Dear radio friends,
As we enter into the year 2002, we look for a word from God. As the people of God, we look for a word from our God to guide us and to be set before us throughout the coming year. We find such a word in Luke 21:34-36. These words of Jesus, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke chapter 21 has been speaking of the days of His return, of His second coming. He concludes His remarks with a warning: “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life.” The word “take heed” is a present imperative and can be translated “be continually taking heed.” To what are we to take heed? The Lord says, “Beware, watch out, be on the alert, be ever conscious of a danger.” What danger? “Yourself!” Take heed to yourself. Be constantly taking heed to the danger that is before you in yourself.
We know that, with a view to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, there will be many things to watch out for. There will be many dangers that come against us: the devil, the wicked world, false teaching. But the Lord says, “Watch out for yourselves. Watch out for your hearts.” He is speaking to us, to those who have been brought by grace into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And He says to us, “There is no time in your life in which you are allowed to give yourselves over to spiritual carelessness.” Certainly not in the year 2002. The world in this year is not going to declare a truce in its efforts to conform you to its mold. The devil will not take a ‘time-out’ in his attempt to wear you down in the love of Jesus Christ and to take that love away. And your old man of sin will become more desperate to join the wicked world.
Exactly what is the specific focus of ourselves that we must watch carefully? Is it our dress or appearance or health? No. The Lord says it is our hearts. “Lest at any time your heart be overcharged.” The heart is our spiritual center. It is our spiritual center-point. The Bible says in Matthew 15, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts and murders and adulteries and fornication.” And the book of Proverbs tell us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Beware of your spiritual center, of your heart, lest it be overcharged.
That word “overcharged” could be translated “weighed down,” or “burdened,” that the heart comes under a heavy weight. The Lord uses the same word in Matthew 26:43, where we read that Jesus “found them asleep again (the three disciples who were to watch with Him): for their eyes were heavy (literally, overcharged, weighed down, under a big burden, they couldn’t keep their eyes open).” An overcharged heart is a weighed down heart, it is a heart that is unresponsive to God, it is out of touch with the reality of the Lord’s second coming.
The heart of the child of God is looking for Jesus’ coming. If you cut that heart open, in that heart you will find the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” So much so, that we may define a Christian as one who is waiting for Christ to come. In I Thessalonians 1:9, 10 we read that the child of God has been turned from idols to the living God “to wait for his Son from heaven.” That is really the whole life of a child of God. In our hearts we are waiting for the Son of God to come from heaven. That is the fundamental perspective of the heart of the child of God. Grace makes us pilgrims and strangers with an earnest expectation – a longing for Jesus to come. That is our goal. That is what we cherish and hope for.
And the Lord speaks of two burdens, or two weights, which could weigh down our hearts in this coming year. The first is excessive indulgence with things. The second is preoccupation with legitimate concerns.
You notice that in the text we quoted to you at the beginning of the program the Lord speaks of things that fall into two categories. He uses the word “surfeiting” – lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting. That word refers to the sick feeling one gets after he has overindulged himself in legitimate food and drink. He becomes drowsy. He becomes unable to think. Or he has a hangover, a headache, and is unable to function. He took in too much and now he is sick.
Then the Lord says that your hearts can be overcharged with drunkenness. That is the sin of being intoxicated. That is a terrible sin which the Bible says is the work of the flesh (Gal. 5:21). The works of the flesh are these: “envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, … that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Drunkenness is the destruction of the mind, of thinking. It is the unleashing of base and foul actions and words.
Then the Lord says that your hearts can be overcharged with the cares of this life. He is referring to things that are necessary of themselves. As long as we are in the flesh we need food and clothing, money, and shelter – all good in themselves. But when these become out of place, they produce anxiety. And when a heart is clutched with anxiety, then that heart is not living with the reality of the Lord’s coming.
Now our Lord says, “I know you, I know what your life is. I know all of the dangers that will come to your heart. Therefore, in the year 2002, you must beware that your heart does not become weighed down, unresponsive under the load of two things: excessive indulgence in legitimate appetites, and excessive preoccupation with legitimate earthly concerns.”
Food, drink, clothing, and shelter are not wrong in themselves. We know that. The answer to these things is not asceticism, that is, that we view earthly things and pleasures as contrary to salvation and we think that it is spiritual to deny ourselves legitimate earthly things. Then, perhaps, we would say, “Marriage is beneath high standards of purity. Therefore, to be celibate is holy.” Or, “Delicious food is unspiritual. All we need to do is take in bread and water. We don’t need to have spices and a dish prepared beautiful to the eye and sprinkled with delicious toppings.” That is wrong. And the Bible warns against such thinking. The Bible says in I Timothy 4 that we may receive all things with thanksgiving. Our Lord Jesus Christ went to a feast. Levi prepared for Him a feast at his conversion. And at that feast the Lord ate and drank. He entered into the legitimate joy and the legitimate enjoyment of the earthly things that God created.
But the warning is this: the heart can be overcharged with overindulgence, so that we begin to live for and to suck up with a craven appetite the things of this world. That is called covetousness, gluttony, pleasure-madness, to become caught up with the cares of this life and to become beside yourself. So you are weighed down. That is a great danger, because when you are weighed down and thinking only about what you are going to enjoy, only about the things of this present life and having enough of them, and you give yourself totally to the pursuit of those things, all of that will put you into a spiritual stupor, a spiritual drunkenness. And the Lord says, “The day of My return will come upon you unawares.”
What are you living for? What does your heart seek? Is it seeking more of the pleasures of this life? Or the Lord Jesus and His return? The great danger our Lord sees for those who wait for His coming is that they will lose focus on His return and slowly, imperceptibly, by being satiated with the things and the cares of this life, give up the hope of His return. And the day would come upon us unawares. It would sneak up as if we are dulled and insensitive, sound asleep. This is a real danger, says the Lord. The Lord says, “The final day of My return will be as a snare that shall come upon all them that dwell on the face of the earth.” For the wicked it will be a snare.
A snare is a trap. What makes a good snare? Two things: bait, something delectable; and the appearance of safety or the absence of threat. If you want to catch a goose, you do not spread a snare with hot coals and with sharp arrows and all the rest. No, you lay out some cracked corn and some soft straw. You make a snare. There are spiritual snares, says the Lord. A snare is when your heart is caught up and overcharged with earthly things, and your heart is gripped with cares and worries and anxieties and you are expecting the worst. A snare gets hold of you and you cannot break loose. How does Satan get men to be unaware of the impending judgment of God which is to fall upon them? The same way that you would burn down a city. You would not burn down a city by alerting the soldiers at the wall. You would come to them and assure them that all is well. You would get as close as you possibly could. You would give them everything their hearts would desire. You would say, “Have another glass of champagne,” and “Sleep on now and I will watch the walls of your city for you.” And while they slept, you would burn the city to the ground.
Now apply that to your heart and to your life. Jesus is saying, “Covetousness, to have your heart directed to the earthly, and anxiety, to worry to such an extent that you are beside yourself, will make you comatose with respect to the reality of the Lord’s return.” The danger is that in this year you and I take on the perspective of the world. The perspective of the world is, what counts is my pleasures. The most important thing is that we are secure, have money, and enjoy freedom. That is the most important thing. Christ’s coming, the end of the world, judgment of God upon sin? Oh, that is all nonsense, that is ridiculous. What we need is simply our pleasures, our securities, and a good economy. The Lord says, “Now look what is going to happen to them. The day is going to catch them unawares. It is going to come upon them as the snap of a trap. They are going to be caught.” Now the Lord says, “Beware for your heart.”
You see, the Lord understands how we tick. He knows our frame, He knows how we are put together. On a very practical level, He knows that. I know, for instance, that if I stuff myself with food I cannot preach on the Lord’s day and I cannot pray. A full belly, and warmth – I fall asleep. The kids can be playing and making a racket throughout the whole house, but I do not hear. Jesus says there is a spiritual lesson there. You had better take it to heart. He is not just warning against gluttony and drunkenness in our life, as if they are the only sins for which we need to watch. But He is saying that the world in our flesh is constantly saying to us, “This life is satisfaction. Happiness is found in what you eat and what you have, in how you look, and in the money you make. If you have problems, we can take care of that: alcohol and pills and things, indulgence.” So that the Lord says, “As in the days of Noah, they ate and they drank, they sold land and they married, they were given in marriage, they simply continued on with a grand time until at last the waters of the flood destroyed them all. So,” the Lord says, “in the last day it will be carnal indulgence and lusting, seeking to satiate the soul, which will put people in a stupor with regard to the Lord’s coming.”
Do you hear God’s word? Or are you the kind of person who hears the Word of God on Sunday or throughout the week and you put your head upon the pillow and you snore and it is all forgotten?
How are we to keep the Lord’s return before our eyes? The Lord says, “Watch, therefore, and pray always.” The command is, watch always. Be alert. That means, of course, that we look at our life daily through the eyes of the holy Scriptures. Live your life, look at yourself, look at the world through the viewpoint of God’s holy Word. How are you going to remain aware of spiritual reality in a present world that sneers and ridicules these realities? How are you going to avoid the pressure of the world to mold you after its influence and to squeeze out of you the hope of Jesus? How are you going to do that? You have to watch.
That means that you have to go to the Scriptures, you have to be men and women and children of prayer. It means, children, read your Bible! It means, parents, read the Scriptures. It means: attend the house of God faithfully, twice on the Lord’s day, where the Word of God is taken seriously and explained in all of its beauty. Watch and pray always. Pray. True prayer. Prayer is the way whereby God keeps us alive unto the hope of Jesus Christ. That is the only way to stay in touch with reality. The reality of the unseen things – you must be much in prayer if you are to hold on to those realities.
Are you ready to enter into this year, 2002? The Lord has opened to us in His Word, for a few moments, the realities that are going to confront us this year. The Lord says, there shall be an unrelenting campaign to burden your heart with overindulgence of this present life so that you fall into a stupor regarding His return. Did you hear His word? The Lord said that you must watch and pray always that you may be counted worthy to stand before the Son of man.
Let us hear this word, by the grace of God. Then, by God’s grace, this year will be fruitful to His glory. Then in this year you and I will travel toward our hope. And that hope will become more real. We shall find that the hope of the righteous shall be gladness. It shall never make us ashamed.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. May the Holy Spirit write it upon the fleshly table of our heart this day and always. And may we live to the honor of Thy name in this year and out of the hope of our Lord’s certain coming. We pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.