December 15, 2019 Come, Lord Jesus
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
During this time of the year, there are opportunities for Christmas worship all over the place. In fact, if we are not careful, by Dec.25th we might be all ‘worshipped out.’
Now, I’m not worried that we have too much Christmas worship going on here on Sundays & Wednesday-mid-week services. Those worship times won’t wear you out; but the other worship will. *What ‘other’ worship?
This ‘other’ Christmas worship is quite traditional, & has been around a long time.
It’s heavily promoted & very popular. This worship begins (in our day) anytime after Halloween. The houses of worship are very crowded & music is always playing. The sanctuaries are adorned with extensive holiday light, color & beauty. The message of this Christmas worship is a gospel of cheer & civility, with peace on earth, & good will for the holiday-time. This Christmas worship cuts across all cultures & all religions; it’s very ecumenical & charitable.
With so many positives involved, you wouldn’t think there was a problem; but there’s a BIG problem. Altho everyone wants to participate in this worship, & even claims that it celebrates Christmas, this particular Christmas worship is without Christ; a baby Jesus might show up here or there, but He’s totally optional. He may get a historical ‘nod’, but Jesus -as God & Savior- is NOT ‘the reason for the season.’(insist on Jesus & you’ll be called a scrooge) The one thing required for this version of Christmas worship is …MONEY; money to buy gifts, because money is the true source of this holiday good cheer, love, hope, & temporary good will.
In His Bible, God describes money as one of world’s most powerful ‘gods’; it’s a chief idol that competes heavily with God. People look to money as /their source of living,
/their salvation from troubles & sorrows, /the fix for their problems, /the cause for happiness,
/their way to buy someone’s forgiveness & good will, /& their way to have peace of mind.
A false god is something that people ultimately look to in time of need. Anything we trust-in to help, to provide, & to rescue us from trouble becomes for us a false god.
Money =because it provides life’s things= is right at the top of that list for people’s worship.
If money is a false god in this world, then we could say that this god’s houses of worship would be stores; a person can even worship online thru the ‘temple of Amazon.’
The evangelists are the advertisers, who spread the ‘good news’, that the more stuff you have, (or the better stuff you have), the more your god has blessed you. The cash register is an altar of sacrifice where the great exchange is made of your offerings for your chosen blessings.
*At what other time of the year is this alternate religion & worship made so clear?
We Americans may not like this analogy. However, the Bible DOES tie together money & idolatry & worldliness & materialism & mammon as things that tear us away from needing & thanking the True God, and seeking Him -above all- for a real & fulfilling & eternal life.
At the same time, we know that money is quite necessary for living in the world. So, merely shopping for Christmas presents is NOT -in itself- worship of money. But the world’s promotion & love of money makes it a god of false worship.
Our Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be ‘materialistic.’ We can buy gifts for good reasons; just as God’s faithful people must buy daily necessities. But Scripture warns us sternly that the devil WILL tempt us, and our sinful nature will powerfully pull us into a false relying on our money. And the world itself, following after the ‘prince of this world’,
will advertise & present its false god in a way that is super-hard for us to resist.
In the last 2 Sundays we’ve referred to the Parable of the Sower (in Matt.13) where Jesus warns us of the hostile opposition we face in listening to & learning God’s life-giving Word; which our faith needs every day to live. So, as a theme, we’ve combined our COMMON TABLE PRAYER with our need of DAILY DEVOTIONS with God’s Word; and we’ve used Jesus’ parable as the foundation.
So, this meal prayer should be common in your household (even if you live alone): “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.” By inviting Jesus to be the guest in our home, we will be blessed when He ‘advents’ among us to teach us about himself, and about our lives, and about His gracious solution for our problems.
+Our chief problem is that our sin cuts us off from God, & takes away the only good future there is. His solution is to assure us of the forgiveness that His cross & empty tomb give us. +Our next problem is that -in this life- we constantly have spiritual enemies who attack & daily fight us to keep us from hearing that Word which feeds & renews our faith.
His solution is for us to invite Him to be present, & to listen to His Word everyday; for He alone is stronger than all our enemies. So, in the Parable of the Sower He warned against what He called “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.” He said that these can choke-out the word of God.
In our Advent series so far, we’ve thought about how Jesus still comes to us to overcome the 1)devil & 2)our sinful nature; 2-parts of the ‘unholy trinity.’ Today, we consider the 3rd part: 3) the sinful world. THIS is what Jesus says about that: “A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some …seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.”
Jesus explained that the seed is God’s Word. He said: “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”(& the tree that is unfruitful will be cut down & thrown into the fire)
So, there it is. Just like when good plants get choked out by weeds in our garden, so we get so wrapped up in living in this world that God’s things get choked-out. We think eternal things can wait because earthly things have to get done now; & pretty soon that’s all we focus on; & God’s things can wait. The trouble is, they’re not just waiting, they’re choked-off. Since money is what enables a good & comfortable life now, that’s what gets all our attention & respect. That is the shallowest view of this life.
This part of the parable is just like Jesus’ teaching in Matt 6, when He said, “Do not be anxious saying, ‘what shall we eat,’ or ‘what shall we drink,’ or ‘what shall we wear?’ For the gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Our faith wants to do that, but then the world attacks us for being too spiritual & not practical. And the world deceives us, & says that a good job -is better than a good church;
a good investment -is better than a good offering; extra time at work -is more beneficial than another Sunday at worship; & teaching our children to eat-healthy -is more useful than teaching them how/when/why to use God’s Word & to pray. That’s how the world’s weeds grow up, & choke-off our faith so that we are bearing very little or no fruit in God’s kingdom.
But, life in the world is NOT more important than our life with God; as Jesus told Satan: ‘man does not live on bread alone.’
The Creator has told us the truth. His creation has been ruined, and He is bringing it all to an end. Jesus will return in power to judge between those living in Him, and those dead to Him.
We believe what he has said. There is no future with this sinful world; it must be destroyed before the new one is created to replace it. And Jesus alone is The Door into that new life.
In his 2nd letter Peter writes, “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, the home of righteousness.” (2 Pt 3:10–13).
A new thing is coming. This fallen world says that you need to buy the latest new thing; our Lord -instead- promises to give you the LAST new thing == the new heaven and the new earth. This will happen when he comes back. This was his plan put in place at the Fall = as soon as Adam had to contend with thorns in the ground, & Eve had to endure pain in childbirth. The Spirit says thru Isaiah that the suffering servant would -first- come into the fallen world to redeem his people, so that he could -later- take them out of this ruined world to a new & better one, called “the home of righteousness.”
Jesus has taught us that He and His kingdom are not of this old-world. His first Christmas-coming did bring peace on earth & good will to mankind; but it was peace & good will IN HIM, not in this world. In John’s gospel, Jesus said of those baptized in Him, Father, “they are not of this world any more than I am of this world.” And He has told US, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) True peace could never be in this fallen world; it’s always been in Him.
He alone produced real peace when he took-on the sin of the world, and took it to the cross. It was thru the peace of his death & resurrection that God’s good-will was delivered to fallen man. This old world aches for a good life; and without God, it looks to the things of the world to provide life = but that’s a lie.
It’s a great temptation to think that the chief things are: good food & fancy clothing & safe communities & advanced technologies & a secure bank account & reliable medicines & healthcare, …and including the fun times of the year to celebrate & exchange gifts. But instead of being thankful TO GOD for all those things, those things can take all our attention & choke-off our connection to God == which is His Spirit-filled Word. By that Word alone we know of Him, believe in Him, and know how to live with Him = that’s peace. Jesus said, I have told you these things, so that IN ME you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33).
Our faith needs this peace every day, & Christ alone is the real focus of our Christmas worship. The world thinks that there will be peace & good will if everyone gets some presents; But only with Jesus’ presence will we have real peace; because only He is bringing to us the future ‘home of righteousness’ when he returns. So, this is the job of our faith: to patiently wait, and to trust His Word of promise of the better life to come.
Jesus’ Christmas birth points us to what is written in Rev.21:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,… “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people,… ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “ Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rv 21
The fact that Jesus advented among us the first time is the sure sign that He will have a second advent. He came first to bring us forgiveness-peace, and He will return to bring us eternal-peace. In the meantime, His Scripture is His Spirit & given to us to keep us from forgetting about Him while we wait; so that we will not get lost in the weeds of the world.
While we wait, we face the cares & deceit of this old world 7-days-a-week. So, Sunday alone is not enough sowing of the seed of God’s Word to protect us against the choking threat of a fallen world. We need to pray ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ each day, and receive strength & guidance from God’s Spirit -each day- in some daily devotions.
The deceitfulness of the world comes at us, & at our children & grandchildren, 24/7 with technology; it comes with opposite morality, wrong values, & substitute worship. How important it is for God’s Spirit to re-plant our hearts & minds with the good seed of His truth.
God’s Church has also used that technology to bring us His Word, to hear and share a daily devotion, and to encourage each other in remembering the Lord’s promise: we are not of this world. This old world & its troubles are passing away = and we are glad because of His better one to come. And each Christmas we celebrate is another one closer to when He returns in all His glory.
This is the Christmas worship the world is missing, & it’s missing it on purpose!
And too many are being deceived. But we are not deceived. Christ Jesus & His first work, and His promise to return, is the true Christmas worship we want all people to know about.
So, don’t let the world’s false Christmas worship choke Christ out. Keep coming here to receive His word of promise; keep inviting Christ to your home thru daily devotions; and keep encouraging one another, because The Day is coming when we will leave this old world, and enter into His new ‘home of righteousness.’