Today's scripture focus passage: Luke 21:34-36 -
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighted down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”Jesus is still answering the disciples' question of when His second coming will transpire. This is, in fact, Jesus' longest, most-detailed answer to any question. Surely, it is of great importance to believers! Here we come to a section where it seems like Jesus is giving them (and us) encouragement to "be strong and take heart" and yet it also contains a very distinct "don't be caught off guard" warning.
Essentially, there are four take-away commands for believers in this section, says Macarthur in his Christmas sermon about what believers can present to Christ upon his second coming ~ appropriate gifts like the Magi brought at His first. Those gifts were material and were fitting for a human king, but when our King returns, there is nothing material or physical we can present Him that will compare with the less-tangible "soul gifts" hidden here in this passage.
Firstly, He wants our vigilant anticipation. He opens with "Be careful" and ends with "Be always on the watch." Three short verses containing two definite calls to be on our guard. Matthew's Gospel record of this dissertation reminds us of the people in Noah's day and how, for the 120 years it took him to build the ark, he preached the coming rains, but people laughed at him and carried on with life without a care in the world. Only one family in the whole world at that time was vigilant and ready for God's judgment. He warns us not to be like the people in Noah's day, carrying on like life will go on forever, but to be like Noah, in constant preparation for what's coming.
Cultivating that state of constant readiness leads to the second gift: spiritual separation. Vigilance leads to virtue, MacArthur says. Verse 34 has a result clause: "Be on guard SO THAT you are not weighted down with worldliness and my return catches you underneath a load of sin." This is a call to holy living. True believers won't lose their salvation, but they can lose their reward if living a life separated to Christ and from the world isn't their goal. 2 John 1:8 warns us this is a possibility.
Thirdly, verse 35 implies a gift of evangelistic occupation. God's judgment is coming on ALL the world, the whole earth, the entire human race, even the universe itself. This knowledge should, necessarily, intensify our obligation and responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission. MacArthur asks the haunting question, "What are we doing in this world other than being the means by which God gathers sinners to Himself?"
Lastly, He asks for our faithful continuation. Verse 36 is a call towards spiritual vitality and growth. Getting better at anything takes practice and hard work, and it's hard to want to make time for spiritual disciplines, but there is no such thing as staying in one place spiritually. If we're not making forward progress, we're sliding backwards. D. A. Carson puts it like this:
“People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”Vigilant anticipation, spiritual separation (or holiness), fulfilling the Great Commission, faithfulness in all we do... they're hard things! But that's what gives these gifts their high value. It is a constant struggle to grow them so they are ready to present to our returning Savior, but He promises the rewards will be worth the effort.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: 1 John 2; Ezekiel 39-40
Monday's scripture focus passage: Luke 21:37-22:2