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Thessalonians 5 v 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For t

A fortnight ago the 2 verses in 1 Thessalonians 5 marked 4 and 5 carefully illustrated the difference between the saved and the lost.

1. What a Christian is NOT – A Christian is NOT in darkness.

We considered various aspects of Darkness -

1. There is Physical Darkness.

All people every day experience physical darkness – with the coming and going of day and night – it is part of the natural existence of everyone on earth.

2. There is Intellectual Darkness.

When Paul describes the darkness of natural sinful man in Romans 1 he says this in verse 21

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Darkened understanding – blindness of mind – these terms describe so many to day. They are intellectually insensitive to the things of God.

3. There is Moral Darkness.

God has given us all a certain degree of sensitivity to His moral law. But many have blocked this out and morally speaking they are in the dark. They act as if there is no standard of behaviour based on God’s law. The Apostle John says a very telling thing about moral darkness in 1 John 1 v 6

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

4. There is Spiritual Darkness.

Spiritual darkness is specifically darkness about God and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a spiritual darkness today. People do not know that they are sinners – and are offended if you tell them that God calls them that.

5. There is the Darkness of the world in its present condition.

The powers that dominate the world order are described by Paul in Ephesians 6 v 12

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Rulers of darkness – Satan and his demon hosts are darkness.


6. There is the place of punishment – which is darkness.

Jesus said in Matthew 8 v 12

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Hell is called outer darkness! Hell is a dark place – only lit by the flames of the lake of fire!

But a Christian has been delivered from darkness and has now come into marvellous light (1 Peter 2 v 9) – by the grace of the Gospel. Paul says what we ARE!

2. What a Christian IS – a Child of Light.

5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Christians are transformed out of a state of ignorance into a condition of knowing. They are changed from alienation from God to fellowship with God. They are the Children of the Day.

The term Children of the Day is a description of those who belong to that day when Jesus comes again. Nothing will terrify those who are the children of the Day.

And Paul continues with these thoughts of what a Christian is in the next few verses –

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober,

Here we have

The Practical Character of the Children of the Light – they are READY and STEADY.

First of all we are going to consider

What it is to be Ready and Steady

by thinking about the two words found in these texts – watchful and sober.

Then we will identify the

Danger of Belonging to the Night.

Thirdly we will focus on the

Necessity of Belonging to the Day.

1. What it is to be Ready and Steady.

Paul’s use of the word THEREFORE gives us a clue that he is applying what has been said in verses 3 – 4. One famous preacher once said, “Whenever you see in the New Testament the word THERFORE you should always ask what it is there-fore!”

Therefore means that there are implications for the Children of Light, the children of the day. Those who are not in darkness therefore should not sleep!

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others;

So we should not sleep! Is this a literal exhortation? Are we to do the impossible and stay awake all day and all night seven days a week, 12 months of a year?

Whereas our God is a God of the impossible and there is nothing that He cannot do – there is a limit to what we His creatures can do! We need to sleep. Sleep is part of the rhythm of the life that the Lord has given to us. Bodies get tired and fatigued – they need rest. Just as we need water and air – both provided by the Lord God, so also we need sleep.

Psalm 127 v 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

God gives us the recharging facility every 24 hours – rest, repair and growth happen while we sleep.

It is possible to overcome the desire to sleep when we wish – for some special occasion. King David knew this when he had a particularly important task to do. Hear what he says in Psalm 132 v 4

I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, 5 Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.

David set out to find a location for the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem as the new worship centre for the sacrifices to Jehovah. So serious was he that he would find such a place that he would deny himself his afternoon nap (as one of the Jewish commentators suggests) everyday until a satisfactory conclusion had been reached. Literal sleep then is something that we need but is something that need not be indulged in to an excess.

Paul has metaphorical sleep in mind here as he writes.

We should not be sleepy – rather we should be alert.

Who then are those that are asleep metaphorically?

Unbelievers are said to be asleep. They spend their lives as if there will never be a day of judgement. They have all had adequate warning that judgement is coming. In Mark 13 we find these words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ –

34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.

But such non Christians live in spiritual and moral laxity. The Lord Jesus Christ further describes such as an unfaithful and foolish steward in Luke 12 – who while his master is away takes advantage of others –

45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;

What will happen to such a man? And what will happen to those in our society who sleepily neglect their souls with no reference to God?

46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

People without the Lord Jesus Christ: men, women, young people, old people, all are unprepared for “the day” – and are asleep. They neglect their souls by being unprepared. Does this describe someone here this morning? You are not a Christian. You do not know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. You are living a life of self interest and you fit perfectly the description in Ephesians 2 v 3

In the lusts of your flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and you are by nature a child of wrath, even as others.

If this is you then you are asleep and unprepared for judgment. And you are in great danger!

It is possible to behave like these ‘others’ even as a Christian. Believers can mimic unbelievers as if they too were asleep and unprepared. And Paul turns his thoughts to warning true Christians against such behaviour – second half of verse 6 –

but let us watch and be sober.

RATHER let us watch and be sober.

Be ready and steady! Be watchful and sober!

Let us see what is entailed in being ready and steady.

1. Ready – Watchful.

The word in the original Greek translated watch is GREGOREUO. It means to keep awake, to be spiritually alert and vigilant. It must be a privilege to have the name Gregory if your name means watchful and vigilant, many well known men have had this name. No less than 15 Popes have been called Gregory. How sad that they have not lived up to their name in respect of an evangelical description of their characters! The corruption of the Papacy down the ages has been anything but spiritually watchful. Perhaps there was political vigilance and alertness to protestant opposition amongst those Gregories! But Spiritual and moral alertness, sanctified devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ did not mark those Gregories who headed the cult of Mary worship, presided over the sale of indulgences and invented between them many ways of leading their people into gross forms of idolatry.

True Gregories would have had their spiritual lamps burning with the oil of the holy Spirit; they would have had their loins girded – a metaphor for preparedness to meet God the judge of all men; and they would have ever been looking forward to the return of the Bridegroom of the Church the Lord Jesus Christ. We referred to Luke 12 earlier when noting that foolish and wicked steward. The Lord Jesus Christ describes the wise and faithful steward also in that passage –

42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.

Of the 23 times that this word GREGOREUO appears in the New Testament most of them are translated watch. The Lord Jesus Christ uses it in Mark 14 v 38

Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.

The Apostle John says in Revelation 16 v 15

Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

Watch – and stay dressed says John! Soldiers who are battle ready never take their uniforms off! Night and day they stay dressed and ready to move at a moments notice. Christians should be watching and ready for any eventuality in battle against the world the flesh and the devil!

GREGOREUO is also translated VIGILANT. Intense and concentrated watching is called for in this dangerous life. Their can be no relaxing or letting up of our guard.

And according to Colossians 4 our watching should be prayerful – as you were hearing from Mr Harris last week –

2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;

If the disciples had watched when they were asked by the saviour then they would have not fallen into temptation and deserted him at his neediest hour! So it is that the scriptures link watching with vigilance – and sleeping with carelessness in moral issues. Leon Morris remarks “Sleep is natural enough for the sons of the night, but it is entirely out of place for the sons of Light.”

Are we sleepy Christians or are we watchful and vigilant at all times? Prayer, reading God’s word, committing it to memory and activity in Gospel work are sure defences in times of trial and temptation.

Indolence, too much relaxation, little activity in Christian things lays the believer open to sleepiness in spiritual things. Let us be watchful – let us be READY!

2. Sober – Steady!

Whenever we think of being sober it is usually in connection with alcohol or rather lack of alcohol! In fact my dictionary defines the word sober as “not drunk!” Then it goes on to say “moderate, temperate, without excess or extravagant and serious,”

Certainly the Greek word NEPHO means, free from the influence of intoxicants and is the opposite of drunkenness.

However the word can mean more than that. It is not only inebriation that is referred to in this word. One can be drunk with other things in life – power, sensual desires that seek satisfaction and appetites other than those for drink. It is not merely stupid unconsciousness through drink but also it can be abnormal exultation. So to be sober is to be Steady. How does this apply to our Christian lives as Children of Light?

To be sober is to be filled with moral and spiritual earnestness. It is to be calm in the soul; sensible, sane – neither being over excited on the one hand nor indifferent on the other.

1 Peter 4 v 7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

Because the end is near we must be serious and not flippant. We must have a deep experience of the need to fulfil our individual ministries as believers. Notice 2 Timothy 4 v 5

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

You may say, “We are talking about being sober – now watch is being reintroduced.” Not so – watch in 2 Timothy 4 v 5 is the same word for sober in our text – NEPHO.

What things give us pleasure, my friends? What sort of list would you come up with – honestly?

Chocolate cake? A pleasant evening with friends for dinner? Surfing? Computer games? Walks on Exmoor? Lying in the sun? Watching grandchildren grow?

What do we notice about all these things? First they are all legitimate activities and have their place. But do they all not appeal to our senses primarily? Do they not please our bodies, emotions and minds?

What are our SPIRITUAL pleasures my friends? What gives us delight in spiritual things?

Are they not in the realm of what is in front of us, in the future glory of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ that has been our focus from this letter for the last few weeks? So Paul is encouraging all of us to be spiritually alert and clear headed. Sober – steady – and wary of spiritual dangers.

Another military parallel is obvious here. Soldiers are posted on Guard when it is vital that the camp is protected from enemy attack. Those designated for the duty are to be vigilant, watchful and serious about what they are doing. They cannot play around; they cannot read a book or newspaper – they must watch. And a well mounted guard has a guard commander who will come at a moment’s notice, by surprise when least expected to visit. This is how we are to be. The prospect of the Lord’s coming should make us watchful and vigilant – ready and steady. Rather than frenetically looking for signs of his coming – we should expect Him today! Now – we should be ready – Now – today! We should be showing a steadiness in our attitude that expects Him to come at any time. How this will modify our behaviour my friends? How this will sharpen our minds when we are tempted to do wrong – when we know that He could come any moment! Ready and Steady!

Are you ready and steady brother sister in Christ? Are you watchful and sober? Vigilant and serious?

Perhaps you are one of those who has not even begun to be ready for Christ to return – indeed you are not yet a believer. You are asleep and unprepared – you are unaware of your danger. Oh may God wake you up this morning to see your great danger – trust His son the Lord Jesus Christ – believe in Him and commit yourself to Him wholly! Believe in His death on the cross that He died for sinners. And turn to Him and yield to Him with all of your being. And then be READY to face Him with a STEADY and consistent faith in Him alone!

2. Danger of Belonging to the Night.

7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

Paul continues here by observing that there are certain kinds of conduct that are quite appropriate for the Sons and Daughters of the Night. Paul uses these words in their primary literal sense here – sleepers sleep in the night, and drunkards are drunk in the night to illustrate his point. I try to avoid driving into the town centre on a Friday or Saturday evening. To see so many people flooding into the bars and clubs intent on imbibing as much alcohol as possible; and then to see others pouring out of those places the worse for wear is demeaning to them as human beings and embarrassing for us to look at. It is not surprising that such establishments are called NIGHT clubs. Have you ever thought why they are not DAY clubs? It has everything to do with Paul’s up to date thought in this seventh verse –

7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

He is applying it from the literal to the metaphorical. Moral indifference well suits those that belong to the night, who after heavy drinking and partying into the night fall asleep when they should be awake – and at work! There are Biblical references to the process of drunkenness – it usually occurs at night – rarely in the light of day. In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Disciples on the Day of Pentecost. Some in the crowd witnessed the spectacular phenomenon of preaching in foreign tongues. Then –

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

The dangers of sleeping when they should be working and getting drunk when they should be soberly preparing for the second coming are all too clear.

Unbelievers are in danger – as Matthew Henry puts it – “They are not sensible of their danger so they sleep; They are not sensible of their duty, therefore they get drunk.”

Believers could be in danger too. We must not be careless of our souls. We have had the light of the blessed Gospel to shine on us so that we now have the knowledge of the next world. We should keep our eyes open – ready for Him our glorious saviour to come and take us away!

Finally the

3. Necessity of Belonging to the Day.

8a But let us, who are of the day, be sober,

Once again Paul rings the changes and contrasts Christians with non-Christians. Let us! We have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ live as those who live in the Day – and belong to the great Day that is coming! We who are believers should be characterised by the light! We are after all now walking in the day light of His love and grace.

Many times and from every section of the Church, men and women, young and old are called to be sober.

Church leaders are called to be sober.

1Timothy 3 v 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Titus 1 v 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

Similarly their wives must be sober too –

1Timothy 3 v 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

Older men and older women are called to be sober.

Titus 2 v 1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.

And notice in this passage that the older women are to teach the younger women sobriety and that the younger men need exhortation to the same thing.

And the same word sober is here in this first part of verse 8. Be sober. We must be self-controlled and taken up with temperate-ness. We need to be in control of all of our faculties – to have them at our command. We dare not let ourselves be mastered or dominated by excesses of any kind. We are not to be enslaved by our passions, rather we must rule over them – that is what it is to be sober.

Are we sober my friends? Are we spiritually alert? Are we ready and steady? Are we awake in the midst of a world that is asleep and sleeping its way to hell! These are the questions to ask ourselves this morning. May we all know strength and purpose in our Christian lives – and may we look to Him who knew exactly how to conduct Himself – the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the supreme example of alertness and sobriety.

He had His body, mind and Spirit under control at all times – even under the severest provocation. He was tempted just as we are – yet He never sinned. The more that we study Him the more like Him we can become – when we are prepared to watch – and to be sober.

1 Peter 4 v 7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

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