Call to Worship December 30 2018
Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
J.C. Ryle Luke 21:21-38
“Let us learn from these verses — the spiritual danger to which even the holiest believers are exposed in this world. Our Lord says to His disciples, ‘Watch out! Or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life — and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap!’
These words are exceedingly startling. They were not addressed to carnal-minded Pharisees, or skeptical Sadducees, or worldly Herodians. They were addressed to Peter, James, and John, and the whole company of the Apostles. They were addressed to men who had given up everything for Christ’s sake, and had proved the reality of their faith by loving obedience and steady adhesion to their Master. Yet even to them, our Lord holds out the peril of carousing, and drunkenness, and worldliness! Even to them He says, ‘Watch out!’
The exhortation before us should teach us the immense importance of humility. There is no sin so great — but a great saint may fall into it. There is no saint so great — but he may fall into a great sin. Noah escaped the pollutions of the world before the flood — and yet he was afterwards overtaken by drunkenness. Abraham was the father of the faithful — and yet through unbelief he said falsely that Sarah was his sister. Lot did not take part in the horrible wickedness of Sodom — and yet he afterwards fell into foul sin in the cave. Moses was the meekest man on earth — and yet he so lost self-control that he spoke angrily and unadvisedly. David was a man after God’s own heart — and yet he plunged into most heinous adultery.
These examples are all deeply instructive. They all show the wisdom of our Lord’s warning in the passage before us. They teach us to be ‘clothed with humility.’ ‘Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.’ (1 Peter 5:5; 1 Corinthians 10:12.)
The exhortation before us should teach us the great importance of an unworldly spirit. The ‘cares of this life’ are placed side by side with carousing and drunkenness.
Excess in eating and drinking, is not the only excess which injures the soul. There is an excessive anxiety about the innocent things of this life — which is just as ruinous to our spiritual prosperity, and just as poisonous to the soul.
Never, never let us forget — that we may make spiritual shipwreck on lawful things — as really and truly as on open vices! Happy is he who has learned to hold the things of this world with a loose hand, and to believe that seeking first the kingdom of God, ‘all other things shall be added to him!’(Matthew 6:33.)
Let us learn secondly from these verses — the exceeding suddenness of our Lord’s second coming. We read, ‘That day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap!’ It will come as a trap falling suddenly on an animal, and catching it in a moment — as the lightning flash shining suddenly in the sky, before the thunder is heard — as a thief coming suddenly in the night, and not giving notice that he will come — so sudden, so instantaneous will the second coming of the Son of man be!
The precise date of our Lord Jesus Christ’s return to this world, has been purposely withheld from us by God. ‘Of that day and hour — no man knows.’ On one point however, all the teaching of Scripture about it is clear and unmistakable. Whenever it shall take place — it will be a most sudden and unexpected event. The business of the world shall be going on as usual. As in the days of Sodom, and the days before the flood — men shall be ‘eating and drinking, marrying and given in marriage.’ Few, even among true believers, shall be found completely alive to the great fact, and living in a state of thorough expectation.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the whole course of the world shall be stopped. The King of kings shall appear. The dead shall be raised. The living shall be changed. Unbelief shall wither away. Truth shall be known too late by myriads! The world with all its trifles and shadows shall be thrust aside. Eternity with all its solemn realities shall begin. All this shall begin at once, without notice, without warning, without note of preparation. ‘That day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap!’
The servant of God must surely see that there is only one state of mind which befits the man who believes these things. That state is one of perpetual preparedness to meet Christ. The Gospel does not call us to retire from earthly callings, or neglect the duties of our stations. It does not bid us to retire into hermitages, or live the life of a monk or a nun. But it does bid us to live like men who expect their Lord to return! Repentance toward God, faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and holiness of conduct — are the only true habitual preparations required. The Christian who knows these things by experience — is the man who is always ready to meet his Lord.
Let us learn, lastly, from these verses — the special duties of believers in the prospect of the second coming of Christ. Our Lord sums up these duties under two great heads. One of these two is watchfulness. The other is prayer. ‘Watch therefore,’ He says, ‘and pray always.’
We are to ‘watch.’ We are to live on our guard like men in an enemy’s country. We are to remember that evil is about us, and near us, and in us — that we have to contend daily with a treacherous heart, an ensnaring world, and a busy devil! Remembering this, we must put on the whole armor of God, and beware of spiritual drowsiness. ‘Let us not sleep as others do,’ says Paul, ‘but let us watch and be sober.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:6.)
We are to ‘pray always.’ We are to keep up a constant habit of real, sincere prayer. We are to speak with God daily, and hold daily communion with Him about our souls. We are to pray especially for grace to lay aside every weight, and to cast away everything which may interfere with readiness to meet our Lord. Above all, we are to watch our habits of devotion with a godly jealousy, and to beware of hurrying over or shortening our prayers.
Let us leave the whole passage with a hearty determination, by God’s help, to act on what we have been reading. If we believe that Christ is coming again — then let us get ready to meet Him. ‘If we know these things — happy are we if we do them.’ (John 13:17.)”