The passage that I want to call your attention to is found in Luke 21:34-36. “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.”
These words of Jesus are sobering words. They are words that ought to make us sit up and take notice. They are words that ought to call us to examine ourselves in the light of the theme that you have chosen for the Convention. These are words that ought to make us ask, “How are we doing in light of this truth of the Word of God?”
Do you find the subject of the “Signs of the Times” to be interesting? Do you view these things with a sort of intellectual curiosity or a spiritual concern? Let us look at the reason why Jesus gives us these signs. We can find it stated in verse 34, “Take heed to yourselves lest . . . that day come upon you unawares.” These words bring before our minds the staggering concept of standing in that last day before the Son of man.
As Reformed people, we are loath to present the truth of the Word of God in such a way that would tend to scare people out of hell, and scare them into heaven. That does no good anyway, because if one has no heart for the truth of God all the scare tactics of men and preachers are of no avail. Men can tremble for a little while, but when the moment passes they fall back into their old ways again.
We want to emphasize from the outset that as God’s people we do not stand on shaky ground. We have a mighty and an unshakable foundation in the unchangeable, eternal election of God. We therefore stand on the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ. We must not let the consideration of the signs of the times shake us in our confidence in God’s great and free salvation. We must let nothing shake us; no man, no thing that happens round about us, nay, even when we see the stars fall from heaven and the moon turns to blood and the sun no longer gives its light. When these things begin to come to pass Jesus tells us to lift up your heads because your redemption draweth nigh. Yet Jesus says, “take heed to yourselves. ‘ ‘
The literal meaning of “take heed” is, “take hold of yourself alongside. ” Perhaps it means something like when we say, “Get a hold of yourself.” Jesus says, “Get ahold of yourself, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life.”
The concept that is on the fore in this text is our hearts. Our hearts are important. Our minds are important and our bodies are important, but especially are our hearts important. Young people you have good minds and strong bodies. You study to train your minds and you exercise to strengthen your bodies. That is all right, but don’t forget your hearts. Our hearts are important because they are the very center of our spiritual lives. In our hearts God performs the miracle of regeneration. Through our hearts we are bound to God in a spiritual relationship through Jesus Christ. Even as we grow intellectually, we grow physically and we also grow spiritually through the work that God has implanted in our hearts by His incorruptible seed.
We may wonder why Jesus directs this weighty admonition to our hearts. The Word of God tells us that the heart is very deceitful, and that means my heart, and that means your heart as well. That is why Jesus says to us, “take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged.”
The idea of the word “overcharged” in our text means to be weighed down. It means to be so influenced by the things that follow in the text-surfeiting, drunkenness and the cares of life. that our hearts become covered. The life and testimony of our hearts can become smothered to one degree or another if we are involved in surfeiting, drunkenness and the cares of this life. This is a serious matter, that is why Jesus Himself warns us lest at any time your hearts become overcharged. If that happens then that day comes upon you unawares.
The word “surfeiting” is a rather broad word and encompasses all forms of immoderation and excess. The root idea of this word pictures the sick feeling one has after he has indulged himself. Surfeiting means to misuse God’s good gifts in such a way that we give ourselves to follow the lusts of our flesh.
Surfeiting can apply to many areas of our lives; whether that be food or drink; whether that be in squandering our time and our energy. Surfeiting pictures a situation in which one misuses things in such a way that he immerses himself in lustful excess. In immersing oneself in these things the testimony of one’s heart is covered over, layer by layer, and if one does not get ahold of oneself his heart is overcharged.
We might like to take the position that this cannot really apply to us as Protestant Reformed young people. This might be a good word to describe what goes on out there where there is no fear of God, where they don’t get together for a Christian young people’s convention, where they”don9t honor the Lord’s Day, where they take God’s name in vain, where there is all sorts of partying; surfeiting must certainly mean that. It does mean that, of course, but we must see from the context that Jesus addresses this word to the church. He addresses this word to you and me, in the interest of our hearts. Take heed to yourselves!
Each one of us has our lusts. If we allow our lusts to have free reign in our lives we become so immersed in the pursuit that the end will surely be that our hearts are overcharged. Then the testimony of God’s work in us becomes so shrouded with the carnal cares and desires of the lusts of the flesh that the witness of our hearts is all but silenced. But not entirely if we are children of God. Yet we must watch. We must not sit back and be carnally secure and say, “Oh, this can’t happen to me”. It can. Jesus knows. Jesus knows our hearts. Jesus says to us, “take ahold of yourselves.” Look at yourself! Are there things in your life that are of such a character that they involve you to the point that your hearts are overcharged with surfeiting?
In our text Jesus uses another word that raises a matter of grave concern and that is drunkenness. It is interesting to note that Jesus does not include drunkenness in the category of surfeiting. Surfeiting is a broad enough term for that, but Jesus chose to distinguish drunkenness from general careless living. Was drunkenness a problem in the church of Jesus’ day? Too much wine is literally the meaning of the word. Because wine was the drink in those days, which if misused could intoxicate men. The word could certainly mean in our day. too much beer or too much whiskey. It is not difficult to see why Jesus especially distinguishes drunkenness, is it? What is it that more quickly renders us spiritually insensitive to the things that we do, think and say than drunkenness? This is a serious matter. So serious that Jesus says that no drunkard shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Drunkenness is a serious matter for young people. It is a serious matter for our older people also. All together we ought to take heed to ourselves lest at any time the witness of our hearts become so layered over with these things that we can easily stray and walk in the way of spiritual – moral carelessness and sin.
The cares of this life are the third area of examination that Jesus points out. The idea of this phrase is “anxiety”. Those things that so affect us that we get up tight over them. Parents become concerned and anxious about different things than young people do. What are the anxieties of young people? What
are the things that make you up-tight? What are the things that you would not be caught dead doing or not doing? What are the things that are really important to you? What kind of clothes you wear? The places that you go on dates? Your friends, your hairdo or your car? Who says that these things are important? Let us be honest! Does not our peer group? Peer pressure is real, awfully real, and it involves the cares of this life.
With respect to the cares of this life Jesus warns, “Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be overcharged.” Lest the way of God’s Word and righteousness become so distant to us because the cares of this life are so real. The cares of this life can do that to you. They can make the spiritual life of our hearts seem so far away, so unimportant. But these other things that the kids see – they become so important to us.
Jesus says, “take heed to yourselves:” Who is your master? Who is the lord of your heart? Who stands in the day of judgment to answer for you? Do your friends? No, each one of us stands personally and spiritually responsible before God.
It is so easy for us to get caught up with the current of things and drift along. Whereas the Word of God calls us to take hold of ourselves. To do that is very difficult. I know that, you know that. Because to take hold of ourselves means to go against the current – to go against our flesh. To go against our flesh is hard, but the question is, does it go against our hearts? Take heed to yourselves with respect to these things!
The seriousness of this warning comes to light as Jesus gives the reason for it, “Lest that day come upon you unawares.” How can that be? It is exactly in the way of surfeiting and drunkenness, and when the cares of this life are so dominant that we rather do what the crowd says than what God says. If one so walks, the testimony of his heart is so silenced and his eyes are so blinded and his ears are so deafened that he can’t hear the words of Jesus nor see the signs of His coming. In that way that day comes unawares.
How can we escape these things that come to pass? Jesus gives the answer to that question in our text, and at the same time gives us a comfort when he says, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always.”
What does it mean to watch? Does that mean that we be able to recognize that day when it comes? Do we want to know what that day looks like so that when it draws near then we will get busy and prepare ourselves? That is exactly unwatchfulness. Watchfulness means that now, not in two years or five years, do we begin to take these things seriously. It is in the way of a life of spiritual concern and watchfulness that we guard ourselves from being overtaken by that day.
To watchfulness Jesus adds “Pray always”. Prayer is a rather common theme in the Scripture, but here Jesus qualifies it by saying, “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.” To pray such is not based on the erroneous teaching of the pre-millenial rapture. The child God expects co suffer for Christ’s sake. This means rather that we live prayerfully and carefully out of the hearts that God has given us. It means that we show concern for the things of God and His kingdom. Does this mean that we make ourselves worthy by our walk? Are we saved by our good works? No, we are saved alone by the blood of Jesus Christ. Now in thankfulness we walk prayerfully and carefully. In the way of spiritual watchfulness and concern, and taking hold of our lives in the light of God’s word do we finally stand before the Son of man without terror.
To stand before the Son of man does not only mean that we stand physically, for we know that all men shall stand before Him. The point is that we be able to stand the judgment. In that day when the Son of man ‘makes division between men that we stand. When Christ says to some, “Away with you, I never knew you.” – that we may hear our Lord and Savior say, “Enter ye into the joy of my Lord.” – that is standing.
Young people, God’s way is difficult. It requires self-denial. It requires that we begin to struggle in that good fight of faith. Do you have that struggle within you? Do you have a keen consciousness of that struggle against sin in your hearts? Then rejoice and be exceeding glad that God has counted you worthy to stand in that day.