Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Main Point: Build others up because Jesus is coming.
We are a people who love God, love others, and listen to the Word. God’s Word is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the story of God’s people looking forward to Jesus. The New Testament is the story of Jesus and what it means to live as his people waiting for his return. Today we are in the New Testament; we’re in 1 Thessalonians 5. The Thessalonians were a people who had been celebrating the Lord’s Supper and declaring Jesus’ death until he comes. They were looking for Jesus’ return, but it wasn’t coming quickly, they were being persecuted, and church members were dying. They had questions about what it means to be the church waiting for Jesus to return. The end of it is this admonition: build others up because Jesus is coming. Let’s read it. Let’s read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.
When it comes to living the Christian life,
I. Remember what you have been taught (1-5)
Acts 17 records the story of Paul and Silas planting the church in Thessalonica. Acts 20 records the account of Paul returning to the area and people from Thessalonica joined him in his missionary work. So, when Paul writes, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night,” Paul is here referring to the fact that he has thoroughly taught them concerning the return of Jesus. From the very beginning of their Christian lives, they had instructions about the 2nd coming of Christ. What follows in chapter 5 is a reminder of what they already know as well as some application on how these truths should shape their lives. Here’s what they know
- Jesus’ return will surprise the world (2-3)
Look back at verse 2 and pay attention to what they are fully aware of, “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
We really need to define that phrase “the day of the Lord.” What is the day of the Lord? The day of the Lord is the day when Jesus returns to judge the world and save his church. For one group, for the world, the day of the Lord is a terrible terrifying day. Isaiah 13:6 says, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!” (ca Joel 1:15; 2:30-32; Amos 5:18). For the unbelieving world, the day of the Lord is a horrible transition to judgment. For the believing church, the day of the Lord is glorious. The day of the Lord is, verse 9, when we receive the fullness of salvation. The day of the Lord is that 1 John 3:2 time when Jesus appears, and we are made like him because we will see him as he is. For the church, the day of the Lord is good and glorious; its everything we are hoping and striving for. For the world, the day of the Lord is awful and terrifying; it’s the loss of every good grace and it is the fullness of God’s wrath.
Look back at 1 Thessalonians 5:2. What is the coming of the day of the Lord like? The day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. Here’s the problem with burglars: they don’t tell you when they are coming. Jesus’ return is certain, but he will return at a time when it is unexpected by the world.
I want you to notice why the return of Jesus will be unexpected. The world won’t expect Jesus’ return because things will appear to be good. 1 Thessalonians 5:3, “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them.” The picture we have of life just before Jesus’ return is one of a sinful world enjoying their sin in relative peace and security. Sodom and Gomorrah enjoyed their rebellion in relative ease until the very day of destruction. So it was in the days of Noah, “They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Lk 17:20-37).
People who are longing for Jesus’ return, people who are putting sin to death, and people who are enduring persecution for the advance of the gospel will not be surprised by Jesus’ return. On the other hand, people who are sleeping morally and are drunk on pleasure will be surprised.
But let’s not judge them; they already have a judge. Let’s fear for them and love them and share the gospel with them. We fear for them because of what is coming. Look at the end of verse 3, “then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” People who are currently enjoying the ease of sinful pleasure will soon suffer the fullness of God’s wrath because of their sin. An eternal hell is coming for those who are not looking for Jesus’ return. Like a pregnant woman who cannot escape the coming pain of her labor, so the sleeping world cannot escape the coming pain of judgment on the day of the Lord.
The return of Christ will surprise the world but not the church.
- We will not be surprised by Jesus’ return (4-5)
Look at verse 4, “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”
When you are in the dark you cannot see what is going on; you can’t see what’s coming. But when you are in the light you see what’s going on; you see what’s coming. We have the Word of God, a lamp for our feet, so that we can see the reality of Jesus’ return.
The first reason we are not surprised is we are not in the darkness. Verse 5 gives the next reason we are not surprised. Look at verse 5, “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”
This is more than you have a Bible, verse 5 points to the very nature of what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian is to be a son of light or a son of the day. This is a Jewish way of saying light and day characterize your person. In Acts 4:36 we meet a man named Barnabas. Barnabas’s name means son of encouragement. Barnabas was an encourager. He comforted the church and built up the members. Just as Barnabas was characterized by encouragement so also Christians are characterized by light and day. We are not in moral darkness because we have been given the light of Christ. Jesus said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” So, in 1 Thessalonians 5, being a child of the light means you are believing and looking for Jesus’ return. You aren’t making excuses for your sin. You are hoping for Jesus’ return.
John Stott puts it well, “Imagine you and your family are enjoying your summer holiday. One evening the sun goes down, you draw the curtains, and everybody goes to bed. You sleep well too, because the following day you are expecting a visit from the family’s favorite Uncle Bill. But because you are tired, you oversleep. In the morning, the sun rises as usual, but you know nothing about it because you are still fast asleep and the curtains are still drawn. Only one member of the family wakes early, your eldest daughter. She gets up and flings back the curtains of her room, so that the sun streams in. Suddenly, there is a loud knock on the front door, and Uncle Bill stands outside. Your daughter is ready to welcome him. She is not taken by surprise, for she is awake, alert and in the light. But the rest of you are covered with confusion because you are still asleep and still in the darkness. So, the question which Paul’s teaching presses upon us is this: to which age do you belong, the [light or the dark]? Do we belong to the night or to the day? Are we asleep or awake? Are our curtains still drawn, or has the light of Jesus Christ shone in upon us? (John Stott, The Message of 1&2 Thessalonians, 111).
If the return of Christ never factors into your decisions, you are probably not a Christian. Are you sleeping in the dark of this world or are you awake to the reality of the return of Jesus? If you are a Christian,
II. Be watchful and sober (6-8)
Paul has established the difference between the world that will be surprised by judgment at Jesus’ return and the church that is aware and waiting for salvation at Jesus’ return. What Paul does now is establish an ethic as we wait. We need to see how we are supposed to live. Here is our first order
- Keep awake and be sober (6-7)
Look with me at verse 6, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.”
This same message is loud and clear in 1 Corinthians 15:33-34, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals. Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”
The picture here is one of Christians slowly drifting back into the world’s ways of thinking and living. Don’t be deceived. The people you hang out with, the music you listen to, and the shows you watch all influence you. If we are not alert and sober, then the people and stuff around us will corrupt us. Wake up! Turn away from sin. Get ready for Jesus’ return. Get your neighbors and coworkers ready for Jesus’ return. They are sleeping in the dark. Take the knowledge of God to them and plead with them to wake up.
It appears that there is a direct connection between being awake and being an evangelist. The more you think soberly about Jesus’ return for salvation and judgment the more you will labor to wake souls.
So, the woke Christian is the Christian who is alert and sober minded concerning the day of the Lord. The woke Christian isn’t trying to make sleeping sinners comfortable. The woke Christian is armed for battle and is fighting to turn sinners from the idols of sexuality and skin color to serve the living God. The woke Christian is waiting for God’s Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:9-10).
1 Thessalonians 5:7 continues the comparisons between asleep and awake, drunk and sober. When you are asleep you don’t know what’s going on. When you are drunk you don’t care about what’s going on. When you are awake you know what’s going on. When you are sober you care about what’s going on.
Parents, are you aware of what’s going on inside your child’s heart and mind? Do you care? Sober up. The darkness is coming after your child. The Pied Piper is playing his tune.
- Be sober and gear up (8)
Look at verse 8, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” Since you are a Christian, thinking clearly about the church, work, family, sexuality, gender, money, justice, and the like; be sober.
A soldier who knows he’s about to plunge into life-and-death hand-to-hand-combat puts on his armor. A soldier who thinks he’s going to a party picks up a bottle. Christian, do you have a bottle in your hand or a helmet on your head?
Now that I have your attention, Jesus is coming soon in judgment, we are to fight for souls, put on the breastplate of righteousness and love. Put on Christ. Repent of your sins. Believe in Jesus for his righteousness. Pursue holiness in your mind, at your work, and in your home. Put on the righteousness of Christ so that you can live a righteous life. And put on the breastplate of love. Know who you are. You are chosen, you are holy, you are loved (Col 2:12). Knowing the fullness of the love of God we go and love our teammates, coworkers, neighbors, and our church.
If we suddenly had emblems on our chests that reflected the focus of our hearts what would be on your breastplate? Sober up, believe in Jesus, and put on righteousness and love.
For your head, put on the helmet of the hope of salvation. The world is trying to get into your head. The world has its drunken ideas about meaning, money, sexuality, race, and family. You put on the helmet of the hope of salvation.
In Philippians 3:14 the helmet of the hope of salvation looks like this, “I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” I’m awake to the reality of Jesus’ return for my salvation. I’m sober as to those temptations that will tempt my fellow members to sleep. I’m striving, I’m straining, I’m putting on the helmet of the hope of salvation. Be watchful. Be sober.
III. Rest in the work of the Lord (9-10)
Listen, living with a sober mind in the light is difficult. The Thessalonians knew how hard it can be to put on righteousness and love while the world mocks you and gets drunk without you. Verse 9 tells us why we stay armed and alert
- God has destined us for salvation
Look at verse 9, “For God has not destined (or appointed) us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Some of you are nervous because you know what getting ready for the day of the Lord will cost you. You are worried you won’t have what it takes to endure. You are afraid the day of the Lord will be a day of judgment for you. Rest in this, “God has chosen you. God has destined you. God has appointed you. God is holding you in his sovereign strong hand. Despite the battle, your end is salvation.”
But man, it is hard today. There are so many days when you really just want to get drunk and go to sleep, but you can’t. Why is that? God has not destined you for wrath but for salvation through Jesus Christ. The Jesus who is returning for you is the Jesus who is sustaining you. Your salvation is through Christ.
- We are united to Christ
Rest in the truth of verse 10, “Our Lord Jesus Christ died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” Your union with Christ will see you through. More precisely, because of your union with Christ, he will see you through. If you die, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, you will be raised. If you are alive at the day of the Lord, you will be transformed. Rest in this: the purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection was to give you life. That life will be yours at Jesus’ return. Stop trusting yourself. Rest in Christ and the reality that his death and resurrection are the only sure reason why you will be saved. Rest in Jesus and
IV. Get to work (11)
Verse 11 starts with a “therefore.” God has destined you for salvation and you are united with Christ for life therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. Church,
- Keep encouraging one another
I had this verse put on a big piece of canvas to remind us why we gather each week. Why should you wake up and gather with the church each week? You need encouragement. Why should you wake up and gather with the church each week? We need you to encourage us. If you aren’t here, then we miss out on encouragement. If you aren’t here, then you miss out on encouragement. It’s a battle out there, we need to focus on encouraging one another in here.
Each Sunday when you see this verse on the wall, I want you to pray a simple prayer: God show me one person to encourage today. Maybe you need to give an encouraging word of thanks to a brother or sister. Maybe you need to give some financial help to a struggling brother or sister. Maybe you need to help that discouraged member put on the helmet of salvation. Maybe you need to help that beat down guilt wounded member put on the breastplate of righteousness and love. Let’s keep it simple, if we are going to keep encouraging one another we must come early, stay late, and meet up during the week. Come early, stay late, and meet up during the week.
Hebrews 3 is our New Testament reading for today. Listen to verse 13, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you maybe hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
The day of the Lord is coming quickly. Make room in your life so you can encourage your brothers and sisters every day. Keep encouraging and
- Keep building one another up
For months now we have been building a building. We’ve torn stuff down, leveled stuff out, laid a foundation, and built walls. We are building a building. I want to remind you that the reason we are building that building is so that we can build one another up. Particularly, our goal is to build up the next generation with the truth of Jesus. I’m going to again state the obvious: we need money. Maybe you can write a big check. 23,000 dollars would pay for the septic system we need. Maybe you can give a few dollars. An electric outlet costs about a dollar and we need those too. My point is we need every member to do what they can to finish this building. Thankfully, this work of building a building is temporary. We’ll soon be done hauling lumber and swinging hammers.
But Mambrino Baptist Church will never be done investing in and helping one another follow Jesus. There are only two ways to get out of making disciples in this church. The first way out is the grave and the second way out is the return of Christ. Seeing that you’re not dead and Jesus has not returned, we have work to do. We must proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
In the Lord’s Supper we remember that Jesus died for us so that we can live with him. The Lord’s Supper is for believers. The Lord’s Supper is for those who have been baptized. The Lord’s Supper is for those wounded warriors who need the reminder of God’s promise of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Think for a moment about how you can encourage us through the Lord’s Supper. Maybe you need to get up and go pray with a brother or sister. Maybe the simple act of you eating and drinking will encourage us because we see that we do not fight alone.
Think for a moment about how you can build up the church. Maybe you need to write a note to a member this afternoon or set up a meeting this week.
In preparation for the Lord’s Supper we are going to stand together to pray for, encourage, and build one another up. Karol and Janie are going to play one verse and while they play, do what you need to do. Pastor Jay and I will stand down front. Pastor Aaron will be in the back. We would love to pray with you. Let’s stand and let’s pray.