February 4, 2016

January 31, 2016 - 1 Thessalonians 5:6-9

Theme: Exercise Situational Christianity
1) Be mindful of your surroundings
2) Keep an eye on the scoreboard

Dear fellow believers,

In the Washington DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about forty-five minutes. During that time approximately two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After three minutes, a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds before hurrying to meet his schedule.

The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat, and without stopping, continued to walk.

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

A three year-old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard as the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

In the entire time he was playing only six people stopped and listened for a short while. About twenty gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of thirty-two dollars. No one noticed when he stopped. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

This man was no ordinary musician but one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before the metro station performance, he sold out a theater in Boston where each seat averaged one-hundred dollars.

This story is true and was organized as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and people's priorities. Several questions were raised by this experiment:
1) In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
2) Do we stop to appreciate it?
3) Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

Are we able to discern the situation? If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many other things are we missing?

As you think of your answer, consider the words of our text today from 1 Thessalonians 5:6-9, where the Holy Spirit mentions a similar thing in our faith life: So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 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. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When it comes to the work of Jesus, as recorded for us in the Word of God, are we aware of what it means for our lives, or are we simply continuing on with the crowd? Do we recognize the beauty of salvation when we see it or are we used to it? Do we stop to appreciate God’s love or do we allow the world to dictate our actions? Are you willing to stand out and be different if that’s what being a Christian takes in the 21st century?

As creatures of habit, it’s vital that we recognize the situation we are in. Situational discernment is an idea that is often used in the context of sports. It means having an awareness of the place in which one is and knowing what it needed in that situation. In sports, different times call for different strategies. If you’re on the cusp of winning the game and the time is running out, you don’t want to be reckless and take chances. If the other team is exploiting one part of the game again and again, you want regroup and try a different approach. Every situation calls for its own type of action. The key to victory is often not about talent, but about who can more quickly react to changing situations.

The same applies to the story about the violinist in the subway. Because it was a place than the concert hall, people reacted differently, even though it was the same musician playing the same instrument. Without recognizing the situation, people revealed that they were judging the musician on appearances and not on reality. The very fact that this can happen so easily and often in life should give us pause to think about how we treat God. In our text for today, God calls for us to exercise situational Christianity. He does not want us to just follow the crowd or to choose things out of habit. He expects us to be intelligent about our lives and the world we live in, and be ready to apply His Word appropriately.

The first step in that balanced approach is being mindful of your surroundings. How things appear on the outside can very often lead our understanding astray. The people in the subway failed to recognize the world-class musician in front of them partly because of the surrounding. They didn’t expect greatness in the subway. They were used to walking that path without anything significant going on. And so, they went about their day without recognizing the truth.

As we live in a sinful world that has been darkened by wickedness, God reminds us to be mindful of our surroundings. We need to keep from the sleep and drunkenness that affects so many people. In our text, these warnings are picturesque for the apathy that so many live with when it comes to matters of God’s Word. Sin is likened to a pathway of darkness because those who sin don’t want to be found out. They want to continue operating as if no one notices. The darker it is, the easy it becomes to fall into spiritual slumber.

Likewise, soberness means more than just not being drunk. The thought of the Greek here is that one be well-balanced and alert. To be sober in our spiritual lives is to be alert to what is going on in the world; to recognize the situation we are in. God calls for this so that we aren’t ignorant of the dangers in our lives but also so that we aren’t distracted by anything that would take away from Christ.

As faithful Christians, let’s be aware of our situation. Let’s understand what will lead us astray and what belongs in the darkness. The contrast to the works of sin that would keep us asleep in foolishness and drunk in wickedness is found in the light of the gospel. When Jesus declared that He was the light of the world He was pointing people to their beacon of hope. Jesus operates as the light not only because He exposes our sin but He also clearly illuminates the path of righteousness. That’s why Paul tells his fellow Christians, “We are of the day.” To be one of the day in the biblical context is nothing less than being a believer. We are the ones who boldly follow the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

So, what is our situation now as Christians? In a word, urgency. We are living in the day of redemption. All things have been fulfilled and accomplished through Christ. The Holy Spirit is busy at the work of converting lost souls through the powerful gospel proclamation. Now is the time for all to believe, because the end is near.

·         See how Paul told this to the Romans:  Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
·         See how he told the Corinthians: For He says: "In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
·         See how he told the Ephesians: But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

Notice the trend for Christians living in the New Testament? That’s you and me. The time to bring Christ to others is now! The time to bring our own sins to Him in confession is now! The time to stay close to His love is now. Recognize the situation! Respond with urgency. But also, remember the most important part of our situation: the score.

The struggle against sin is over. Paul declared the victory in our text in the last verse: For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Literally, that means that God has placed us in the situation for us to succeed. He has done this by giving us the armor of faith, love, and salvation. Three of the most powerful thoughts in the Bible are at the doors of hearts every day. But he’s given us even more than gifts to help us along the way. He’s won the contest for us. We are victors today by faith! We don’t’ have to worry about the struggle because Christ took care of it for us! We literally can’t lose, we can only forfeit the victory. The scoreboard is in our favor.

So let us compete today as victors. We don’t fight for our salvation; we fight for God’s glory. We struggle against Satan so that others can see their situation in view of Christ’s cross; so that they may have peace. We don’t have to go around in rejection and defeat. We don’t have to hang our heads low because of our sins. You can live as a conqueror! You can be confident in the victory of your faith!  

We are like busy commuters rushing through the subway of life. Do we recognize our situation? Are we aware of our sins, and also of our free salvation? Do we see the beauty that is before us all the time in the word of God? Or do we turn our heads in shame because the world tells us to? Let us recognize our situation. Yes, we must be mindful of what surrounds us, both good and bad. We must react to the danger of sin and deny the power of darkness in the world. But we don’t have to do it alone. We can rejoice in the optimism of being a Christian; the salvation of our faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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