Summary: When you’re spiritually asleep it means you’re unaware of what God is doing right now in the world.
One of the first church jokes I remember hearing is about the deacon who always went to sleep when his pastor started preaching. One Sunday, the pastor decided to play a trick on him. He started preaching, and sure enough, the drowsy deacon was soon sound asleep. The pastor said quietly, “Everyone who wants to go to heaven, stand up.” Everyone in the congregation stood up except the snoozing man. The pastor had everyone be seated and said, “Now, everyone who wants to go to hell, STAND UP!”
When he yelled that, the deacon jerked awake and jumped to his feet. He looked around and said, “I don’t know what we’re voting on, pastor, but you and I are the only ones in favor of it!”
There’s a viral YouTube video about a Baptist preacher in Oklahoma who sees someone sleeping during his sermon and he walks down and shames the young man in front of the congregation. Then he proceeds to berate individual church members by name. He gives Baptist preachers a bad name.
I prefer you to stay awake when I teach. But I’ve said before that if this is the only time in your hectic life that you slow down and get still, and you find yourself nodding off, go ahead and take a nap. At least you got something from the message!
There’s something more dangerous than physical sleep in church—it’s being asleep spiritually. In these last days, we need to be spiritually awake and alert. Here’s what Paul wrote about this topic.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I borrowed the title of this message from a song Keith Green wrote and recorded in the early 1980s. Keith was a pre-teen heartthrob who signed a rock-n-roll contract with Decca Records in 1965 when he was only twelve years old. By age twelve he had already written forty original songs. He was from a Jewish family, and as a teenager came to know Jesus. Later, he and his wife, Melody, started Last Days Ministries. They were based here in East Texas out at Garden Valley where Teen Mania is currently located. Keith and two of his children died tragically in a plane crash in 1982. They’re buried in the cemetery behind Garden Valley Baptist Church. I want to encourage this younger generation of Christians to download and listen to his music because he was like a musical prophet. His song, “Asleep in the Light” was a wake-up call to the church for being so apathetic about reaching lost people. Some of the lyrics are:
“Do you see, do you see; All the people sinking down? Don’t you care, don’t you care; Are you gonna let them drown? How can you be so numb; Not to care if they come? You close your eyes; And pretend the job’s done. The world is sleeping in the dark; And the church just can’t fight; Cause it’s asleep in the light. How can you be so dead; When you’ve been so well fed? Jesus rose from the grave; And you, you can’t even get out of bed! Oh, Jesus rose from the dead; Come on, get out of your bed!”
In this passage of scripture, God is calling on us to do three things.
I. WAKE UP FROM OUR SPIRITUAL APATHY!
In verse six Paul wrote, “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.”
Paul used the contrast between light and darkness to describe the difference between two world-views. The Christians in Thessalonica had once been a part of the kingdom of darkness, under the control of the devil, the Prince of Darkness. Since Jesus had become their Lord, they were part of a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of Light.