An accident can happen to anyone, but it is more likely to happen when you are not paying attention or are not prepared.
I was talking to my wife about the cost of something the other day, and for once I was paying close attention. Later when a friend asked a serious question about another topic I confidently answered with the price we had been discussing. Of course it was completely the wrong answer and my friend was totally mystified.
Here are some more real-life examples of not being ready that come from car insurance claims forms.
“I was driving along the motorway when the police pulled me over onto the hard shoulder. Unfortunately I was in the middle lane and there was another car in the way.”
“Going to work at 7am this morning I drove out of my drive straight into a bus. The bus was 5 minutes early.”
“I started to slow down but the traffic was more stationary than I thought.”
These are the kind of things that happen when we drift through life. Things happen to us and we don’t know why. We aren’t ready. We aren’t prepared.
We don’t know what is around the corner, and for some of us that causes great stress. We want to have a clear outline of what the future holds, and when, so we can be ready.
Jesus told his disciples: “You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”
Jesus told a story in Matthew 25 of ten virgins. Five were wise and five foolish. The wise ones prepared enough oil and were ready when the groom came.
In 1 Peter 3:15 the Apostle Peter said: “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.”
In the Gospel of Luke a holy man is told he will have a child. The angel Gabriel says to him that when the baby grows up: “He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.”
The baby’s name was John.
God anointed John with a special task, to prepare the people to meet Jesus.
We often hear that we don’t need any preparation. We are told to come to Jesus just as we are.
The fact is, to get anyone to come to Jesus just as they are is not an easy thing. To get them to give up the idea of preparing, to get them prepared to come without preparing, to get them ready to come just as they are, this is the hardest part of our work, this is our greatest difficulty.
If we outlined a five-step plan with hard work and rigorous exercises over a course of ten weeks then people would line up to join. They would be willing to do that. When we say come as you are with nothing in your hand and empty pockets, they find it hard. It takes a lot of preparation to get people ready to come as they are.
Only the grace of God at work in our hearts and minds can make us prepared this way.
Jesus said he came to save those who recognised they were sinners and had nothing to offer him, but in fact needed saving.
Our hearts are what need to be prepared so that we can meet Jesus. Are you ready today for that meeting?
The first step in being prepared to meet Jesus is to stop and think. Pause and examine yourself and your situation. A business will collapse and fail if the owner neglects to keep track of what is happening. How much more so our spiritual life.
Did you ever give the affairs of your soul the benefit of an hour’s serious consideration? You have your regular time for stock-taking, those of you who are in business; do you ever take stock of your spiritual estate?
John the Baptist made people think. He also held out hope. He told them the Messiah was coming.
John stirred up among the people a great expectation. He raised anticipation. They moved on from hope to expectation. The Messiah was coming and change was on the way, their poor lives would be changed and they would be saved.
They were stirred and asked him what they could do. John told them to clean out their dirty hearts and minds in preparation for meeting the Messiah. He called on them to repent and be baptised.
We are not prepared by stocking up on oil, but by having our hearts cleansed. We are prepared to meet Jesus by opening our eyes and ears. Seeing our sin and repenting of it.
When John started preaching in order to prepare people for the Messiah, soon men of religion came to him thinking they were righteous. John pointed out to them that it meant nothing to God that they were Jewish.
How many hug that idea. “My father was a Christian,” they say. Others say, “I live in a Christian country.”
They suppose that there is something in the very race from which they have sprung.
Away with all such notions, for whatever external privileges you may have had, they are not sufficient to ensure salvation. John said: “Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.”
John called the Pharisees and the Sadducees, “You brood of snakes!” They were the religious people of the time, the great observers of all outward propriety.
If I were to preach to you merely to arouse your attention, to awaken your consciences to a sense of sin, or simply to show you the nature of true religion, still you would not be prepared for Christ. You must also know something about him, something about his suitableness and his power to save you.
John baptised Jesus. As John was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
He is able to save us. He wants to save us. Are we ready and making others ready?
We are told to make disciples. This is how we do it. We prepare people to meet Jesus.
We teach them what we have learned so they can make disciples.
Two thousand years ago, who was ready and prepared to welcome Jesus into this world? Some shepherds sitting out on a hillside in the dark. Foreigners from the east.
Jesus is coming back. Will you be ready to greet him when he returns? Will you have time to get ready? No one knew Jesus was going to be born that night long ago except Mary his mother, and she only had nine months to prepare.
How long do we have to prepare? In our Scripture reading this morning, Jesus says: “You must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.”
If you tell me that you are hungry, and I put a loaf of bread or a bowl of rice in front of you, will you sit and look at it all night?
If I meet you in a week’s time, will you still complain that you are hungry, while the bread in front of you is untouched? You deserve to be hungry if that is the case. You deserve to be famished to death if you refuse to eat the food placed in front of you. Take it, and eat it.
You ask, ‘May I have it?’ Jesus commands you to have it; this is not up to your preference. Now is the moment to confirm in your heart that Jesus is Lord and no other. Now is the moment to eat of the bread of life and be made clean in you heart so that you are ready to meet Jesus.