Preparing For The Day Of Christ
October 14, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. If a certain couple was wanting to tie the knot, they would undoubtedly plan for the wedding ceremony the best they could. Yet when you think about it, as important as preparations for the wedding ceremony are, it is even more important to prepare the self as the wedding day moves closer. Well now, what if it were your funeral service and not [just] a wedding? Recently, the [number of] people who wish to have a "personalized funeral service" and who make preparations for their service while still living has been on the increase. But, when you think about this too, [we] can make the statement that as the day of [your] funeral moves closer, and, as we can say for sure, the day of the end of your life moves closer, then more important than [your] funeral preparations is to prepare the self. People are different when it comes to marriage but because everybody, across the board, is getting closer to the day of the end of his or her life, everybody falls under this [need to prepare one's core being for death].
2. Yet now, what does it mean to prepare oneself by facing the last day of one's life? If it's just the case that life is moving closer to "the end," then in that case, at best, we would ponder the degree to which we would make preparations of the heart. Of course, neither is this a small matter by any means. Yet though, there are, in fact, much more important preparations [to be made] because people are not merely heading closer to "the day of the end of life." [People are doing more than] that, the scripture states that [people] are heading towards another and much more important day than even that.
3. The scripture calls it "the day of Christ." In reading number two of today, we read Paul's epistle which he addressed to the disciples at Philippi, and it was repeatedly stated in it, that in verse six it has "until the day of Christ Jesus" and in verse ten, "prepare for the day of Christ." That is the day of the second coming of Christ, that is, to get to the heart of it, the day that we will meet Christ. It is the day for which we have been preparing all our lives, [the day] when we will meet Christ.
That Love Would Become Abundant
4. What kind of preparations does one need to make if one is to be prepared for the day of Christ? Paul prays as follows. Please look at verse nine. "I pray this. By acquiring to yourself knowledge of the power to know and the power to see thoroughly, that your love would become more and more abundant, and that you would discern what is truly important. And by preparing for the day of Christ, you might become pure, without being blameable, and that you might be able to give praise of God's glory and honor by receiving to the point of overflowing the fruit of righteousness given by Jesus Christ," (verses nine through eleven).
5. First, the scripture says, "That your love would become more and more abundant." What does it mean for love to become abundant? Paul says that "By acquiring to yourself knowledge of the power to know and the power to see thoroughly, that your love would become more and more abundant." "The power to know" can also be translated as "knowledge." "The power to see thoroughly" is the ability to judge [so] that one can come to definitive conclusions with a sharp set of senses. These two are needed because, as it is written there in the scriptures, we need to get to where we "can discern what is truly important."
6. Isn't it surprising in a certain sense that talk about "knowledge" and "the power to discern" appear along with [his] saying "that love may be abundant?" When one says "that love may be abundant," don't you feel that this is not the operation of such intellectual affairs, but that as a matter more related to the emotions, it comes before that? What kind of person do we get an image of with the words "person of love?" Don't we think of a person who acts on behalf of others beyond calculated self-interests, without thinking of the consequences? At times I suppose we think the person even looks foolish, though the person is rich in love.
7. We're not exactly wrong about that either. Love does go beyond calculated self-interest. There are times when love does become foolish. But still though, I think we had better not forget one more aspect, of which Paul speaks. He says that love at times does become foolish, but he draws a line between that and sheer fanaticism and recklessness. In order for love to truly become rich the power to know and the power to see thoroughly are required. At times a cool sharp power to discern, unshaken by emotion, is prerequisite. It is the same whether the love is for God or whether the love is for people. In practice, what [happens]? What we take for as "love" which doesn't include these is just trouble for people, or so much of it ends up wrecking people, don't [you agree]? Or [I'd even say] that under the name of love and devotion to God, even to this very day, so many destructive acts for so long have been done, which have lacked good judgment. In the end still not understanding what is truly important, "that love becomes abundant" never comes to pass.
8. And as he continues on in what he says about "That you might be able to discern what is truly important," as I mentioned earlier, he continues with the words "Prepare for the day of Christ." To begin with, what does "what is truly important" [even] mean? Doesn't it meant that ultimately, on "the day of Christ" that it is what Christ regards as important? Therefore, Paul continues with "Prepare for the day of Christ, and become a pure person, one that is unblameable."
9. When [he] speaks of "love," it is significant that at that same point as well that [he] speaks on "purity" because in this world [of ours] there are plenty of unlovely things with the name of love attached to them. We are living in such an age when even adulterous relationships are regretfully called "genuine and pure love." Even the egoism, which wounds and hurts the people around it, is called [that] in the name of love. As I touched upon earlier, there have been times when even destructive fanatical acts have been done in the name of love. So, Paul doesn't just say that "your love become more and more abundant," but says "that you become pure persons, unblameable persons."
10. The original word, translated as "pure person," is a word that means "one who has been examined in [the light of] the sun." It means that even when one is exposed to the light, one is okay. It means will what we call love, what we call truly important, be okay even though it has been exposed to the sun? [He] means to say that when shined upon by the light of Christ, who is very love himself, will it still be okay? Will we still call it love after all that? We are being asked this very thing.
Receiving The Fruit Of Righteousness To The Point Of Overflowing
11. So, as we see, the scripture so easily says "[let] love become abundant," but we can see that it is a whoppingly huge topic. Have we ever really accepted these words? When we consider the way we really are in this world and we're exposed to the light of Christ, only the poverty of our love stands out. To humiliate a Christian is not hard to do. You just have to say, "You don't have any love. Though you're a Christian, you have no love." They will simply be humiliated. Have you ever been told that? I've been told so more than once. But worse, it wasn't "though you're a Christian ... ," it was "though you're a pastor ..."
12. But, when [somebody] throws our lack of love [in our face], we must not be humiliated and get down by it. We must not forget the truth that Paul "prays" for this. That is to say, it means that he said we should seek God for this. We don't need to give up over it. We mustn't lose hope. When we get to the point we have no hope, then our prayers vanish. We must not be like that. We ought to keep on seeking [God]. We should keep seeking God steadfastly for these things regarding both for ourselves and for others.
13. Paul himself, the one who wrote like this, knew well that "preparations for the day of Christ" is not something that can be completed according to human efforts. Therefore, Paul brings the ending of his prayer to a finish as follows. "That you might be able to give praise of God's glory and honor by receiving to the point of overflowing the fruit of righteousness given by Jesus Christ," (verse eleven). The text doesn't say here that "our efforts bear fruit." "The fruit of righteousness" is given to us by Jesus Christ. We "receive" it to the point of overflowing. We "receive" it through thick and thin.
14. What he calls "the fruit of righteousness" we could probably say another way as "the fruit of salvation." We are made righteous and saved by the atonement of Christ. People, who have no love, who are soiled by sin, who are impure, who are blameable from every side, are just forgiven and accepted by God's grace. Salvation is not something that we should expect to acquire by our own efforts, but is a gift that is given by pure grace. We are completely passive. And so then, the righteousness, that is just given as [a free gift of] grace, bears the fruit fit for righteousness. This too is something that we ought to "receive" and not something that we produce out of our own power. Thus, Paul had prayed. We too pray the same way. We keep praying it.
15. Therefore, [he] also continues on with "That you might be able to give praise for God's glory and honor." That's because the more we know God's grace, the more we become persons who give back glory to God and praise for his honor. Those who think that "love" and "purity" and such ought to come into fulfillment via human efforts will not, in the end, give praise for God's honor. They will give glory to themselves and act from start to finish as judges of others.
Always With Joy
16. When we read the words of Paul's prayer to this point, we will understand clearly why he wrote the next part in verses three and four. "Each time I think of you, I give thanks to God, and each time I pray for you and the group, I always pray with joy." Each time Paul recalls the church at Philippi, he prays with joy and thanksgiving not because they are an ideal church with no problems. He prays with joy not because the people of the church are filled with love and so pure. Instead, as we read this epistle, we see that the church itself had problems, as well as the relationship between the church and Paul.
17. For instance, in chapter two and verse two Paul wrote as follows. "Be of the same mind, embrace the same love, unite your hearts, have one mind, and fulfill my joy." In [his] having said that, it means that these things weren't present there. "I exhort Euodia and I exhort Syntyche. Hold to the same mind in the Lord," [Paul] declares. In short, it means that there were folks who were not like minded [on matters].
18. But, even still, Paul prays with joy because all things come from God. He puts it like this, "That is because you have partaken of the gospel from the first day until now. I have confidence that the one who has begun good works among you will accomplish those works until the day of Christ Jesus," (1:5-6). Here [we] have the reason that he can keep praying with joy.
19. God is the one who has begun the good works. It's not us; [we didn't begin them]. God is the one who has invited us and lead us into the faith. We didn't begin it. In one sense, the acts of losing hope in ourselves, being disappointed in the church, giving up and turning our backs on either ourselves or others are extremely arrogant because that means that the people think they are the ones who begin and complete [spiritual matters]. Do not misunderstand. God begins the good work for us. We shouldn't expect it to end any differently. Since God starts it, God will finish it through. Since that's how it is, our greatest need is to trust in God that he will finish it for us.
20. We have read this portion of scripture with the question, "What kind of preparation do we need when it comes to preparing for the day of Christ?" As it has already been made clear by now, the greatest preparation for us is that we are to continue to participate in the gospel by trusting in the one who has begun the good work and who will finish it through for us. We are to abide in the gospel, remain in the grace of Christ, pray to God untiringly with trust, and keep seeking for the completion of God's work of salvation.