Michael Youssef - Until Christ Returns - Part 6
My very first serious job was back in 1970, and it was in North Sydney, Australia, in the north of the city, right across from the Harbor Bridge. And it was in a telephone exchange, and that telephone exchange was right next door to a courthouse. Back then, most of the guys took their lunch hour and went to the pub. There was only one other guy and myself that we ended up alone in the cafeteria, kinda munching on our sandwich and talking. And then, one day, he came up with a great idea. He said, "Why don't we take our lunches and go across the street to the courthouse to watch the proceedings"? I said, "What a great way of spending a lunch hour".
So, we did go across the street, and sat in the gallery, and watched as the solicitors, they called them, you know, were coming in in their black robes and their wigs, and this very impressive sight. And then, the crown prosecutor, and policemen, and the prisoners, and they're coming and going, and the hustle and the bustle. And then, when the court is ready, the judge's door was opened, and when he entered in, everything became very solemn. And I remember clearly, those many years ago, as we looked from the gallery into the proceedings that are going on in the court, eating our lunch, feeding our faces, not concerned at all by the tension that was there. And there was a lot of tension, and you can feel it, but for us, there was no tension, no fear, nothing worrying us at all.
We can look straight into the judge's eye with boldness and no concern. Why? Our names are not in the dockets for that case. We were not in the prisoner's seat. We're not accused. There were no accusation levied at us. The law had nothing against us. As far as we were concerned, we were not accused of any guilt. In fact, we are really on the side of the people. When the crown prosecutor got up and he said, "The Crown vs. Bob Smith," we're on the side of the crown. We're the people. Watching these proceedings several times throughout that year had left an indelible mark on my life whenever I think of the day of the Lord, the day of judgment, because that's how the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are gonna feel on that great day. We would have no fear whatsoever, not now and not then. We are not terrified of the day of the Lord. We're not terrified of the day of judgment. Why? Because the judgment against us has been paid fully by the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary.
We have been declared forgiven by the Judge himself who took our punishment on himself. We were given a great pardon that given to us by the one who's sitting at the bench. The only people who ought to be fearing and trembling of that day of judgment are those who have refused to accept Jesus Christ as their only Savior, those who think that they are good enough or can be good enough to be accepted by God in heaven on their own steam. The only ones who need really worry about this and fear that are the ones who think that they can save themselves or that they can do enough work, and charitable work, good work, in order to get them to heaven. They're the only ones who think that they are their own savior. They're the ones who should be fearful of that day, but not those who are in the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so, that's exactly the message of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. Turn to it with me, please. We are coming at the tail end of this series of messages from the first letter to the Thessalonians by the Apostle Paul, inspired of the Holy Spirit to write to them about the end times. They were troubled by it, and so he's answering their question, and he began by telling them how to live for that day. And then, in the last message, we saw him telling them a little bit. Chapter 4, we saw how the Lord himself, on that day, will descend with the believers who are already with him now. They will come with him and meet us in the air, and we saw what that means.
Here in chapter 5, beginning at verse 1, Paul uses a segue sentence. "Now, brothers, about the times and the dates". Some says, "Times and seasons". They're two words in the Greek and they both mean time. One is a moment of time and the other one is a season. See, there are people in our culture and our day are so fascinated about the end of the world. But believe it or not, 2,000 years ago, the Christians in Thessalonica, they were not only fascinated by that day, they were not only curious about that day, they were worried about this day. In fact, they were, through some erroneous teaching and erroneous information, became really, really unsettled about the day of the Lord. And so, the Apostle Paul write to them, first of all, to assure them, as we saw in the last message, that neither those who have died and already with the Lord nor the ones who are gonna be around when Christ return should have anything to worry about. They should not be concerned. They should not be fearful. They should not be apprehensive after he told them about the rapture when the believers will be taken to heaven.
Then he goes on to tell them about the character and the nature of that day. Verse 2, he said, "The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night". Verse 3, "While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come upon them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, they will not escape". The Thessalonians wanted to know when the Lord's day going to be. Why? So that they can be suitably prepared. So, how does Paul answer that question? Get your calendars out. Yeah, he told them that, number one, there's no need to know that date. Why? Well, if they knew it's gonna happen long time from now, they will become callous, and they'll become careless, and they'll become indifferent. Well, if they know it's gonna be immediately, what happens? They will panic, like some of them already have, left their jobs and became idle.
So, instead of giving them the dates, Paul is saying to them and to every generation of believers, including everyone who's listening to me today, is this, that we must be daily in a state of preparedness, because that day is gonna come as a thief in the night. You know, in that culture, 1st century, robbers did not come and rob in the daytime when people are out of their houses, because in that culture, there's always somebody in the house. So, they waited until people are bone tired from working physically in their farms or wherever they worked, and they're exhausted, and they go into a deep sleep. And they wait, and they wait, and at that time, the thief comes in and robs the house and robs them blind. And remember also, he is speaking to a culture that has no electricity, no alarms, and no alarm security companies, and no police, and none of that.
In fact, it is at a time when the world is saying, "Peace and security. Things are fine," it will happen. Here's the difference. It's an inference in the way he describes and comes back to talk about the thief in the night. You see, to the nonbelievers, to those who are living in spiritual darkness, it's gonna be like a thief in the night, totally unexpected. But to the believers, it's gonna be like labor pain, like a woman going into labor. It is expected, it is greatly anticipated, it is waited for, it is eminent, it is inevitable. Far from wanting to escape it, the labor pains are hopeful. They are joyful. It's a joyful event. It's a great event of deliverance. Ah, but the thief in the night is an unexpected calamity. The thief in the night is a unexpected disaster.
So, what is the answer for those who know the Lord Jesus Christ is to be constantly ready, to be constantly prepared, to be always serving, always working, always giving, always loving so that that day would not take us by surprise. For believers, that day does not alarm us at all. That day does not frighten us at all. We're waiting for it. We're anticipating it every single day. Verse 7, "For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, they get drunk at night".
Now, here's the metaphor the Apostle Paul is using and they're three in nature. Three reasons why they're not prepared: they are in darkness, they are in sleep, and they are drunk. But not so the believer. The believer who lives in a spiritual light, they'll be able to see. They'll be able to hear. They're anticipating it and they'll be ready. Why? Because they are alert. They are sensitive to it. They are expecting it, and that is why when we refer to a pregnant lady, we say she's expecting. It's not a surprise, it's expecting, waiting, and ready. It could be any moment. Now, there are people you know and I know, there are people who think that living for self has made them successful, that living without God made them rich, that living without God gave them all that they wanted in this life. Ah, but they do not understand that God does not settle his accounts right away.
Hear me right, the day of reckoning is coming. The day of judgment is coming. The day of the Lord is coming. And from that day, there is no escape. And when Paul refers to that day as a day of destruction, he does not mean it's an annihilation, that everything is just gonna be destroyed and it's over. No, the word means a separation from God. In fact, that day is gonna make all of the tsunamis, and all of the Katrinas, and all of the hurricanes look like a Sunday school picnic in comparison. The only difference is people will not die. They will be living and they'll be alive. In fact, the book of Revelation said that they wish they were dead, but they cannot die.
So, the question is, how can anyone escape from spiritual darkness to spiritual light, from sleep to alertness, from death to life, from drunkenness to sobriety? And the answer is very simple, come to Christ while there is a chance. Come to Christ while there is an opportunity. Come to Christ while you still can. Turn to him and begin walking in his light. Repent now while there is time to repent, before it becomes too late. Listen to what Jesus said. He said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life". It can't be more clear than that. When the Apostle Paul was recounting to King Agrippa, he was recounting his dramatic conversion to the Lord on the road to Damascus. And in recounting of that event, he was witnessing to the king.
In the book of Acts chapter 26, verse 18, here's what he said, "That God sent me to the Gentiles to open their eyes to turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of Jesus". How do I know that I'm transformed from darkness to light? How do I know that I'm walking in the light? How do I know? How does anyone know? How does anyone know and be absolutely sure? I know some precious people who really know the Lord, but they're tormented about the fact they're not sure, you know, if they're gonna make it. And I keep assuring them, "Listen, this is not how you feel in a given day, but you have God's Word on it". And that's what your anchor is, God's promise. How can I be sure? Well, actually, Paul gives us the answer in verses 8 to 10.
Three things to know that you have been transformed from darkness, spiritual darkness, to spiritual light. First, he said we have a renewed character. Secondly, he said we have radical conduct. And thirdly, we have a reliable compensation. The difference with those who live in spiritual darkness and those who live in spiritual light is that those who live in spiritual light have a radical or a renewed character. They have a renewed nature. The most obvious of all...listen carefully, please. The most obvious of all is that when we sin, we cannot rest. We cannot just forget it, but immediately we repent, and turn from that sin, and receive the Lord's forgiveness. Why? Because we are like someone who's wearing a white garb. The slightest bit of stain, it shows up, and we cannot rest until we take care of it by the blood of Jesus Christ.
That's how you know that you have a renewed character. And Paul calls this state of watchfulness. He calls it the state of alertness. He calls it the state of being sober. For those who are awaiting the return of the Lord not only have renewed character, but secondly, they have radical conduct. Radical, as far as the world is concerned. We are radical as far as the world is concerned. And that is why they don't know how to deal with us. Really, if you have an unbelieving friend, I know you'll understand what I'm saying. They don't know how to handle us. And the problem is, so many Christians take their insult personally. No, you shouldn't take that personally, because they're insulting the one who lives inside of you. That's who they're afraid of.
And you've gotta understand, the reason they call us bigots, and they may call us narrow-minded, and they call us intolerant, and they may call us out of the mainstream, all of that stuff, you see, to them, our conduct is radical because they cannot understand us, cannot control us. Why? Because we are alert. We are watching, and therefore we are able to distinguish between truth and falsehood, able to distinguish between light and darkness, able to distinguish between right and wrong. And that rubs them the wrong way. It does. It really does. It causes their conscience to burn within them, and that really is frustrating. In fact, it convicts them that they do love darkness. It reminds them of their rebellion against God. After all, they are created in God's own image and that rebellion, that conviction, constantly, your very presence, without even having to say a word, rubs them the wrong way.
But the one thing they don't understand is this, listen carefully, is that this is precisely the life that we escaped from. It's precisely the life that we ran away from. That's precisely the life that we woke up from. And because we love them, we want them to join us, but they resist. And that is why you can never approach witnessing, or evangelizing, or sharing the gospel with somebody without being on the knees of prayer. Listen, that radical conduct is only possible, Paul said, when we are wearing the battle fatigue. Look at it, verse 8. That radical conduct, that radical lifestyle is only possible when we are wearing our battle armor.
Verse 8, "But since we belong to the day," not to the night, "let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and hope of salvation as a helmet". How can you tell a person who's sober, who's waiting the return of the Lord, who is alert? It is that person who has that armor. How is that armor expressed? How does it work according to the Apostle Paul? That person is walking by faith, not by sight. He stands firm or she stands firm against the schemes of the devil, not invite the devil to come in and set up a stronghold in their life. Faith is fully trusting in God's promises and in God's plans. Faith is believing in God's Word. Even when the world is falling apart, faith says, "No matter what happens around me, God will keep his word".
Faith says to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ that God will provide defense for the temptation when it comes. Faith delights in God's plan, even when it does not make sense. Alert believers who live in the spiritual light not only have renewed character, not only have radical conduct, but they also have a reliable compensation. Look at verse 9, "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath". See, the Thessalonians were like some Christians today who are saved, they know the Lord, they know they're saved, and yet they are afraid of the day of the Lord. They really are. They're afraid of death.
And Paul is saying that our destiny is sure, that our reward is certain, that our compensation is definite, and it is not based on a pie in the sky in the by and by, but our eternal reward is based on the fact that we've accepted the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ to be for us as our only hope for salvation. And so, when the Lord returns, whether we are physically awake or asleep, he says, really makes no difference. Physically, it doesn't make any difference.
As long as we are spiritually awake, I'm convinced that when the Lord returns, suppose it's 2 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, most of you will be asleep. Believers in Australia, they'll be having dinner the next day already. So, it doesn't matter what condition. You might be in a wheelchair. You might be bed-ridden. You might be walking, or sitting, or running. Whatever the physical thing is, it doesn't matter, Paul said. He said what matters is whether you are alert and awake spiritually or not. That should be a source of encouragement to one another. You know, when a husband and wife have silly argument over silly things... now, I'm not talking about serious stuff.
I'm talking about silly things, and I know as a husband we got in arguments in the last 40 years and some silly things. And just remind each other at that time of that great day. You know, when two brothers, or two sisters, or two believers, or two friends in Christ fall away from each other over some silly things? Remind each other of that great day. Remind each other. Now, I want the person who may be a church person, maybe you belong to a denomination that really has never understood what it means to fully receive eternal life, and walk in the light, and be sober, I want to posit in a question form. What then? Ask yourself the question, "What then"? Can you say that with me? What then?
And that came from a great story of a great man of God who probably was one of the great revivalists in America by the name of Charles Finney. Charles Finney was in his last year of law school and he was an intern in a law firm. And that particular day, he was there by himself in the office. And then he heard the voice of the Lord speaking to his heart, "Charles, what will you do after you finish law school"? "Hang a shingle and practice law". The voice of the Lord persisted, "What then"? "Get comfortably rich". "What then"? "Have a comfortable retirement". "What then"? "Die". "What then"? And he could literally feel his lips quivering as he responded in saying, "Judgment day".
And at that moment, he came under such conviction by the Holy Spirit, he ran from that small office into the woods, and there he knelt before God, surrendered his life to Jesus Christ, and God used him in a most unique way. Whether you're a lawyer, whether you're a doctor, whether you're an engineer, whether you're a businessman, or whatever, you need to ask yourself the question, "What then"? You've accomplished your goals, what then? You've reached the mountaintop, what then? I pray that you would not rest until you answer that question.