Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

11/13/11 Sermon

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

May the words of my mouth…….

 

Back in March and April of this year there were a couple of stories about air traffic controllers who had fallen asleep on the job.

Both in the busy airports of Reagan National Airport in Washington DC and in Miami air traffic controllers fell asleep while planes were circling around trying to land their planes. 

We’ve also heard stories of pilots who have fallen asleep and overshot the airports.

Of course this falling asleep at the wheel doesn’t just happen with air travel…….

There was a man traveling down the road in his car struggling to stay awake when his cell phone rang….He answered and it was his wife calling. Her voice was anxious and worried.  “Herbert, are you on Highway 75?”

“Yes I am” he replied. “Why?”

“Well please watch out then! The news guy in the traffic helicopter said that there is a problem on Highway 75. I got worried because I figured you’d probably be on that highway about now.”

“Well that’s where I am. So what’s the problem?”

And she said---“There’s a car going the wrong direction down the highway” 

And he said: “Well it’s a mess alright. But the guy didn’t get the whole story right. You see it’s not just one car going in the wrong direction----It’s hundreds of them!”

Being asleep at the wrong time can be a big problem. Not only when you’re driving your car but also from a spiritual standpoint.  And that’s what Paul is talking about in our scripture today….

He’s talking to the Christians in Thessalonica who were concerned about their loved ones who had recently died, who had physically fallen asleep and what would become of them.

The Thessalonians expected Jesus to return at anytime and gather them all into his new kingdom but when Jesus had not yet returned and loved ones were dying they needed encouragement and instruction.  So Paul assures them that their loved ones who have died will be a part of the new kingdom.  He tells them not to grieve as those who are spiritually asleep; those who have no hope and then he goes on to give them instruction on how to live as they wait for Christ’s return.  And his instruction is about staying awake………..

It’s about living a life that is watchful, self-controlled and aware.  Paul explains that this is the way of life that identifies Christians as people of the light; children of the day.  Paul is saying that you should be able to tell who is or who isn’t a follower of Jesus Christ by the way they live.

Christians are set apart. They live a life that is distinctive from others.

Now how does all of this relate to us today?

Well, we live in a time where it seems to be getting harder and harder to identify who is asleep and who is awake; who is a Christian and who isn’t.

We live in a time in our culture where it’s encouraged that in the discourse of our daily lives that we not be black or white but rather to be gray. (not too far left or too far right)

We live in a time where we’re pressured to just go with the flow; to be a nice and kind person.

We’re discouraged to identify ourselves in a public way as someone who is differentiated as an awakened person of the light.

Your faith is supposed to be private.  And as a result of this kind of conditioning from the culture, it’s no wonder that Christians are starting to look no different than those who live in darkness.

The influence of the culture is causing us to fall asleep. And we see this happening in different ways.

One way of course has to do with our silent witness as Christians today….Our tongues have fallen asleep.

Christians have always been set apart and identified as those who share their faith with others.  But unfortunately, we’ve let the culture tell us that to share our faith is offensive to people. The culture and media has focused on the bad apples of the faith whose insensitive and uncaring witness doesn’t represent who we really are as Christians.  And so while the culture approves of us being supportive and encouraging (again being good and nice people) we’re to keep our faith to our self so as to be respectful.

As a result we’ve lost our calling to be ambassadors of Christ. We’re becoming no different than those who are asleep.------ Everyday we get up in the morning and instead of seeing ourselves as emissaries for Christ we instead first see ourselves a teacher or technician or manager or sales person or whatever you do each day whose goal is to go about doing their job while being a good and kind person.---that’s the goal…

But you see that existence doesn’t separate you or make you any different than those who are asleep. There are many who are asleep who are nice people, good people but there still asleep.

But people of the day, children of the light wake up each day with a different mindset.  They are first and foremost followers of Jesus Christ who just so happen to be sales person, teacher, manager, technician, engineer or whatever you do each day.

Our occupations or whatever we do are simply vehicles or opportunities for us to share the faith, hope and love of Jesus.

Each day we’re to be praying and looking for those situations where people need the hope and love of Christ. We’re to help people become awake thru a genuine relationship.

This is what it means for us to be awake.

So ask yourself: are you simply a nice person like those who are asleep OR are you an awake ambassador of Jesus Christ spreading the good news of hope and assurance?

Now another way we Christians have found ourselves with those who are asleep is by the dulling of our morality.

This past week we heard in the news of a horrible scandal at Penn State University. One of the assistant coaches has been accused of sexually abusing young boys.  The report is that an eyewitness saw what occurred and told the legendary head coach Joe Paterno who passed on the accusation to his boss the Athletic Director.  Tragically this never reached the authorities and the legal process that might have brought justice for the alleged victims.

Controversy has surrounded this scandal as the board of trustees fired the long-time coach. Fans began to protest the firing saying that Paterno did what he was supposed to do by reporting it to his boss.  But after 9 and a half years and no legal investigation the question is whether simply reporting it to your boss is enough.   Is there a moral obligation; a sense of right and wrong that identifies and guides us.

Those who are awake are guided by a moral standard that goes beyond what the culture accepts as being good enough.

Christians can’t help but stand up against injustice; they cannot remain silent.

Christians are faced with issues of morality all the time.

Recently there have been votes in Maine that had to do with morality; most recently gambling and gay marriage.  And the pre-vote campaigns endorsing these issues bring out the false gods of the sleeping culture.

We’re told to bow down before the god of tolerance or the god of more jobs and money.

But we as the people of the light are called to be courageous; to stand up against the immoral urges of the culture that are dressed up to appear OK but in reality are the ways of darkness.

Now the final way that I want to discuss about how we Christians can find ourselves with those who are asleep is seen in the drowsiness of our commitment.

John Gladstone in his book the “The Valley of the Verdict” speaks to the danger of this spiritual sleep. He writes: A church membership roll can be a depressing document. Even a cursory glance makes one painfully aware of the many sleeping partners in Christ's militant body on earth. Statistics indicate a high percentage of professing believers (who are taking a perennial nap).   Yet, presumably they once encountered Jesus Christ as Savior, were baptized and took solemn vows of love and loyalty to Him and His Church.

What has happened? Not in most cases, a sudden, overwhelming invasion of doubt and a dramatic loss of faith. No.

These people have gradually fallen asleep. The symptoms are all too familiar to any pastor: Sporadic attendance at worship, apologies for absence becoming less convincing and more embarrassing, increasing worldliness, a critical and censorious spirit toward other Christians, the absence of any apparent desire to become mature in Christ.

Perhaps in rare, wakeful moments, these sons of light who have plunged into the darkness of desertion may hear an echo of Cowper's haunting words: "Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord. Where is the soul-refreshing view Of Jesus and his word?..................................

We can all fall into this spiritual danger….

Whenever we let those “little sins” become more and more frequent, whenever we put praying and studying the Bible at the end of the list of things to do---whenever we gossip or criticize, whenever we refuse unity and community for our own individual pride.

Those who find themselves asleep are called to wake up and become committed to the Body of Christ which is Jesus’ church.

This day is a day not for sleeping; it is a day to wake up to commitment.

Now, there are many different ways we can find ourselves dozing off at the wheel in our faith. I’ve only shared 3.

But the question before us---- is how can we wake ourselves up?

How do we go about putting toothpicks on our eyelids to keep our eyes opened and awake???

Well the only thing that is going to keep us awake as Christians is to keep our eyes focused on the cross.

The only thing that is going to keep us alert and alive is to know that Jesus died for us whether we wake or sleep--------

Now that’s what we need to be reminded of over and over. The sacrifice of Jesus for us is what empowers us to be his awakened disciples.  His sacrificial love for us is what energizes us to live a disciplined life where we intentionally put on faith and love as a breastplate, we slip on the life of a Christian where we come together and encourage each other and love each other.

We work for the same common purpose of loving God and loving others as we go about living the good news serving those who our brothers and sisters in their physical, emotional AND spiritual needs.

We also wear the hope of salvation as a helmet which means we live with the hope and assurance of eternity….Our witness is to those who live in fear (facing surgeries, or death, or divorce or addiction or job loss, or fear of tragedies)----our witness is to give them the message of the assurance of salvation and the eternal hope in Jesus Christ.

Today there are so many in our world and in our community who are sound asleep. Perhaps you have dozed off yourself….Well if so, the alarm is going off and Paul is reminding you and me that God loves us so much that he sent his son to die for our sleepy indifference and our rebellious pride.

Today----Let us snap out of our stupors and receive the power of the cross that we might be invigorated and energized to live as the people of the day; children of the light who are called to wake up a sleeping world around us……………….

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen