians who are ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Chapter one and verse three Paul says about them: I remember without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ before our God and Father.

These Christians were steadfast. This was a working church.  The word ‘labor’ here is a strong word in the original Greek language, stronger than just working. They labored. There was the sweat and the toil and the stress and the straining of muscles. Ah, we work as we wait for the coming of the Lord.   At best our time is limited. The coming is immanent. Who knows what moment it will occur.

I am afraid in too many churches there are more shirkers than workers and it is a sad situation. Are you a pew warmer in your church?  You just come and sit and let somebody else do the work? That is a sad picture, indeed. The church at Thessalonica was a working church. The church is people. That is you and that is me. And a working church is one where there are working people.

I saw a poster one time that had the picture of two mules pulling a loaded wagon up a hill and the wagon had sacks in the back of it and they were labeled with various church programs. One mule was almost at the top of the hill and he was pulling and straining and sweating almost at the top.  The other mule was down at the bottom of the hill hooked up to the wagon, but up on his front feet and kicking with his back legs, kicking away. And the caption under the picture said this:  A pulling mule never kicks and a kicking mule never pulls. If we are constantly griping and complaining about what is happening or what is not happening or what is not pleasing us, we will not get much work done.

In the body of Christ, in the kingdom of God today, more and many workers are needed. As Jesus said, “The laborers are few and the harvest is plentiful.” Have you considered making yourself more faithful in work in the kingdom of God where you are serving the Lord?  Somebody has put it this way. Do your giving while you are living and then you are knowing where you are going.  Let’s do our human best to accomplish the work of God.

A poster hung on our little wall in our little country home where I grew up in Florida and it said this:  ‘Only one life will soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last.’  For the church at Thessalonica, work and a labor of love marked these people as ready for the coming of Jesus.

But not only were they a working church, but listen to verse eight of chapter one of 1 Thessalonians:

‘For from you hath sounded the Word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to godward is gone forth and we don’t even need to speak to you about doing it.’

Not only were they a working church, they were a witnessing church. This doesn’t mean the preacher is standing in the pulpit and preaching a message. You, Christian friend, you are the Church. People bear witness with their lives and with their attitudes and with their words. There are people that your pastor, your minister, your elder will never meet. You can witness to them when he cannot. There are associations in your circle of friends or where you work. If you hired 100 more ministers they would never be able to get to them like you can.  Each of us is responsible for some little given area and special opportunity, just our opportunity, our responsibility.  By our lives and behavior and the display of God’s love, we witness to them that we are Christians and we want the Lord to return and, yes, we want the lost saved as well.

The church at Thessalonica was a working church.  They were a witnessing church. No wonder Paul commended them.  But, thirdly, we saw in an earlier study from verse 10, as we read: And they were waiting for his Son from heaven.

A waiting, witnessing, working church. It is interesting that this is the only time this particular Greek word is used in the New Testament.  And the words are ‘anna menno.’ Anna means up and menno means linger.  And so stay or remain or abide or wake up with expectancy.

Now if you are a parent and if you have ever had to sit at the bedside of a sick child you understand what it means to wake up with the expectancy that the fever is going to break and that little one is going to be all right. Or maybe the mate, a husband or a child is out for the evening and they were supposed to be in an hour ago and you are now waiting up for them to come. That is the picture here. It is sort of a crisis picture, the parent that waits up or the person who waits for a loved one to come.

We live each day in the light of the crisis that is around us and the knowledge of the Lord’s return.  We saw in an earlier lesson regarding this particular point that there is no place in the life of this person for idolatry as they wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus. There are things in our lives—and there are many and abundant and varied things—that can deter us from being the people of God that we ought to be.

Listen to the admonition of Paul to the church at Colosse.   If you were raised together with Christ—chapter three of the book of Colossians tells us—if you were raised—and really he is saying you were raised—seek the things that are above where Christ is seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on the things upon the earth.  Now that is, you have died.  Your life is hid with Christ in God and when Christ who is our life shall be manifested, that is, when he comes, you also shall with him, be manifested in glory.

What a beautiful picture of the admonition to know that we have been raised and we have been seated in the heavenlies and we have died to the old man and we are waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus. That is the reason he says in verse six of that passage:  ‘Put to death therefore your members upon the earth. And he lists those terrible things: Fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness which is idolatry. For which things sake comes the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience.’

My friends, if we are waiting, if we are witnessing, if we are a working people for God, there is no room in our life for these things that he has just listed here. These are matters of idolatry of varying kinds that must not be evident in the life of a Christian.

Paul says similar things to the church at Ephesus in chapter five and he says in verse three: ‘But fornication and all  uncleanness or covetousness let it not even be named among you as becoming saints.’  For children of God there is no room for this type of life and this action and this lifestyle of sinfulness.  He says in the fifth verse: ‘For this know of surety that no fornicator or unclean person or covetous man who is an idolater has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.’

 

It is a sobering set of words, is it not? For what am I living? For the earthly, for the temporal, for the temporary, the things that are going to burn up that are going to pass away, that bring me at best momentary pleasure and maybe eternal heartache? Or am I living for heaven? Am I setting my mind there where God is and where Christ is waiting to come back and to take me to glory to be with him?

There must be a proper relationship of the believer to the immanent return of Jesus for his Church.  If you are ready, there will be no idols in your life. You will be ready to reap a great reward because you have not been idle.  You have not had idleness in your life.  Your relationship with others has been one of peace and joy and patience and grace and mercy, not intolerance.  You are ready for the rapture. You are not ignorant of the fact Jesus could come today.  And you will fulfill those responsibilities that God has given you.

Readiness involves working. It involves witnessing. It involves a patient waiting. We can’t say, as some have done, those scoffers who told the Christians of the first century, ‘Oh, you have been talking about Jesus coming for a long time. It hasn’t happened. We don’t think it is ever going to happen.’  My friends, patient waiting is the need for today. Expectation, desiring it to happen, longing for the coming of the Lord Jesus.

When I was a boy being raised on the farm down in the state of Florida, we had a beautiful, dainty, bright little butterfly that flew around in our barnyard and in the yard. It was very beautiful to behold.  But it had a disgusting habit and diet. Instead of soaring heavenward and lighting on beautiful flowers that were available to it, its desire was to feed on piles of cow dung.  And it would light on them and draw nourishment.  We must never be as this little creature was.  Our nature is to go after the nasty, the dirty, the filthy, but we must not be  guilty of doing so.

There is a four-eyed fish that swims around in the Amazon.  Actually it has two eyes but there is a connecting tissue in each eye that divides it into two parts. The upper part of each eye is for his areal vision when he is watching for insects when he comes to the top of the water. The lower part of each eye is for seeing under water.  He is somewhat like we who are Christian. We have to live upon the earth. We have to be active here and live here and work here and grow old here and be helpful, hopefully, to one another.  And yet we must have our eyes always looking heavenward from whence our redemption draws night. And we must be ready.  Yes, for some, even for death, but, oh, for each one, for the return of the Lord Jesus.

As I close this lesson today I ask are you heavenly minded? Well, don’t be so heavenly minded you are of no earthly good. Be a good follower of the Lord Jesus and be a good influence in our society.  Are you ready or are you out of Christ? Do you have a faith relationship with him? Have you ever confessed Jesus as the Son of God? My Bible says he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Oh, to be saved rather than lost.

Maybe you are a Christian. You are not ready because you don’t have that close relationship with Jesus. You have let something come into your life that comes between you and him. Do you have some unconfessed sin? Christian, you can take it to the Lord this very moment and know that he is waiting for you to come like the father waited for the prodigal son.

Are you a lazy, negligent Christian, not fulfilling duties, not faithful to church, not attending regularly, not praying, not reading the Bible, not doing what you can do for the kingdom of God? Maybe you have hatred or bitterness towards some. Oh, you are not ready. Would you get ready? Would you get right? Would you take that to the Lord today?  It would be our pleasure to help you in making that decision.

God bless you is our prayer.

 

Julius Hovan is minister of the Bohon Church of Christ, Kentucky




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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8