The Summer of Your Soul
Dr. Jim Denison
Summer is my favorite season of the year. The stress of life lifts somewhat. Schedules are less demanding. More time off is taken. Families get together more. 29.3 million people traveled at least 50 miles for the Memorial Day weekend. But all is not idyllic. The number of cars and trucks traveling on America’s highways has tripled in the last thirty years. You saw most of them last week.
These are relaxed days, and that’s good. But not necessarily for our souls. Church attendance understandably slows during the summer. But soul attendance must not.
How can we make this the best summer your soul has ever known?
Live this summer as if it were your last
First, let me show you the most important single key to spiritual health. It’s a key the first Christians used every single day of their lives, but a truth we unfortunately neglect or even refuse to use today. Without this key, it’s very hard to start the ignition of your spiritual life each day. Here it is: you might meet God today. So you’d better be ready.
How many of you considered this morning the fact that Jesus could return today? Or the fact that you could die and stand before him before this day is done? The first Christians did. Jesus told them to.
It is a biblical and theological fact that Jesus Christ could return to this planet, today. Before this sermon is done, or this service is finished. Or my next sentence.
One day “the Son of Man will appear in the sky” (v. 30a). Jesus himself will come back. “All the nations of the earth” will “see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (v. 30b).
He will gather his followers “from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (v. 31).
When will his return come?
James 5:8: “Be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”
Revelation 3:11 quotes the Lord Jesus: “I am coming soon.” Revelation 22:20 adds: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.'”
So we must be ready today. Jesus warned us: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36); “You must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:40); “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
Yes, someone will say, but it hasn’t happened yet. Twenty centuries, and still no return. Why?
For this reason: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
But here’s the next verse in God’s word: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (v. 10).
And here’s the consequence: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (vs. 11-12).
The simple truth is that that we’re one day closer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than anyone has been in all of human history. Today. It is a fact that God could come to us today.
And it is a fact that we could go to him today.
We all know more fatalities occurred on American roads during the Memorial Day weekend than usual. Fourteen died in a barge accident in Oklahoma. And terrorist threats continue to dominate the news daily. The anniversary of September 11 comes in just three months.
On this first Sunday in June a year ago, how many of us expected the events of three months later? For the 3,200 victims who died that day, last summer was their last summer. It could be so for you and me.
Jesus could come to us, or we could go to him, this morning. You could meet God in ten minutes. You need to be ready for him now.
Keep your soul close to God
Now, why does this fact matter to your spiritual health this summer?
The fact that we could meet God today is not intended by our Lord to frighten us, but to encourage us. To motivate us to spiritual development, to soul health, to a closer fellowship with our Father in heaven.
This way of life keeps us obedient to God. The most frightening sound I’ve ever heard was Janet’s car driving into the driveway on a Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. when I was expecting her to return from her out of town trip at 5:00 p.m. I had just resolved to start the three hours of cleaning it would take to be ready for her return. Most husbands know my terror. We don’t want that with God. We want to be found faithful to him, doing his will when he returns.
This way of life keeps us close to God. A man whose prayer life was unusually strong was asked his secret. He said, “When I see the Lord I want him to know me by the sound of my name.” We want to please him, to be in a loving relationship with him when we see him again.
This way of life keeps us from sin. I know of a businessman who carries a picture of his wife with him whenever he travels. He sets it up in his hotel room first thing, and it keeps him from sin. In the same way, when we resolve to do nothing we would not want to be caught doing at the return of Jesus Christ, we will live holy lives.