1 Thes. 5:1-11 (ESV)
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.  While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.  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.  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
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. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
It is the last Sunday of the Church year. Next week the New Year Begins with Advent. The Focus will still be on the coming of Christ. The one year bleeds into the next with expectation of the return of our Lord and savior who comes to judge the living and the dead. We wait in hope, we wait in expectation, in confidence, our Lord comes, he who has saved us from sin death and the devil, he who ransomed us from death with his very own blood, who has destined us for salvation, he comes. He comes perhaps like a thief in the night, no one knowing the day or the hour, at a time when every one will think life on earth is secure, he comes but he comes for us, he is our salvation so we have nothing to fear. The Apostle tells us to be sober, don’t panic, be sober for salvation is her. We have reason in the death and resurrection of Christ, to be sober.
Being sober the way Paul uses it here means much more than not falling off the wagon or having a few beers now and again. It really has little to do with drinking at all. Quite like the friend I have who a couple years ago was all worked up, anxious about work, depressed about life. I recommended to him that he go home and sober up with a glass of scotch, sit back, and think things over a bit. I’ve had those periods in my life too. Worked up about things I have no control over. I worry for this congregation from time to time. We haven’t quite been making budget this year. I wonder what can be done about that. I wonder what I might be able to do to help the situation. I love this congregation. I love this community. I love being here and sharing the gospel with people who might not hear it otherwise. But it can get worrisome, and no one ever knows what the future holds. So I find myself saying, Bror, be sober, it is in God’s hands, he loves these people even more than you do. He gives them their daily bread. He gives you yours. I look in the mirror and see that I am obviously not starving. See this is being sober, it is more about being content in life. Perhaps a lot like that serenity prayer of A.A. a prayer for the type of sobriety that brings about sobriety, that gives and alcoholic strength to be sober.
The world offers little reason to be sober. The end of the world is coming and if it doesn’t come death is coming. Man is preoccupied with eschatology, with the end of the world. It crops up in every religion even those that don’t want to be considered religions. The news these days is filled with doomsday prophets working up a panic. Global cooling, global warming, climate change they call it now, it seems they don’t know if it is getting warmer or colder anymore. Then you have the Mayan myth because some calendar doesn’t make it past 2012. Then within American Evangelicalism, it seems the Pauline eschatology espoused here in Thessalonians is tossed aside for one whose sole purpose is to rob a person of sober joy, and replace it with fear. All this business about a secret rapture and a great tribulation for those left behind. It’s all nonsense. It’s an anti gospel. It twists scripture to terrorize Christians. It is an abomination. Truth is we are in the great tribulation even now. We have been for thousands of years now. Saints are being persecuted everywhere, and not a little by this abominable and sinful teaching of the secret rapture. You know the doctrine that is promulgated by men such as Hal Lindsay, and just about every Televangelist out there, even Kirk Cameron. For Paul the fact that Christ was coming back to judge the living and the dead, the fact that this world with all its sin, and death, all its persecution of God’s faithful, as they do to you and your little ones even now, that was a reason to rejoice! Because God has not destined you to wrath, but to salvation. It was a reason to be sober, that is.
And how is one sober? By putting on the breast plate of faith and love, and the helmet of hope. Yes faith, love and hope, they go together in the Christian life. Of course they don’t always mean the same thing as we think they do. Problem with our world today is existentialism has robbed these words of their biblical sense, replaced them with shadows of themselves. Today we believe faith is believing something we have no reason to believe. I was talking to a man in the airport last week, and he was asking me what was wrong with Mormonism, aside from the goofy stuff he says, all religions require faith he says. What he means is faith needs be irrational. This isn’t the faith of the Bible. To believe and to know are synonymous in Scripture. We have reason to believe what we believe, we have evidence, Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus died for our sins and on the third day he rose, it was an historical event, that happened infront of witnesses, and some hostile to Jesus. There is an empty tomb, a missing corpse that has never been found. There were witnesses that saw the dead man walking, even on water, appearing in closed rooms, eating fish on a beach, breaking bread with disciples. And this is reason to believe. And with that faith comes love. Because we believe in a God who loves us and takes care of us. We love because he first loved us. He loved us, so we can love us, and loving us we can love others, by loving others we love ourselves and God who loves us. Sober, in the hope of salvation. But not a hope like a boy wishing for a video game for Christmas a hope that may or may not come true, but a hope that is an expectation a confidence. It is in fact a confidence in our salvation wrought by Jesus Christ on the Cross. That is the root of the word Elpida in the Greek. A confidence, because our salvation is not something that is coming, but something that is now. You are saved. Jesus has died for you, he has purchased you with his holy and precious blood, he has risen from the dead, and he does return.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.