A devotional titled, ready or not, here I come
Jesus cautioned His disciples against taking a lackadaisical attitude toward His return. He counseled them to be ready; He could arrive at any moment (Matt. 24:4; Luke 12:35-40).
What does it take to be ready for Jesus’ return?
Every morning, you get ready for the day. You sit up in bed after the alarm wakes you. You shower, put on deodorant and clothing, brush your teeth and swallow your daily medication. A final glance in the mirror confirms that each hair is in its proper place.
One or more cups of coffee, a bowl of cereal, and an affectionate farewell to your spouse precede your hurried departure. Hopefully, you take time somewhere in that process or as you travel down the road to prepare yourself spiritually by conversing with the Lord. You do all this because it is what your parents or someone in your life taught you.
Jesus used parables to teach His disciples the necessity of being ready. A master’s unanticipated return produced embarrassed servants (Luke 12:38). Intruders gained access through unlocked doors (Matt. 24:43). The illustration Jesus used most often was of a woman on her wedding day (Matt. 22:8; 25:10). We are Jesus’ Bride; He is our Groom.
The first step to being ready is to say “yes” to Jesus’ proposal. This results in salvation (Rev. 3:20). Most of you reading these words made that commitment. If you have not, now is the time. Nothing else in this article can save your soul. Jesus alone forgives our sins. You cannot rescue yourself.
God is ready to help (Psalm 46:1), ready to forgive (Psalm 86:5), and ready to save (Psalm 109:31). He patiently awaits your response. Don’t wait too long though; His return is quickly approaching. The wedding day will soon be here (Rom. 13:11-12).
Like any wedding, preparation takes longer than the event. Jesus’ role as the Bridegroom is to get our eternal home ready (John 14:3). Our job (with His help) is to prepare for His arrival. Jesus is not concerned about the venue, the music, the decorations, or the cake. He only has eyes for one item – His Bride. The Bride requires the most preparation. Paul counsels the Bride in Romans 13.
Make Yourself Attractive “remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.” (Rom. 13:12)
It’s the wedding day. Others work to ensure the setting is perfect. The couple’s task is to beautify themselves for their soon-to-be mate.
The groom combs his hair, shaves his face, and makes sure his breath smells minty. There are limitations on what he can do to improve his appearance. No worries. All eyes, including his, will be on the bride.
Her task is much more complicated. The bride usually needs help to arrange her hair, paint her nails, do her makeup, and put on her clothing. The process takes time. She will only wear a wedding dress once. She wants to get it right. If she can just get that wow look on his face as she appears, it will be worth it.
Unlike most love relationships, the one between Jesus and you did not begin with mutual attraction. You did not seek Jesus (Rom. 3:11), and He had no logical reason to approach you. Jesus made His choice when you were repulsive (Rom. 5:8). The arrival of this joyous day is a testament to God’s mercy and grace, not our beauty or merit.
Just because Jesus loves you the way you are does not permit you to remain that way. A guy who originally found himself attracted to a girl when she was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt still wants her to dress her best for their wedding day. It proves she knows this day is special and she values her groom’s approval.
Jesus’ expectation is no less. He calls you to dress the part you will play. Your gown is not fashioned from lace or silk. Your righteous acts compose your covering (Rev. 16:15; 19:8). Before salvation, good deeds produced no merit (Is. 64:6; Eph. 2:8-9). Now, you belong to Jesus, and He has tasks for you to complete (Eph. 2:10).
Jesus picked out and purchased your wedding apparel. It’s your responsibility to gladly receive what He planned.
Invite Everyone to Be A Witness “we must live decent lives for all to see” (v. 13)
After selecting the perfect ring, you showed it to all your buddies. Your fiancé suddenly became left-handed once the ring was hers. Every photo on every social media platform proudly and excitedly displayed it.
The wedding bands – permanent, public displays of commitment – soon occupied their position on the appropriate fingers. Months before the wedding, you sent out announcements inviting people to come, see the event, and hopefully bring gifts. Even if you said your vows before a judge, there were witnesses.
A wedding is a public event. You don’t keep it between you and your spouse. Most brides, no matter how introverted, have dreamed of the day they could publicly affirm their love and commitment to their life-partner. People in love usually want the world to know.
What if, right after the first kiss, she leans in close to whisper in your ear. You expect romantic and endearing words. Instead, she says, “Let’s keep this between us, okay?”
Jesus has always had “secret disciples.” They want the benefits Jesus provides, but they hesitate to identify with Him (John 19:38-39).
Jesus spoke of some spiritual activities that should be performed discreetly (Matt. 6:4, 6, 17). By doing so, He was confronting pride, hypocrisy, and arrogance. However, Jesus never intended faith to be a private matter (Matt. 5:16). If He had, baptism would occur in a bathtub instead of a church or river.
Perhaps it is time for you to walk down the aisle, step into the water, and publicly live out your faith – to go ALL IN. It would be awkward for the outward signs of your commitment to be missing when your betrothed appears.
The reason you hesitate to declare your commitment to Jesus may arise from the life you currently lead. Publicity invites scrutiny. The thought of someone fervently evaluating your finances, entertainment choices, personal interactions, and web activities is frightening. Jesus does not condemn you (Rom. 8:1), but people can be judgmental.
Does your life have parts you would rather keep private? Jesus says, amputate them (Matt. 5:29)! Doing so will be painful, but the confidence it gives is freeing. Live so purely, that if someone did accuse you, no one would believe them.
Avoid Potentially Embarrassing Activities “Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness” (Rom. 13:13)
The period just before the wedding can be a tempting time, especially for the groom. In many cultures, the man’s friends abduct him, so they can enjoy one final moment of “freedom” before he declares his total commitment to one woman. The activity they enjoy might be something innocent like a camping trip or a basketball game. It could also be something sordid or unbecoming a Christian.
The result is a sleepy groom, with a massive headache, saying his vows with a painful burden of guilt. If his dark actions ever become public, the consequences will be extremely embarrassing for him and his spouse.
As our Groom, Jesus will never do anything to justly cause us shame. He does not have the same guarantee from us.
Some Christians assume that freedom from sin’s penalty gives permission to participate in sin’s pleasure (Rom. 6:1-2). They don’t rebel in public. They know better. But in the dark where they believe no one sees and where it is more difficult to identify the criminal, they disgrace the One Who chose them (John 3:19-20).
They plan to honor Jesus exclusively after the wedding day. They are uninformed. In a Jewish context, engagement and marriage were synonymous (Matt. 1:18,19). The only factors engagement did not include were sex and cohabitation.
You will live with Jesus one day, but you are permanently connected to Him now. What He does impacts others’ perception of you, and what you do affects how the world views Jesus. God erased your past. He forgave all your sin. Sadly, some still stubbornly clinch actions or attitudes that are an embarrassment to Jesus.
Your goal should be the incomprehensible affirmation God spoke of past saints: “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb. 11:16). The judgment will manifest those shameful portions of your life you tried to hide (Prov. 10:9). Live instead in the light. Make Jesus proud of you so that when He appears, you can approach Him with a clear conscience (1 John 2:28).
Save Yourself Only for One “sexual promiscuity and immoral living” (v. 13)
Virginity was once the norm for singles. Couples approached the wedding bed never having experienced sexual activity. Sadly, this has changed.
We live in a society driven by its physical passions (1 Peter 2:11). Food. Comfort. Pleasure. Music … and Sex. You’ve heard the adage: “Sex sells” Advertisers use physical attraction to market everything from cars to hamburgers. Social media has opened relationship doors that should have remained tightly locked.
Though we live in a promiscuous world, a sexual problem is not the environment’s fault. Often, society merely creates opportunities to act where weaknesses were already present (James 4:1).
Living counter-culturally is challenging. It calls you to control your God-given inclinations, but control is exactly what Jesus commands. Jesus amplified His requirements when He spoke not only of a pure body but also a clean mind (Matt. 5:28).
Men, you may think yourself spiritually mature because only your wife occupies your bed, but let’s take the discussion one step further. Who occupies your mind?
Righteousness is not just about what you do or don’t do, but why. What are your motives? There is only one engine powerful enough to drive you to purity and only one reason Jesus accepts: love (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
When love is askew or missing, nothing else is right. Jesus said your greatest responsibility is to love God with every resource you possess (Matt. 22:37). He warned both through precept (1 John 3:15-17) and example (2 Tim. 4:10; Rev. 2:4) about the danger of giving away what rightfully belongs to Him. Giving to another what is rightfully His is committing spiritual adultery (James 4:4).
Staying clean in a filthy environment is a herculean task, but it can be done (James 1:27). Consider Noah, Daniel, Joseph, and Jesus. Physical strength will not get you there; ask Samson. Wisdom alone is insufficient; ask Daniel. A pure heart also requires pure actions; ask Joseph. We need God’s Spirit (Eph. 5:23).
The gown Jesus picked out for you may not appeal to others. That’s okay. You are not at your wedding to impress or excite anyone but Christ.
Jesus’ eyes will one day be transfixed as you, adorned by pure white linen, rise to meet Him. He died to secure you. His blood cleansed your soul. Whenever you are tempted to give your body or your heart to another, remember the price Jesus paid.
Cooperation Not Competition “quarreling and jealousy” (v. 13)
Marriage ceremonies are likely the most significant event in family life. Mothers, daughters, family members, and even unrelated guests have ideas about how the festivities should go. The extreme stress can cause emotional outbursts and regrettable statements. With so much at stake and so many personalities involved, feelings easily get trampled.
The wedding day’s purpose is for two to become one. It’s not about the flowers or the dress or the reception or any of the other trappings. The only people whose pleasure is worthy of compromise on that day are the bride and groom. Whenever you forget that, you sacrifice unity on the altar of ceremony.
Jesus aches for His church, the Bride of Christ, to be unified too. He prayed for it while He was here (John 17:21-22). He works toward it now. He knows how prone Christians are to independence, and independence to insolence.
Indications of jealousy and self-interest were present even among Jesus’ twelve disciples (Matt. 20:21, 24). The early church struggled with divisive issues that could have stunted its rapid growth and effectiveness (Acts 6:1). Paul even used one of his epistles – a public letter read in front of the entire church – to urge fighting friends to abandon their differences and begin working together (Phil. 4:2). Disruptive elements are present in the church still today.
Why is unity so important? Because though Satan cannot destroy God’s church, bickering and infighting can. At the least, they can steal the church’s joy and testimony.
Jesus left an enormous task for His disciples to complete before His return (Matt. 28:19-20). The only way to finish it is for Christians to work together. The only place for competition among God’s people is on a friendly sports field.
Do not allow the enemy to distract you. Don’t get too upset when someone else gets their way in areas possessing no eternal significance. Focus on the mission.
For generations, wise parents have given this counsel to their anxious daughters on the wedding day: “Not everything will happen according to plan. It’s okay. At the end of the day, you are married. That’s all that matters.”
One day soon, Jesus’ prayer will finally be realized. We will be one with Him, and there will be unity in the Bride. Until then, we must take our eyes off each other and our surroundings, and focus on Jesus (Heb. 12:2). There is work to be done.
Be Jesus to People “clothe yourself with the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 14)
He stood nervously at the front of the church. She moved gracefully toward him. They said their vows, kissed passionately, and quickly exited down the aisle as onlookers recorded. The December air is piercing, so he shields her from the cold with his jacket. The scene is reminiscent of the many times he draped his coat around her shoulders during their courtship.
When guests approach, they enjoy his aroma not her perfume. She doesn’t mind. Everyone else watched her as she walked the aisle. She gave all her attention to him. He is the man of her dreams, the love of her life, and all she could ever hope for.
She has taken his name. The pastor was the first to announce it – “Mr. and Mrs.” They now share possessions, troubles, and a future. Every time someone thinks of her, he will come to mind. It’s only right that she should smell like him (2 Cor. 2:14-16).
Your marriage to Jesus is yet to occur. You already wear His name. You are a Christian, a “little Christ.”
Paul stood in Christ’s place as His ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20). Jesus encouraged welcoming a child (Matt. 18:5) and giving a cup of cold water in His name (Mark 9:41). Disciples did miracles as Jesus’ representatives (Mark 9:39), and prayers offered in Jesus’ name are guaranteed a listening ear (John 14:14).
Jesus said actions done to others are actions done toward Him (Matt. 25:40). Since Jesus lives inside you, what you do is also done by Him. You are the Bride of Christ, but you are also His body (1 Cor. 12:27). As you approach the end, people need to see Jesus more than they see you.
Don’t expect a positive reception. Most who knew Jesus when He came the first time rejected Him. However, all those who believed on His name were adopted into His family (John 1:12). They have something else wonderful to anticipate.
“All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God… And I will also write on them My new name.” (Rev. 3:12)
Get Creative at Doing Good “don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (v. 14)
The wedding is over. After scores of pictures, loads of laughter, and a few heart-tugging moments, the couple leaves for the airport. The only remaining task is to remove the decorations from the church.
Mom-in-law is once again awed by the creativity her new daughter possesses. She and the bridesmaids collect the coasters on which guests have left encouraging messages and advice for the newlyweds. They carefully roll the aisle runner that has the couple’s love story engraved with photos and words. When mom lifts one of the ad-lib cards left on a table, she can’t help but grin as she thinks of the fun her son and his bride will enjoy for a lifetime.
The Church could learn something from the marriage events that happen repeatedly within her walls. Do something new, or do something old in a new way. God is creative (Gen. 1:1; 2 Cor. 5:17). Why isn’t His church?
Criminals use their brains more than Christians. Jesus commended a crooked steward, not for his actions, but for his creativity (Luke 16:8).
You once used ingenuity to circumvent the boundaries authorities placed on you. Why don’t you use your talents for identifying ways to do good? If anything, a relationship with Jesus Christ should have enhanced your creativity rather than diminishing it. Perhaps you’ve just gotten lazy.
The Church has squandered twenty centuries of opportunities. With few exceptions, the Church has been satisfied with traditional techniques and the limited results those techniques have produced. It’s time to use every resource available to finish the work Jesus began.
Purpose gives definition to events and organizations. A wedding, no matter what else the participants include, is about two people becoming husband and wife. The church’s mission is to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ and then disciple them. We must not change what we do, but we have to change how we do it.
When Jesus returns for His Church, He doesn’t want to find her stale and lifeless. He deserves a vibrant bride who through originality, thought, and hard work is continually striving to please her Groom. He provides the authority; it’s up to you to move forward and produce results.
What does it mean to be ready for Jesus’ return? Do good works. Do them publicly for all to see. Stay away from those activities that would embarrass Jesus even when you are in private. Keep yourself pure so that God can use you to work with others for the Kingdom. Be Jesus’ representative on earth until He comes, and creatively use your talents to help the Church accomplish its mission.
Jesus is coming. Are you ready?