We are in the last days. So how do we prepare for Jesus return? Is it by saying a special prayer? Developing a new program? Being empowered by a new way of spiritual thinking?
The answer to this question has already been clearly and simply explained in the Bible: 2 Timothy 3 verses to 4 verse 8. The "secret" is in living it out. This powerful passage outlines a template for preparing for Jesus' return.
If you want to prepare for Jesus' return then have a look at that Bible passage and then read pastor and scholar Don Carson's book: "From the Resurrection to His Return: Living faithfully in the last days."
The Bible defines the last days as the period between Jesus' first and second comings. This is promised to be a terrible time of tribulation that requires focus. Carson's analysis of 2 Timothy explains this focus for all Christians and churches. He outlines it with four points: Hold the right mentors in high regard, hold few illusions about the world, hold onto the Bible, and hold out the Bible to others.
As Paul writes to Timothy he says, "Look at me." Timothy knows Paul's teaching, dedication to Christ, testimony and suffering for Christ. This is in contrast to the other false teachers enticing Timothy. Paul is saying, "Follow me." Carson asks the question, "Do you ever say to a young Christian, 'Do you want to know what Christianity is like? Watch me!' If you never do, you are unbiblical."
Now that is a challenge! The point Carson is making is that Paul is trying to teach the gospel in word and deeds. He is showing a life transformed by the gospel. Carson says the principle is the same with us. If we are a parent mentoring our children, or a mature Christian mentoring another Christian, the template is: watch me, learn and grow.
Carson's tip is to look around your church to find a mentor who follows apostolic teaching. That is, someone whose life, faith, patience, love, endurance and sufferings point to Jesus. Be wise in choosing your mentors, in line with the priorities of Scripture. And if you are older and mature in your faith, Carson says this passage should inspire you to look for people to journey with.
This principle of mentoring, from 2 Timothy, has boomed a huge number of useful resources. For example, organizations such as Navigators (www.navigators.org ) have developed many one-on-one life-on-life mentoring and discipling tools.
The impact of sin in our world is real. The impact of a fallen world is seen in looking at the wars of history, the conflicts in our daily papers, and in examining our own hearts. He says to Timothy not to be surprised or distracted by the state of the world. Maybe horrified, motivated into action, offended by, but never surprised. Carson explains this is an essential element of faithful living in the last trying days.
Why avoid the distraction of a sinful world? Because the Bible reveals a Jesus, who has conquered sin, is restoring the world. That leads to the next point: the Bible.
If you have read any of Carson' books, you know he always wants to point to the Bible as the source of our knowledge of God. This is what Timothy is told (3 verse 14). From "infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (3 verse 15). Carson explains it is not just a memorization of some texts or thinking a "verse a day keeps the devil away."
What he advocates is a coherent understanding of the Bible bringing us to a richer faith in Jesus. This requires mentoring (the first point), solid exegetical Bible teaching, personal study and a passion to learn about Jesus.
The charge given to Timothy, and to us, is to live this out. Specifically, live it out and pass it on to others i.e. the Great Commission (Matthew 28 verses 18-20). Carson calls for an aggressive teaching of this Word.
As he explains, "In the light of Paul's charge to Timothy, one begins to see one's ministry not only in terms of teaching the Word right now, but as part of passing God's truth along to another generation that comes along behind us and takes up the reins, proclaiming this same gospel to yet another generation, world without end, until Jesus Himself comes back."
We are called to be ready for Jesus return. This passage from the Bible gives us the tools we need to live this out. Read 2 Timothy (and Carson's book) and set some goals for mentoring, staying focused in a hostile world, personal study of the Bible, and sharing the Bible with others. These are the best steps to prepare for Jesus' return.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html