LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 22 December 2019
Sermon Text: Luke 17:20-30
I. People of this world miss ‘the day of Jesus’
II. People of this world miss their life’s purpose
III. Christians long for the day of Jesus
You might wonder why I chose and preach from a passage like this one from Lk. 17, instead of a section of the gospels that records the birth of Jesus Christ, on a Lord’s Day like today which is just a few days before Christmas day. The reason I chose this passage is that the situation you and I face in the midst of this generation is almost identical to the situation Jesus faced 2,000 years ago and recorded in Lk. 17.
The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come or in other words, when the day of the Lord would be. Jesus replied and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed.” He meant something like this: ‘By the kingdom of God, you mean an earthly kingdom like any other kingdom on earth; but God’s kingdom is not like any other worldly kingdom. My kingdom is the eternal kingdom of righteousness and it is in your midst.’ The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were completely off the mark when they talked about the day of the Lord. The kingdom they were after was completely different from what Jesus taught. They had Jesus, the King of that kingdom they had longed for, in their midst, but did see the kingdom, nor have the day of the Lord.
And that’s exactly what we see with this generation, especially in this festive season. Although people are busy with preparing for another Christmas, despite they see Christmas approaching fast, the unbelievers never see the true Christmas, nor have it at all. This is the first reason I brought up this passage of Lk. 17. And the second reason is that people’s ignorance of God’s truth is not the characteristic of our generation only or of any specific generation, rather, it is a temperament or disposition of all humanity.
So, in the midst of this world’s busyness in preparation for another Christmas, I’d like you to consider what this world forgets, thus, misses out. At the same time, we ought to examine ourselves whether we have, in any sense, been swept alongside this world and miss the day of the Lord. Then, my prayer is that our consideration and examination may restore our sight to Christ and, further, enable us to help people around us to wake up from their ignorance and find God’s truth, especially the truth of Christ who is the Lord and the reason for Christmas.
I. PEOPLE OF THIS WORLD MISS ‘THE DAY OF JESUS’
So, I’d like you to think about people’s ignorance of ‘the day of Jesus Christ.’ In a word, people’s indifference to the meaning of a day like Christmas (or Easter) of which Jesus is its sole reason. When a Christmas approaches, people in the world love it, they are excited about it, so they eagerly wait for it. But no one except Christians is interested in holding their breath and excitement just for a moment to contemplate what this day truly means, or at least to know why they love this specific day. In fact, if they are told of its true meaning, they would quickly switch their minds off and show their disinterest. So, people of this world miss Christmas, so the day of Jesus Christ, although they welcome the day and enjoy it.
As I briefly explained earlier, the same happened in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The people of Jesus’ time completely missed out on that unique opportunity in the entire history of the universe of grasping the Lord Jesus and His day. Except just a handful of people, all people lost it. The incarnate Son of God was there in their midst; the God who created the world and every living being dwelt alongside them in flesh and spoke to them and invited them to His day and kingdom. But they altogether failed to see what that day meant, nor have it, nor enjoy it. What a terrible loss that was!
Not only them, but also did the people of Noah’s time and of Lot’s time missing and forgetting about the days of the Lord. Noah and his entire family had spent many years – we don’t know exactly how long but surely it took a significant time – to build the ark, and Noah’s contemporaries dismissed that message Noah delivered to them. They weren’t interested in stopping what they had been doing just for a moment and hear Noah’s message; they scorned and ridiculed Noah. Also, none of the residents of Sodom, that ancient city of lusts and rebellion, noted Lot’s words; none was attentive to him, nor wanted to know why Lot’s family were hurriedly leaving the city. They altogether missed that day of the Lord, misunderstood and forgot all about the meaning of the day. What happened to all those people? They were doomed under water, under sulphur and fire fell from heaven, and for the people who crucified Jesus, perished under the curse they shouted on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
What frightens us is that this missing, this indifference to the day of the Lord is with all generations and our generation is not exceptional; people around us are following the steps of their predecessors, repeating their pattern, thus, rushing toward the same doom. Someone might see that I’m exaggerating, but no, that’s not the case. Missing Christmas and its meaning is not just a petty matter; rather, every Christmas and Easter are the days to the people in the world their opportunities for hearing of God’s grace given through His Son, Jesus Christ, and for coming to Him in repentance and faith. Even every Lord’s Day is for the world the day of Jesus on which all are invited to come and know and believe in the only Saviour of the world.
II. PEOPLE OF THIS WORLD MISS THEIR LIFE’S PURPOSE
Having said, let me lead you to think about what people in the world were and are still doing instead of grasping the day of the Lord. What do people do instead? As the Lord Jesus states in our text passage, especially in vs. 27-28, people were and are still doing these things – that is, eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, buying and selling, planting and building. That’s what all generations have been focusing on and giving all their time and effort. Their minds are on such things as these. Noah’s contemporaries and the Sodomites of Lot’s time were engaged in these activities, and so were the people of Jesus’ time and so are the people around us in this 21st century.
Then, are these activities wrong? Do eating and drinking evil? What about marrying and selling and buying? No, all these daily routines and things in man’s life cycle are ordained by God; He made us and planned us to do and carry out all these things that are necessary for our body and mind, necessary for our existence and continuation and proliferation of life. There’s nothing wrong in these activities as these are innocent in themselves.
Our question is, then, why does Jesus sound negative about these things in our text passage? Our Lord contrasts the ordinary things and activities of man with the day of the Lord and of His appearance. In His contrast, He could’ve simply mentioned man’s sinfulness rather than such ordinary routine activities. Then, why does He specify these things all people do always?
That’s because eating and drinking, buying and selling, marrying and given in marriage have become ends in themselves. Planting and building have become THE goal of their life. People wake up and continue their life with these things and for them only, leaving no room in them for hearing and responding to the Lord’s invitation and, by knowing and believing Him, to see His day and have His eternal life. People seek no other comfort than the comfort of food and marriage and material possession. People live for the enjoyment and pleasure of their body, and their homes and cars are the only concern of their mind, and their games, entertainments and clubs are where their mind is. Indulged in bodily and worldly pleasure, people have no time for stopping just for a brief moment to consider the meaning of the day of the Lord, even on a day like Christmas, the day Christ’s birth is remembered and celebrated. Instead, people regard Christmas as a good opportunity to excel their life in more lusts.
By this, many of this generation alongside all other generations forget about why they are here on earth. The ultimate purpose of their existence is lost somewhere in their indulgence in worldly comfort and entertainment. None is interested in knowing why they are here on earth. Who cares for such thing? In fact, this topic used to be the very first question churches taught their children in their Sunday School classes. The Westminster Shorter Catechism sums it up this way, ‘The chief purpose for which man is made is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.’ About ‘glorifying God,’ 1 Cor. 10:31 explains that man’s eating and drinking and doing all other things ‘for God’ is glorifying Him. In other words, all activities of man are simply ways, means or methods to seek God, listen to Him and please and honour Him. Our act of eating and drinking can never be ends in themselves; we cannot give our life in to marrying and being given in marriage. We’ve got greater and bigger purpose than simply buying and selling and planting and building, let alone eating and drinking.
Forgetting this and missing out on the joy of glorifying God is so deeply common to the people of this world that it no longer is a surprise to anybody. And how strange and pathetic this is! By marrying and given in marriage which is the institution God ordained for mankind, many people exclude Jesus and God from their life. By selling and buying, by planting and building, they don’t give to God the glory due His name; instead, they do all those for themselves, thus, miss out on their life’s purpose.
III. CHRISTIANS LONG FOR THE DAY OF JESUS
But all should turn back from that; all people ought to see the day of the Lord and hear His gracious invitation to Him and His kingdom. No medical surgery is required for anyone to turn from his/her way of this world and come to Christ; no fee is asked. Simply stop each one’s eating and drinking, selling and buying, and hear Jesus’ invitation, and look up and see this day of the Lord drawn to them on which all may come and hop onto the ark of Jesus and sail with Him in eternal safety, eating and drinking to know Him more and enjoy Him forever.
And join all Christians and together share the joy of longing for THE day of Jesus’ return. On every Lord’s Day, all Christians foretaste the day of our eternal home with Jesus. Every Christmas day is for Jesus’ disciples the clearest reminder of our Lord’s return to us. We sing of the herald angels sang on the first Christmas day, but as we sing about it, we sing for the day of Him who once came to earth and are coming again! Our church choir sang this morning ‘First Christmas memories,’ but the ultimate reason for singing such a song is to look forward to beholding the day and His glory. We enjoy seeing Christmas decorations and ornaments simply because they remind us of that bright glorious light of our Lord when our eternal King comes back.
While the unbelieving people in the world interpret Christmas as a good opportunity to excel their life with lusts, Jesus’ followers see Christmas as a sure blessing of God for His people and, for all unbelievers, a day of invitation to Christ and His forgiveness of sins, thus, eternal life. So we share Christ with all people around us; we greet others, saying, ‘Merry Christmas,’ sincerely praying in our hearts to God that those people we greet may hear the Lord’s invitation and know about the day of Jesus and come to Him and be saved! We send Christmas cards to people, give Christmas presents to our dear ones, again seeking deeply in our souls that the Lord may be their reason for their joy on Christmas, that the Lord may be kind to any unbeliever to lead him to Jesus and, by knowing Him, change their life and live for Christ. In this way, we Christians celebrate Christmas – and not only Christmas but also every Lord’s Day – and we long for the day of Jesus’ return!
But let me remind you of the difficulty we encounter in our life – that is, we’re surrounded by the unbelievers in this rebellious world. So, we’re hard pressed on every side. And the pressure we face is to forget the way of Christians, forget the desire and joy of Christians, and to join this worldly pursuit of material comfort and entertainment. We’re enticed to go after a merry festivity, boisterous celebration of eating and drinking for the sake of eating and drinking. This is not just a simple temptation; it is rather a constant attack and bullying we face and it’s hard to shake off or break through.
But, like Noah in his day and like Lot in his run, we should focus our sight on Jesus alone, and enjoy our pursuit of Him. Meanwhile, we should also remember that the day of our Lord will come when people are least interested in the day of the Lord Jesus.
So, let me conclude by asking this question to you, ‘Are you enjoying the day of the Lord, especially in this festive season of Christmas?’ Is the true meaning of Christmas your only joy? Does this joy fill your heart and soul? To a point of overflowing? So to share it with your families and friends and neighbours?
If anyone here hasn’t thought about or known this joy of Christmas, today is the day of the Lord drawn to you. So grab it and come to Jesus by simply saying to Him in your heart, ‘Jesus, help me to know this joy of knowing You!’ ***