December 6, 2015
Texts: Malachi 3:1-4
ExpectationsWith all the shootings and bombings almost on a daily basis, it seems the world is out of control.Recently, the attacks in San Bernardino California prompted news reporters to say in frustration:“this has got to stop.” They then showed a headline from a newspaper they said summed it all up.You know what it said? “God is not fixing things”I find it interesting that the same people who want God banned from schools and governmentand their daily lives- expect God to fix things. What they don’t realize is that God is on themove- has always been on the move –it’s just that He is moving in ways they don’t expect.Throughout the Old Testament, the nation of Israel spent a great deal of time living in bondage.Some no doubt had thought to themselves: “God is not fixing things.” Is it no wonder then thatwhen God promised to send them someone who would set them free- they expected a warriorking to set them free from the oppression of the Roman Empire. That was something they coulddream and talked about.And then one day, they woke up to the un-expectant sound of a man dressed in camel’s hair,crying out in the wilderness a message of repentance delivered with such a certainty and urgencythat it was hard to ignore. And why the urgency? To prepare the way of the Lord. How? Repent?Who me? I’m the victim here- What about the other guy- what about the Romans? But God’smessage of repentance begins with every heart. We have all fallen short of the glory of God.What did you expect? As we prepare for Christmas- what do you expect of God? Pray.Advent is a season of preparation. How we prepare for something depends on what we arepreparing for. If you are preparing for guest at your home- you get ready by cleaning the house,taking a bath and putting on clean clothes. How does a student prepare for a major test? Hestudies late into the night- sometimes unshaven and wearing an old sweat shirt.How do you prepare to meet Jesus? Clean up and put on your best clothes? John the Baptistcame to prepare the way- but his message was not one anyone had expected. Repent. God cansee right through your outward appearances. It is the heart that He wants- a pure heart- cleansedfrom within.People living in the Old Testament lived under the law- a law that was not subtle by any means.They knew with no uncertainty what was required of them and the consequences of breaking thelaw was plain to see. It required the blood of an innocent animal. The sacrifices were gory andunmerciful. It was required not once- but every day- year after year. The bleating of lambs asthey were laid on the altar and their blood running down the altar were a reminder to them of theseriousness of their sins- that without the substituted blood of an innocent lamb- it would be theirown- and they worshipped God in thanks and praise for God’s provision.But somehow along the way, more and more attention was given to how well they performed therituals in carrying out the sacrifice instead of the sacrifice itself. By the time Jesus was born,people were obsessed with preparing for worship with ceremonial hand washing and washing ofutensils- and little to do with preparing their hearts.If we look at the law as only a bunch of dos and don’ts- we miss the purpose of the law. The lawwas given to us because of love. Through the law we see a Father who wants the best for us- whoin His wisdom and love- wants to guide us and protect us from harm. Like a mirror that shows usour dirty faces, the law reveals our sins and the holiness of a perfect God.I read an article this week from the Institute of Lutheran Theology entitled: “The Uniqueness ofthe Gospel”. It began by asking the question: “How many religions there are?” Their answer wasthat there are really only two. That of the law- and that of the gospel. All the other religions ofthe world demand their followers to save themselves by doing things. The religion of the law is aquest to make God accept us- to buy God’s favor and appease God’s wrath through our ownworks. People try- but it is an impossible thing to accomplish on our own.In contrast- the message central to the gospel is that God has come to us first- died for us whilewe were yet sinners- paid the price of our sins in full- that without exception- there is nothing wecan do to save ourselves- we are saved by grace through faith alone. Grace alone, faith alone,Christ alone. Period.So why then do we need to repent? Why did God send John the Baptist to prepare his comingwith a message of repentance? Before we can answer that question, we first need to know whatrepentance is. Repentance is not simply being sorry for being caught with our hand in the cookiejar. Repentance is knowing the seriousness of our sins- wishing we hadn’t done what we havedone, thought or said because we realize it has separated us from God and others.Repentance is admitting we have done things hurtful to God and others- that our thoughts are notGod’s thoughts- that our words and motives are selfish and a mockery to God’s love and grace-and realizing that truth in the depths of our hearts- God’s Spirit moves us to come to God just aswe are-humbly- with no excuses- wanting God to take away our sins as far as the east is from thewest so that we can live close once more.That was what Kind David desired more than anything when he repented of his sins to Godsaying: “Create in me a clean heart, O God. And put a new and right sprit within me. Cast menot away from Thy presence and take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thysalvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.”Repentance is turning to God – it is worshipping God in Spirit and truth as we lay our heartsopen before a holy and righteous and almighty God’s mercy.stemmed from a chapel talk at the Christian University he heard based on I Corinthians 13-known as the love chapter. Apparently the words made him uncomfortable when he realized hewas not as loving as he should be and it made him uncomfortable and wanted it stopped.Thankfully, the president of the university responded with a rebuke saying that our culture hastaught our kids to be self-absorbed, narcissistic students and told the student that what he had feltwas what they called back in Tennessee a “come to Jesus” moment.The bible tells us in Hebrews that: “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any twoedged sword- piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning thethought and intentions of the heart.” That is what God’s word does through the working of theHoly Spirit. It calls us back to God when we have gone astray- and calls us even closer when wehaven’t.God loves us with a perfect love- but hates our sins with a perfect hatred- and why? Because it issin that separates us from Him. That is why God calls us to repentance- but it is up to us whetherwe repent or not.Imagine people hearing the fiery message that John the Baptist unashamedly preached andcomplaining that they were a victim of religious judgment? No. People were convicted of theirsins and willingly came forward to be baptized in the river. That young college student wasconvicted of his sins too- it was a “come to Jesus” moment for him too- but instead chose not tocome.What does the world expect of Christmas? For the most part- society wants it to be a time to eatand be merry and do their best to forget their problems and forget about God. But Christmas isabout remembering what God has done for us and giving our problems to Him.God has made a way – done the work- won the battle- set us free from the power of sin, deathand the power of the devil. We as a nation need to repent and turn to God- and it begins witheach heart- our own hearts.Come thou long expected Jesus- prepare our hearts- In Jesus name- Amen.