Tag Archives: sanctification

Fourth Week of Advent: Sunday, December 22nd

Isaiah 11:1–10

11 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.  

Wherever God’s kingdom breaks forth, it leads to unnatural reconciliation (i.e. “the cow will feed with the bear).  People that “should” be enemies find themselves drawn into fellowship.  People who are justified holding onto bitterness and plotting revenge uncover a willingness (and even a desire) to forgive.

But this amazing and unnatural turn of the heart cannot be manufactured in and of ourselves.  Our hearts are not bent towards justice, mercy, love, and grace.  That’s one of the reasons Jesus came: not just to show us the way to live and but to give us a new heart (i.e. “a new set of desires”) that makes that kind of life possible.

The Christian life cannot be lived simply by “applying ourselves” to try to follow Jesus.  It starts–and is sustained–with us asking God for a new heart.


Third Week of Advent: Saturday, December 21st

Luke 3:1–6

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’ ”

I’m continually surprised by Christians I meet who live their lives as if sincere and genuine repentance doesn’t need to be a trademark of their lifestyles.  It seems a lot of us are under the assumption that we should “try” to do our best to follow Jesus, but in the end, we’ve got our lives to live.  I guess we assume that God will do what God will do, and that since we’re saved, we can ease off on the gas pedal of discipleship.

And then we wonder why our experience of God and the Christian faith is so shallow and uninspired.

While it’s true that God’s love for us isn’t dependent on our faithfulness to Him, it is true that the depth and quality of our lives is significantly connected to how seriously we take living out the way of Jesus.

That’s why John is sent ahead of Jesus.  John’s message is that repentance is the door into the life God is opening up to us.  We are not saved by “good deeds,” (Ephesians 2:8-9) but we cannot be saved if we don’t repent (“turn away”) from lives where our values and happiness are central.

Martin Luther wrote that, “All of life is repentance.”  To grow as a Christian means an almost continual practice of redirecting one’s energy away from habits that glorify ourselves and prioritize our agendas, to habits that glorify God and make His Kingdom the central priority.

This Advent, where do you sense God’s call to repent and change direction in your life?