The coming of the New Year often brings thoughts on the passage of time and the brevity of our days on earth. We do well to reflect on the shortness of our lives, for doing so strengthens our resolve to devote our allotted time to serving the Lord and pursuing that which has eternal value. The New Year should bring to our mind the prayer of Moses: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
The Scriptures also teach us to know the time – not just that the days are few before we go to Christ or he comes to us, but that we are living in the gospel age. Ever since Christ came to our world the first time, to die for sinners, until the day he returns to judge all mankind, this is the time in which God holds out the promise and hope of salvation to all who turn Christ in faith. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
This was the theme of my sermon this past Sunday as I preached from Luke 12:49-59. In vs. 54-56, Jesus rebuked the unbelieving Jews of his day who failed to understand the meaning of his appearance, teaching, and works. Though the people of that day were skilled meteorologists, able to discern the coming weather from the signs of the sky and earth, they utterly failed to interpret the sign of Jesus’ coming. They were blind to the truth that he was the Messiah, the Lord of Glory and Savior of sinners, and that with his coming God was establishing his kingdom on earth. And through their unbelief they forfeited God’s saving grace. The lesson for us is to respond rightly to the revelation of Christ: by turning from our sin and coming to him as our Savior. Only by faith in Christ do we correctly “interpret the present time” (v.56).
This gospel age, the time between the first and second comings of Christ, is also marked by the beginning of that eternal division of all humanity into two groups: those who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and those who reject him and his salvation. This division shows itself even among the closest of human relationships, the natural family. In this way Jesus (though he is truly the Prince of Peace!) declared that he came not to give peace on earth, but division (v.51). One implication of this truth is that Christ calls us to a radical commitment to him. Nothing on earth, not even the natural love and devotion we have for our own family, can come before our love and loyalty to Jesus Christ. This is not a call to abandon our family and friends, but it does mean loving and serving them out of our prior and greater commitment to love and serve Christ. (The truth is, we can only truly love and serve others if we do so in the name of Christ, and while seeking to draw them closer to the One who is the source of divine, infinite, eternal love).
Soli Deo Gloria!