Tag Archives: holiness

Second Sunday of Advent: Year B

highwayA Highway for Our God

Last Sunday we talked about a revival for our nation and our churches. It takes the glory of God to bring about a true spiritual revival. We pray that God to tear open the heavens once more and show us his glory and presence.  Surely he has heard our prayers, but is he not waiting on us?

The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed:

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”   (Isaiah 40:3-5)

We are asked by God to build a highway in the wilderness. The wilderness is our sin and the highway is our repentance. John the baptizer echoed this message:

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.   (Mark 1:4-5)

Baptism was reserved for Gentiles who were jewish converts. Certainly not for the children of Abraham? John made it clear that Judaism was much more than a birthright. Unholy living was a guaranteed disqualification. What does that say about nominal Christians today?

We are living at the end of the Church Age. Advent reminds us of that. Our preparation is not only for a new encounter of the Christ Child within our hearts, it is also a preparation for the age to come when Jesus returns to this earth.

The Apostle Peter warns Christians disciples about the coming of the day of the Lord which will help usher in the second coming of Jesus:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.   (2 Peter 3:10)

Peter goes on to stress that holy living on our part is required if we are to be ready:

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.   (2 Peter 3:11-13)

Peter speaks of a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness will prevail:

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.   (2 Peter 3:14-15)

We cannot clean up our act on our own. But clean up we must. We need a revival. We need an act of God. We need the glory of God in our land.

How will this happen? The psalmist wrote:

You have forgiven the iniquity of your people
and blotted out all their sins.

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying,
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.   (Psalm 85:2, 8-9)

Do we fear God today? Are we listening to what God is saying? Are we turning our hearts to him? If so, God will do the rest. He has promised us. We could see the greatest revival in our churches than we have ever seen before. All we need is a highway of repentance for his glory to be revealed:

“Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”   (Isaiah 40:4-5)

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Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 27A

Track 1: Sincerity of Heart

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Psalm 78:1-7
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

Through Joshua, God once again spoke to children of Israel concerning the covenant he made with Abraham:

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many.   (Joshua 24:1-3a)

After God speaks, Joshua pleads with the Israelites to live by the covenant by obeying the commandments of God:

“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”   (Joshua 24:14-15)

Ao often we make promises to God. We say that we will obey him. God has made promises to us and he keeps his promises. How well do we do at keeping ours? Israel said that they would obey God, but Joshua realized that they did not really grasp the significance of what God was asking nor did they understand the seriousness of failing to keep the covenant.

Thus Joshua challenged them:

But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.   (Joshua 24:19-25)

Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship with God made possible by the blood of Jesus. A relationship is something that is nurtured. It takes daily commitment. Otherwise, the danger is that the relationship may fade over time and ultimately dry up.

Jesus warned that this could happen by telling the parable of the ten virgins. They were waiting for the bridegroom to show up for the wedding feast. When he delayed the old in their lamps was running out. Five of them had a sufficient supply of oil in the their lamps and five did not. As the parable goes:

The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”   (Matthew 25:8-13)

How seriously do we take our commitment to God? The ten virgins represent the body of Christ. As members of his body, are we prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are we filled with the Holy Spirit of God? Our attitude towards God has everything to do with our preparedness. Our relationship with him in Christ is what keeps our lamps filled.

Friends, we are living in the end times. Jesus is coming soon to collect his bride, the faithful members of his body. He loves us all. He surrendered himself to the cross so that we might be raised up with him to newness of life. Do we love him in return? And do we fully commit ourselves to him?

We all fail, at times, at keeping our commitment to God. The children of Israel assured Joshua that they would obey God, but they did not follow through, What matters is the sincerity of our heart. Jesus will help us keep our lamps full of oil. All we must do is keep in fellowship with him.

Track 2: Readiness to Meet the Lord

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16
or
Amos 5:18-24
Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20
or
Psalm 70
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

In today’s Epistle reading the Apostle Paul writes about a special day when Jesus would return for his bride:

 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

In today’s Old Testament reading the Prophet Amos addresses another day:

Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:

Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why do you want the day of the Lord?

It is darkness, not light;
as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear;

or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.

Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?   (Amos 5:18-20)

The Apostle Peter teaches on the day of the lord in his Second Epistle:

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 done in it will be laid bare.

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. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.   (2 Peter 3;10-13)

Peter was writing about God’s promiseThe promise to the Church was not about destruction, but about rescuing His people from destruction. The rapture of the Church and the Day of the Lord are two separate events.

Before the destruction by fire which Peter mentions the bride of Christ will be lifted up and out. There are theological debates about the rapture of the Church and when it will take place. Nonetheless, there can be little debate about the readiness of Christian believers to be received into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus told a parable illustrate the point of our need to be ready:

Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”   (Matthew 25:1-13)

Are all christians ready to meet the Lord? Not according to the parable which Jesus told. We do not know when we will be lifted out of this world. We do not know when we might die. What we can say for sure is that we must have oil in our lamps when these events occur.

The practice of worship is a large part of the Christian life. According to the Prophet the worship would be meaningless to God if it were not backed up by holy living:

Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.

But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an everflowing stream.   (Amos 5:23-24)

If we are to live holy lives then we need divine help. That is why Jesus had given us the Holy Spirit to direct and empower our lives. God has poured out his Holy Spirit upon those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. In John’s Gospel the Spirit is called living water.The overflowing stream which Amos talks about surely refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit. Are we standing in that stream? That is a choice which we have before us. It is a daily choice. It is an hourly choice. Today, once more, or for the first time, let us fill up our lamps and stand ready to meet the Lord Jesus when he comes.

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All Saints Day, Year A

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

In his first epistle the Apostle John writes that, as children of God, we have a hope in Jesus which purifies us in Christ:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.   (1 John 3:1-3)

Is John writing about a purity that can only exist in heaven? In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus speaks about a purity that brings about a reward in heaven, not a heaven which brings about our purity:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus states that his disciples will be identified by the purity of their heart, something that the world will not understand. Even though they will not understand what they see, they will be able to see the purity God has placed within us. In fact, the world will persecute us because of that purity.

As Christians, we have been called by God to purify ourselves. If we are pure in heart we will see God. If not, then our hearts will keep us from seeing God. Purity and holiness is by faith in Jesus, but we must exercise that faith daily in order that God may do a work in us. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi:

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.   (Philippians 1:3-6)

What is a sign God is working in us? If we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Jesus said that if we are so persecuted, the the kingdom of heaven will be ours.

We have not had a ticket punched so that we may live any type of life we wish. This concept has to do with religion. Christianity is not a religion. When we commit our lives to Jesus we are leaving the ways of this world and entering into a way of living that can only be accomplished in Christ alone. The psalmist wrote:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are they who trust in him!

Fear the Lord, you that are his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

The young lions lack and suffer hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.

The Lord ransoms the life of his servants,
and none will be punished who trust in him.   (Psalm 34:8-10,22)

John. the author of Revelation, gives us a vivid picture of those ransomed by God who put their trust in Christ:

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God,
    and worship him day and night within his temple,
    and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
    the sun will not strike them,
    nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”   (Revelation 7:13-17)

How do we wash our robes? We wash them in the blood of Jesus. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.   (Romans 5:1-5)

Saints of God are the one who hold onto a holy hope in Jesus. Is that who we are? If so, then we are saints of God. On this day we celebrate all those who put there trust in Jesus, no matter what the circumstances in our lives may be. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

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