by Pastor Larry Rowland
Being Prepared for Christ's Coming #2
The saving gospel of Jesus Christ that is revealed in the Scriptures forms a bridge that links a lost humanity with their creator God. Without the knowledge of Godís redemptive program, there is no hope for a human race lost in trespasses and sins. But the saving power of the gospel brings new life to those alienated from a holy and righteous God. The enemy has tried everything in his power to destroy Godís revelation to man. For the first centuries after the church started, he motivated the Roman rulers to have their soldiers collect the carefully, hand-written manuscripts of the Bible and burn them up. When this failed, he brought in the Dark Age, a period of great ignorance where few had the ability to read the Scriptures, causing superstition to flourish. When learning again revived during the Renaissance and Reformation, he lead the best educated to become critics of the Bible, denying its divine origin and authority, causing people to look at the Bible just like they would any other book. In every generation, there have been believers who have been called by God to be faithful, passing Godís truth down to the next generation. Today, God has called us to this task Ė to be faithful in living our lives for His glory and faithful in passing His truth to the next generation. God desires for every generation of his children to be faithful in battling the enemy for the truth of God until the Lord Jesus Christ returns for His own.
TURN WITH ME TO MATTHEW 24
Last week, we began this most important and timely theme looking at 4 essential truths which we must know and be living if we are to be ready for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our savior taught these truths himself in response to the disciple's question, "Tell us, what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?" Matt. 24:3. Having given a number of signs including an increase of false prophets and wars and famines and earthquakes and apostasy and wickedness that we looked at briefly last week, Jesus then focused on the necessity for his followers to live their lives watching for the return of the Lord.
Now what does it mean to be watching for the return of the Lord? There have been many who have misunderstood Christ's command here for they have taken it out of context. When William Miller made that now infamous prediction that Christ was going to return at 3 A.M., March 21, 1843, half a million people believed him. Many of them quit their jobs, sold their homes, and gathered on hilltops and in graveyards because these were the recommended places for "convenient transportation to heaven". White ascension robes were the recommended attire which Miller preached in those 300 sermons that he delivered during the 6 months before the predicted dates. In fact, Miller sold so many white robes and made so much money from them that critics afterward accused him that the whole purpose of his setting the date was to make money in selling white robes. Is this what waiting for the Lord's return means? Standing out on a hilltop or in a graveyard clad in a white ascension robe? Jesus didn't say anything about that in his Olivet discourse, did he? No, we must allow Christ to define what a watchful attitude is. We must allow Jesus to describe God's concept of readiness to us. And the master did this very clearly in this passage as he was preparing his disciples for his departure. In God's eyes, as He looks down upon us living here on this earth, being faithful is a sign of readiness. Notice the first parable that Jesus gives immediately on the heels of his command to Keep Watch for the coming of the Lord.
READ MATTHEW 24:44-51
44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
MT 24:45 "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, `My master is staying away a long time,' 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Now there are 2 servants found in this parable, presented and contrasted by Christ. The first servant is called faithful and wise by the Lord. The second servant is called wicked by the Lord. And the difference between these 2 servants is the difference between being ready for the Lord's return and not being watchful of Christ's coming.
The responsibility given to the servants is very clear in the parable, isn't it? The servant whom the master put in charge of the household was simply responsible to give food to the other servants at the proper time. (vs. 45) That was all that was asked of this servant. Now the food was not the servant's food, it was the master's food. And the house was not the servant's house, but it was the master's house. Nothing that the servant was responsible for was actually his, it was all the masters. In fact, the servant himself was not free. He was the master's property. So basically the servant was asked to dispense of the master's food, in the master's house, to the master's servants, and to do this faithfully - at the proper time. This was a very straightforward and simple task- it was not difficult.
The first servant took the master's commands very seriously and he obeyed them. He dispensed the food at the proper time. And when the master returned unexpectedly, he would find the servant being faithful in his task. The reward which the master promised was more trust, more responsibility. "He will put him in charge of all his possessions." (vs. 47)
The second servant convinced himself that the master was gone for a long time (vs. 48). He confused the unexpected return of the master with an indefinitely delayed return. Convincing himself that he had all the time in the world, this second servant became diverted from his primary responsibility. He forgot all about giving food to the other servants when breakfast, lunch and supper came, and he instead began to abuse his fellow servants and to carouse with those outside of the household. His lack of faithfulness to the master had an impact both inside and outside of the house. When the master suddenly showed up as he had promised to do unexpectedly, he took this wicked servant and shredded him because of his disobedience.
Now let me do my best to interpret this parable for you and then apply it to our situation today. An interpretation is a very literal meaning of the Scriptures taking into account the language that is used, the context in which it is given and the historical and cultural setting in which it is found. An application of a passage of Scripture gives the meaning of the passage to our situation today. There can be many different applications to any passage of Scripture, but there is only one true interpretation.
We must never forget that Jesus was talking to his disciples when he gave this parable. "As Jesus was sitting on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. Tell us, they said, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" So then, it is obvious that his disciples are to be the faithful and wise servants in the context. They are the chief servant whom the master has put in charge of the rest of the household, for the apostles were called to be the very foundation blocks of the church. The task of distributing food to the other servants was their primary job. God had entrusted to the disciples his truth through the life and teachings of Jesus, the Messiah. Now it was to be their responsibility to distribute this truth to others. As they had freely received, so they were to freely give. As Jesus had lived the model life before them so they were to let their lights so shine before men that they would see their good works and glorify their father in heaven. As they had observed Jesus heal and sick and minister to those in need, so the disciples were to go now as Christ's ambassadors bringing healing into the lives of others. As Jesus Christ had taught them the deep divine truths from above, so they were now to teach and ground others in the faith. Their task was to distribute the food. It was not their food. It was the master's food that had been given to them to be dispensed to others.
However, Jesus had just spoken of some false teachers who were going to infiltrate the household.
Jesus Christ had just informed them of wicked servants that were going to appear to be members of the household as part of the sign of the last times. Now these wicked servants would not be concerned with the task of feeding the other servants in the household. No, their energies would be directed in other, destructive ways:
Now these wicked servants are claiming to be true servants of God. But they are being destructive to the household of God and poor testimonies to those outside of the household of God. And these wicked servants are confident in the fact that the master is going to be gone for a long, long time.
When the master returns suddenly and unexpectedly, Christ says that he will separate the faithful servants from the wicked servants. Those who have been true to his commission and have been faithful disciples in dispensing his truth to others will be rewarded with even greater responsibilities in the future. In fact, Christ in another place predicted of the original disciples who were faithful in the task that was given to them, that they would have thrones to rule and reign with Jesus Christ during the millennial reign- what an honor that will be. But those wicked servants, those false prophets, those hypocrites and pretenders in the household, they will then be recognized for whom they really are, and they will cut off from the master and sent to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Now having seen what Jesus was saying to his disciples in the interpretation, let's ask ourselves what lesson Christ would have for us as we apply this parable to our present day situation. And I believe that there is a great lesson for each of us, especially as we consider our responsibility to be faithful as we wait in readiness for the Lord's return.
God has entrusted much to us. He had given to us his truth- there is not one of us here this morning who hasn't heard the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Receiving God's truth carries with it a responsibility. To the one who has been given much, much is required, Jesus said. Freely you have been given, now freely give, he said on another occasion. Each of us is responsible to be an ambassador for Christ, a dispenser of God's truth to others. We are to give forth God's truth through the living testimonies of our lives. You are my epistles, Paul said of the members of the Corinthian church. "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." 2 Cor. 3:2,3
Now the enemy wants desperately to divert us from this number one priority. And his major temptation in doing this is to whisper in our ears, this matter of giving forth God's truth is not so urgent. You have all the time in the world. Christ is not coming back for a long, long time. There will be plenty of time to share the truth of God with other tomorrow.
How can we know when we are not being faithful as servants? We will demonstrate the same symptoms of this wicked servant in the parable. Instead of being united in heart and spirit with God's people and work, we will find ourselves being in conflict with other servants of the master. A critical spirit, bitterness, anger, desire to hurt and get revenge, these are the symptoms of those servants who have left the number one priority of feeding others. And we will also find ourselves becoming more and more like the world in our conduct and our character. Instead of being distinct and different as we conform to the image of Jesus Christ, we will find ourselves just blending more and more in with those who are the enemies of the cross.
One day, the master is going to return. Christ coming is going to be sudden and totally unexpected. And when he comes back, Jesus is going to expect for every one of his children to be ready and watching for his coming. To be watching does not mean to be standing on a hilltop or in a graveyard with a white robe on. To be watching does mean to be found faithful in living and dispensing God's truth to others. To be teaching the children of God's love and forgiveness in that Sunday School class every week. To be sharing our faith with that worker across the bench from us on the job. To be giving sacrificially so that God's truth can be spread throughout the world. To be living lives that would mark us out distinctly as Christians. That is what Jesus Christ is going to be looking for and expecting when he returns. How do we know? He told us so, right here in this parable.
In the January 13, 1992 issue of Fortune Magazine there was an article on the Biggest Business Goofs of 1991 featured. One of the monumental fopahs happened in the AT & T offices on Thomas Street, in New York City. Previously, AT & T and the major power company of New York City called Con Ed had reached an agreement that if the power demands should exceed a certain level, a switch would be thrown at AT & T kicking in a series of internal generators from which to draw power. At the time of the agreement, this was hailed as a master model of cooperation. Here were 2 of the major corporations of New York City preparing for possible future emergencies. If the demand for power exceeded certain levels for some reason, AT & T would have its own back-up power source, insuring service for its customers and Con Ed could continue to supply the needed power to others in the city. Well, the contract was signed, and filed, and forgotten. Forgotten until September 17th, that is. For it was on that day that the agreement needed to be enforced for the very first time. Power demands exceeded the level agreed upon, so Con Ed called AT & T to pull that switch, kicking in those massive generators for the very first time.
When the switch was pulled, something happened that was totally unplanned. A power surge from the generators knocked out some major computer systems. 4.5 million domestic calls were immediately cut off. Almost 500,000 international calls were terminated. And perhaps most serious of all for public safety, the total communication systems linking air traffic controllers at La Guardia, Kennedy and Newark airports were wiped out. There was bedlam at the AT & T nerve control. 33 alarms were ringing madly, demanding immediate attention. But those alarms just went right on ringing for almost 6 hours. Because there was no one there to answer them. You see, all of the personnel in charge of the rectifiers were away, attending a one-day seminar. It was a seminar on how to handle emergencies.
When Christ returns, there are going to be many people who will be just like those AT & T experts. They will be very knowledgeable, knowing exactly what to do. But they will not be ready for the emergency. So Christ will find many of his servants who will certainly know what they should be doing. But they will be found in the embarrassing situation of not being faithful to the task that Christ left them to do.
There is only one way to be ready for Christ's return. He has already warned us that he is coming at an hour when we do not expect him. The only way to be ready, then, is to be faithful in his service all the time. If we are faithful servants, then we won't have to worry about when He is going to return. For whenever He comes, we will be ready for Him.
by David B. Curtis
Watch and Be Ready!
by Dr. Jack L. Arnold
Be Ready For Christ's Coming!
by Karl Walther, Watertown, WI
Christ's Greatest Prophetic Discourse - Matthew 24:42-51
by Dr. David Harrell
Ready and Waiting
by Rev. David Holwick
by Steve Brandon
The Faithful and Wicked Servants
by Dr. Jack L. Arnold
Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for Kohne Sunday
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