Summary: Live your life like you know who and whose you are and where you’re going.
First Presbyterian Church
Wichita Falls, Texas
November 13, 2011
SOME ‘GET IT’ – SOME DON’T
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (NRSV)
1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 When they say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!
4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6 So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7 for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
They say, ‘What you don’t know can’t hurt you.’ But it’s not true, is it? Suppose your house is invaded by termites that are eating away at the studs and beams and rafters, and you don’t know it. Suppose you are on an extended trip but you left water boiling on the stove – and you’ve forgotten it. Suppose you have an allergy to some food you love, but you’ve never made the connection. Suppose you are at a party with strangers and you have a piece of food on your teeth – only you don’t know it.
Not knowing what you need to know can, in fact, hurt you. This is true not only in the regular course of day-to-day living. It is also true in the spiritual realm. God once said through his prophet Hosea, ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’ (Hos. 4:6).
Here in 1 Thessalonians, Paul describes two kinds of people. One we might call people of the night. They live in the darkness. The other he calls ‘children of the day’ (v. 5). They live in the light.
Light and dark are very useful words. We easily associate them with good and evil. In Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader says to Luke Skywalker, ‘Give yourself to the dark side,’ and he clearly means to win Luke to the cause of evil.
But it’s not just good and evil that come into view when we think about light and dark. It’s understanding and the lack of it. It’s knowing and not knowing. Some people ‘get it’ – that is, they grasp reality – and some don’t. They live in a world of illusion and self-deception.
In Ephesians 4:17, Paul speaks of those who ‘are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart.’ In 1 Corinthians 2:14, he says that ‘those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand because [such things] are spiritually discerned.’
In short, what you don’t know can hurt you. In his prayer to the Father on the night before he died, Jesus himself defined eternal life in terms of knowledge. ‘This is eternal life,’ he said, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (John 17:3).
Now, let’s come back to our text for today – 1 Thessalonians 5. Here Paul is writing to the ‘children of light,’ to the ‘children of the day.’ These are the people who know God. These are the people who are not darkened in their understanding. These are the people have the ability to discern spiritual truth. If anybody ‘gets it,’ these people do.
But it’s like he has to remind them. ‘We are not of the night or darkness,’ he says. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober (vv. 5f.). It’s almost like they might have forgotten.
I forget sometimes, don’t you? I forget what I know. I forget that I belong to the day – and what do I do? I start slumming around in the night. My lamp flickers, and I find myself stumbling in the dark. But Jesus said, ‘Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light…. Those [however] who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them’ (John 11:9f.).