Advent, the four weeks leading up Christmas, is the time the church has set aside to recognize Jesus’ incarnation as the long-awaited Messiah. And while we think of Christmas in terms of giving gifts, we rarely think of one of the important implications of the incarnation. Using Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians, we’ll see that we are to imitate Jesus in his incarnation by being self-sacrificing and unselfish – hardly the typical Christmas message, but one that reflects a Christ-centered view of the incarnation.
Whether you are a believer, a skeptic, or are still deciding, doubt affects us all. Is Jesus really who He said He was? Did He really do all those miracles? Is He truly the only way to God? By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke wrote a detailed, orderly, historical account so that we might know the certain truth about Jesus Christ. He is the seeking Savior who sacrificed Himself so that in Him we might stand firm in shaky times.
Our words can be used for ill, to harm others and destroy relationships. Solomon helps us to understand exactly how powerful our hurtful words are, and how we can, under Christ’s grace in the gospel, put off unrighteous speech and replace it with righteous patterns.
Short-term struggles become insurmountable without long-term hope. God assured the believers of Malachi’s day that despite their immediate suffering, the day was coming when both His justice and His mercy would be fully revealed. In the meantime, we are anchored by His word and His promises that testify to our ultimate Prophet who is sure to return, Jesus Christ.
If stealing from your neighbor can land you in jail, what are the consequences of stealing from God? Malachi says it results in a wandering heart, an oblivious mind, and the curse of His displeasure. Yet despite our chronic theft of His gifts and glory, God continues to call us to Himself through the Savior who became poor so that we might become rich in Him.
When the Lord Jesus returns in glory His splendor will have an irreversible effect on sin: it will judge unrepentant sin and purify the sin of those who have fled to Him for grace. But the Lord Jesus has already come once in the flesh and is presently purifying His Church, even as He warns unbelievers of the coming judgment. How happy are those who know His cleansing grace in this life and give Him all the glory!
In our last Topical Proverbs sermon, we saw the power of words to do good. We noted that two characteristics of wise speech are restraint and gentleness. Continuing to follow Paul’s “Put Off/Put On” principle, today we’ll look at a third virtue that should characterize our powerful speech: discernment. Solomon is driving home to us that it is imperative to master the skill of knowing what to say, when to say it, when not to say it, and how to say it.
Since the Garden of Eden, marriage has been identified as a strategic blessing from God and thus has been under siege by the enemy. He relentlessly seeks to marginalize, redefine, poison, and destroy it. Worst of all, our own faithlessness toward one another proceeds from, and contributes to, our faithlessness toward God. We need a Savior who can break the siege and have one in Jesus Christ. God’s prefect Bridegroom is able to redeem His faithless bride for His Father’s glory and our eternal good.
Anything we encounter frequently runs the risk of becoming undervalued, taken for granted, and even disrespected. From good health to material blessings to long-time spouses, familiarity breeds complacency. Sadly, our relationship with God is not exempt. The priests in Malachi’s day had grown indifferent to God’s majesty and thus negligent in their responsibilities. We face the same danger and are presented with the same hope: redemption through the perfect Priest whose lips preserved knowledge, whose feet walked in righteousness, and whose blood atoned for all who trust in Him.
Our words have tremendous potential for good or ill. If you have ever been on the receiving end of a harsh invective, you know how powerful they can be. The book of Proverbs recognized this power and our potential to misuse it, so Solomon gives us a number of important norms that must govern our use of words.