One of the things I love about the Church calendar is that it gives us the opportunity to take specific times in the life of the Church to reflect on specific things and themes in Scripture and redemptive history.
Advent is one of those times. During Advent we not only look back at Christ’s incarnation but we also look forward to his return. When he returns he will consummate his Kingdom here on earth and it is in heaven and will restore all things to their rightful place and order. What a day that will be!
Yesterday we reflected on Matthew 5:17-19 at South City Church. I encourage you to go and read this text before reading further.
We tend, today, to look at the Law as given in the OT and say things like, “Yeah but we don’t have to do that anymore.” Or, “Yeah but that was just for the Israelites.”
Both of those assertions would be wrong I believe. The Bible is clear. The only way we may come before God is if we are righteous and holy. God has made clear in his Word how we are to be holy and righteous; that is by keeping his Law.
I want to dispel a lie for you right now. You hear all these preachers and others say things like, “Come as you are” or “God loves you just as you are.” But this is not what the Bible says. The Bible says that God hates sin and will destroy those who are unrighteous. I realize that there aren’t a lot of preachers saying things like this these days. We live in a world that doesn’t like objective truth.
But whether we like it or not, the Bible is clear. We may not come before God as we are in our sin and unrighteousness. God takes sin much more seriously than we do.
So in this text we have some good news and bad news. The bad news is that Jesus sets an impossibly high bar for his followers. I mean, just read chapter 5 of Matthew. Can you do all those things?
Which is kind of the point.
Questions 4 and 5 of the Heidelberg Catechism are instructive for us here. Question 4 ask this: “What doth the law of God require of us?” The answer: “Christ teaches us that briefly, Matthew 22:37-40, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the greatest commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Question 5 follows: “Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?” And the answer: “In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.”
We have a problem, the same problem the disciples had. It is impossible for us to keep the law. So then how are we to come before God?
The Heidelberg Catechism helps us out again in Question 18: “Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man?” The answer: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”
If we could do all this ourselves then salvation would be attainable by us in our own efforts. Salvation would not be of God then and we wouldn’t need a Saviour, a Mediator. But we do. We cannot keep the law. But Christ has.
He is both the giver of the Law and the keeper of the Law. What God has required he has provided!
See, the Law is clear that we, God’s created human beings must be righteous. But in our fallen humanity we can’t do that. So the One who has to be righteous on our behalf had to be human. But only God is righteous. So the One who could be righteous must be God.
This is why Christ’s coming, his Advent matters. Without him coming to us as fully human our humanity cannot be redeemed. Without his perfection as God the Son, righteousness cannot be accomplished.
But Advent has come. Christ has come. In his humanity he mediates for us as sinful humans. He lived the perfect and sinless life that God requires. In his deity he has accomplished what only God can do: righteousness.
And so we look to Christ as our righteousness by faith.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Growing up in a Baptist context we never talked about Advent that I remember. We certainly didn’t decorate with wreaths or use candles or anything like that. That would have seemed far too Catholic.
As I have learned and progressed in my faith, I have come to a deep appreciation and love for our ancient faith and the ancient practice of our faith. In our worship, we have the opportunity to be connected in spirit and form with our brothers and sisters who have come long before us. So it is with great joy that I am observing Advent now.
I preached the first of four Advent sermons yesterday. My title was ‘The Snake Crusher.’ The text was Genesis 3.
Now this might seem a little odd for an Advent sermon but let me explain why I think it’s not only not odd but necessary. For us to even understand the significance of Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and eventual return, we have to know where this all got started.
The reason Jesus came is because of the Garden.
So we talked yesterday about three specific things from this Genesis text.
1. The Sin (verses 1-13)
2. The Curse (verses 14-19)
3. The Promise (verse 15)
The sin should be fairly obvious to us I think. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating off the tree that God told them not to. It’s the reason that I think is less obvious. I believe one of the reasons Adam and Eve disobeyed God is because the serpent planted just enough doubt in their mind about the goodness of God to make them ask questions.
Questions like, why can’t I eat from this tree? Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do? And the one I think is really at the heart of the matter: What are you trying to hide from me? See, I think that deep down we don’t trust God. We don’t trust him when he says no because we are too busy trying to make ourselves the authority. We don’t trust his goodness, his kindness, his grace toward us; mostly because we try to make God in our own image.
The curse is also fairly obvious. Women and men now cursed. Their toil will now be painful and their naturally complementarian relationship created to bring order, balance and wholeness now marred by an unholy desire for control.
And the serpent gets cursed as well. God says to the serpent, ‘I’m going to thwart your treasonous plans and humiliate you into the dust.’ Not sure he paid much attention to that or if he’s really that arrogant ‘cause he keeps trying to win a battle that he’s doomed to lose.
But the real good part is the promise we see in verse 15. There will come one, God promised, who would crush the serpent’s head. Adam failed but Christ has come.
Christ is the better Adam. Christ is the promised seed who has caused enmity between the serpent and the people of God. Christ is the one who has withstood the temptations of the serpent and he didn’t blink or waiver or fall. Christ is the one who has bruised the head of the serpent at the cross and one day, our anticipation will be realized when Christ returns and he will once and for all crush the head of our enemy.
Death will be no more.
Sin will be no more.
We began in a garden, thrown out into the wilderness for our defiance and sin against an Almighty God. But we end in another garden, welcomed into eternal fellowship with Christ our King!
No longer defiant but grateful.
No longer sinners but finally and forever free.
Free to be who God has truly created us to be, children of the King welcomed home with the smile of our Father.
Soli Deo Gloria!