Time for a Change
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Do you know what time it is? I mean, do you know what time it is in God’s plan to redeem the world? God’s all-important project of redeeming us from sin began immediately after Adam and Eve fell—and that redemption was completed for us by Jesus’ death on the cross. All we are waiting for now is Jesus’ return to redeem the rest of Creation from the effects of sin, but many of us act as though we don’t know that the time is near for Christ’s return. In fact, instead of standing up in the world and telling people that Jesus is coming any minute, we are pressed for time, busy and occupied with many things. In these last days of counting down to the end of time as we know it and moving into eternity, without a godly view of what’s going on, time often becomes more precious to us than Jesus. Even if we know how we are to be engaging in God-pleasing activities like sharing the Gospel and being thankful for all of God’s blessings, it’s hard to find time on our calendars for the most important things.
And yet we all have an appointment with destiny—God’s calendar has an appointed day of judgment as verses 1-3 of our reading from 1 Thessalonians 5 say. That Day of the Lord will be a day of destruction and judgment for the unbelieving (Zephaniah 1:7–16). For our benefit, and so that we will not be panicked about that day, Jesus Himself says tells us ahead of time that this last day will come suddenly on unsuspecting mankind like a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43). The Church of Christ awaits that day in eager expectation (v. 4) because we are supposed to know and trust that we are sons and daughters of God through faith in His Son. We are supposed to know that God has already unleashed His wrath on His own sinless Son and thus paid the penalty for the sins of all who would trust in Him (Romans 8:1). We are supposed to put our hope in the promise that Christ shall return to claim His Bride, not in wrath (v. 9), but for eternal joy. By these ideas and concepts from God’s Word, we get a new understanding of time and of the future of this world. We are reminded that we are only living in this world, but we are not of it.
As people redeemed by the blood of Jesus, we watch the passing of time from a new perspective. As we witness the changing of the seasons yet again, we know that one day, all days will give way to God’s eternal day (v. 1). We can see these spiritual seasons in accordance with God’s time because we have been brought from darkness into light (v. 5). Those who live according to the sinful nature live in a season or state of spiritual darkness as it says in verse 7. But as sons and daughters of light, baptized into the life of Christ, we experience a summer of peace and joy while we await the eternal season of heaven.
Let me put the change that being baptized into Christ makes in a way that we can relate to. Most of you have observed a child playing “dress-up.” Maybe you even remember doing that yourself. Little girls who put on a fairy-tale dress become Cinderella or some other royal princess, lovely and regal. Little boys in firemen’s hats suddenly gain boldness and bravery they don’t usually have.
Well, in Holy Baptism, you and I are clothed in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:8); He takes our sin and gives us His perfect righteousness. But this is not pretend; in Him we actually are righteous and holy, just as He is. We live with His own confident faith in God our Father, and we love others just as He has first loved us. In a change greater than any change of season that we will see in our lives, Baptism changes us to allow us to live no longer as slaves to the sin that lives inside us, but to live free from guilt, temptations, and even death. In Baptism, we live in Him, and He lives in us. We need not fear the wrath of God, since Christ has borne it for us (vv. 9–10). In this last season of time, we are clothed perfectly in Christ not only to endure the cold of despair that threatens the souls of those still living in the darkness, but we shine with the Light of Christ as a beacon telling the world that their salvation is coming … soon.
So as winter approaches and a new year in Christ begins, let’s embrace the change of the season and live in the hope of a glorious eternal future, not the dread of unknown months and years ahead. As Baptized brothers and sisters, God will bless us to live soberly in the light of day, anticipating the culmination of our faith when Christ returns to claim you, His own. The change in seasons is God’s gift to remind us that, every day, it’s time for a change in us too. No more living like the sons of darkness as we did before our Baptisms into the mercy and grace of Jesus. For us, no more anxiety and dread of the unknown.
Instead, being made alive and alight in Christ, live in Him by faith. Live in light to love your neighbor. Live in the certain hope of everlasting life. Encourage and build up one another in this most holy faith (v. 11). This is how we are called to live in whatever season, by God’s ticking clock, it is. We, the Redeemed, watch for Christ’s return—every season and every day alert, in expectant hope. To Christ alone be all glory and honor. Amen.