3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Today’s verse is taken from a message from God (through Jesus’ disciple John) to the church in Sardis to take to heart what the gospel means (“Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard, hold it fast and repent”), rather than just look and act like a church or be a “good Christian” on the outside but spiritually die or dry up on the inside (verse 2).
The word “but” in the verse suggests that there is a difference between how those who repent and those who do not will perceive Jesus’ coming. Those who do not repent will consider Jesus’ return like a thief, which implies those who do repent will see it differently. Yet we know from other verses in the Bible (including those we looked at the past two days) that nobody – from the committed Jesus follower to the non-believer – knows when Jesus will return, so what other aspects of “coming like a thief” might vary for different people?
One aspect is the intent and purpose of a thief towards the target person/house. A thief’s objective is to steal and take away from the target. At the outset, this kind of looks like what Jesus will be doing when He comes again: we saw from yesterday’s devotional verse that the world and all of man’s creation will be destroyed, stripped and laid bare. It has been observed that people whose houses have been broken into can feel very vulnerable and infuriated at the invasion into their personal, private and safe space.
In the same way, people who do not know and trust Jesus will feel towards Him when He returns, because everything they have worked hard for, be it wealth, assets or power/reputation/influence, disappears into thin air – Jesus has taken away from them without their permission. Why would they not feel enraged and/or fearful?
Yet, if you really know Jesus, you will be confident that when He comes to “clean house” – whenever that is – His intention is to bring much greater things and make a much better place for His people to live in. You will understand that everything we are facing daily now – from our bodies, our environment, the behavior of irresponsible, misguided, evil/wicked people and so on – is just something we are putting up with, a world we are passing through, distorted by the sinful nature that permeates all souls of every generation. No matter how we humans try to patch and fix each other and this world, the best we can come up with are only temporary patches and solutions. There will continue to be a never-ending line of “pipes” busting, “cracks” appearing, and things that need fixing. A reset is needed, and only God can do it; only He can set the new world at the perfect level of “rightness.”
How can we really know Jesus? The answer is in today’s verse, “Remember… what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.” Most of us have heard the gospel and about God so many times, but how do we remember it, or how tightly do we hold on to it? Here is a tongue-in-cheek spectrum:
• Like a fairy tale (“oh that’s nice but it’s not real”)?
• Like a photo album of old memories that you look through on special occasions or when you finally remember it exists (“those times were so good, I wish I could go back but I’m in this different reality now”)?
• Like a magic lamp when you need a genie to come rescue you but you know you only have three wishes so you do not (“ok things are really bad now and I need some supernatural help”)?
• Like your mobile phone that practically never leaves your side because you now cannot live without this lifeline to communicate with everyone, your virtual wallet, your portable workstation, and your portal to the world’s information, and you search frantically for it with a mild panic when you cannot find it (“I use and need it for almost everything”)?
• Like the air you breathe (“Every part of my being consciously and unconsciously knows I depend on it to live and function properly”)
This is gospel, the good news: Jesus Christ our God values you and loves you so deeply by dying for you so that you may live well now and forever, that He will come again to make all things right and He just wants you to engage and get to know Him as your ever-present best friend, all-perfect and powerful heavenly father. The tighter we hold on to this, the stronger our hope and trust in Him, the healthier our perspective on this world and the people in it become, the more resilient we become to live everyday well and the more genuine our love for the ones around us.
Jesus is no thief as far as His intent towards His followers are concerned. We have everything to look forward to and nothing to fear, so He can come back whenever He plans. It is perfectly ok to not know when His ETA is. Until then we stride forward living out Jesus’ values, with purpose and intent to do what He has presented to us every day.
Thoughts for the day
- How fast are you holding on the gospel and what Jesus represents? If He is nothing like a daily life support structure to you, repent. This is a good time to have a chat with God about how or what you consider Him to be, what place He has in your life. And then invite Him to be way more than that, invite Him to be your better-than-best-friend and ask to experience Him in broader and deeper ways.
- Who can you be praying for to know and experience Jesus more?
Dear God and Heavenly Father, I acknowledge there are days and areas where I am holding too loosely, or not even holding, onto the good news that is you. That is not how I want to be. I’m sorry, please forgive me. I want to experience and be aware of you everywhere in my life. I want others to know you to be real and personal too, may they observe through my life who you really are and desire that for themselves. Thank you for graciously saving me and being with me every day. Amen.