Speaking to his congregation at Harvest Church in Riverside, Calif., on Thursday night, Pastor Greg Laurie shared what all Christians should be doing as they await the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
While the Mayan Calendar's prediction that doomsday was on Dec. 21, 2012, was wrong, the Bible has a lot to say about Christ's return – his return is mentioned in no less than 318 times in the 260 chapters in the New Testament, Laurie said in his message, titled "Things to do before the end of the world."
What if we knew somehow that Jesus Christ will be back for us at 3 p.m. tomorrow? The pastor asked. "I'm sure we'd all be saints at 2:45 … We'll be wearing our Sunday morning smiles and our come-quickly-Jesus attitude." Though we do not know when Jesus is returning, "shouldn't we have that same smile and that same attitude every day as if that were the day that Christ could come?"
Those who doubt Jesus' promise to return due to the delay must read 2 Peter 3:9, Laurie suggested. The verse reads: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." The pastor went on to say he prayed in 1970 that Jesus should come soon, "but isn't it good that he didn't?" Many among the audience received Jesus after 1970, he pointed out.
The purpose behind the revelation of Jesus' return is not to satisfy our curiosity or to allow us to have the exact date or time, but "to seek to be ready for his return," Laurie emphasized. "Otherwise, we are missing the point."
The pastor based his message mainly on Luke 12:35-40: "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
Laurie said the passage has a special significance for Christians of this generation. Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?" and he replied, in verses 42 and 43, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns."
To be ready at all times, believers must be alert, watching for him, as Luke 12:37 suggests, Laurie said. Jesus is asking believers to be ready no matter when he comes. "We have never been closer to Christ's return than we are right now. There's no generation that's been closer to his return than this generation."
Apart from being watchful, we also need to be ready to go, Laurie said. "Have your bags packed, and your comfortable shoes on." In other words, "be engaged in activities you won't be ashamed of when He comes," he explained.
"It's a good thing to ask yourself… this place that I'm about to go, this thing that I'm about to do… would I be embarrassed or ashamed to be doing such a thing if Jesus were to come back. If the answer is, 'yes,' then don't do it. If you can't pray over your plans for the evening, don't do those things."
If we believe Jesus is coming, that should lead us to live godly lives, Laurie said. He also read Romans 13:11-13, "And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy."
The time is not to party and drink, Laurie suggested. Instead of being drunk on wine or spirits, we must remain under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he said.
Stay away from immorality, he added. Pre- or extra-marital sex is a sin against God; He is not okay with it, as some might think. "Looking up pornography is like throwing gasoline on a fire," Laurie warned. "You don't beat lust, you starve it."
However, Laurie said, a believer must also not be "competing" with others, referring to the desire to prevail over other people, to want the highest prestige, the most recognition or prominence.
Believers must focus their energies on becoming like Jesus, Laurie underlined. He is Lord every day of your life. He is Lord when you go to the church, when you go to the beach, when you go to movies, when you go to work, when you go for dinner. "When he is not Lord of all, he's not Lord at all."
Laurie concluded by saying he didn't know when the end of the world is. "But maybe the end of your world is closer to the end of the world," he told the audience, asking, "Are you ready to meet God?"