Become More Like Christ for Advent

“Then a shot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
Anad a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteouness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteouness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.”
–Isaiah 11:1-5, NASB

This is a really big post for this site. This will be the 200th post and the first one I’ve made in over 21 months! As we head into the Advent season this year, I thought it would be a good time to begin using this tool again. I won’t be posting daily like I used to, but I do aim for weekly posts.

This week’s Scripture comes out of Isaiah. Isaiah is writing about a person who will be a descendant of Jesse. This person will be filled with the Spirit, wise, and knowledgeable. Israel rightly believed that this is a list of attributes for the Messiah. We know, today, that Jesus fulfills each of these attributes. What can this mean for us today during this season?

As we walk out our faith, there is one thing we should always be doing; we should be becoming more like Christ. That means we should be working to be full of the Spirit, wise, and knowledgeable.

When we accept Christ into our lives there is something amazing that happens to us. Paul writes, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB) Part of this change is that you receive the Holy Spirit live inside of you. Many people to tend to ignore this or just brush it off, but think about it for a moment. Our understanding of God is found in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This means for us, there is a piece of the Almighty that lives within you! That’s how Paul can write later in his ministry, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31b, NASB) The Creator lives inside of each and every one of His believers, so there should be no reason that the Church should be afraid.

How can we become wise? This seems like an odd question. Wisdom feels like a thing you are either born with or not. The early church leader, James, writes “But if any of you lacks in wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5, NASB) We simply have to ask God for more wisdom and He gives it. It’s what we do with that wisdom that really matters. I believe that wisdom is a gift from God to help lead His people. It isn’t for our own benefit, but God’s.

Becoming more knowledgeable seems to have an easy answer, just read/study your Bible more. While this is true, it truly is only part of the entire picture. In order for us to become more knowledgeable, we must filter our entire lives through the lens of Christ. This helps us see how God is moving through the world’s events and through the events/people of our lives.

We should also be reading. Reading what, though? Read your Bible. Read the newspaper. Read blogs. Read books. Read teachings from good teachers. While there are many good reasons to read, Reading gives you new knowledge and exposure to new ideas. You simply cannot grow in knowledge without reading something.

As we begin this Advent season let’s think about how we can become more like Christ, accept the Holy Spirit, gain wisdom, and learn about God.

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Being Holy (1 Thessalonians 4)

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In today’s ready we get a few glances into what is the matter with the church in Thessalonica. Until this point, Paul seems to be giving the church praise after praise, without addressing any issues within the church. In chapter 4 he speaks to them about living lives that are pleasing to God, and what is going to happen with believer who have died.

The first point is what really grabbed my attention today. Paul defines this by saying, “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.” (4:3, NLT). I’m sure that the problem Paul is addressing is someone saying, “Since we’re saved from our sins, does it really matter if we keep on sinning?” This is a continuous problem in the early Church, since Paul addresses it frequently; most notably in Romans, “What sall we say then? Are we to continue to sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2, NASB). Paul goes on (in Thessalonians) to mention not harming or cheating against others (4:6), and finishes this little section by saying, “Therefore, anyone who refused to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (4:8, NLT).

God’s desire is for us to be holy, but what does that mean? It sounds like a lot of rules that we must follow, but really it is more that that. The word that is being used here (hagiasmos) to describe holy means dedication to God, both in faithfulness to Him and in active service. It is a process, not an achievement. John Wesley describes grace in three parts: previenient, justifying, and sanctifying. That sanctifying grace comes to us after we have accepted Christ, and is what works within us to be holy.

This understanding shows me that it is obvious that we cannot simply accept Christ and do nothing about it. There are obvious exceptions to this, one being the thief that accepted Christ while on the cross with him. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NASB). But for those of us that accept Christ long before we are on our deathbed, we are called to become holy, to be set apart for God and for God alone. This means we cannot sit idly by and do whatever we’d like. There’s are reason that “sinful nature” is also called “ways of the flesh”. Our natural status is for us to rebel against God. Paul tells us that if we work to become holy, we “will control [our] own body” (4:4, NLT). So to become holy is a path that we must forge, it is not something that just happens to us.

Spend some time in prayer today. Figure out where that next move is on this trip to holiness.