Alertness in Christ
- Alertness in Christ’s Return
- Alertness in Everyday Life
- Alertness as a Duty
1. Alertness in Christ’s Return
When I first looked at this title, I asked myself, “what does this have to do with Christian character?” The dictionary indicates that this word means “awareness, watchfulness, careful attention.” In the light of the definition, the topic does reflect clear Scriptural teaching.
For example, in Matthew 24, our Lord teaches about his return and urges His followers to be alert. In fact, in verse 42, He says, “therefore keep watch….” He continues in Matthew 25 and after telling a remarkable story about a sudden return, He again says, “Therefore keep watch”(v. 13). Paul writes on the same theme and urges his readers to not be surprised by the day of the Lord, saying, “let us be alert…” (I Thess. 5:6). Peter issues the same warning in his letter (II Peter 3:11-13). These verses all relate to the return of our Lord and indicate the need for careful and watchful attitudes. He indeed is coming back and we are to be ready; we prepare ourselves for readiness by being alert.
2. Alertness in Everyday Life
However, in addition to the pleas for attention to Jesus’ return, other places advise us on the need for alertness. When Paul writes to the Colossians he states, “devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (4:2). Back in the Old Testament, the Psalmist issues this plea: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (90:12). Ah, now we are getting to some real day-by-day practical application. We are called upon to daily be alert and watchful. We have an adversary and we need to walk carefully. We need to be aware of our enemy, of temptations, snares and traps—be alert. We are encouraged to carefully prepare, by putting on the whole armor of God, so that we can take our stand—stand our ground, so we may stand firm, and with this in mind, we are to be alert and keep on praying…(c.f. Eph 6:10-18).
3. Alertness as a Duty
“After their long and weary exile in Babylon the people of Israel were set free to return to their own land. Spurred on by Nehemiah, they began to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This aroused the hostility of the pagans around them, who threatened to undo their work. The people of Israel took two essential steps: they prayed to God, and they posted a guard day and night. Even as they prayed for God’s protection and help, they did what they could. They knew that prayer is not a way to avoid responsibility, it’s not a shortcut to success without effort” (Ron Klug, “Bible Readings on Prayer,” Christianity Today: 30:6) We are challenged again and again: “Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord, and work” (Haggai 2:4).
Watch and Pray!! Be on your guard and trust God!! Our world is dangerous and filled with temptation. We have a duty. I recall reading sometime ago a story about the early days of our country. (The story is attributed, by way of source, to many people, including President Kennedy.) In 1789, in Hartford, Connecticut, the House of Representatives was meeting, under the leadership of Col. Davenport. Suddenly the sky darkened ominously and some of the representatives feared it might be the end of the world, and they called for immediate adjournment. Davenport rose and stated, “The Day of Judgement is either approaching or it is not. If not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Bring in the candles.”
So alertness leads to duty and service for our Lord. He is returning and we need to be watchful—and stay busy and alert. The last words of Paul to his friends, the Ephesian elders, are significant: “So be on your guard” (Acts 20:31).
ALERTNESS– A Four-Minute Sermon
Contributed by Dr. Paul E. Toms
Senior Pastor (Retired), Park Street Church, Boston, MA
June 22, 2004
Alert to Temptation
The War We Fight
- God’s Divine Escape Route
- Knowing God: The First Key to Remaining Alert
- Knowing Yourself: The Second Key to Remaining Alert
1.The War We Fight
We are in a war—a war against our flesh. The struggle to resist sin can be unbearable at times. Paul himself exclaims, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Ro 7.15 NIV). How can we overcome habitual sin in our life? First and foremost, our power only comes through Jesus Christ. Within that power though, we must learn to be alert.
2.God’s Divine Escape Route
Alertness is often the first prevention against sin in a believer’s life. In I Corinthians 10.13, Paul states, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (NIV). When temptation comes to lure us into sin, God has promised to provide an escape. However, if we are not alert and ready for proper response, the temptation drags us away into sin.
3. Knowing God: The First Key to Remaining Alert
So how do we do this? How do we be alert to God’s divine escape route? First, know God. The more we know God intimately, the more sensitive we are to his Spirit and can discern when he is warning us from a certain path. We will never know what to be alert to if we do not know God. His Word must be poured over and pondered, meditated upon incessantly. Psalm 119.11 states, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (NIV). And in Psalm 1 the man meditates on God’s law instead of joining with sinners: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (NIV). The more we study and meditate on God’s Word, the more we will know Him intimately. This intimate relationship with God helps us to be more sensitive to his Spirit—thus recognizing temptation when it arrives.
4. Knowing Yourself: The Second Key to Remaining Alert
A correct understanding of God’s Word will lead us to a more intimate relationship with him. While cultivating this relationship, we must also remain alert to ourselves. Think about sin in your own life. What time of the day are they most often occurring? What habits contextualize the specific sin you struggle with each day? Be alert to yourself and your surroundings. Alertness requires that you are aware of situations that could lead to sin. But being aware is not enough—alertness goes the extra step and quickly responds to the situation by changing directions. Furthermore, knowing yourself requires that you admit and acknowledge your inability to flee sin. Being alert means you are aware of your own inability—forcing yourself to rely wholly upon the only one who has the power to sustain you in times of great temptation. Ask God to grant you grace that you may be more aware and alert of yourself and give you the initiative you need to change directions when temptation lurks around the corner.
ALERTNESS– A 4-Minute Sermon with Sermon Outline
Faith Committee, Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky
Contributed by Michael C. Lyons
Editor of Faith Outreach, Character Council, Cincinnati, Ohio
June 21, 2004
This material is published by the Faith Committee of the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Reproduction and Adaptation is encouraged.