Sermon delivered by Howard Baston, pastor of First Baptist Church in Amarillo, T.X., on Mar. 22 2009.
Luke 12: 35-48.
Go to Discovery.com and you can apply to be on reality TV. You can be a part of the show “What Not To Wear.” They travel – Dallas, Atlanta, Denver, Boston, Detroit. Be neat if they would come to Amarillo.
You can’t apply for yourself – it’s a little bit deceptive. You apply for someone else. Now, everybody think of somebody who doesn’t dress well – right now in your mind. Their clothes often don’t match. They put little time and effort into what they are going to adorn themselves with. They just put on their sweats – comfy, you know – and out the door they go. If you know somebody like that, that’s exactly whom “What Not To Wear” is looking for.
Let me read you a portion of the web page:
Do you know someone who is a walking fashion disaster? Secretly nominate her to appear on our show. [I guess the statement “her” means your fashion disaster friend must be of the feminine gender – nobody cares how guys dress, really.] If you live in any of these areas, please get your application to us right away. If you aren’t in these areas [good luck for us, Amarillo], please make sure to still fill out the application because we could be on the way to your city next.
On your application, you’ll have to describe why your friend is full of fashion faux pas. And here is the must. You must send two pictures that show just how poorly her fashion really is.
Clinton, the show’s host, offers a “what not to wear” quiz to test your fashion skills on the web. I’m proud to say that I took the Stacy/Clinton “What Not To Wear Style Myth Quiz,” and I scored the “you’re in style” category. I missed something about the length of a man’s tie – and I still disagree with them – and about the ability to wear white shoes after Labor Day (I still says it’s a “no no”).
The show goes something like this. They follow you around and secretly record you wearing your drab, out-of-style clothing, full of faux pas in the fashion category. Then they walk up, introduce themselves, and tell you that your friends have nominated you as a crummy dresser, a fashion failure, a style crisis. Then they put all of your clothes in front of America – bring your clothes rod right there to the studio – and, one by one, they criticize your clothing. They make fun of your Mickey Mouse t-shirt, your suede sweatpants, and your shapeless sack that you call a dress. And right before your eyes, they throw it in a trash can. In fact, some participants have wept as they watched their favorite clothing canned.
Next, they send you – with a camera following you – to shop, and they criticize your choices. And they make fun of you behind your back. And then, at the end of the show, after following their tips you’re making good choices and you come out as a style queen.
Well, Jesus lived in a day when folks only had one garment, or maybe two. They didn’t worry about closet space – didn’t need any. And I don’t care whether you’re in style or not. Style, to me, is simply a matter of taste.
But Jesus did care about what you wear.
I. Jesus declares that His people should be dressed in readiness.
The translation “dressed in readiness” really means to be dressed ready for service. Literally, let your loins be girded or let your waist be belted up. It’s the image of a man who has tucked his long robe under his belt in order to run. It’s the image found in Luke 17:8, Ephesians 6:14, 1 Peter 1:13, 1 Kings 18:46, 2 Kings 4:29, Exodus 12:11. Throughout scripture there is this idea of having your long robe tucked up tight under your belt so you can be ready to go to work without hindrance or delay.
In 1 Kings 18:46 it says, “The hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.” Notice the tied-up robe of the prophet, ready to run away from the wicked king.
In Exodus 12:11, where they are being instructed how to observe the Passover meal, notice how they are to be dressed – because you never know when the Lord is going to deliver you from the Egyptians. They had to be dressed in readiness for the command of the Lord. Exodus 12:11 reads, “Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste – it is the Lord’s Passover.”
For Jesus, to be dressed in readiness means that we’re not surprised when the Master comes (v. 36), when He returns. Though no one knows when to expect him, the master in this parable returns. Despite his unannounced visit, he finds his servants dressed in readiness – ready to go upon his arrival.
Luke is saying that even though the Lord has not yet returned, our preparedness for His return, our watchfulness for the return of Christ should not be relaxed. He is going to return without forewarning.
Have you ever been dressed the wrong way at the wrong time? It can be a humiliating feeling.
I had a pretty close call myself one time – right here in the hallways of this church. I’d already heard of Don Vanderslice’s encounter, and I didn’t want it to be mine. One Saturday, Don, a former youth minister at First Baptist Church, was up at the church in cut-off jeans, flip flops, and a ragged t-shirt – working overtime getting ready for Sunday. He turned the corner and, lo and behold, there stood the most impeccably dressed man the city of Amarillo has ever known – Mr. “I even cut my grass in cufflinks” – Dr. Winfred Moore, pastor emeritus of this church. If you know Dr. Moore, you realize he knows how to dress for success. Don said Winfred scanned him from head to toe and said, “Unhhh…I thought I taught you better than that in class. Uhhhh-unhhh.”
I laughed at Don in regard to that incident. He turned the corner looking like a ragamuffin and there he meets the king of fashion, face to face. What a nightmare.
Several months passed and there was a Saturday where I had on bermuda shorts, docker shoes with no socks, and a casual shirt. I came to the church office to read over my Sunday sermon one more time. As I started down the hallway, I heard his booming voice around the corner. “Ohhh,” he said to someone. “Glad to see you. How are your parents doing? Ho-de-ho-de-ho-ho-ho. Nice day today.”
“Oh, my,” I thought to myself. “Look at me. I’m going to turn that corner in my bermuda shorts, sockless shoes, casual shirt – and the very reverend holy Dr. Moore is going to be dressed to the nines.” I had forgotten he was going to be here that day to do a wedding, and I was anything but in wedding attire. Before I turned the corner and heard him say, “Uh unh…has it come to this around here? Ohhh,” I bolted down to the other end of the hallway, went up three flights of stairs to the fourth floor, studied my sermon on the fourth floor, never went back down to my office, went down a side stairway, and went out a side door. Whew! Close calls!
A lot more important than Winfred Moore walking the hallways for a wedding – as much as all of us would want to be in proper attire for that encounter – much more important is being dressed in readiness for the return of Christ. Christ isn’t worried about our bermuda shorts and sockless feet. Christ is worried about our heart, our state of readiness for His return.
Are you anticipating, are you ready for the return of Christ? Are you looking for the heavens to open and for the Son of God to descend, even as He ascended, declaring the consummation of the Kingdom of God? Have you looked for His return this week? Was there a single day this week that you woke up and thought, “Today might be the day when my Christ will return. I am ready in heart, in mind, and in spirit.”
“Surely,” the prophet said, “he’ll come.” And He did as a babe of Bethlehem. The declaration has been made that He’ll come again. And the second coming is as sure as the first.
Am I ready? Am I looking? Am I waiting? Will I be found dressed in readiness?
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18,
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
John the Apostle writes in the Revelation (Revelation 19:11-17),
“And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’ Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in heaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God.’”
II. Those who are ready are called blessed.
Don’t be lulled into inactivity by the fact that the Lord has delayed His coming. Have your loins girded. Have your robe ready. Be dressed in readiness. When you are, you’re called blessed.
While a student at Baylor University, I ate at Wendy’s – often. Okay. Alright. Quite frankly, I ate at that Wendy’s daily. In fact, I ate at that Wendy’s so often that I decided I must own just a little bit of stock in the company so I wouldn’t feel like I was throwing my money away. As a stockholder, I would feel like every time I ate, I was helping my own cause. For a while, every time the stock would dip, I would run and eat some more, thinking that I could single-handedly eat my way back into a small fortune. But I soon realized that my stomach volume couldn’t control the market.
I noticed a lot of changes happening at that Wendy’s in Waco one day. They were painting the outside, putting up a new canopy, ripping up the tile at the front of the store, replacing the carpet, putting up new wallpaper, gutting the bathrooms. New counter tops. New cash register. Everything about that Wendy’s was changing, changing in a hurry. It really wasn’t in bad shape to start with, but, nonetheless, they were gutting it from ceiling to floor, wall to wall.
This wasn’t just an ordinary remodel. You could sense expectancy. Something was different. They were polishing everything. Even the shrubbery outside was trimmed perfectly to form.
The folks who ran that Wendy’s never seemed to care all that much before. So I inquired, “You folks sure are fixing up this place. What’s the occasion?”
“Haven’t you heard?” the little girl at the counter replied. “Did you not know?” she asked with surprise. “Mr. Dave Thomas, himself, is going to visit this Wendy’s three weeks from now.”
Dave Thomas is coming here? The king of burgers himself. I was a bit miffed that while I, too, was a stockholder like he, they’d never so much as put in new napkins for me. But you let the majority stockholder show up – never mind my $200 worth of stock – and it’s spic and span, spit-shined. Out with the old and in with the new.
That franchise was literally transformed by the expectancy of the visit of the founder of the establishment. It meant something that he was coming. The owner and the workers wanted to be found doing their task – and doing their task well.
What have you turned upside down lately, expecting the return of Christ? What have you changed in your life, making yourself ready for Him? What task, ministry, have you begun because you want to be found faithful upon the return of the Master? Have you employed the gifts He has given to you?
Look at verse 37
Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes.
Verse 38 says it doesn’t matter when he returns – in the second watch or even the third watch. Blessed are those slaves he finds ready.
The image of verse 37 is so powerful. For those whom the Lord finds dressed in readiness, those who have their robe tied high for work, He will, in return, gird His own loins, tie up His own robe, and He will serve them. What a powerful image – unexpected and unthinkable for the Lord to serve us. The scene reminds us of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. How blessed, indeed, are those whom the Lord will serve when He returns.
Look at verse 43. The word is used again. “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.” This third reference is the blessedness of the leader who is being a good steward of those under his charge.
Yes, if the Lord finds us ready, we’ll be blessed.
III. He’s going to come when you don’t expect it.
That’s when company always comes. Put your hair in curlers, green mud on your face, and cucumbers over your eyes and the doorbell always rings. Doesn’t it?
We don’t know when He is coming. He is coming when we don’t expect it. In verse 38, Jesus speaks of his coming in the second or third watch. The Jewish day was divided into three different watches: six to ten, ten to two, and two to six. Even if He comes from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., you should be found ready.
In the second story, He does not use the symbol of a returning master but, rather, a thief (v. 39). The image of a thief as a representation for the returning Christ might be unsettling to us, but it is a common motif used by New Testament writers to declare the uncertainty and the disruptive nature of the return of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-7 reads:
“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”
2 Peter 3:10 says
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”
Revelation 3:3 says,
“So remember what you have received and heard, and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.”
A thief never gives you a warning. He strikes at the most unexpected time.
We must be continuing in our faithfulness so that when Christ returns, like an unexpected thief, we will be ready.
IV. He calls leaders to an even higher standard.
In verse 41, Peter asks, “Lord, are you talking to us, or are you talking to everyone else as well?” He is saying something like, “Is this a story, a parable for the crowds, or just for disciples?”
Jesus tells a story that emphasizes that He is really talking to leaders most specifically. He has the idea of a steward or a manager. He speaks of their obligation to feed those under their care. The unfaithful manager (v. 45) says it will be a long time before the master returns, so he begins to mistreat those whom he leads. Not even being a leader in the church guarantees salvation, Jesus seems to be saying. We can be a leader over God’s people and still wind up cut to pieces, consigned to the place of unbelievers where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. When much is given (v. 48), much is required. Your position of church leadership only guarantees you a harsher standard of judgment. Church leaders had better be doubly alert.
V. Whatever you need to do to get ready for the return of Christ, do it now.
Whatever you need to do to get ready for the return of Christ, you’d better do it now. There will be no warning. There will be no delay. Christ will come pressing out the fierce wrath of God.
One writer says that he met with a group of men some time ago, and one of the men commented, “I hope I don’t die suddenly. I want to have some time to straighten out some relationships.” A second man promptly spoke up, “Well, why don’t you do it anyway. If it’s worth doing, do it now.”
You might say, “I don’t want Christ to return tomorrow. I’ve got some unfinished business in my life.” I would say you’d better take care of that business today. For, like the unexpected master of the surprise attack thief, Jesus may come at any moment. Be found with girded loins, be found faithful, working for the kingdom.
One day while St. Francis was hoeing his garden, he was asked, “What would you do if you knew you only had one day to live?” “I would keep on hoeing my garden,” was the reply.
Our longevity ought not determine our day to day agenda. We’re here to be faithful stewards, doing what is right and diligent, without panic, always ready for the return of Christ.
Are you going to be humiliated by His surprise return or are you going to be dressed in readiness?
I’ll tell you what not to wear when Christ returns. Don’t wear the garments woven from the passions of this world. Don’t wear your love for this broken place on your sleeve. When He returns, may He see that you’re a citizen of another kingdom and you have a longing in your heart to be dressed in readiness for another place and another day.