Loving God (8)
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4.8
You better watch out!
How often as children were we reminded of a great coming event, which we looked forward to eagerly, anticipated with joy, thought about almost constantly – especially beginning in the fall – and were warned to be prepared for, lest our hopes be dashed?
We even sang about it: “You better watch out, you better not cry; you better not pout, I’m tellin’ you why…”
Anticipation of great happiness can have overpowering and guiding effects in one’s life. As children, the prospect of Santa’s coming could rouse us to excitement, conjure visions of good things, and perhaps even lead us to dress up our behavior a bit – especially as the great day of visitation drew closer.
Santa, of course, is not real. But we could become stirred up about the prospect of his coming. God, on the other hand, is real, and He is really coming again when our Lord Jesus returns in glory to finish His great work of redemption.
We love God when we look forward to His appearing, not like children, eager for Santa’s fleeting boon, but like true saints, longing for the Presence of Christ in His glory, to see Him as He is, to be made like Him, to enter into the fullness of His joy, and to spend all eternity in glorious and perfect surroundings and holy company, basking in and celebrating His abundant beauty, goodness and truth.
Paul wrote that those who love the appearing of our Lord, the coming again of Jesus to receive us unto Himself, will not be disappointed. For the completion of His transforming work awaits us at that time, when we shall finally know as we are known, and love as we are loved (1 Cor. 13.12).
We love God by devoting ourselves to those works that increase eager anticipation of and preparation for His appearing, His coming again in glory. What are those good works of love for God?
Meditate on His appearing
We ought to think and meditate and pray about the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3.11-13; Tit. 2.11-14). This is not to condone vain speculation on the times and seasons preparatory to His coming. Jesus Himself has forbidden all such futile prognosticating (Acts 1.7). But, as we see in Revelation 19, for example, the coming again of our Lord Jesus will be breathtakingly spectacular and glorious, filling the skies, rending the heavens, and issuing in shouts of victory that will be heard the whole world ‘round.
There follows then the separation of those who know the Lord and long for His appearing from those who do not, and a glorious wedding feast when we, who are the bride of Christ, are united at last and forever with our heavenly Groom.
We love God as we are “looking for and hasting the coming day of God,” letting our souls thrill in anticipation of the heavenly consummation that awaits us.
Prepare for His appearing
We must also make sure that we are preparing for that great day. Peter asked, in the light of the day of God, “what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness”? John agrees, saying, with a view to the appearing of the Lord, “everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 Jn. 3.2, 3).
Peter and John refer to the work of sanctification, by which Christ is formed in us as we lay aside our old self and work hard to learn Jesus and walk in His yoke (Phil. 2.12; Eph. 4.17-24; Matt. 11.28-30). One of the purposes of the many offerings and sacrifices commanded in God’s Law was to remind the people of Israel of their sinfulness, and of their constant need to work at the holiness God requires. Jesus has fulfilled all those sacrifices, of course, so that we need no longer practice them. But they serve to remind us that we must be constantly vigilant about the condition of our souls, repent and offer ourselves anew as living sacrifices to the Lord (Rom. 12.1, 2), and work at our sanctification, always with a view to the soon appearing of our Lord.
Encourage others in His appearing
The appearing of our Lord in glory thus serves to excite our souls with hope and to energize us for sanctification. No wonder Paul exhorts us to encourage one another with the prospect of the Lord’s return (1 Thess. 4.15-18). We should talk and share and pray about the coming of Jesus, and help one another to make progress in preparing for His coming by our example and mutual edification.
When we’re excited about something that we love, we’ll want others to be excited, too. Sharing and speaking together about the appearing of our Lord can kindle deeper love for Him and greater encouragement to live for Him in the present.
Celebrate His appearing
The psalmist wrote that the prospect of the Lord’s coming sets all creation about celebrating with joy (Ps. 96.11-13). Surely we should do the same. Singing, praying and praising the Lord, and readying ourselves daily for His coming can help to stoke the joy of that great day, and excite us to greater love for God, Who has prepared this great gift and boon for us.
We should sing about the Lord’s appearing in our corporate worship and private devotions, since singing engages the affections, warms the heart, and can strengthen the conscience for greater resolve in preparing for that great day.
Warn other of His appearing
Finally, we must warn others of the coming day of the Lord. We are like watchers on the wall. We know what’s coming, what the end will be, and what the final disposition will be for all those who trust in Jesus, as well as for those who do not. Our duty is to warn our neighbors, whether or not they receive our words, lest we ourselves be found wanting when the Lord appears in glory (Ezek. 33.1-9).
Some aspect of the coming day of the Lord should be part of our Gospel presentation. We invite those to whom we bear witness to consider the glory of eternal life with Jesus; but we also warn them of eternal condemnation if they choose not to receive the Lord.
We love God by loving His appearing. And the harder we work at loving the soon appearing of our Lord, the more our love for Him will increase.
1. How do you typically think about the return of our Lord Jesus? How might you improve your vision of that coming great day?
2. Why is it important to encourage one another about the Lord’s appearing?
3. Why should we include the Lord’s appearing in our presentation of the Gospel?
Next steps – Transformation: Pray with joyous anticipation through the vision of Christ’s return in Revelation 19.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.