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.

Idol Worship is Foolishness (Isaiah 45-48)

Book of Isaiah

After Gods’ promises of salvation and victory in the previous section, God begins to talk about an anointed one to bring forth salvation for all mankind. However, knowing His people the way He does, God knows that people will begin to question His motives or the method that He uses. But God tells His people, “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?'” (45:9, NLT). God uses the fact that He is the Creator as His reasoning for His ability to do as He sees fit. God then speaks on the future conversion of the Gentiles. He says, “I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right.” (45:19b, NLT). Which then leads to the conclusion at the end of the chapter, “The people will declare, ‘The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.’ And all who were angry with him will come to him and be ashamed.” (45:24, NLT).

God continues to call out to His people to repent. He does not want to punish these people; they are His and He loves them very much. However, He knows that a time is coming that He will have to unleash His wrath upon them. He makes yet another plea to them saying, “Listen to me, descendant of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have care for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime — until you hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (46:3-4, NLT). He points again to idol worship of the pagans, especially Babylon. These idols cannot save the people who worship them or do anything else for them but stand there and look pretty. But God tells them that He is a living God who is willing to act for them. “Listen to me, you stubborn people who are so far from doing right. For I am ready to set things right, not in the distant future, but right now! I am ready to save Jerusalem and show my glory to Israel.” (46:12-13, NLT).

Turning towards the new oppressors, God addresses the Babylonians. They claim that they are the only one, and none are more powerful than they are. Yet God tells them that a great calamity is coming their way, one they are not prepared to handle. The consequence of this is that they will sit in shame before all people. God says to them, “Come down, virgin daughter of Babylon, and sit in the dust. Four your days of sitting on a throne have ended. O daughter of Babylonia, never again will you be the lovely princess, tender and delicate. Take heavy millstones and grind flour. Remove you veil, and strip off your robe. Expose yourself to public view. You will be naked and burned with shame. I will take vengeance against you without pity.” (47:1-3, NLT). Nothing about this image is nice, it is all a place of shame. God seeks to take a once great nation, and bring it down low because it was too prideful and worshiped false gods.

He then brings the idol worship back home to the Israelites. God knows that even they are subject to breaking this Commandment.”You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel.” (48:1-2, NLT). Even Israel is not safe from the condemnation of idol worship. But God offers them a new prophecy to show that He is God and none of the idols can compare to Him. He tells His people that His anointed one will come and destroy Babylon.  This act is going to cause the Israelites to be set free, and return home after the Exile.

There is a single theme that keeps grabbing me today as I read these passages, idol worship is foolishness. Back during the times of Isaiah’s writing, idol worship was easy to pick out. If someone created a statue and decided to worship it, that was idol worship. Yet, this sin still exists in our world today, it just normally doesn’t come up as a statue anymore. The biggest form we see today is over money. People seek after the “great green George” thinking that all their problems would be solved if they made enough money. I myself have been caught thinking these same thoughts a time or two. Another form of idol worship comes in the form of fame or the famous. We either want to become well-known, see our name in lights, or be some big hot-shot movie star. We can also tend to take a person and follow their every move, know everything about them and their life as if we were actually friends with these people. The list goes on and on over what idol worship looks like to us today. I simply ask that we be mindful of where our gaze gets taken away from the Creator and given towards created things. Many times in these passages God calls the people who worship idols foolish. Do you want to be foolish? Or would you rather stick down a path that leads to wisdom? Proverbs says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10, NASB). We must seek out God and not allow our sights to be taken off of Him.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 108

 

Also in this Series

Where Does Your Wisdom Come From? (Isaiah 17-20)

Book of Isaiah

Continuing His messages towards the nations, God addresses Damascus and the Northern Kingdom (Israel). The people had fallen away from God. They had been assimilated into the Assyrian Empire, which lead to a cultural change for the Israelites. They began worshiping pagan idols and Asherah poles. Which is directly against warnings found in the Bible (Deuteronomy 12:3; 16:21). He tells them, for their abandonment, they will be destroyed along with Assyria. Several years later, God delivered a message to Ethiopia. This message was given because Ethiopia had asked Judah to be in alliance to repel the oncoming Assyrian threat. But Isaiah responded by telling the that Judah only need God to withstand Assyria. This message comes as a message that God will overcome Ethiopia and use the Assyrians to destroy them. Next God addresses Egypt. He tells them, “What fools are the officials of Zoan! Their best counsel to the king of Egypt is stupid and wrong. Will the still boast to Pharaoh of their wisdom? Will they dare brag about all their wise ancestors? … The officials of Zoan are fools, and the officials of Memphis are deluded. The leaders of the people have led Egypt astray.” (19:11 & 13, NLT). However, God tells them that they will leave behind their human leadership, and look to God for help. “In that day Egypt and Assyria will be connected by a highway. The Egyptians and Assyrians will move freely between their lands, and they will both worship God. And Israel will be their ally. The three will be together, and Israel will be a blessing to them.” (19:23-24, NLT). The final message given in this section was to both Egypt and Ethiopia. Isaiah walked around naked for 3 years, because this is what Assyria was going to do to them when they were conquered by Assyria.

How many times to we honestly seek wisdom? For me, I feel like I do it everyday. But where do we look? I think most people look to a role model, a professional (therapist, counselor, etc.), or even people like psychics. The problem with this is that they are all humans. Human wisdom is fallible and temporary. It doesn’t really help us in the long run. It may help us feel better in the moment, but one day it will no longer help us. True wisdom comes from God. James wrote in his letter, “But if any of you lacks 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 should turn to God for wisdom. He shows us here in Isaiah that human wisdom can be disastrously wrong, yet “Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:5, NASB). God’s wisdom knows no bounds.

So I ask, where do we go to seek wisdom? Would we rather ask someone for their opinion, or do we ask God? This isn’t to say that people can’t help us get God’s wisdom. God brings up men and women that can do this. Typically they are found as pastors, church leaders, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, etc. Not all men point you away from God. I’m just saying that we should pay attention to where our advice comes from. People who do not follow God, can only give opinions according to their worldly view. Yet someone who follows the Lord, can give you His advice. But you should spend time in the Word and in prayer on your own. DO NOT rely solely on someone else’s thoughts and opinions. God has a message for you, and you can’t hear it if you are not listening to Him.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 101

Also in this Series