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Advent I: When Righteousness Comes

Jeremiah 33 establishes the mood of Advent when he gives us God’s declaration: “The days are coming,” God says, “when I will fulfill my promise.” Advent is about expectant hope, eager anticipation, waiting excitedly on the edge of your seat. God’s promises are about to come true!

But as the Christmas season draws near, how can we really embrace this mood when the promises Jeremiah speaks of are fulfilled in the past? It’s because of the new promise found in 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, where Paul says: “May the Lord Jesus establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” Advent is a time of expectant hope even for those who live after the incarnation of Jesus, because Jesus is coming again! As we celebrate the first Advent, we await a final Advent.

But before we get too excited for the final Advent, we need to read further in Jeremiah 33. Vs. 15 says that “a righteous branch will spring up for David, and he will execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Perfect justice and absolute righteousness are coming. Are you eagerly anticipating an exhaustive audit of how righteous you are, and the appropriate justice to follow?

Thankfully, 1 Thessalonians 3 helps us prepare for when righteousness comes. Paul’s earnest prayer is to be able to see the Thessalonians face to face so that through his ministry, he might supply what is lacking in their faith so that their hearts may be blameless in holiness before God at the advent of the Lord Jesus. He longs to see them, so that he can get them ready for that day.

What does Paul have that can supply their lack? Paul’s ministry consisted of teaching and discipleship, which is also the theme of Psalm 25. Look at v. 5: “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” In a season of waiting for God, the Psalmist asks God to lead him and teach him. That’s what will prepare him for the coming of the Lord! The rest of the Psalm deals with repentance and forgiveness in vv. 6-7, and God’s faithfulness to set sinners who repent back on the right path in vv. 8-10.

This is the message of Advent: Jesus is coming, so you need righteousness, and God supplies it in Christ, by faith and through face to face instruction in the ways of the Lord.

So ask yourself this: “What is lacking in my faith?” Is there some aspect of knowledge or obedience or character that God wants you to grow in? Maybe you’ve been battling a particular sin, and God is calling you to use the next few weeks to get serious about winning that battle. Maybe, as in Luke 21, your hearts are weighed down with the cares of this life, and your walk with God is suffering. Or maybe you’ve been challenged by the sermons in November, and your faith has been lacking an open mouth or an open home. What is lacking in your faith? Take some time to explore that question this Advent season.

And take it seriously, in light of the gospel reading from Luke 21, where Jesus describes another of His comings. Jesus knows that the world is trying to lull you to sleep, and so He commands you to stay awake. Sleepy or sinful followers of Jesus are in grave danger in light of Jesus’ coming. As Christians, you must pray for strength to escape and strength to stand before Jesus. If you aren’t righteous, then you won’t escape when righteousness comes.

But Christian, if you listen to Jesus and obey Him, you will escape, and when you stand before Him, you will be found righteous. This is because God not only tells you what you need, He meets your need! In Jeremiah 33:16, we see that the Lord Himself is our righteousness. When you respond in faith to Jesus, letting go of all your own home-made righteousness, and trusting in Him alone, God counts you righteous in Christ, and begins a wonderful work of transformation in your life. Now, because you are righteous in Christ, you’re able to live righteously. When you live righteously, then you’re ready to welcome Christ at His return instead of fearfully expecting His just and righteous judgment.

This is how you can approach Advent in hope. Jesus is coming again, and you need righteousness in order to stand before Him. But the good news is that the righteousness you need is the righteousness that God supplies through Jesus Christ. So put your trust in Him, and look forward in hope to His return.

Posted on Wednesday, December 05, 2018 by CJ Bowen