December 16, 2017

Prophecy Calls Us Into Right Relationship - Righteousness (Advent 3, Year B)

In the Gospel Reading (John 1.6-8, 19-28) we see a situation that is happening in our own lifetime. We have representatives of a corrupted religion investigating a genuine prophet. He tells them God is about to fulfill the Isaiah Prophecy. He tells them that the one “…you do not know.” (v. 26) is in their midst. This was a stinging rebuke to the religious leadership and a wake-up call to the Jews. It is also a wake-up call to us now. The question is what should we do to "make the way straight" or get into a right relationship with God  and "make righteousness and praise spring up" (v. 11) in our time?

1. The Baptist proclaimed the fulfillment of the Isaiah Prophecy
This was a prophecy that God would intervene in human affairs once again to "... make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations" (Isaiah 61.11). Water baptism is the first step in spiritual life.

  • ·         Symbolizes the washing away of what was preventing relationship
  • ·         Symbolized cleanliness, making holy, setting apart for God
  • ·         Symbolized death of old identity and birth of new identity
  • ·         Death of old relationship and birth of new relationship
  • ·         Establishment of a personal covenant relationship with God
  • ·         Right Relationship with God means:

o    knowing and accepting Jesus as personal Saviour
o    loyalty and obedience to the Commandments and teachings of Jesus as guided by the Holy Spirit
o    repenting, confessing future sins and asking forgiveness
o    faith and worship in the heart

In this Prophecy God promises to "... make righteousness and praise." God sees the pain, the brokenness and the dishonesty that have devastated His creation. He intends to:
·         Come and proclaim good news to the poor - who don't have hope
·         Bring light and healing to the spiritually and physically blind
·         Release spiritual and mental prisoners
·         Right injustice and establish justice
·         The goal is to restore humanity to a relationship of love with God.

2. Paul also calls us to be witnesses to this straight way
He is writing a letter to a congregation of Christians in Thessaloniki on the North East coast of Greece.  In his final remarks Paul calls them to be witnesses to what we could call the ‘way of joy’.
  • ·         Christians are an incredibly blessed people.
  • ·         They have found the way that is straight.
  • ·         This is the way of Jesus into a right relationship with God. 
  • ·         We are not ‘hope less’ like many of the people around us.
  • ·         People see the joy in our lives - we are like a light in the darkness
  • ·         When they ask us we must explain our right relationship with Jesus

3. We are also called to a relationship of worship and prayer
You can not have much of a relationship with someone that you only talk to once a week. Paul warns us not to let our experience of the Holy Spirit be quenched.
  • ·         We do not want to be like the religious officials who were not even aware that the Lord was already living among the people of Israel.
  • ·         Jesus promised He would send the Holy Spirit to all believers in right-relationship - as a supernatural sign of inclusion
  • ·         Relationship requires focus and self-discipline - need to be in a Christian community for teaching, mutual accountability and to experience God's grace, love, forgiveness and healing.

4. Right relationship requires both Salvation and Sanctification
I was blessed with some wonderful teaching when I met with John L. Sandford to review my autobiography for publication. We were talking about mental strongholds and how Satan uses these to break down our relationship with God. Apparently there was a major gathering of evangelical pastors in the US to discuss evangelism to a more mobile population after the invention of the automobile. These pastors decided they had to reduce the Gospel to a very simple form which could be taught before people moved on. They apparently decided to focus their teaching on salvation - accepting Jesus as personal lord and Saviour.
  • ·         Sanctification - the process of developing and growing in a spiritual relationship of love and obedience was sadly cut out
  • ·         This is why people are attracted to evangelical churches, then go from church to church looking for something more - relationship
  • ·         Danger is in reducing our relationship to simply following rules - like the Pharisees, without any real ongoing love relationship

We are called into a relationship with Jesus that begins when He becomes a real person to us, and continues as long as we work with Him to "make righteousness and praise spring up".

No comments:

Post a Comment