Be careful: Be watchful and prayerful

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In Luke 21, Jesus says that the fall of Jerusalem, a scale model of the final judgment of the world, will happen and it did in AD 70. And he says that he will come back to judge the world, which will also happen. The fall of Jerusalem shows us what the final judgment will look like and tells us that the final judgment will come. How are we to respond? Well in Luke 21.12-15 Jesus says we’re to tell people how they can be rescued and now in Luke 21.34-38 he says his followers must live in the light of his return and not give way to the temptation to imitate people of the world. So, 3 things for disciples of Jesus to take very seriously:

Be careful: Be watchful & prayerful

You see who were these words of Jesus chiefly addressed to? The worldly-minded Pharisees? The sceptical Sadducees? They were actually chiefly and directly addressed to Peter, James and John and the rest of the disciples (Luke 20.45), in the hearing of all the people, of all those listening in, like some of you watching today. So, these words were spoken chiefly and directly to those who’d given up everything to follow Christ. Yet even to them, Luke 21.34, Jesus warns against drunkenness, dissipation and worldliness. Dissipation refers to the hangover and whatever else may follow being drunk, which along with worldliness is no way to be ready for Jesus’ return. Even to his own disciples he says be careful. And also to you and me. Drinking during lockdown rocketed among the over 45s. Be careful.

It reminds us to be humble. There is no Christian, however great we might think they are or think we are, who may not fall into a great sin. 1 Peter 5.5 says that we must be clothed with humility and not think that we’re standing so firmly that we’re not in danger of falling. 1 Corinthians 10.12 says:

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

So Be careful: Be watchful & prayerful.

1. Be Careful: Watch Yourselves (Luke 21.34)

Be aware of the spiritual dangers to which you’re exposed in this world. In Luke 21.34 Jesus says:

But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.

There’s a wonderful future ahead for the Christian. Our final redemption. The coming of the Kingdom of God finally and fully. The new heavens and the new earth where all the terrible things of this world will have been removed. So don’t miss out says Jesus. Don’t miss out by getting side-tracked into all that this world has to offer. It’s so easy take your eye off the ball. There are so many things that are able to distract us from keeping going with Jesus. Jesus mentions here, Luke 21.34, being weighed down by the cares or anxieties of this life: worrying about exams and whether they’ll happen, the job post furlough, the house, the planned extension, the new kitchen, fitting a green heating system, the mortgage, the new electric car, the right education for the children, about having enough money for Christmas, for the next holiday post vaccination.

Living for the things of this world is very distracting and before you know it Jesus isn’t then the most important person in your life. Following him just becomes one of a number of things that are competing for your attention and affection. He’s important but then there’s all these other things of this world as well. And then suddenly he’s no longer directing your life at all in any meaningful sense and then you certainly don’t want to be or long to be with him anymore because, well, these other things of this life are so delicious and so lovely and you want them so much and they become most important. So now you’re living for them and not for him.

Jesus says be careful. If that’s how life is for you, Luke 21.34-35, that day, judgement day will come on you unexpectedly and you won’t be ready for it. And if you’ve taken your eye off the ball, that day, a day that should bring you so much joy, will be a terrible day, Luke 21.35, for judgment will suddenly come on you as well. So be careful. Be careful to be living for Jesus and not for these other things.

Tiger Woods wasn’t being careful on the par 3 12th with water trap at the last US Masters. He took 10 shots on that short hole. Did you see it? He took his eye off the ball and kept on taking his eye off the ball and was caught in the water trap, not once but three times, and in the bunker trap twice! Suddenly the judgement was clear and on him, he was out of the race and would not claim the prize.

No one knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ return, only the Father (Matthew 24.36). But one point is quite clear from Scripture. Whenever Jesus’ second coming does take place, it will be sudden. God’s servant must, therefore, be constantly prepared to meet Jesus Christ. So again, be careful, be careful to be living for Jesus and not for these other things. Don’t take your eye off the ball.

Now please don’t misunderstand. Jesus isn’t saying we have to be perfect to be sure of eternity, of course not. Our salvation is dependent on him. The cross of the Lord Jesus Christ brings us salvation.

But most of us know people who’ve drifted away from Jesus, weighed down by the temptations, cares and anxieties of this life. Suddenly everything to them seems far more important than him and now Jesus doesn’t figure anymore in their lives. Jesus also speaks about this back in Luke 8.14, in the parable of the sower:

And as for what fell among thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares, riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

A friend became President of a College Christian Union or CU, through his witness his parents trusted in Christ, he then formed a Christian rock band but sadly that soon became just a rock band after being tempted with a contract and a tour, and then by the on the road lifestyle and then he left his wife and child and now he’s nowhere spiritually. Another CU leader became a high-flying medic, but the job took over. He said he couldn’t find a suitable church and soon he felt he had no time for church as he was working most weekends. And now he has no time for Jesus - at all.

So Jesus says be careful that doesn’t happen to you. Don’t fall into the trap. One key message of Hebrews in the New Testament is ‘Don’t!’ Don't throw away your confidence in Christ. Don't drift or shrink back, whatever the pressure but rather endure, persevere to the end, looking to Jesus. So secondly

2. Be watchful and prayerful: Watch and pray Luke 21.36:

Be watchful and prayerful: watch and pray is a vital part of how we’re to be careful in view of the second coming of Christ. Look at Luke 21.36:

But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man [Jesus Christ].

Stay awake at all times. This doesn’t mean you can’t go to bed. Watching or staying awake is about being spiritually alert. So, we’re to watch. To stay alert. We’re to be on guard remembering that evil is all around us, near us and in us. We have a duty to fight daily against a treacherous heart, a world that wants to trap us, and a busy devil. So, we must put on the whole armour of God and beware of spiritual sleepiness (see 1 Thessalonians 5.6). And we’re also to pray, Luke 21.36, with the Spirit’s help. Watch and pray. We can’t do all this on our own.

We’re to have a constant habit of serious prayer. To daily speak with God about our souls. We’re to pray especially for grace to put aside every weight and throw off everything that may interfere with being ready to meet the Lord Jesus. Praying for an attitude that seeks to flee worldly sins and concentrates on serving God. Praying that you’d keep going with Jesus to the end. And let’s be praying for grace for health care professionals and former CU exec members to watch and pray, to keep going with Jesus and to resist the world, the flesh and the devil.

You see a watchful person is a prayerful person. Praying that you’d keep going with Jesus to the end. So let me ask you: Do you pray? I mean really pray? If you do, what do you pray about? Are your prayers any different to the hopes and dreams of unbelievers? Unbelievers have hopes and dreams – you turn them into prayers but essentially they’re the same. When it comes down to it are we really just putting into prayers the same aspirations as those in the world – a successful, healthy and comfortable life? If that’s the main or the only thing we pray about then frankly your prayers are just an attempt to sanctify the aspirations of unbelievers.

Jesus says our prayers should be about us keeping going as Christians to the end. Look again at Luke 21.36:

Pray you’d be able to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man [the Lord Jesus Christ himself].

Your prayer life, if you have one, will probably reflect what your biggest concern is. Our biggest concern, our biggest daily prayer, shouldn’t be about having this or that in this life but about keeping going with Jesus, not giving up, not drifting, making the most of our lives now and keeping with him through faith to the end, escaping judgment and to stand before the Son of Man, which means to possess the ultimate salvation – of being with him and like him in the new creation, the new Jerusalem, forever. If you’re genuinely trusting in Christ you have been saved, you are being saved and you will be saved.

We should pray daily that we grow in love for him and devotion to him and wanting to be with him above everything else. As we grow in love for him, we’ll then look forward to that day and be focused on him coming back and not on the cares of this world. We’ll so long for him to return because when we look at this life what do we see? We’ll be longing for that day when there’ll be no more disease, no more terror, no more despair, no more loneliness, no more disappointment, no more abject poverty, no more persecution for following Christ, no more death, no more sin.

So watch and pray, watch and pray that nothing snatches you away from the wonderful heavenly prize that Jesus has won for us. Watch and pray that you may lift your head high, Luke 21.28, when you finally see him coming on the clouds in power and glory. Because then your redemption is near. That’s Luke 21.34-36 which are so important but, very briefly, let’s not forget Luke 21.37-38:

And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.

So as the people did then, let’s come to him in faith and listen to him every day through his word, putting it into practice, trusting and obeying him in the power of his Spirit. How we need his help, power & guidance.

Do you know what the last verse of Revelation says and therefore the last verse of the Bible? The book was partly given to encourage God’s people to endure to the end, despite what the world throws at us, living in the light of Christ’s return. Well, that final verse of the Bible says this: The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all [God’s people]. (Revelation 22.21) How we need his grace.

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