December 21, 2018

Advent 3 - Matthew 11:2-11

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Our Expectations Fall Short of our Savior’s Excellence

Matthew 11:2-11 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" 4 Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 "The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 "And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." 7 As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 "But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 "But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. 10 "For this is he of whom it is written: `Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.' 11 "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."

A recent study looked at the question of why people quit or change churches. The answers were distilled into four categories. People change or quit churches because:
1.     Sermon quality
2.     Welcoming environment/people
3.     Style of worship
4.     Location

One pastor penned an article about the study and concluded with this thought: “The translation is clear – Americans treat church like a product to consume instead of as a family to belong. When we treat church like a product, we consume until our needs are no longer met.”

Especially at a time like this, around Christmas, this kind of thought resonates because there is so much consumerism among us. It even feels like, at times, the season of Christmas has been overcome by it. So much emphasis is put on getting what we want, meeting our desires, and moving on if we don’t. No wonder the same kind of thinking has affected our church life.

However, this pastor still got it wrong, I think. His definition of church is that it’s a “family to belong.” True, in one sense. Church is a spiritual family. Even the Bible describes our faith as being children of God and members of His heavenly family. But, for the purposes of indicating why people should join or leave a church, is the familial atmosphere really the most important element? The pastor’s explanation falls into the very same pit that he criticizes. He takes a gift from God and makes it all about ourselves. The church is God’s family, but as His home, we need to remember that He is in charge. It is above all other things, the place to hear His voice, as our heavenly Father. It is not about a family in so far as I look for what makes me feel most at home or that I choose what is most familiar to my experiences in life. Church is about listening to my Father. That is our place in the family of God.

The pastor’s criticism of the results of this study led to him to form his own conclusions – the reasons he thought were important enough to leave or join a church. He says,
-        It’s ok to leave for family or marriage. If you can’t find a spouse through your church or you marry someone who attends a different church, go ahead and decide for yourselves which church fits your needs best.
-        It’s ok to leave a church if you live more than 30 minutes away. If that’s the case you can’t reasonably expect to attend regularly or participate in activities.
-        It’s ok to leave a church if you can’t agree with the church’s leadership. If you think things should be done differently then don’t work on it together or even consider adjusting your thinking according to God’s Word, but find a place that does things the way you want.

For a pastor who is critical of people treating church like any other commodity, he sure makes some interesting suggestions that sound very consumer-driven. Only at the very end of the article did he say anything about the content or doctrine of a church and the bearing that has on attending.

Both the study and the article are sad indictments on the American view of church, even from those who recognize the problem! 

According to Jesus, the same criticism could have been given to the people of His day, even to the disciples of John the Baptist. They came to Jesus, early in His ministry, and under the direction of John the Baptist, and asked Him a simple question: "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"

From their perspective, it was a question that made sense. John the Baptist had worked for his entire life to prepare for the coming Savior. He had deprived himself or life’s luxuries. He had committed every cause to the name of Christ. And what did he have to show for it? He was locked away in Herod’s dungeon. Obviously, this was a disappointment. After how important John’s mission was, with his own father graced by the arrival of an angel, Gabriel who sits in God’s own presence, to announce his birth, it was a selfish little king that held him captive. How disappointing this must have been for John, to not know what was going on outside those prison walls and to not know whether his life’s calling had been to any effect. Yet, John was not without expectation. He still heard of Jesus and so he sent his followers to find out.

This question makes sense in the context, but it was still revealing of a lack of trust. Jesus doesn’t answer with a direct reply, but rather in a way that drove home the bigger point, He points John’s disciples to what He has accomplished.
-        The Blind Receive Sight: Isaiah 29:18, 35:5
-        The Lame Walk: Isaiah 35:6,
-        Lepers are cured: Isaiah 53:4
-        The deaf hear: Isaiah 29:18-19
-        The dead are raised: Isaiah 26:18-19
-        The Good News is proclaimed: Isaiah 61:1

These activities of our Savior were confirming clues that He was the Messiah. John didn’t need to be out of prison to know. John didn’t need to have a private confirmation ceremony with Jesus. There was no formal passing of the torch. Jesus knew that John knew his Old Testament prophecies (the Word of God), and He tells John, “Listen to what I have done.” Each of these things was not only a sign of Jesus’ power as God but a fulfillment of God’s promises of who the Messiah would be. Each one was recorded in the Old Testament, often by Isaiah, as a finger-print identity of God’s chosen Savior. Jesus fit that identity in an undeniable and remarkable way.

It’s likely that John knew the real answer – of course Jesus was the one. What John probably meant was, what is your plan? Jesus was not exactly fitting John’s expectation about how this would all go. As John taught and proclaimed repentance and the immediacy of the kingdom of heaven, it’s hard to imagine that he thought he’d be rotting away in prison when Jesus came on the scene. John was looking for His Savior, but looking according to his own expectations. And so, he doubted, if only for a brief moment.

That doubt is encapsulated in one word – offend. Jesus’ final parting message to John’s disciples was, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Giving offense is a common transgression in our culture, perhaps more so than at any point in human history. Much is said today about avoiding triggering language and being cautious not to say politically incorrect things. Half-hearted apologies are given all the time by notable figures and celebrities on Twitter or at staged press conferences. Offense is a big deal, but it’s a much different type of offense.

You get a taste of that in the meaning of the Biblical word. The type of offense Jesus warns about is something that causes a person to no longer believe, or causes them to sin. It’s where our English word “scandal” comes from. In this immediate context it was being offended at the authority of Jesus as the Savior and therefore, not believing it. This type of offense is completely dangerous to a person’s faith. But, it’s a far cry from what offense typically means today. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary states that the word offend historically means “to violate or transgress the divine law or to do wrong.” This is very much the same as the Biblical concept. However, the same dictionary also says the modern understanding of offense means “to cause (a person or group) to feel hurt, angry, or upset by something said or done.” This is quite a change.

Jesus was scandalous to the people, perhaps even to John the Baptist and his disciples, because Jesus had difference expectations. As the Lord and Savior, His methods and plans would not always fit in the prism of their logic. The same trend unfolded throughout Jesus’ ministry, in His interactions with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the people of the regions, and even His twelve disciples. Jesus operated on a different level of wisdom and intuition and shattered the expectations of those around Him.

This is something that John the Baptist should have been well aware of, for it was the same calling card of his ministry. Once John’s disciples departed, Jesus asked the remaining crowds, three times, “What did you go out to see?” He was referring to John’s ministry, as it took place in the wilderness. John was an intriguing figure. People saw that he spoke with authority. They recognized his knowledge of the Scriptures. They could sense the sincerity and truth of his message. Yet, John didn’t fit into the image that most people had of a famous prophet – as the Forerunner of the Messiah. He was kind of an odd duck. Even he shattered expectations. And because of that some were offended, literally unbelieving, at his message.
Despite the unusual nature of John’s ministry, Jesus validated it at the end of our text. But, if you notice, in doing so Jesus also validated His own uniqueness. "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." What a compliment to John, that of those born among women there was no one greater! But, that compliment only served to set the stage for the most important point – the lowliest in the kingdom of heaven is even greater than John.

That verse is a wonderful summation of the meaning of Jesus’ ministry. What had the people gone out to see with John? Not someone easily intimated. Not one who would willingly back down. Not a person who was rich and luxurious. What was John? A prophet, and as a prophet his primary purpose was to point to Jesus. John defied expectations, but with a reason. The more important question is, What have you come out to see from Jesus?

-        Do you want a sermon that makes you feel inspired or sounds relevant?
-        Do you want Jesus to be close to where you’re at in life?
-        Do you want a Savior who won’t get in the way with your family life, or one who won’t ask you to change anything in your life?
-        Are you okay with Jesus if He says something offensive or harsh, or if He challenges the status quo in your heart?  

Be cautious and wise with what you wish for from Jesus, because it’s all too easy to treat your faith like a mere commodity – to be consumed when you want or how you want. Take the good, discard the bad. Accept what I want, leave when there’s something I don’t want. Our expectations always fall short of our Savior’s excellence – and thanks be to God for it. Because Jesus is a unique Savior, calling sinners to repentance, building a kingdom in heaven, redeeming us by free grace, exalting the lowly over the great, and so many more expectation-shattering things – I can have hope that He is my Savior.

Today, I don’t have to seek Jesus on my terms. I don’t have to make His house all about what I want. I don’t have to fear when He admonishes me or calls me to change part of my life, because I know He has my best interests, even the interests I need that I don’t even know I need yet. That is Jesus, abundantly different than any of god of this world, just like John the Baptist was a different prophet.

What do you come out to see? Another way to ask that question is, why do you go to church? Jesus gives you more than product, a faith much more valuable than gold, silver, or any other commodity. His righteousness by faith. And His shed blood for your forgiveness. And thanks be to God for it. May that always be your priority and your expectation. Amen.

And thanks be to God that it is so. Amen.

Advent 2 - Malachi 4:1-6

The Strokes of God’s Artistry
1.     I do this…
2.     I commanded…
3.     I will send…
4.     I come and strike…

Malachi 4:1-6 "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," says the LORD of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this," says the LORD of hosts. 4 "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse."

Recently I was at the airport, waiting near baggage claim to pick Gretchen up. As I walked around the airport I noticed several works of art. Perhaps they are there to class up the place a bit, or to give some of the local artistic flavor to visitors, or just to give people waiting like me something to look at. One piece I noticed looked magnificent and beautiful from a distance, almost like a stained-glass display. Brightly colored pieces shimmered before a backlit frame with a dazzling array of sparkles that changed from each angle you gazed upon it. I had to investigate further – what was this stunning artwork made from?

As I approached, the sublime thoughts in my head fell back to earth, for the artwork was nothing more than a bunch of warning light covers, the same you’d find on a construction cone or on the back of a bicycle. From far away, it gleamed with beauty. Close up – it didn’t look so spectacular – but rather quite ordinary. Perhaps that is part of the ingenuity of the artwork – using common and everyday items to make something that is beautiful.

That piece of artwork reminded me of the way our God can take and shape the common, ordinary, and sometimes even broken aspects of lives into a beautiful tapestry of glory. Glory for the individual believer who inherits eternal life in His name and also glory to that saving name – the only one under heaven given among men by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12).

Today, we see that truth in action in the final verses of the Old Testament. In the last official prophetical account given before Christ’s birth, the LORD reminds the hearer of the many things He accomplishes – acts that are like the individual strokes that make up a grand artistic masterpiece. Each singular thing seems common in and of itself, but when taken together it shows God’s amazing grace. God works in many and mysterious ways, and oftentimes His grand plan is already complete by the time we catch on to its beauty and wisdom. That certainly was the case for many people upon the birth of God incarnate into the world. The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would come unexpectedly, almost as if He appeared out of nowhere. But not because He was truly mysterious or that He wanted to catch people off-guard. It was simply that we have a hard time perceiving the Lord’s plan.

Part 1

To help our study today, I want to start from the end. When looking at the actions that God states in this text, the final one is that He would come and strike the world with a curse. This action is offered not as a guarantee but as a warning. To the initial reader it is still a matter of question about whether God would have to follow through on this warning. This seems like kind of a low spot on which to end the Old Testament and upon which to begin our study. But there’s a reason God gave this final warning and a reason why we begin with it today.

It was never God’s desire or will to strike the earth with a curse but it did happen. Most people confuse those two options by thinking that the simple fact that something happens means that God intended it to happen. But the Lord tells us all over His Word that many things happen in the world that are not His intended will. The key concept here is freedom – the freedom which God created humans with and the freedom by which He leads us in our lives. There are many areas of life that are beyond the scope of our power or intellect and therefore solely in the hands of God. However, no action of God occurs outside of freedom. Though we lack control sometimes, He still does not force anything upon us. We always have the ability to opt out, if you will, from what God intends and desires.

However, we can’t mention freedom without also mentioning the effect sin has had on it. Freedom is really an aspect of God’s love for us, but sadly it’s often misused. We misuse freedom whenever we stray from the law of God. We misuse that freedom when we blame God for the consequences of the decisions, we, or some other person in the world, made. And so, even when it comes to truth and justice, God warns, instructs, guides, and even pleads, but He doesn’t force. There is always freedom. So God says, consider and take to heart the things I say, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

Has this curse been given? We do live in a sinful world. We are sinful people. We do sinful things. In that way we are cursed. But our text seems to be talking of something more here – a divine punishment rendered in the future. As God warns us throughout His Word, we are aware that an even more devastating punishment than the problems of the world exists for those who reject Christ. This is the eternal curse of hell. God tells us two things about that curse. He doesn’t want to have to give it and yet if the situation He describes does not change, He will give it.

This is the plaguing struggle each sinner feels in their heart. They know God is merciful and loving. They know He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Yet, He remains just and we have no leg to stand on in defense for sinners. It’s nice to know that God doesn’t want to render the divine curse of punishment, but fair is fair, and fair is right. We deserve nothing. Think about that. We say it all the time but sometimes we don’t actually believe it. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We have no right to complain to God or to act like we’re just good enough to get out of the curse. We deserve nothing and though we confess that all the time, sometimes we don’t believe it.

This is where the Old Testament ends. This is the final warning – the final message. There is no comfort here, until you look at the bigger picture. It seems like an impossible situation. God does not want to punish, yet He must or He’s not God. What hope is there? Here’s where I venture to declare that this is not a sad scene or a hopeless picture. This last act of God is not only a warning, but a promise. For through His Son, God accomplished the impossible. Upon Jesus, the curse of the earth was placed. God fulfilled His word of warning and thereby also accomplished His promise of hope. He did not desire it, but He gave it – upon the body of His only begotten. Here we see the importance of Jesus as human – as us. He came down into earth – to be cursed with the earth’s punishment. This was the only way that God could render divine justice and also save all of mankind.

So we start today at the end, which for our faith is also the beginning. God has cursed the earth, the punishment that He so desperately wanted to avoid, that He pleaded with centuries and generations of people about, happened all the same. It’s just that Jesus took it all upon Himself and buried that curse in the depths of the earth.

If you hone in on only one part of God’s artistry, that He judges sin and condemns unbelief, you fail to see the beauty of how it all works together. On its own, divine punishment is a harsh, unloving premise. Yet, within God’s eternal plan of salvation it is the believer’s greatest hope.

Part 2

This is why we start at the end. The curse leveled against Jesus, for our sins, opens up understanding to the rest of what God tells us about His actions. It gives a value and a quality to the other things of which God speaks. It shapes the very being of our faith, like giving purpose to a bunch of random colors and angles.

So, when God tells me that I will conquer in the end, the sacrifice of Jesus gives me a reason to believe it. Just a moment ago I felt no hope because I am firmly in the camp of the condemned. Many more moments will come like that in my life, yet God promises “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet…” God says, I will do it. Jesus gives meaning to my victory.

When God tells me about His commands – how they are important for my life, how they are the lamp to my way, the sacrifice of Jesus gives shows me what those commands are all about. It’s significant that here at the end of the Old Testament revelation of God’s Word, God takes time to remind people about how important His law and commandments are. He says, "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Like the other parts of Scripture that address God’s law, it’s abundantly clear. Yet, don’t we look for each opportunity we can do deflect and detract from God’s law? Aren’t we constantly scanning our hearts and minds to find short-cuts and ways out of our divine mandates from the Lord? Does the law really apply? Hasn’t Jesus done away with it? Who’s to say what to believe today? We are constantly attacked, either from outside or from within, to ignore God’s commandments. But He clearly says – “Remember them.” Jesus gives meaning to my understanding of God’s law.

And when God says that He will send Elijah, who we know to be John the Baptist, the sacrifice of Jesus allows me to trust and believe – even if I didn’t see it with my eyes. For us, this may be an easy one. We can read in the New Testament where Jesus quotes this very verse and tells us that it was speaking of the coming of John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Savior’s’ birth. From our perspective, it seems to be little more than a temporary Biblical exercise of examining cross-references. But, don’t miss the bigger lesson here. It’s more than an academic exercise, it’s a reminder of the lifeblood of our faith in Jesus. Who this Elijah is may not be a question anymore, but there are still plenty of things that God promises to us that we must wait for by faith. The same exercise and the same process at play with different details.

In fact, most moments of prayer model this very thing. Remember when Jesus taught the parable of the persistent widow? The lesson was, God’s answer in prayer may not always be immediate or what you expect. Prepare to wait upon Him by faith. The sacrifice of Jesus gives meaning to the practice of my faith today – either being led closer and closer to Jesus by trusting His Word, or drifting further by charting my own path of feeling and expectation.

Sometimes you have to take a few steps back and see the big picture, in order to appreciate the beauty of God’s work. That’s what we do in Advent, as we study the texts of God’s Word that foretold the birth of our Savior and the many accomplishments that God won through His work and name. These texts are more than mere history lessons. In a much greater way they are the enduring manner by which the Holy Spirit prepares and equips us to receive Jesus. On the surface, simplistically, we may have plenty of reasons to resist God’s Word. Take individually, the areas of our faith may seem common. But, take them as a whole, and in view of the curse of sin upon Jesus for us, and the Lord’s beauty shines forth. Let that be the Holy Spirit’s work among us today and always through His Word. Amen.

Advent 1 - Romans 13:11-14

Living in Christ’s Advent Light

Romans 13:11-14 Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires. 

The theme of light and darkness, and day and night, is very common throughout the Bible. In fact, from the very beginning of creation, we see God’s work set in contrast to darkness. But, this theme gets even more interesting when you dig deeper into specifics. For example, in John 9:4 Jesus warned about working “while it is day, because the night is coming when no one can work.” In that context Jesus described the coming judgment of God as night – or the ending of a day.

However, in this section from Romans, Paul frames the very same thought, God’s coming judgment, as a time to wake up – a time when the night is over. The key to understanding how this theme is presented in different ways, lies within the context of the section. In John 9, Jesus was speaking from the perspective of unbelief. He was describing that the ministry of God’s Word, “working during the day,” was so important because each person’s time of grace is limited. From the perspective of unbelievers, the Lord’s Final Day is darkness.

However, here in Romans the context is about our current Christian lives. From that perspective, Christ’s return is like the light shining forth through the darkness. We are to wake up from the darkness of unbelief and sin and live by faith in Christ in the daylight. Luther’s explanation to the Third Article, based on the work of the Holy Spirit, describes it like this: “...the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”

Twice, the word “enlighten” is used to speak of the work of faith created by the Holy Spirit. This word hearkens back to this age-old picture in the Bible of the difference between light and dark and day and night. Faith in Jesus is the light that illuminates the sinful heart. It eradicates the creeping darkness of unbelief and sin – exposing it for what it is and destroying it completely.

It’s no surprise, then, that this same theme is common during Advent – the first coming of Jesus. Talk about a light indeed! The Old Testament believers had waited for millennia for God’s promise of a coming Savior. There were many dark times in their history – times when it seemed like all was lost. Even God’s own servants, the prophets, had dark days where they doubted whether or not there were any who still believed. Yet, as faint as it was, a light started to shine and continued to grow. Herod tried to snuff this light out – but couldn’t prevail. The Pharisees and Sadducees tried to drown out the noise of this Light’s preaching, and like Herod, even tried to kill it. But, they only made the Lights’ influence brighter in the hearts of the people. That Light was Jesus, born as a Savior to the entire world – and it’s His coming that we celebrate during Advent.

Our verses today point us to the same Light – this time for our lives today. The same Holy Spirit teaches us that the enlightenment of faith is never separate from how that faith is manifested in our lives. We can learn from those who came before us but their stories mean nothing if we fail to believe in Jesus. The end of our text describes: …so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires. 

What’s ironic today, and even more so sad, is that God’s path is often perceived as being in the darkness. It’s not that people see God’s will as wicked or evil, instead they consider it to be outdated – thing of the past. We hear a lot today about enlightened thinking – attitudes and beliefs that go beyond traditional, religious-based living. We’re told to accept all lifestyles, tolerate all opinions, and embrace all differences – even if doing so betrays God’s Word. This is what enlightened thinking means to the world. Those who resist such beliefs are said to be living in darker times.

Our Advent message today is such a needed reminder for our lives. Living in the day, as God describes it, does not involve embracing sin and unbelief. Paul writes that instead we “discard” those things – fully recognizing and trusting that Jesus Christ has conquered them in our stead. In their place, God calls for decency, peace, and no intention to satisfy the flesh. This is what living in the Advent light means. From God’s perspective, the truly enlightened path is according to righteousness in His Word. In a similar manner, the writer of Hebrews states, Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1 NKJ)   

Again, it’s the light of Jesus our Savior that beckons us to “lay aside the sins which so easily ensnare us.” To do that is not outdated or irrelevant. God tells us it’s one of the very reasons that He sent His Son to earth as our Savior. Jesus came to establish and perfect our faith as the solid certainty that our transgressions have been atoned for by God. This isn’t just about sins in our modern, 21st century American culture. We might say matters of sexuality, pride, materialism, immorality, greed, and so on. No, the light reveals even the sins that we Christians try to keep secret and hidden – gossip, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and failures to follow in Christ’s steps. The Advent light of Christ tells us that now is the time to discard, to lay aside, those sins in repentance. The light has arrived – everything is revealed. God calls us to wake up from our fleshly slumber and live in the name of our Jesus.  

In terms of preparation, our text speaks of it in what we wear. First, it says to put on the armor of light and then to put on the Lord Jesus. If you’re like me – the less prepared I am when I wake up the more prone I am to make a mistake in my wardrobe. There has been more than one day where I come home from a long day only to finally notice that my shirt is backwards, or inside out, or had a big food stain on the front – all because I was in a rush at the beginning of the day.

God says what we wear on that Final Day matters. Living in the light involves a wardrobe. It’s putting on Jesus by faith. In Galatians, Paul wrote, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27).” Baptism is one of God’s gifts to equip us with the proper wardrobe of salvation. Now, God’s promise is that when He examines our lives in the light of His holiness, He sees the works of Jesus. That’s exactly what we need – without Jesus we are found wanting. But, let us remember, what the light exposes goes back to how prepared your heart is. Do you believe in Jesus or is it just another matter of religion that you’ve put off until later? Now is the time – Now the light of Advent has come.

Baptism has clothed you with Christ. For many of us – our baptism day was “when we first believed.” Like the Romans – our salvation is now nearer than that first day. Are you ready for the Advent light of Jesus? Clothed in His righteousness – you are. Equipped by faith, you can live in His light, even if it reveals all things about your life – good and bad.

Advent is a season of joy and hope. Jesus and His Word, the Light of Advent, is where our joy and hope come from. Joy for today in sins forgiven. Hope for the future in heaven.