Day 10: Toward Certain Destruction

Here’s the point. God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it; instead, He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction. John 3:17 (The Voice)

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

One of my biggest frustrations with God is that he never goes with my ideas. I love being in charge and making decisions. I think I’m at my best when I’m in control and set the destination. If he would only go with my ideas, we (or and least I) would be so much better off.

But this passage is a firm reminder as to why he doesn’t put me in charge. Truth be told, I’m actually pretty terrible at it. I make self-destructive choices. Worse than that, I make choices that hurt and harm others. I’m inclined to make sure fair benefits myself first.

I make choices headed towards certain destruction. Rarely do I make choices that deny short term pleasure for long term gain. I’m capable of wasting an entire day trying to discover how to have my cake and eat it too. And if I can’t, I’m totally willing to steal your cake. Day 10: Toward Certain Destruction

My point? Despite my best efforts, to date, I have been unable to save myself. More troubling, the more I have found out about myself, the more I have discovered just how incapable I truly am.

There is a lot I can do for myself. One of the things I am forever unable to accomplish is my own salvation. I need something else…someONE else to do it for me.

Toward Certain Destruction

We’re all in the same boat. It doesn’t take a long glance at the nightly news to know our world is deeply troubled. Wars, famine, disease, conflict, political division, all are wreaking havoc in our society and around the world. The end result of people looking for something besides Jesus to save them.

In fact, these are all forms of people looking to save themselves. Because I’ll be good if my political candidate wins, my team wins, or my country becomes the world’s leading superpower. It is a belief that “might makes right.” I’ll win when I have enough power to keep you from harming me.

And along the way, I’ll make whatever destructive choices I need to. We are a world headed toward certain destruction.

Advent’s waiting is a time of examination. It opens us up to all of our self-destructive habits, all of our worst behaviors, all of our selfish choices, and invites us to repent. To go from “toward certain destruction” and go “toward life abundantly.”

John, today’s author, even ends his observation this way.

Light, sent from God, pierced through the world’s darkness to expose ill motives, hatred, gossip, greed, violence, and the like. Still some people preferred the darkness over the light because their actions were dark. Some of humankind hated the light. They scampered hurriedly back into the darkness where vices thrive and wickedness flourishes. Those who abandon deceit and embrace what is true, they will enter into the light where it will be clear that all their deeds come from God. (1:19-21)

 

Advent Series Previous Posts

Introduction

Active Forgiveness

Ocean Depths

Emotional Baggage

Compassion and Forgiveness

Those Who Forgive

Repentance Requires Action

Learn To Do Good

Dirty Clothes

Day 9: Dirty Clothes

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

Just as I have taken away your dirty clothes, I have taken away your guilt from you. In place of those clothes, I will dress you in pure, expensive garments. Then you will be ready to serve God and lead the festival. Zechariah 3:4 (The Voice)

Day 9 – Dirty Clothes

As a family of six, every day is laundry day. Four rambunctious kids who like to play outside, a steady supply of gym clothes, and the inevitable winter sicknesses leave us scrambling to have clothes clean consistently. It seems like just as soon as I have taken away dirty clothes, more appear. An unending mound of socks, towels, and pants are cascading down our hallway.

From a very visceral level, I get the analogy God is using. My selfishness and deceit have piled up in the corner of my life like an ever-growing pile of dirty clothes. The mess we find ourselves in is one we cannot escape on our own.

Despite all of that, there is God, as a patient parent, cleaning everything up for us. More than that, he has also given us new clothes. Clean clothes. Dressed-to-the-nines clothes. In his lavish generosity, God has replaced our worn out, dirt ridden clothes with luxury items of the finest quality?

What did we do to deserve this? Day 9: Dirty Clothes

Well…nothing.

More difficult is that there is nothing we could’ve done. This is all God. The creator of the universe, not content to let us stay dirty, has taken away our rags and given me riches.

Deep Cleansing

Like Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. His selfishness left him a dragon covered in scales. Unable to cleanse himself and transform back into a boy, he must let the lion-king Aslan do his work. Eustace describes the experience as,  The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

Eustace walks away transformed. He’s a boy again. More than that he is kind and generous and brave. His external transformation from a dragon to a boy led to a deeper transformation of character and heart.

That is what God offers us here. A chance to experience deep, real, and lasting transformation . A chance to experience a new life direction and purpose.

Advent reminds us to wait expectedly. A new hope is coming. A Messiah will be born. Coming into this world is a Savior-King longing to rid us of the filth we put on ourselves and give us a new purpose.

 

Advent Series Previous Posts

Introduction

Active Forgiveness

Ocean Depths

Emotional Baggage

Compassion and Forgiveness

Those Who Forgive

Repentance Requires Action

Learn To Do Good

Day 7: Repentance Requires Action

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

Even now, turn back your heart and rededicate yourselves to Me; Show Me your repentance by fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rip the wickedness out of your hearts; don’t just tear your clothing. Now return to the Eternal, your True God. You already know He is gracious and compassionate. He does not anger easily and maintains faithful love. Joel 2:12-13 (The Voice)

Day 7 – Repentance Requires Action.

As a father of four, I spend a fair amount of time repeating the same phrases over and over again.

“Don’t do that.”

“Think of others first.”

“Don’t hit.” Day 7: Repentance Requires Action

“We don’t put our butt’s in other people’s faces.” (Y’all think I’m joking but….#NotJoking)

In response, I also hear similar objections.

“It’s not my fault.”

“I didn’t do it.”

“They started it.”

Along the way, my wife and I are trying to teach them. We want to teach them about life and relationships. About sacrificial service and generosity. About reconciliation and justice.

God, speaking here through Joel, is inviting people to repentance.

Repentance requires action.

It’s much more than saying sorry.

It’s changing behavior to move in a new direction.

That’s the goal of parenting, right? To get kids to move in a new direction. From one of selfishness to one of generosity. We want our kids to know right from wrong. Our desire is for our children to grow up to be bold and daring, to be passionate, caring, thoughtful, and world-changing.

God invites people into fasting and mourning. Similarly, we teach our kids to change their behavior and do something different. It’s not enough to say sorry, we show repentance by not doing it again.

The waiting of Advent is designed for preparation. We prepare our hearts to receive Christ’s forgiveness. During this time, we examine our hearts and motives. We repent and mourn. Because of Advent, we are invited into a space of reconciliation: with God, with each other, and within ourselves.

God is gracious and compassionate. He desires repentance. But repentance requires action. A change of direction. It’s a new thought, habit, and pattern of behavior. Words alone fail.

For those that change their gaze towards a forgiving Savior, a deeper experience of God awaits. One of abounding love, gracious compassion, and lasting forgiveness.

Advent Series Previous Posts

Introduction

Active Forgiveness

Ocean Depths

Emotional Baggage

Compassion and Forgiveness

Those Who Forgive

Day 6: Those Who Forgive

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

Those who forgive faults foster love, but those who repeatedly recall them ruin relationships. Proverbs 17:9 (The Voice)

Day 6 – Those Who Forgive

There’s a meme floating around the internet that says, “If you ask your husband to fix something around the house, he will. There’s no need to remind him every six months.”

No one likes a nag, right?

Worse than that, no one likes a constant reminder of their failures.

“I forgive you…but never let you forget that you hurt me.” That’s not forgiveness, that’s emotional manipulation.

Those who forgive faults foster love. Why? Because we all love being around people who forgive us. Those willing to overlook our quirkiness are who we call friends.

But those who repeatedly recall them ruin friendships. And while it says friendships, the reality is that it’s any relationship.

A recent Gallupsurvey reports that 34% of employees are considered “engaged” in the workplace.

Surprised it’s not higher?

It actually ties for the highest number in the eighteen years of the survey. And it’s trending up.

The reason? Employee appreciation.

Turns out, people like being appreciated. They like being told they are doing a good job. People enjoy thanked and valued. Want to have less employee turnover? Thank them for doing a good job.

What psychology tells us today, the psalmist told us millennia ago.

Placing value in relationships means overlooking offenses and fostering love. Day 6: Those Who Forgive

Advent’s waiting reminds us of our need to be in relationships. We are longing for a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. We are longing to be restored to those around us. Our greatest desire is to be in right relationship: with ourselves, with others, and with God.

The way he does that is through forgiveness. The way we do that is similar: forgive faults, forget them, and never bring them up.

Advent Series Previous Posts

Introduction

Active Forgiveness

Ocean Depths

Emotional Baggage

Compassion and Forgiveness

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

Eternal One, public and open shame is our due, for we have sinned against You, all of us, our kings, princes, and ancestors. But You, O Lord our God, still show us compassion and forgiveness even though we have openly rebelled against You. Daniel 9:8-9 (The Voice)

Day 5 – Compassion and Forgiveness

As a young college student, one of my leadership course requirements was to undergo a “Friends and Family assessment.” In essence, the assignment had me interact with those closest to me to see what kind of leader and person I was. I gathered several responses, but only remember one from the assignment. My mom’s perspective was, “Justin, you’re really good at speaking truth to people….but really bad at speaking it in love.”

I love speaking the truth. I also love justice…except that what I’ve discovered is that I’m only a fan of those when they favor me. My sense of justice and fairness is decidedly skewed in my favor. Day 5: Compassion and Forgiveness

Daniel, the author of this passage, makes no such pretenses. There’s no defending or justifying the sins of God’s people here. The only right option is an open and public shame. Yet that’s not the way God operates. Instead, even though shame would be completely warranted, chooses mercy and forgiveness.

We like choosing justice when it favors us. We love fairness when we get the long end of the stick. My kids practice great fairness as long as they get twice as much as anyone else. God, thankfully, doesn’t operate like that. Another writer, recounting a similar story even said, “but you are not like us.”

He is decidedly different. He is gracious and abounding in forgiveness and compassion. Even though he has every right to act with vengeance and justice, he chooses neither.

Advent’s waiting is a chance for us to practice a similar examination. There are those that have wronged us and those that we have wronged. We have even wronged our sense of right. But as God draws closer, we realize that this is just yet another act of compassion and forgiveness. For us. To us. On behalf of us.

May our waiting produce a similar heart of compassion.

Advent Series Previous Posts

Introduction

Active Forgiveness

Ocean Depths

Emotional Baggage