December 19, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Joy To The World)

Submitted by Timothy R.  of Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

In the ancient world, when a King came to a town, the roads would be smoothed  ahead of time so that the King’s chariots could arrive on smooth roads—valleys  were filled up, and hills were flattened.  What does it mean for people to be  prepared for the arrival of Jesus?

Mark 1:4 states that the specific way in which God prepared for the arrival of Jesus was through  John the Baptist’s ministry: “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a  baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins.”  So clearly what was entailed in preparing for Jesus’ arrival was repentance and forgiveness of sins. People needed to own up to the truth of their sinful condition and acknowledge the ways in which sin had marred their hearts.

And in Isaiah 40:3-5, God provides a pretty graphic picture of condition of our marred hearts. Our hearts are so far from being that straight highway for the Lord. Our hearts are characterized by mountains/hills of pride and arrogance and deep valleys of insecurities.  In addition there are host of other sins in our lives that make our hearts like rugged places and rough ground, terrain that is clearly unfit to be a highway for God.  This picture that God paints in Isaiah 40 is so far from the kind of heart that we like to think we have.  We want to believe that we can be “ok” or “not that bad” on our own. But it’s clear from these verses, the extent to which our hearts are unfit to be pathway for God. And because of this, we desperately need a Savior

To prepare people for the arrival of Jesus, God sent His messenger to deliver this prophetic message so that people could see their desperate need for a Savior. Same holds true today. Before people can respond to the good news of the gospel, they first need to see the dark condition of their hearts and see their desperate need for a Savior.

What does it show about Jesus’ kingship that John preached a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to prepare for Jesus’ coming?

This shows that Jesus’ kingship is starkly different from this world’s kings who are characterized typically by their obsession with power. I think the fact that John preached a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins demonstrates that Jesus’ kingship was primarily characterized by His desire to relate to us.  Sin is what severs our relationship with God and acts as the barrier between us and holy God, and so God sought to remove this main barrier between God and us. The fact that John came with the single message of calling people to repentance shows God’s single-minded desire to reconcile with us.

Furthermore, the fact that God sent John to prepare for Jesus’ kingship shows that Jesus’ kingship is one of mercy.  He is a merciful king who declares amnesty and pardon towards the very rebels who have taken up arms against him; He gives them a chance to lay down their arms and receive forgiveness. Even though He had every right to condemn us for our sins, Jesus is a king who would rather that we repent and be forgiven rather than to receive judgment that we deserve.

What is the relationship between fellowship, joy, and repentance (or confession of sin)?

Contrary to what some people think, repentance is a wonderful privilege and a huge spiritual blessing. It’s a blessing that we get to repent and turn to God without fearing that He will reject us.  In His word (1 John 1:9), God promises us that when we do repent that He will forgive us our sins  and purify us from all unrighteousness. And because we are assured of forgiveness when we repent, we experience restored fellowship with God and with fellow believers after our repentance (1John 1:3, 7). And once we experience our fellowship restored to God and with other believers, we naturally experience the “complete joy” (v.4) that is found in God alone.

To what extent have I experienced this kind of joy, fellowship, walking in the light, and  “times of refreshing” through repentance?

I initially experienced the relief of God wiping out my sins and being refreshed when I first became a Christian many years ago. Since that point, I have failed many times and experienced on-going need to fill up the valleys, to lower mountains and hills, and to smooth out rough grounds that I keep finding in my heart. Each time I confess these sins to God and repent of my sins, He forgives me, purifies me from all my unrighteousness and allows me to experience “times of refreshing.” And since I sin on a daily basis, there is therefore a daily need for me to repent and confess my sins. And I am so thankful that God doesn’t provide just a means to receive a one-time cleansing from my sins but an ongoing way to receive forgiveness.

Prayer

Write out a prayer preparing for Christmas by confessing your sins, filling up the  valleys (darkness, envy, insecurity) and the hills (arrogance, pride), and coming out to  the light, and then affirming and claiming the promise of 1 John 1:7 & 9.

Lord, I thank You for reminding through today’s DT, how I need to prepare the road for Jesus’ coming on a daily basis. Indeed I confess how my heart is aptly described in Your word in Isaiah 40. When I peer inside my heart, I see that it is full of hills (arrogance, pride) and at the same time full of valleys  (darkness, envy, and insecurity). Lord there is so much of my heart that needs to be changed in order for it to become a smooth path for You. I am daily in need of receiving forgiveness from You. I am so thankful that You constantly invite me to come into Your light and not stay hidden in my sins. And when I do come out to the light, You promise me to pardon and forgive  my sins according to Your word in 1  John 1:7 & 9. Lord thank You so much for Your desire and willingness to be with me (Emmanuel) that I have been powerfully reminded of during this Christmas season. In Jesus name, Amen.

Submitted by Mia C. of Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

In the ancient world, when a King came to a town, the roads would be smoothed ahead of time so that the King’s chariots could arrive on smooth roads—valleys were filled up, and hills were flattened.  What does it mean for people to be prepared for the arrival of Jesus?

Unlike the preparations made to receive a human king, where roads were smoothed, valleys filled up and hills flattened so the king could come unhindered, the preparation to receive Jesus is spiritual. To smooth roads, fill valleys and flatten hills spiritually is to do the hard work of searching our hearts for rocky paths that need to be dug up and smoothed, hills and valleys of resistance to God that need to be dealt with. Ultimately the coming of Jesus, the Savior of the world, can only be properly understood and responded to when we see our need to welcome Jesus. That happens only when we understand our true condition as wretched sinners before a holy God. As it’s written in Mark 1:4, the preparation for the Lord (Jesus) manifested in John the Baptist preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But to get to this point, it is absolutely necessary for me to see my need for forgiveness which only comes with brutally honest introspection and reflection on the inner workings of my heart and many times in the outward actions that reflect what’s going on inside, all in the light of God’s Word.

What does it show about Jesus’ kingship that John preached a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to prepare for Jesus’ coming?

The fact that John preached a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to prepare for Jesus’ coming shows that Jesus’ kingship is not an earthly one but one that transcends the earthly to address man’s heart and the inner life. He did not come to establish worldly power or authority but to establish his kingship in the lives and hearts of men. He came to be Lord in men’s hearts and so the work of preparing the road to welcome him involved repentance and seeing the need for the forgiveness of sin. Had he been interested in anything else, the preparation would have called for something else. As it was back then in first century Palestine, it is the same for me today. The road to welcome Jesus into my heart as king involves repentance and the forgiveness of sins and this preparation is something that I must constantly be doing lest I grow complacent and allow the road of my heart to become rocky and difficult and unwelcoming to Jesus. Concretely this means that daily I need to be diligent in spending time in God’s Word, honestly reflecting about my life, my thoughts, my feelings in the light of God’s Word, allowing it to speak into my life and influence every aspect of my life. Through times of DT, prayer, journaling, regular sharing about what’s going on with others in the Body of Christ, I can regularly engage in preparing my heart to be welcoming to Jesus, my king.

What is the relationship between fellowship, joy, and repentance (or confession of sin)?

The relationship between fellowship, joy and repentance (or confession of sin) is direct. When there is unconfessed and unrepented sin, there can be no fellowship or joy because there is something to be hidden. To hide something from someone means keeping my distance lest I reveal too much. I’ll avoid the person at all costs, put on a mask and pretend everything is ok. Immediately and over the course of time, there will be a distance and coldness in that relationship making fellowship and joy impossible. How can you have fellowship, a partnership and a sharing of purpose, with someone you want to keep far away and are hiding something from?  On the flipside, when sin is confessed and repented of, there is now opportunity for forgiveness of wrongs committed. There’s a closeness in that relationship because in that process of confession and repentance, the ugliness of your sin was exposed and yet you were forgiven and accepted. Experiencing you are known at your worst and are still accepted and loved removes all need for masks, for pretense, for distance. You can be yourself freely and there is closeness in that relationship that only full disclosure can bring.

To what extent have I experienced this kind of joy, fellowship, walking in the light, and “times of refreshing” through repentance?

The times I confessed sin and repented, I fully experienced this kind of joy, fellowship, walking in the light, and “times of refreshing” described in the Scriptures. For me, when there was unconfessed sin, I was anxious and burdened with guilt and shame. There is a heaviness of the heart that hangs over my days and my nights and there is no escape from it. But once having confessed my sin to God and then to someone I trust, there is an immense sense of relief knowing that my sin is no longer a secret and someone knows about it. The consequences of my sin are still there and I have to deal with them but now there’s hope and opportunity for resolution.  Whenever I confessed sin and repented, I have always been met with grace and forgiveness which results in experiencing incredible sweetness and a sense of things being new and fresh. The heavy burden of guilt is gone. The tenseness in my relationship with God or with others is gone and I am no longer afraid of being discovered. I feel free to be around people, let them come close, lower my guard and interact and engage freely with the other person. A huge part of this freedom comes from knowing that even with the ugliness of my sin, I am accepted and loved and I don’t need to hide anymore. It is a reminder of the gospel message of God’s great love for me that sent Jesus to die on the cross for all my sins, every rotten one.

Prayer

Write out a prayer preparing for Christmas by confessing your sins, filling up the valleys (darkness, envy, insecurity) and the hills (arrogance, pride), and coming out to the light, and then affirming and claiming the promise of 1 John 1:7 & 9

Jesus, I confess you as Lord of my life but often my sins bar you from being king of my heart. Jesus, I confess that there are many valleys of darkness, envy, and insecurity in my heart. I am often more concerned about protecting my ego, building and protecting my reputation, comparing myself with others. My heart and mind is often consumed with creating for myself a place where I am needed and wanted rather than resting in the security of your unconditional love for me. My heart is often preoccupied with the concerns of my little life, my agenda, my desires, and my needs that often I do not have the roominess in my heart to consider you or others. My natural tendency is always to put myself first and satisfy myself first which has led me to grumble against you many times.

My heart is full of arrogance and pride as I take things into my own hands rather than looking to you for guidance and direction. I often take the things you have blessed me with and arrogantly take credit for them whether it’s my job, health, friends, ministry, etc.  God forgive me for my sins and allowing these valleys and hills to remain as they are and not doing the hard work of filling the valleys and flattening the hills to make my heart a more hospitable place for you. In confessing my sins, I want to prepare you room and the proper place as king in my life. You are the giver and sustainer of my life and you owe me nothing. I was never in a position to demand anything of you and yet you filled my life with so much blessing in the way of my salvation, the church, ministry, wealth of relationships and so much more. God, I trust your Word that you are faithful and just in forgiving my sins when I confess them and come into the light. I trust that the blood of Jesus, the Son you sent to the earth to be born and to die for our sins, will make me clean and purify me from my unrighteousness. Thank you for your great love that caused you to send your Son into this world through whom I can be restored to you.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response