December 12, 2020
Philippians 1:3-11 (NIV)
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Repentance. How did such a good word get such a bad rap? The word repent conjures up decisively negative images of doomsday preachers shouting on street corners. It is largely associated with words like stop, don’t, and quit. But what if the word is positive? What if repentance is more about turning toward something really good? What if it also means go, do, and start? It is one thing to turn away from something undesirable; it is quite another to turn to something beautiful. Repent means reorienting our highest aspirations toward the best thing imaginable. We were created for lives of inestimable goodness. Notice Paul’s bold prayer from today’s text:
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best.
That’s what I want—my love overflowing more and more with knowledge and full insight to help me determine what is best. Said another way: I want to think like God thinks. Said another way: I want the same mind in me that was in Christ Jesus. Time for one more? How about, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2 NIV).
Let’s get fiercely practical. Your soul or inner life is like a garden. It responds to the law of reaping and sowing just like everything else in the universe—we reap what we sow. Here’s the tricky part. Sow roses—reap roses. Sow tomatoes—reap tomatoes. Sow nothing—reap nothing. Right? Wrong! Sow nothing—reap weeds! We didn’t even have to plant them. This is what Scripture means when it says we are sinful by nature. To be sure, repentance means weeding our souls, but even more so, it means sowing the seeds of incredible things. Remember yesterday’s call about bearing fruits worthy of repentance? While weeding helps tons, fruit-bearing only comes from sowing new seeds.
Now watch how today’s text wraps up with where this is all headed. It’s all about the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. Advent means repentance—pulling the weeds, but even more, sowing new seeds.
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. Thank you for this beautiful invitation to repent, to leave behind the futility of behavior management and to set my heart on the vision of a flourishing garden. Thank you that my life is not my project but yours. Come, Holy Spirit, and teach me how being transformed works differently than endlessly striving to transform myself. Show me the seeds to sow. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
How is this Advent unfolding differently for you than in years past? Can you identify a seed you sense the Spirit wants to sow in your life today? Generosity, maybe? Patience?
For the Awakening,
Thank you for the turn in how we can think of repentance, from turning away to turning toward. I have always thought the same way about redemption. Yes, Christ has redeemed me from my sin, hallelujah! Doesn’t he also redeem the good and pleasing ways of my living for him to produce more than I could ever think or imagine? This keeps me listening and sowing.
Repentance for me is not of changing but of doing, to let my yes be yes. As I said before I am filled with many legitimate excuses mostly based on fear. Repentance for me is going forward to do what I said I would do. This is not a new brand of seed, for I have planted it over and over again with no resolve. For the soil of my heart is resistant to this seed. There is a root base on fear that seems to grow with out effort. The great Gardener has told me that perfect Love will dissolve this root. But I have yet to find or grasp such a love that will expel the root of this fear. For this fear has grown from birth, and although to many I may seem fearless, I know that it is at the root of all my excuses and woes. Lord God my beloved and friend only you can dig out and remove this root that entangles my love walk. This root that puts up barriers between others and myself. Lord do a work in me that will free me to be and do all that you require of me.
This year’s Advent season is definitely different from previous years in that it follows the most chaotic and tumultuous times in recent history. I believe the Spirit is planting in my life the seed of commitment to live a life worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4:1). I have repented of merely existing as a passive Christian and will commit to being a true soldier of the cross.