Live Like Day People
Topic: Expository Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8
Good morning! Turn in your Bibles to 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (1 Thess 5:1-11).
The theme of this passage is found in v. 2. What is it? (the Day of the Lord) Just by way of review, what does that mean in this context? What is Paul referring to when he says, “the Day of the Lord”? The Day of the Lord is a period of future judgment that the Bible predicts, especially in the Old Testament prophets. The Day of the Lord will include at least part of the Tribulation, climaxing in the Glorious Second Coming in which Christ will return on a white horse and destroy all of His enemies. It’s more complicated than that, but those are the basics. I want all of you to have that locked in by the time we’re done with this passage!
Last week, we covered vv. 1-4, which is point #1 of this passage: “The Day of the Lord Will not Overtake You as a Thief.” This week, we will cover point #2, which is “Let Us not Sleep, but Let Us Watch and Be Sober.”
You might remember that I made a point last week about the fact that Paul says the Day of the Lord comes “as a thief in the night.” In other words, it will come unexpectedly, without warning, and its coming will not be announced. So, one application of this passage is, “Do not predict the return of Christ.” Don’t get caught up in that! It’s a distraction!
However, despite that very clear statement in this passage and others like it elsewhere in the New Testament, many Christians down through the centuries have tried to predict the return of Christ! You would be surprised how many have tried to do this!
I want to show you a Wikipedia page entitled “Predictions and claims for the Second Coming of Christ.” (Now, I didn’t take the time to verify this entire page, but from what I can tell, it is accurate!) Isn’t it amazing how many Christians have tried to predict Christ’s return? And what do all of these predictions have in common? They were all wrong! We as Christians want really badly to know when these things will occur! But God warns us in His Word that we cannot predict these events! We may see indications that the time is drawing near, but we can never be totally certain when the Day of the Lord will take place!
That being the case, the Day of the Lord will overtake unbelievers like a thief (v. 3). But there’s something different about Christians that would lead Paul to say in v. 4 that the Day of the Lord will not overtake the Thessalonian believers as a thief. What is different about them, according to v. 4? (They are not in darkness.) And with that phrase, Paul launches into an extended metaphor about light and darkness in vv. 5-8. One interesting activity is to go through this passage and underline all of the references to light and darkness, day and night. It starts back in v. 2 with the phrases, “Day of the Lord” and “thief in the night.” Ironically, the Day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night! The thief overtakes those who are in darkness. “But you are not in darkness,” Paul says. “You are ‘day-people,’ not ‘night-people.’ You belong to a different realm, a different kingdom. The Day of the Lord will not overtake you like a thief in the night, because you are not in the night! You are ‘children of the day,” Paul says in v. 5!
So, you can just back and relax,” right? No! And here’s where we run into classic Paul.
Over and over, Paul insists that the believer’s security in Christ is not excuse for sin or laziness! In Romans 6:1, after tracing out the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Paul asks, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” What is the answer to that question, folks? “God forbid!” “Certainly not!” Paul says, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” With similar logic, Paul tells the Thessalonians in this passage, “You are day people. Therefore, live like day people.”
My outline this morning consists of two questions about being a day person. First, “What does it mean to be a day person?” And second, “How do I live like a day person?”
- What Does It Mean to Be a Day Person (vv. 4-5)?
So you tell me: what does it mean to be a day person? It means to be saved! But can I flesh that out a little bit more for you? I think you will be blessed by these verses.
Isaiah 9:1 says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” Who is that light who shined? It’s Jesus! Verse 6 of this same chapter is that wonderful verse that we read around Christmastime. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” So Jesus is the light! And of course, that identification is clarified even further by the gospels! In Luke 1, Zechariah refers to Jesus as “the Dayspring,” or literally, “the Sunrise from on high.”
And of course, in John 8:12, Jesus said for Himself, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” So Jesus is the Light of the World! But why is that good news?
Because, in the words of Isaiah 9:2, the people were walking in darkness. “I once was lost in darkest night, but thought I knew the way. The sin that promised joy and life had led me to the grave.” “Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature’s night.” You see, all of us are sinners by nature, born into what Paul calls in Colossians 1:13, “the domain of darkness.”
So how can I be rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred into what Paul calls in that same verse, “the kingdom of the Son of His love?” Well, to go back to John 8:12, you must follow Jesus. Or, to put it another way, Jesus says in John 12:36, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” There’s our phrase! “Sons of light!” The exact same phrase we saw in 1 Thessalonians 5:5! So how do I become a son of the light? By believing in Jesus!
To pull this all together, what does it mean to be sons and daughters of light or of the day? It means to be transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light by believing in Jesus, the light of the world. It means becoming a follower of Christ.
Are you in the kingdom of light? You say, “I’ve always believed in Jesus.” That doesn’t work! Because the Bible clearly teaches that each one of us was born into the domain of darkness! In order to become a child of the day, you must be born again! Has there ever been a time when you repented of your sins and believed in Jesus? Has God transformed your life?
That’s what it means to be a day person. Now, what do day people do?
- How Do I Live Like a Day Person (vv. 6-9)?
So, according to these verses, you tell me, what do day people do? Or maybe first, what do night people do? (They sleep and get drunk.) Now, as opposed to that, what do day people do? (They watch and stay sober.)
So how do I live like a day person? Point #1: “Don’t sleep; watch” (v. 6)!
Now, obviously, this is a metaphor. After all, there is nothing wrong with sleeping. But what does sleeping stand for in this context? I want you to hear how one commentator put it. What does it mean to sleep in v. 6? He said it refers to “moral and spiritual indifference.” That, my friends, is one of the greatest dangers facing both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Think about it: what are most unbelievers in our culture doing? Would it be true to say they are just living life? Take it as it comes? Doing what they want or what makes sense to them? Basically, they are ignoring God.
When unbelievers are confronted with God’s wrath, I think they are often tempted to think, “Why is God so angry? After all, what did I ever do to Him?” But parents, which would you rather have: a child who argues with you (but at least responds), or a child who totally ignores you every time you try to talk to him and pretends like you aren’t even there? You see, ignoring God is a terrible offense!
But the scary thing is that professing Christians are often guilty of sleeping, too!
Let me ask you a question: what does a sleepy Christian do? That’s a tough question, isn’t it? Why? Because being a sleepy Christian is not about what you do; it’s about what you don’t do! James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” What does this verse mean? It means that you can sin by doing nothing! Isn’t that a scary thought? We call that “passive sin” or “sins of omission” as opposed to “active sin” or “sins of commission.”
John MacArthur says that “sleep” in this passage is a metaphor for passive sin, whereas drunkenness is a metaphor for active sin. And I think he’s right. So let me ask you this: what doesn’t a sleepy Christian do?
For the answer to that question, turn to Matthew 26:36-46 (Mat 26:36-46). In this passage, Jesus tells His disciples to watch and pray lest they enter into temptation. So the context of the command to watch is spiritual temptation. Therefore, one of the primary aspects of what it means to watch is to be humble and aware of spiritual temptation.
Yesterday in our men’s Bible study, we read Proverbs 5, which is a warning about the immoral woman. Do you know what the young man who is watchful does? First, he reads those warnings as if they apply to him–as if he is in danger of falling prey to the immoral woman. Second, he heeds the warnings. In the words of Proverbs 5, he removes his way far from her, and does not even go near the door of her house. By way of contrast, the young man who falls prey to the immoral woman in Proverbs 6 purposely walks by her house! Perhaps he didn’t plan to go in. Maybe it was just the fastest way home. Perhaps he told himself, “I’m too smart or too strong for that. I’ll never fall for her wiles.” But then he does, and in the end, it kills him.
Do you remember Peter on the night prior to the crucifixion? “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Peter was filled with spiritual pride! It’s no wonder that seven verses later, we find him sleeping! Why should he stay awake and pray? Apparently, he was invincible to temptation! But, “[L]et him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Peter fell hard that night, didn’t he? And it was all because he was a sleepy Christian.
The other thing that we see about watching from Matthew 26:36-46 is that it involves prayer. If you really believe that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,” then you will never neglect prayer.
I was talking with Don McMichaels last week, and he was telling me about how he used to work on the oil rigs, suspended hundreds of feet in the air. And he made the comment, “You do a lot of praying when you’ve got a job like that, whether or not you’re attending church regularly.” It is my understanding that Don wasn’t attending church regularly at that time, but he had enough sense to be asking God for safety all the time in that job! What do they say, “There are no atheists in foxholes”? Brothers and sisters, do you pray like you are in a war? If I had recorded your prayers from this morning (assuming that you did pray), would they sound like a man in a foxhole or a man in a Lazy Boy? How much do you pray? When was the last time you didn’t want to pray but you cut out the time and did it anyways because you were aware of what was at stake?
I am still burdened for this church, that we would learn to pray. I don’t think it is one of our strong suits. And shame on us for being bad at prayer! If there is anything to be bad at in the Christian life, prayer is not that thing! What do we think we can ever do for Jesus without prayer? Oh Christian, don’t sleep! Watch (and pray)!
How do I live like a day person? #1: Don’t sleep; watch! #2: Don’t get drunk; stay sober (vv. 6-8).
I said that “sleep” in this passage refers to passive sins, but drunkenness refers to active sins. Now, hopefully we all know that it is a sin to get drunk. The Bible is very clear about that. But Paul’s point here is not about alcohol, per say. He is using drunkenness as a metaphor to refer active disobedience against God–sins like gossip, gluttony, lust, lying, anger, anxiety, or covetousness.
If we were to be honest, we all fall for sins like that every day. I challenge anyone who thinks he can go an entire day without committing any of the sins I just mentioned. Satan tempts us and we fall for it. He lays out the bait and our flesh gives in. So what can I do to protect myself against the attacks of Satan? Turn with me to Ephesians 6:10-20 (Eph 6:10-20). Do you see any parallels between this passage and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11? There are lots of them! But perhaps the most significant parallel is that both passages talk about the armor of God. And in both passages, the armor of God is our defense against temptation.
So what does the armor of God consist of? It has a lot to do with Christian character! How do defend against temptation? Always tell the truth. Develop habits of righteousness. Maintain a clear conscience. Believe in God.
The Christian character side of the armor of God comes into even clearer view in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 (v. 8). How do faith and love function as armor to protect us from temptation? Think of it this way: every sin is at some level a failure to trust God. For example, when you commit the sin of anxiety, you are failing to trust His sovereignty. Etc.
Also, every sin, on some level, is a failure to love God or people. For example, if you love God, you will not do the things that He hates–like lie, for instance–and if you love people, you will not (for instance) get angry and yell at them. So do you see how faith and love are a defense against sin?
But how is hope a defense against temptation? Hope is a defense against temptation because the Christian who lacks assurance is an easy target for the enemy. Remember, the Thessalonians seem to be concerned that they will experience the wrath of God as a part of the Day of the Lord. So Paul assures them they will not. He does so first of all by telling them in v. 4 that the Day of the Lord will not overtake them as a thief. And then in v. 9 (which we will cover next week), he tells them, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” So we need to read this idea of the hope of salvation in that context. Christian, God does not intend for you to live in fear of His wrath. He wants you to have what we call “assurance of salvation” and to engage in the battle, knowing that your head is secure!
I was preaching on this topic once at a paintball camp and I put it this way: suppose that you and I are playing paintball. You are much better at paintball than I am, so we decide to give you a handicap, and the handicap is this: you don’t get a face mask. I have a helmet protecting my face, but you don’t. How do you think that handicap would affect your ability to beat me in paintball? You probably won’t even play, right? And even if you do play, you are going to be cowering behind a rock the whole time, trying to make sure I don’t shoot you in the eye!
Have you ever struggled with assurance of salvation? I remember when I did. I didn’t grow very much as a Christian during that time. The fear of hell was so overwhelming that it was hard to focus on any other areas of Christian growth. Besides, what else is there to work on if you don’t know you’re saved? I think Christians who are struggling with assurance of salvation are often weak and defeated. That’s why Paul says to the Thessalonians, “I want you to engage in battle confidently, knowing that you are safe.” (We’ll talk more about what it means to be kept from wrath next week.)
Before we close, I just want to reemphasize how the logic of this passage works. Why do we watch and be sober? We watch and be sober BECAUSE we are children of the day who will not be overtaken, NOT IN ORDER THAT WE WOULD BE children of the day who will not be overtaken. Does that make sense? It’s very important. The New Testament never teaches a partial rapture, whether here or elsewhere. Also, it never teaches a works salvation. It’s not, “Watch and be sober in order to be raptured.” No, the reason we are not appointed to wrath is because we are sons of the light; and as we saw earlier, ONE BECOMES A SON OF THE LIGHT BY REPENTING OF HIS SINS AND BELIEVING IN JESUS, NOT BY WATCHING. So Paul’s point here is NOT “Watch so that you don’t experience God’s wrath!” His point is, “You ALREADY ARE the kind of people who will not experience God’s wrath. Therefore, LIVE LIKE THE PEOPLE YOU ARE!” LIVE LIKE DAY PEOPLE!
Can you think of a story from American history that illustrates the importance of sobriety and watchfulness, especially during time of war? I think of the Battle of Trenton during the American Revolutionary War. Do you remember this picture of Washington crossing the Delaware?
It was the end of 1776, and the Americans had lost battle after battle in the Revolutionary War. Now, Washington was all about living to fight another day, but he realized that if the Americans didn’t win a decisive victory soon, all hope would be lost. So he planned a daring attack on the Hessian troops stationed in the city of Trenton, NJ. Of course, the brilliance of the plan was that it was completely unexpected. Why was Washington’s attack unexpected? Because prior to the attack, Washington’s men were encamped some twenty miles away, on the other side of the Delaware River! In order to reach Trenton by morning, Washington had to ferry 2,400 troops and eighteen cannons across the icy Delaware River in the dead of night and then march thm nineteen miles in a snow storm! Also, do you remember when the attack took place? It was at dawn on December 26th, 1776–the day after Christmas! And according to the story (although this cannot be confirmed), the Hessian troops were hung over from their party the previous day!
The Americans should not have had a shot in the world at winning that battle! They were freezing cold and exhausted. Some of them didn’t even have shoes! Two men even froze to death on the march! But the Americans won the day because the Hessians were sleepy and drunk!
Don’t be a sleepy Christian. Don’t be a drunken Christian. Be sober, be vigilant, put on your armor, and be ready for the return of our Lord!