Tag: being ready

An Exhortation for Readiness – W.E. Smith

Dear saints, the single great imperative of the New Testament is that those who have been so gloriously saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will be dutifully watching, praying and preparing for His imminent return. This was the Master’s expectation when He went up into the heavens 2,000 years ago and it is His expectation still today. As we diligently search the Scriptures in this end time, we discover that this exhortation for readiness is found practically everywhere we look – from the gospels, to the epistles, then finally in the Lord’s Revelation to John.

“Ready for what” – it is asked. Certainly not for death, or for heaven even (as it is largely understood among Christians), but for the promised and imminent return of the Son of Man into the clouds to receive (and then judge) His own. For that flash moment when those saints alive on the earth will be  caught up to be forever with the Lord –

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.  (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

Yet the imperative for being in a state of perpetual watchfulness and readiness is reinforced by the fact that we will not know the precise time when the Master will return –

Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. “It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. “Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. “What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’” (Mark 13:33-37)

Though the Lord Himself has provided many prophetic signs and indications that “summer is near”, and that His return is “right at the door” (see Mark 13:28-29, for example), the precise date and time of His arrival has not been disclosed to us in advance. We must therefore be committed to be ready always, and to take to heart the many words of exhortation on this account. The Lord has graciously provided everything we need to watch and prepare for His return, so there will be no excuses dear saints. The only question that remains is whether we will be found worthy of this great calling when He does come to be reconciled with all those the Father has given to Him.

To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thess. 1:11-12)

Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Pet. 1:10-11)

Those who are found unwatchful and unready will experience shame and loss at His appearance, and those who will be found watchful and ready, will receive praise and reward (entrance into His eternal kingdom). This is the clear and consistent message found in the Word of God pertaining to the destiny of all those called out in this Christian dispensation. Here are just a sampling of passages expressing this principle –

Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. “Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. “Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” (Luke 12:35-40)

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom. (2 Tim.4:1)

Now, in this message we would like, the Lord willing, to focus in on how being ready is very much related to how we are found walking when He comes. Let us begin here in Ephesians 5 –

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light…

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:6-17)

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3)

How one walks as a Christian in the evil days of this world is a pervasive theme running throughout the New Testament. To walk in the will and wisdom of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, as children of light in a world of almost total spiritual (and moral) darkness – this is the exhortation to readiness that we find in the Word of God, if we would only have eyes to see it. This is chiefly the Holy Spirit’s message to us in this hour, that we be careful how we walk in this dark day, and that we know the Lord’s will for us in terms of being personally ready for His coming –

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:9-14)

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)

Those who will be found ready when the Lord returns will be those found walking fruitfully in His will and in His light. They will be found making the very most of the time that remains (for it is short), in terms of their devotion to Himself and His plans and purposes. They will be found actively and enthusiastically attending to their inheritance in His Kingdom, such that the things of this present world are being increasingly eclipsed by more heavenly and eternal considerations. We get a glimpse of this in Paul’s instruction to the saints in Corinth, and we pray, brethren, that the Holy Spirit might enlighten your eyes to see the practical balance being conveyed here –

But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away. (1 Cor. 7:29-31)

[Note: it would seem from this counsel and its immediate context, that Paul himself believed that the generation to which he was writing in Corinth was indeed the generation that would witness the end of the age and the coming of the Lord (the ‘times being shortened’). As this was not the case historically, perhaps it may be that this time-sensitive counsel in 1 Corinthians 7 must pass directly on to us in this hour, when so many signs and evidences witness to the fact that we are indeed in the last hour. Please pray about this dear brethren, as this is most compelling.]

Here we see what walking in the will and wisdom of the Lord at the end of this age means in practical terms – not abandoning these very normal and necessary concerns in this world (see 1 Thess. 4:11, for example), but setting them aside in terms of position and priority; not becoming entangled or engrossed in worldly matters that lie outside the realm of the Kingdom of Heaven and its considerations; not involved in fighting for this world’s kingdoms and causes. Only the Holy Spirit, it would seem, can effectively work this wisdom and balance into our lives in a practical way. Only He can determine what it means to be ‘in this world, but not of it’, and what is appropriate for a representative of another realm (see Ephesians 6:20). Recall, dear saints, what the Master Himself said before Pilate about fighting the good fight in this world –

“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36)

This is further fleshed out in Paul’s Philippian message –

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Phil. 3:17-21)

Those who are being made ready are actively walking and working, but they are not working for the things of this world, with their hearts and minds set on earthly things. They are eagerly waiting for their Savior from heaven, who will complete in them what He started when He first imparted spiritual life to them at the new birth (Philippians 1:6). They recognize, as only the Spirit can reveal, that their citizenship is in heaven, and that here alone is where their hope and happiness reside. Oh brethren, to see this is most urgent and essential, for this is what has been in the Father’s heart all along regarding those whom He has called to His Beloved Son. We see this most poignantly in our Lord’s prayer on behalf of all of those who would be joined to Him. Please read this carefully and prayerfully dear ones, for if you truly see this with eyes wide open in the spirit, then I believe you will begin to see what it means to be ready to be reconciled to the Lord at His coming.

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. “Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. “I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled…

“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

“O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:6-25)

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” There it is, in a nutshell, dear Christian. And unless you really see this and appropriate it, then you can never even begin to prepare for Him, by living and walking in His light and wisdom in the midst of this dark world.

Now perhaps you have never considered this before, but each of us has been redeemed by the Father, at great cost to Himself, that we would ultimately be given to His righteous and beloved Son, and represented in the spiritual temple (a dwelling place for God in the Spirit) spoken of by Paul in the second chapter of Ephesians. To fully realize this purpose, to make this calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10), to permit the Holy Spirit to prepare us as a bride worthy of the King – this is what it means to be made ready for His soon coming.

Earlier in this same passage, Paul so effectively frames the whole matter of what our calling and conversion truly mean; why we were chosen by the Father in the first place –

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph. 2:1-10)

Being ready begins with knowing why were redeemed; why we were called; why and for whom we were saved. It begins by accepting in faith that we were created in Christ for good works, and although we are still physically in this earthly world of darkness, to the Eternal Father we are very much seated with His Son in the heavenly places. Now we can talk all day about being watchful and alert, being awake, being sober, and ultimately being ready for the coming of the Master. Yet, none of this matters until we fully come to terms with the ultimate purpose of our new lives in Christ Jesus, which has everything do with His heavenly dominion, and the Father’s desire to prepare a bride worthy of His Son. Here is the singular reason so many blood-washed believers are found today fighting the wrong fight in this world, trying to fix this broken world, trying by some means to reverse the course of sin and darkness, trying impassionately to reform this or that institution, trying to advance or defend what are essentially earthly ideals and principles (democracy or social justice, for example). Once you begin to let the Holy Spirit take your heart to where the Lord Himself is found, there in the heavenlies, then quite readily you will begin to let all of these entanglements and distractions fall where they will. Only then can you begin to be found dressed and ready for His appearing. Yet this  is something only the Holy Spirit can do, by giving life and weight to these precious truths in the Word of God; by revealing the Father’s Son to each of us in all of His matchless splendor and glory.

Dear saints, beloved of the Lord and the Father, readiness, by its very nature, requires steel-willed focus and circumspection, eagle-eyed vigilance, patient and steadfast commitment, heartfelt devotion and tenacity. It also requires tremendous courage for  following the Holy Spirit down the narrow path, wherever He leads, so often beyond that which is common or popular. It involves laying down anything that interferes with walking in the light and wisdom and will of the Master in this very poignant hour. Only His plans and purposes, as revealed to us in His Prophetic Word, are to inspire and involve us. Not the plans and purposes of this world, or the nations, or any of the various parties or causes vying for attention and influence in this hour. Oh how I pray we all would see this, as there are so few it seems who actually do.

Notice another example where the Apostle Paul reminds us that we do not need to be caught asleep or unaware by the fast-spreading darkness and delusion overtaking this world –

Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thess. 5:1-11)

So many prophetic indications in the Scriptures reveal most clearly that spiritual drunkenness, dullness and distraction will characterize the end-time testimony of Jesus Christ. At the very moment when things will begin to happen, such slothful and complacent Christians will be utterly unaware and overtaken by the full onslaught of events foreshadowing the coming of the Lord into the clouds for His people. Just like in the garden the night our Lord was taken into custody, the disciples struggled in the flesh to stay awake. Had they known what was about to happen; had they been filled with the Spirit to overcome the weakness of the flesh, then perhaps the Lord might not have been left alone and abandoned when He needed them the most.

Oh dear ones, the New Testament, from start to finish, is about being ready for His return. It is about living and walking in a constant state of anticipation that He might come at any moment. This was the single great burden of the heart of the Apostle Paul if only we would see it. Whereas so much of current Christian teaching is focused disproportionately on celebrating the birth and the beginning of our new life in faith (however wonderful and praiseworthy this may be), the Word speaks primarily of standing up and walking, and eating meat, of running towards the prize, and growing stronger and wiser, of growing up in Christ and entering increasingly into the heavenly plans and purposes of the Father and His Son.

Where in this hour is the exhortation for readiness on the part of God’s blood-washed people? Where are the blood-mixed tears and weeping over the sorrowful state of the Christian testimony on this earth in this perilous hour? Why is the church on the corner dressed in silk and singing when they should rather be tearing their clothes and pouring ashes on their head? Drunk and blind! Hardness of heart and of hearing! Carnal and deluded! Poor and miserable! Oh Lord, help us! Have mercy Oh Lord, for we all have sinned most grievously against You and Your perfect plans!

Consider dear saints, the following words from Joseph A. Seiss (1823-1904) written over a century ago, regarding what distinguished the better half of the virgins in the Lord’s parable,  and what is involved in actively watching and preparing for the Lord’s coming –

But this watching implies more than constant expectation. It requires, also, efficient preparation. It is a condition of wakefulness, in order to be fortified against surprise, guarded against danger, and ready to seize upon our opportunity. We never watch except to be prepared for certain emergencies that are likely to come upon us at a time and in a way which we cannot exactly foresee. To be prepared for the coming of the Son of man, is to be in the condition of the five wise virgins. First of all, we must be virgins; that is, chaste, and pure from idolatry and sin, being cleansed and sanctified by the blood of Jesus and the renewing of the Holy Ghost: in other words, we must be genuine and thorough Christians. We must also have the true spirit of faith and hope, which is the renunciation of the world, and the looking forward to the coming of Christ and his kingdom as the great goal of the Christian.

Furthermore, we must be joined with the company of those who have made this renunciation, and take up the lamp of a sincere and open profession of our faith and purpose, and have that lamp in the best possible trim for the uses for which it is intended, filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, lit with the light of truth, and burning with the glory of virtue and good works. And to all this must be added the prudence to lay in an ample stock of divine unction, consecrating us unto the Lord in a depth and thoroughness of practical devotion beyond all common saintship and profession. Without this we hope in vain for the high honors of the kingdom of God. (from, The Parable of the Ten Virgins – Sixth Discourse)

And the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, who enjoins us in this time of absence from the Lord, to walk by faith and not by sight –

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  (2 Cor. 5:6-10)

Oh dear ones, this is a faith that must run deep into everything we do in this hour, in this time of almost universal darkness and drunkenness on the part of the elect. To walk by sight is to be woefully discouraged; yet to walk by faith is to hold tightly to every word He has spoken, and to the certainty of His coming. All those walking by faith and pressing further into the life of the Lord will undoubtedly be suffering in grievous ways in this present time, being asked to release so much of this world’s treasures and things. For them, there is no ‘American dream’, which is merely another man-wrought tower of Babel, but only the Lord’s concerns related to His eternal kingdom. They will faithfully and patiently hold fast to His promises and grace, even in a time of increasing and widespread unbelief, for only then will they endure until the very moment when He returns and summons them into His glorious presence –

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 17-25)

Clearly the difficult times promised by Paul (2 Timothy 3:1) have come upon us dear saints, and yet those who are making themselves ready by the grace and provision of the Lord, will not fall back nor stumble. They are waiting anxiously and expectantly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus, as it will be most fully realized at His coming. Their singular joy is to stand in the presence of His glory blameless and with confidence. This is the wonderful hope set before us throughout the Word of God. And again, only the Holy Spirit is capable of making us ready! The flesh is weak, and sleep so often consumes us. The flesh wants only to fill its cup in this world, and then to drink. The flesh wants the best of both worlds, when clearly the Lord promises us a narrow way; rejection and hardship, suffering and loss.

Paul’s day, in purely spiritual terms, was just as dark and difficult as our own, and notice the strong counsel he offers to young Timothy at that time –

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything…

It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Tim. 2:1-13)

To be ready for the Lord when He comes requires the dedication and determination of an athlete, and the hard work and endurance of a farmer. Both are fixed and focused on the task ahead of them, even though so many things are going on beyond them. Both are willing to forfeit any immediate reward that they might realize a far greater return in the near future. Though people and circumstances will try to entangle them in the affairs of everyday life, they have a far more important and urgent mission before them. Many, friends and family even, will consider them emphatic or extreme. Yet they persist and press onward in their calling, for their lives are no longer their own. They both live in the Lord Jesus Christ and they live for Him. He is their first love and only when they are reconciled to Him at His appearing, will their hearts be fulfilled.

Dear brethren, here is that certain quality to be found in that last generation Christian who is found ready when the Lord returns secretly for His own. Here are those who will attain the prize and hear the words – “Well done good and faithful servant”. Like Abraham, their father in faith, they will have learned to walk by faith and not by sight; by every “word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” This now is their food, to do the will of God and to fulfill His purpose for them by making their calling and election sure. And they are fixing their eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith, that they might run and not grow weary –

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)

As we have discovered, dear brethren, the Scriptures are literally filled with this exhortation to readiness, and with meaty instruction and encouragement for all those who wish to be found pleasing to the Lord when He comes into the middle heavens to retrieve us. We could most certainly go on, as there is so much more; yet we will close this message with the timely exhortation of Paul in his letter to the Philippians, which says it all in terms of what readiness actually looks like –

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:7-14)

May we all press on in this dark day, dear brethren, working out our complete salvation (spirit, soul and body) with fear and trembling, forgetting that which is behind us, and reaching forward to the prize of our upward call in Jesus Christ. In His Name, we pray. Amen.

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Dressed in Readiness – W.E. Smith

Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. “Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. “Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” (Luke 12:35-40)

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 19:7-8)

Dear saints of God, while so much of the Christian world is being caught up and entangled in the futile affairs of this present world, the bride of the King is diligently and enthusiastically making herself ready. It was for this reason, after all, that the Holy Spirit was sent into the world to begin with, to prepare a suitable help-meet for the Master’s Son (Gen. 24 and John 14). Once she is ready, she will go to Him and thereby complete Him, such that He can reign forever in the kingdom given to Him by His Father. If only believers would see this as clearly as it is conveyed in the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, then perhaps the imperative for readiness would be more comprehensible.

While modern-day Herodians (Christians seeking to actively improve or influence politics and civic life in the nations of this world) abound it seems, the bride understands that she has no place here with her father’s people, that she must forsake all and travel to where her groom is. This is all portrayed so wonderfully in the 24th chapter of Genesis, in the account of Abraham’s nameless servant (whom we know to be Eliezer) sent to seek a bride for Isaac, and in Rebekah leaving all to go and meet him. This so beautifully pictures the Holy Spirit dispatched into the world, and more specifically the Body (note that the bride is to be found among Abraham’s own people), to prepare a suitable help meet for the Lord Jesus Christ. Here, in a nutshell, is what this current dispensation is all about, and if we understand this, then we will be well on our way to being included in that bridal company representing the affianced bride of the King.

Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder. The girl was very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar.” She said, “Drink, my lord”; and she quickly lowered her jar to her hand, and gave him a drink. Now when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw also for your camels until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, and ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. Meanwhile, the man was gazing at her in silence, to know whether the LORD had made his journey successful or not. (Gen. 24:15-21)

Note that Rebekah is not only found to be most pure and lovely, she is also found to be working diligently and enthusiastically, drawing water from the well, and showing kindness to the servant of Abraham (Note that Paul in Ephesian 4:30 exhorts us not to ‘grieve the Holy Spirit’). Rather than resist this stranger, she trusts and cooperates with him. His earnest prayer to the Lord has indeed been answered, for he has apparently found one eminently worthy of his master’s son. Consider too, that she is not taken from out of the world at large, but from Abraham’s own people. Here the picture begins to take shape for us in this age, for the bride of the last Adam is not taken from the unsaved world, but from His very body. As this was true for the first Adam, so it is also true for the last.

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones,

And flesh of my flesh;

She shall be called Woman,

Because she was taken out of Man.” (Gen. 2:23)

Dear brethren, once the Holy Spirit has successfully fulfilled His charge, and found (prepared) a suitable bride for the Master’s Son, then the Man will be completed such that all dominion in the heavens and earth can be granted to Him. Once the bride has made herself ready by actively cooperating with the Helper sent by the Lord, and preparing to meet Him mid-way between the heavens and the earth (Gen. 24:62; 1 Thess. 4:17), then the true prophetic meaning of Genesis and so much of the Bible will be most gloriously fulfilled. We would, I dare say, do well to consider the types pictured in the Scriptures, for they cannot be broken (John 10:35), and all that has been ordained by the Creator from the very beginning will be so perfectly fulfilled.

Let us notice again that this woman was willing to leave her family, her homeland, and all that she knew to follow this stranger –

Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.” (Gen. 24:58)

Rare indeed is the Christian in this hour who has a faith willing to go, who will follow the Holy Spirit’s lead as He brings him to the place where the Lord abides. Notice also how Rebekah’s family (picturing, it would appear, the church at large) attempts to forestall her leaving. Oh dear friends, this is precisely what befalls those who begin to get just a little too enthusiastic about the things of the Lord (especially prophetic things it seems), and the way of the Spirit, and the desires of the Master’s House. So many Labans, it seems, will try to hold you back, to convince you that there is no real sense of urgency, that readiness can be delayed, that other things are more important. Recall too, how it was this same Laban (Rebekah’s brother), who tried to prevent Jacob from returning to his own land and his own people many years later. Now the name Laban may mean “white”, but this man was anything but pure in his motives or intent, for it was always his own worldly interest that engaged him, not the interest of the Lord. This we feel, is a perfect picture of earthbound and Laodecian Christians in our own day, who are forever trying to dissuade the thirsty few from plunging deeper into the Spirit’s fountain.

Coming Soon - The Prophetic Urgency!Dear saints, all of this was foreknown and prearranged by our great omniscient God, to inform our faith, and to help us to understand why we have been called out as His ecclesia; not only from the world, but then from out of the nominal and faithless church –

But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:11-14)

Clearly, it is one thing to be invited to the Master’s feast, it is quite another to be adequately dressed for the affair. The many here, I trust you will discern, are not representing the world at large, but those called out of the world, His ecclesia. And the few are represented in those who are suitably dressed in readiness, and chosen by the Holy Spirit to partake of the Master’s table.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. (John 16:13-15)

Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his master’s in his hand; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. (Gen. 24:10)

The servant brought out articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah. (Gen. 24:53)

Oh dear ones, to enter most fully into the abounding riches of the Father, as conveyed by His Most Holy Spirit and Helper; this is what it means to be dressed in readiness; to be made ready for the appearance of One so much greater than Isaac. Will we receive such gifts therefore? Will we determine in our hearts that we will accompany this Helper (Note that the name Eliezer means ‘God’s helper’) out into that pathless wilderness? Do we have a faith that is willing to advance, and to trust completely that our Helper will not disappoint us?

It is most certain, brethren, that the Lord will have His bride, and that she will have made herself ready. These things are beyond doubt or question. Yet not all members of the body will have made themselves ready, nor prepare themselves for His coming, by being alert and sober. That day will indeed arrive, yet some will be overtaken by that day, not realizing the imminence of the hour, nor the exigency for readiness.

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thess. 5:1-11)

See here, brethren, that being dressed in readiness further means to be clothed in the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation; which ultimately leads to the fullness of life in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, provides an even fuller inventory of this essential armor –

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:10-17)

To be ready, dear saints, is to be arrayed in the full armor of God, for the hour in which we live is plagued with evil, falseness and thick darkness. The spiritual rulers of this age know full well that their time is short; that He who has earned the right to wield the scepter will soon raise it up over their heads. Yet sadly, tragically, pitifully even, so many blood-washed saints of the Most High have no genuine sense of the hour in which we find ourselves. Rather than being dressed in readiness, and arrayed in the full armor of the Lord, they will be found naked, exposed and vulnerable when He comes to judge His own. Rather than being found drawing diligently from the well and cooperating with the Master’s Helper, as was Rebekah, they will be found as Laban, who always seemed to be on the wrong side of the Master’s interests.

Dear beloved of the Lord, it is good that we are reminded of how Genesis 24 ends, for in reality, this is precisely how things will end at the close of this dispensation, when the fully dressed bride is taken up into the clouds to be forever with the Master’s Son.

Now Isaac had come from going to Beer-lahai-roi; for he was living in the Negev. Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming. Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. She said to the servant, “Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?” And the servant said, “He is my master.” Then she took her veil and covered herself. The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. (Gen. 24:62-67)

Here from afar, she sees Him, and soon discovers that all that the servant had conveyed to her was true. Her faith and trust was rewarded, and here midway between her home and his, she will encounter her future husband. It is, to be sure, a beautiful story, made even more poignant by the fact that the future reality it represents involves all of us, if indeed we are paying attention in the Spirit. The exhortation is therefore most clear and simple – all must be set aside that interferes with our being made ready for His coming, with our finishing the course that we have started.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)

To be ready in this hour, is to fix the eyes of our faith solely and steadfastly on Jesus, for one day very soon we will behold Him without faith, in the tangible glory of His presence and majesty. The Helper and Comforter, that faithful of all servants, will hand us over to Him and His work will be finished. He will have found a suitable bride for His Master’s Son from among his own people.

And in making herself ready, this bride would have discovered a secret given to her by the Father’s servant, the Holy Spirit. To be dressed in readiness is to be clothed with, or to put on the armor of light, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His righteousness now that must cover us, and it will be His glory that covers us in a future day, when we will see Him as He truly is.

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Rom. 13:11-14)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:12-14, Emphasis LivingWalk)

In the 19th chapter of The Revelation, we are told that the bride of the Lamb had ‘made herself ready’, by clothing ‘herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints’ –

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 19:7-8)

Then in Matthew 22, the Lord has left us an extremely sober parable, further emphasizing the imperative and gravity of being found ready for the marriage supper –

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. “And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. “Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’ “But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. “But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. “Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ “Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:1-14)

Oh saints of the Most High God, the many have ‘paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business’. Only a few will be found dressed in the wedding garments that will permit them entrance into this most glorious celebration. Only the few will be overcomers in that hour. Only the few will be found suitably attired to be considered worthy to  be invited to sit down with the King on His throne. The rest will be found complacent, distracted, self-absorbed, blind, naked and ashamed.

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Rev. 3:15-22)

Oh how serious is this whole matter of being dressed in readiness! How how very serious indeed dear saints! The Heavenly Father takes matters concerning His beloved Son most seriously (“the king was enraged”), and it is His foreordained will and pleasure to bestow all things to His Son, and to provide Him with a suitable help meet that He would reign over all that He has granted Him. To grieve the Father is a serious matter, and one not to be taken lightly. To be rejected, to be spit out of His mouth, to be thrown into the outer darkness, in the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth – does this not fill you will dread and urgency dear ones? If not, it should, for this is the full intent of all of these exhortations.

Oh Lord, please help us in Your great mercy. You have covered us in the righteousness of Your beloved Son, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world; please further clothe us in ‘fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints’. Please do all of this for Your glory and pleasure Oh Father, in Jesus Righteous Name. Amen.