In light of our service being canceled this week due to the weather, Joshua Sorrows is following up with his message last week, Hope and Expectation, with the second part of our series on Advent, Preparation.
Do you remember the two farmers from John's sermons a few months ago? There was the first farmer that chose not to plant his seed because there had been no rain and there was no rain in forecast. The second farmer, despite the lack of rain and the lack of rain in the forecast decided that he would prepare for rain and planted his seed in faith. The second farmer planted his seed out of a place of expectation. His faith led him to expect rain and therefore he prepared for when the rain would come.
The story does not tell us wether the rain came or not but that is not the point. The point is that for us, during Advent, we are to live with expectation and out of a place of expectation the call for believers is to prepare for Christ’s return in faith.
A Bride’s Preparation
Shortly after I proposed to Sara she began to prepare for our wedding. She began going to dress shops trying on countless dresses to find the perfect dress for the occasion. In faith, Sara expected to be married on June 19th and that expectancy caused her to prepare. She made countless detailed decisions..... many of which I am still unaware of.
Sara’s story is not all that different from most brides today. Bride’s begin months before the wedding searching for the perfect dress, combing through magazines and Pinterest looking for the perfect hair and make up inspirations, and making countless trips to the tanning bed. Their flowers are ordered and cakes are selected. All of the preparation is done ahead of time because it is the expectant bride who diligently prepares to receive her husband at their wedding.
The Bride of Christ
As the church, we are the bride of Christ and therefore the call for us is to prepare our hearts so that we are ready to receive our bridegroom, who is Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:25-27 says, “25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
The reason a bride spends countless hours preparing her hair, make up, looking for the perfect dress and jewelry is, she wants to present herself to her husband with splendor and without blemish. Our chief desire as the bride of Christ should be to present ourselves before the Lord in a holy manner or as Paul says in Ephesians 4, “Walk in a manner worthy of your calling.”
The big question for all believers on this second week of Advent is, How do we prepare well? How does the church prepare for the return of Christ? What can all believers do to prepare our hearts to receive Christ? The answer is simple, “repent!”
Matthew 3:1-12 tells the story of John the Baptist and his call for repentance;
“1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
4 Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Matthew 3 gives us the story of John the Baptist who spoke of repentance as a radical turning from sin that inevitably became manifest in the fruit of righteousness.
Repentance in the Greek tradition implied a change of mind or attitude. The influence of the Old Testament gave repentance the sense of a change of action as well. It is from the influence of the Greek coupled with the inspiration from the Old Testament that we get the definition for repentance as turning away from sin, submitting to God’s lordship and living a life in obedience to Christ. John was essentially calling all of his hearers to change their way of life as a result of a complete change of thought, heart and attitude with regard to sin.
God’s Heart for Repentance
“When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I beat my breast to think I could ever have rebelled against the One who loved me so and sought my good.”
The one thing that God desires is a relationship with His children. In fact, He is relentless in His pursuit of our hearts. Repentance is the vehicle in which we restore our relationship with God. Repentance however means confession and confession means vulnerability. Being vulnerable is one of the things we fear the most as humans because the fear is that if we make ourselves fully known there is a chance we could be rejected for it.
Growing up in church I remember the response time at the end of the church service being less than desirable. I remember a preacher standing in the front yelling at the congregation to “Turn from your sin and accept Christ!” The preachers attitude toward sin often left me thinking, “Why would an unbeliever want to be a christian if God is going to be mad at them?”
Beloved, there is good news. God is never angry with us and never rejects us when we come to Him to repent and confess our sins to Him. In fact the Bible tells us that God’s heart toward repentance is kind. Romans 2:4 says, “Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can't you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
Charles Spurgeon said it this way, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I beat my breast to think I could ever have rebelled against the One who loved me so and sought my good.”
God’s heart for us is that we should not fear confessing our sin and repenting because He has a heart that is slow to anger, kind, tolerant, patient and loving toward us because God’s main desire is for a restored relationship with us.
The Prodigal Son
The story of the prodigal son illustrates the Father’s heart for us when we repent. The younger son asked his father for his share of his father’s estate. This is shocking because the son was not due his inheritance until his father had passed. Still, his father graciously granted his request. The son went off and squandered it all. This sign of disrespect is worthy of punishment. However, upon the sons return and confession, the Bible shows the father’s heart toward his son. Luke 15:20-24 tells us that the father saw his son from a far and felt compassion for him. After the sons confession, the father put his best robe on him, a ring on his hand, sandals on his feet and had his servants prepare an elaborate celebration for the sons return.
What we see from the father is pure joy and excitement that his son has returned. He does not ridicule him, hit him or yell at him. In fact, if we look closely, after the sons confession, the father doesn’t acknowledge the sin of the son. He immediately prepares the celebration. The father didn’t care about the sin because his relationship with his son was restored.
This is the heart of God for us when we repent and confess our sins to Him. The sin has been taken care of on the cross. Jesus has suffered the wrath of God for all sin. God’s heart toward our repentance is joy and excitement because our relationship with Him is restored. It’s His desire for us to be in right relationship with him. This is why He is so tolerant, compassionate and kind toward us.
The call for all believers during this second week of Advent is to prepare our hearts to be joined with Christ by repenting. Our preparation comes from a place of expectation just like the farmer and brides all over the world. We don’t have to be scared of confessing our sins to God because of His abundant kindness and compassion toward us. Therefore, this Christmas season, rejoice, rejoice church because our bridegroom is coming. The call for us is to expectantly prepare so that our hearts have no trace of spot or wrinkle as we anticipate being united with our King.