The Bible promises eternal life with Christ forever to all who have trusted in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. What implication does that have for us now? Do we live the same self-indulgent life we lived before? To counter that self-centred attitude, the Apostle Paul says “you are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep but let us be alert and self-controlled” (1 Thess 5:5-6).
Our response to Christ’s return is to ‘be alert and self-controlled’. Why? As ‘sons of the light’ we should not live like those who belong to the darkness. Night and darkness are normally symbolic of drunkenness, lustful and depraved activities. As children of light, we are to live disciplined and restrained lives, and forgo anything that threatens to dampen the Spirit’s influence over our lives.
Drunkenness or activities of the flesh are not the only things we are warned against. Verse 6 tells us of another activity associated with night that we, as children of light, should guard against. We are not to be asleep like others but alert and self-controlled. While the warning here may refer to unbelievers who are ignorant of Christ’s coming, it should also be a warning to us not to be spiritually apathetic.
If you have done a long drive overseas, you will know the importance of keeping alert every second. You can be alert one minute and yet doze off soon after. You start by thinking the road ahead is clear and straight so you just need to step on the gas and hold the wheel straight. After a while, you are so comfortable, you get drowsy and you think you can afford to close your eyes a second or two longer. Before you know it, you have closed your eyes for maybe more than that, long enough for you to drive off the road or crash into another car. We never fall asleep immediately but we drift off because we become insensitive to our surroundings. If we are not watchful in our spiritual attitudes, we will also drift away. Slowly, we become lethargic and comfortably numb about spiritual issues. We start thinking we don’t really need to read our Bible and pray everyday. Or we do it with a Daily Bread quick-fix and a prayer for the day. We are happy because we have done our spiritual duty. Perhaps we start compromising on ethical issues at the workplace. We don’t fall away immediately but church becomes boring, Christian Education is irrelevant and CG becomes dull. We don’t want to fellowship and we begrudge the time we spend in church.
What do you do when you get sleepy when driving? Perhaps you might wind down the window and let the cold air wake you up. Perhaps you might sing along with the radio or ask a passenger to keep talking to you and making sure you answer back. In the same manner, if you start finding church or the fellowship boring, pray and ask God to renew your spirit. Find someone to share your problem and make yourself accountable to him for your spiritual life. Our response to the coming of Christ is to be alert so that we will not be ashamed when he returns and to be self-controlled so that we bear a good witness.
We certainly have to take the promise of Jesus' second coming seriously, not indulgently.