Title: Preparedness to Encounter Jesus
Scriptures: OT READING: Genesis 19:1-13
NT READING: Matthew 24:36-39
Last week Mark introduced us to a new series titled – Encounter that we are embarking on as HPC in the next coming weeks. Did it get you as excited as I am? Excited that as a church we have an opportunity to encounter Jesus and an anticipation of what that really means.
Over the years I have learnt in my Christian walk that when I became a Christian, I set myself up to be with Jesus in the eternal world – I have understood that Jesus will return to reveal the Kingdom of God here on earth. As I was thinking about the Encounter it got me to ask myself if I was ready to meet Jesus. And that led me to this verse in
- “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”
“Born Again?” I have known this phrase for a long time and over the years I have become so used to it that I now do not use it very often. I do not know if you have heard the phrase before or it is your first time, or maybe you are one of the more “sophisticated” Christians who now do not like to use it at all.
You’re not alone, the phrase; Born Again has picked up a lot of baggage over the years. I understand that some liberal reformed theologians do not even want to use the phrase anymore – They teach that you do not choose God, it is God who chooses you therefore there is no need to be born again. They teach that you simply join a church, follow their rules, along the way you will be accepted as a child of God and voila… you will be on your way to heaven. Yet John writes that, “no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again”
The other teaching I learnt is that when Jesus came on earth 2000 years ago, He came to usher in the beginning of the kingdom of God.
- “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. The time has come”, he said “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
The good news is the coming in of the Kingdom of God. This clearly shows that when one repents and accepts Jesus as their Lord and personal saviour: they immediately enter into the Kingdom of God, suggesting that we can now see the Kingdom of God. Therefore we do not have to wait for the second coming to see it. BUT there is a condition to it – we have to be born again.
This led me to take a good look at myself. If I am so excited to Encounter Jesus – have I prepared myself for an Encounter with Him? And is this preparation to be Born Again?
Surely, we cannot just anticipate to Encounter Jesus without preparing for it! Will we not fall into the trap of Pharisees – of trying to test God?
- “The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it”.
The question we ask ourselves is, How prepared are we to Encounter Jesus? There is no better place to learn the preparedness required than from the men and women of the Old Testament. Today we look at Abraham’s nephew – Lot.
Lot had opted to travel with Abraham when God called Abraham to come out of Haran and go to the Promised Land. Lot was already an established man, according to chapter 12 of Genesis. He had accumulated some possession but still opted to follow his uncle Abraham’s unusual vision.
It is not always easy to find understanding men and women such as Lot who will follow weird visions. Men such as Lot are hard to come-by.
At the time we read this story, the same Lot had separated with his uncle – Abraham because of the grazing land. Abraham and Lots’ possessions grew as they travelled, that in the end they were not able to stay together as often quarrelling arose amongst their servants. The only option was to part ways.
When there is an element of selfishness – quarrelling arises.
So one went east and the other remained. Lot settled on the plains of Jordan that were near Sodom. And it is evident from our reading that although Lot had initially settled outside of Sodom, in the end he had moved right inside the city of Sodom (If you can’t beat them join them)
Not only did he end-up living right in the middle of the city, he also became one of the advisor’s – a judge according to the people of Sodom. He now spent much of his time “sitting at the gateway of the city”.
The gateway of the city was the marketplace were all deals took place and for a country such as Sodom, we do not need to look further than the capital city Zimbabwe to understand what this would have looked like – corruption, filth, and sinful acts that could have been taking place.
I am not so sure how much of Lot’s life was beginning to be influenced by the activities of the city. I am not sure of Lot’s intentions and motives when he saw the two men arrive in the city and as he got up to meet them?
What I see is a man who was always on the lookout for an opportunity to willingly offer his service to others. What I am also very sure of is, a Lot who had learnt something from his uncle Abraham, of how to treat guests.
- “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it”.
So Lot did everything in his powers to beg these men to come and be his guests. The strangers had initially refused to go to Lot’s house.
Another thing I have learnt is that God is already on His mission and if we sit and pray asking God to stop His mission and come and join our mission then we are going to sit there for a very long-time, wondering why we never Encounter Him. It is up to us to get up and join God on His mission then we will definitely encounter Him.
The two men finally agree to be hosted by Lot and Lot does everything faithfully as per his promise but not before trouble rises against him. If we thought encountering Jesus would suddenly make all our troubles go away then we were mistaken. Verse 4 says:
- “Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house”.
“All the men” how big was this city? And why would they come when I am about to go to bed and enjoy my rest. Surely, things were just beginning to get right for Lot.
With trouble surrounding Lot, the best a “real man” does is to protect the guests in his house – He faced the challenges on his own even when it meant compromising his values and beliefs by sacrificing his daughters.
Lot gets himself into more trouble as he is trying to do good. The men of the city of Sodom reveal to Lot that he is not one of their kind and he has no right to be their judge. If he kept blocking their way they were going to do worse damage to him than to the strangers they were demanding.
Have we ever been treated like outcasts by people whom we thought had become our family? They even show us that we have no right to speak into their lives when all we are trying to do is God’s work.
Thank God the strangers realize that Lot was about to do a wrong thing. So they reveal themselves that they are not just mortals – they were God’s angels on God’s mission and had the power to save the situation.
So as the men from the city pressed on Lot to try and reach for the door and break it, the strangers pulled Lot back into the house and struck all the men outside door with blindness so that they could not find the door.
Protecting our visitors is a noble thing expected from noble people. So Lot was not wrong to try and protect his guests. Yet he was so busy focusing on the wickedness of others and missing the opportunity to encounter the Lord.
The angels who had been sent by the Lord show grace to Lot by giving him and his family an opportunity to get out of the city because they were about to destroy it; that was their mission in the first place because:
- “The outcry to the Lord against its people was so great that he [the Lord] had sent them to destroy it”
Lot was a righteousness man living among wicked people; he was prepared to do the right thing before God regardless of the circumstances. He also anticipated anything from God as seen by how much he was prepared to sacrifice.
Lot was a man who understood that God can show up any moment in any form, and To Encounter Him, you had to be prepared at all times and at all cost. How prepared are we to Encounter Jesus?
Jesus speaking to His disciples before His crucifixion warns them of his second coming:
- “No one knows about that day or hour, not even angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was written in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man”.
How prepared are we to Encounter Jesus when he returns for His second coming? He promised to return and take those who would have repented and believed in Him.
- “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”.
- “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other”.
Definitely, the Bible is clear on the return of Christ and the elect are to anticipate it and be prepared for it. How prepared are we for His return?
The same Lord promises not to leave us alone:
- “- The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”
After Jesus had died and resurrected, He commanded the disciples not to leave Jerusalem in Acts 1, because in a few days’ time the Father was going to baptise them with the Holy Spirit.
Only then will they have the power when the Holy Spirit comes – to be His witnesses in the world.
We need to take stock of ourselves – have we been baptised with the Holy Spirit? If so, we have Jesus with us and we should be seeing His power each and every day of our lives.
OR have we not yet received the Holy Spirit, and then we need ask God to fill us with the Holy Spirit only then are we ready to Encounter Jesus.
We can only see God if we are in Him – that is: we enter into the Kingdom of God. How? – By being Born Again.
Being born again is simple:
- Accept that you are a sinner before God who needs a Saviour
- Believe that Jesus came to die for your sins
- Believe that He rose from the dead as our Lord and Saviour
WE would have set ourselves up for an Encounter with Jesus. How prepared are we to encounter Jesus?
I was listening to one preacher who desperately wanted to hear from God. So he had beautiful garden where he would go with a nice cup of coffee and a muffin. He would start reciting some verses, praising God, pray for different things and then ask God to speak to him as he wanted to hear from God.
God decided to answer him one day with a question – and the question was: Did he know how many people in the world did not have the opportunity to have just that cup of coffee he was having – they cannot even get a glass of water to drink. He finally understood what God was saying to him: To
- Go and do justice
- Free the yoke of the oppressed
- Provide for the poor
- Clothe the naked
- “….then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
- Then you will call and the Lord will answer;
- You will cry for help and He will say: Here am I
- If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk”.
How prepared are we to Encounter Jesus?