Wide Awake and Ready

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After Jesus Christ lived, died, and was resurrected from the dead, he ascended into heaven and for the time being, he sits at the right hand of Father God. He rules and reigns from his throne in heavenly places while his Holy Spirit remains with us continually here in the natural realm. He is coming back one day.  The scriptures tell us Jesus will return to rule and reign on planet Earth. The written word of God also tells us to stay awake and be ready for that day because he will come soon. He will come suddenly, on a day and an hour that we will not expect. Have you ever wondered how we are to go about being ready for the Lord’s coming?  I have!  Recently the LORD has given me some new insight on this subject.

My  mother-in-law once gave my spouse this t-shirt that said, “Jesus is coming soon. Look busy!”  It was funny. But the thing is, that’s how people think. That’s precisely what dead religion drives people to… a bunch of activity done to look good and get approval. We don’t need to do that! It won’t work! Readiness for the return of Christ is not about acting; it’s not about doing something to put on an impressive show.  It is about genuinely being ready.

Rather than striving to put on a good show, we need to focus on matters of the heart and truly become ready on the inside.  What’s going on inside of us will work its way to the outside. Putting on a flurry of religious activity to look good isn’t going to be enough to satisfy the LORD. We can fool some people for a while. We can fool ourselves even longer. But we can’t fool God for even a moment. So let’s not try. Let’s not pretend to be awake. Let’s learn what it means to be truly awake, truly alive, truly ready and let’s live that way!

Luke 12: 35-49 is one passage in the Bible where readiness is being discussed. There is an excerpt of that passage below. If you’ll take the time to read the whole story you’ll understand the context even better and get even more out of the passage. Click here to follow the link to the whole passage. Here is the excerpt:

Luke 12:35-37 ESV

 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.”

Exactly how do we “stay dressed for action” as the passage instructs?  How do we keep ourselves awake?  This type of question has come to mind repeatedly as I’ve read scriptures like this one.  I used to puzzle over this question a while, pray, and then move on to some new section of scripture without feeling like I’d really gotten much insight on how to be awake and ready as I was being told to do.

Well, God has his times and seasons for showing us things. Sometimes we wait a while for an answer. Maybe we weren’t ready before; or we just didn’t need to know right then. It wasn’t time for that revelation. Whatever the reason, when we really need an answer, we ask, and he will surely give us one. Now is the time. God has given me some new understanding on this question of how to be ready. Read on and I’ll share that insight  with you.

I am studying the Gospel of John in one venue and the book of Revelation in another. It’s an interesting side point to note here that most experts think both of these New Testament books were written by the same man. Anyway, because of these two studies,  I came upon the juxtaposition of two books discussing Jesus coming to Earth in the flesh. One time is history and the other time is yet to come. It occurred to me that by examining how God got people ready for Jesus the first time around, we can get helpful clues as to how God would have us get ready for Jesus’ return.

Scripture tell us God sent John the Baptist, a prophet, to prepare the way for the Savior at his first coming. This prophet had a two part job. First, he was to get the people ready for the Christ by preaching a baptism of repentance. Second, once John recognized the Christ, he was to point him out; to be a witness to the people, identifying God’s Son.

Luke 1:17 KJV

 “And he (John the Baptist) shall go before him (Jesus Christ) in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

When Jesus Christ returns to earth he will come on the clouds and every eye will see him.  No prophet will need to point him out the way John the Baptist did the first time around. It will be obvious to all. It is the other part of John’s ministry we are  discussing  here. John preached a message of repentance, calling people to quit their wrongdoing and change their ways. He turned the hearts of the fathers to the children and the he turned the rebellious to the wisdom of the godly. He also baptized people as they changed their ways. I suggest to you that these components of John’s ministry back then contain keys that can help us know how to be ready for Jesus when he returns.

Our question is this:  Since Jesus will come unexpectedly, how do we stay awake? How do we get ready and stay that way indefinitely? How do we live ready for this monumental occasion when we don’t know exactly when it will happen or precisely what readiness looks like?  We’re going to look at John the Baptist’s ministry to get some some keys.

 

Key One:  Repentance

Starting New

John influenced folks who had been in rebellion to return to God. That’s the first step in preparing for Jesus’ return; getting right with God. In John’s day that meant changing one’s ways to do what’s right. Today it involves not being at emnity with God anymore but rather becoming his friend, his follower, his child. To become his follower we begin  by receiving Jesus into our hearts. We receive him by sincerely admitting we believe that Jesus is the Son of God; that his death paid for our sins; that his resurrection gives us victory over death. We also believe his ascension to heaven means he’s alive and rules in eternal places. He watches over and prays for us from there. And one day he will return to rule here. In the meantime, his Kingdom is established and increases on Earth by his Holy Spirit and through his people.

We tell Father God something along these lines, ” Yes LORD, I believe Jesus is your Son. I accept his blood as payment for my shortcomings. Forgive me for all my mistakes, including…(you fill in the blank)….  Thank you, Lord. I believe Jesus is alive now and because he lives so will I. I choose to join your forever family. I receive you as my King. I invite you into my heart. You can have me. I’m signing up for your Kingdom. So be it.”

Next a new follower gets baptized in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This act physically dramatizes the reality of our death to our old ways and a new beginning as members of God’s family. By faith we have become the LORD’s children and new persons in Christ by trusting him. His Holy Spirit comes to live within us and we see ourselves differently.  We consider ourselves dead to the selfish ways of the past and alive to God. He empowers us to begin living in a new way that brings glory to God. We are on the pathway to readiness for Christ’s return. If he came right now we’d be ready to go.

 

Living Holy

As believers, we now live a new humble lifestyle, walking with God. We quickly admit it whenever we do something that gets us out of step with Holy Spirit and grieves God’s heart. When we error, we refuse to let our wrongdoings continue on and on. We deal with them as soon as we recognize them. We know our wrong behavior is not indicative of who we really are; it’s just the flesh acting up. So we separate our identity from our behavior. We stop making excuses for the wrong things we do. We draw on God’s power (grace) to change our behavior.  We cooperate with God in choosing new attitudes and actions that conform us to God’s way of thinking as we enjoy walking closely with Jesus.

 

With Pure Hearts

Now that we know the LORD, we resolve to stay close to him by keeping our hearts pure. We deal with whatever wrong thoughts, or attitudes or actions, we notice cropping up in ourselves.  We do this one thing at a time, one moment at a time. We arrest the things that fall short of the best. We ask God to use his Son’s precious blood to wash these shortcomings out of us. He does. We thank him, knowing he’s paid an astonishing price to set us free. We keep drawing on the LORD’s power to irradicate old habit patterns and reprogram our thinking one thing at a time. We learn to make better choices one moment at a time. This helps keep us ready for Jesus’ return.

 

Stains Removed

We waste no time on guilt or shame. We waste no time claiming to be innocent. We know every human being on the planet has shortcomings of one type or another on their track record and so the Father has made a way to erase that record. He does not condemn us when we follow his way of fixing things . We rely on God’s mercy and kindness. He has provided our get-out-of-death-free card. That card is the blood of Jesus and the cross of Christ. We just apply the blood of Jesus to the stain of our sin and the blotch goes away. The guilt and shame vanish. God doesn’t remember what we did wrong any longer. After applying the blood to our mistakes, we practice receiving his help to live differently from then on. That help is the power of God and it is called grace.

 

Channels Open

Quick repentance keeps our hearts clean, open, and perceptive toward God. The Father is now free to pour his power out through us. The blockages are gone. Our hearts have become good ground and we keep it that way. We walk in freedom because of what Jesus Christ did for us and because of our willingness to humbly receive his free gift. As our communication with God becomes uninterruptable; we become more and more intimate with him because the communication channels remain wide open on our side for longer and longer time periods. We’ve learned that ongoing sin puts people to sleep; so we get rid of it as soon as it crops up to help keep our hearts soft toward God. This way we’re sure to be more wakeful.

 

Key Two:  Baptism

Receive Holy Spirit Power

When John conducted his ministry preparing folks for Jesus, he baptized people. He told folks that someone would come after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. That baptism is mentioned in Matthew 3:11. It is what we’ll take a look at now. By receiving this baptism in the Spirit we get Holy Spirit power to be the LORD’s witnesses.

Once we’ve received this baptism, we continue being filled with the Spirit in an ongoing way.  We learn how to stay connected to his power to live a new life. And we go to the LORD for refilling whenever we need it.  We practice walking by the Spirit in our day to day lives. This keeps the power of God flowing in us, through us, and out to the world. We become like rivers receiving life from heaven and pouring it out on earth. We keep getting filled and refilled so we never run dry.

We become fully equipped by the Spirit with every good tool the Father wants to give us to make us more than conquerors. We receive the power of God to accomplish great things for the Kingdom. Holy Spirit works within and through us. He gives us his ability to live awake, properly clothed, and ready to accomplish the Father’s business with the Father’s power. Another name for his power is grace. Grace is the power of God and the favor of God.

 

Stand Firm

We need Holy Spirit power to be who we are meant to be and to do what we are sent out to do, in an effective and lasting way. We resolve to stand firm.  We push through any ungodly fear we may have and we surrender ourselves into God’s care, the same way a young child trusts his father. We fight the temptation to shrink back because it is beatable. The enemy of our souls tries to intimidate us so we’ll slow down, put our pajamas on and go to sleep. He wants to steal our crown. He tries to stop us from receiving all God has offered. Tell him, “NO WAY! I’m pressing forward to fulfill my heavenly calling in Christ.” Then, “I welcome, God, your baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire and I won’t quit asking until I have all you’re offering. It’s good stuff!” And then receive it. Walk in it.  Keep practicing how to live in step with his leading.

 

Ask and Receive

God gives good gifts to those who ask. Asking is key to receiving. The LORD will surely empower us to live a lives sold out for him. He will give us a greater and greater ability to love others with his love. He will pour the Holy Spirit and fire out upon us.  He’ll pour it out initially and he’ll refresh us with more when we seek him. He will equip us with diverse gifts of the Spirit as we ask him for theses. He will work through us in greater measure as we pursue him with all of our hearts. He will place within us the passionate fire of his love because we keep asking him to do so.

 

Yield

The more of ourselves we yield to the LORD the more of his life he will pour out through us. That’s the way God works. He fills empty vessels and he often does it instantaneously. God also uses his kids to impart his Spirit from one to another. The LORD loves us. He will fill us to overflowing to whatever extent we make room for him. He will light us up with holy fire if we sincerely want it.

It’s your choice. He’s already made up his mind that he wants you. The question is:  How much do you want him?  How close to him do you want to be? How determined are you to live ready? Are you willing to yield control to get there? Are you willing to admit your mistakes?  Are you willing to put him in charge of every area of your life? Will you live for him and not for yourself? Will you live by his fiery power and passionate love wherever they take you? These are the questions of the hour. These are keys to remaining awake, alert, clothed with action, and ready for Jesus Christ’s return in these last days.

 

A Circumspect Life 

If this blog post has stirred up hunger in you for a closer walk with God; if after reading this you are finding it easier to trust the power of the Lord’s shed blood to remove your shortcomings;  if you are courageously asking God where he’d like to clean up your life; if you are wanting God to train you in how to access his ability to help you leave sin behind and live a beautiful, God glorifying life; if you are waking up from spiritual sleep; if you are more yielded to him; if you are getting more in step with his Spirit, if you are asking for more Holy Spirit power in your life; if you are now planning to search out truth on these subjects to understand any of them better; if you’re challenged to deal with your own shortcomings faster, love deeper, and live relying on Holy Spirit power in a greater way; if these things are stirring up in you then this blog post has done its job. There are scripture links and good books out there that expand on the topics discussed above. If you want more, please dig deeper and get more. Be among those who are ready when the LORD returns. I’ll see you in eternal places. God bless you!

*****

Copyright 2016

Photo  “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos from Unsplash com. Creative Commons Zero- CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

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