During the second week of Advent, we light the second purple candle representing faith, as well as last week’s purple hope candle. We remember the journey that Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem. We remember that faith is a journey. Faith is something that God brings to life in us and then grows throughout our lives. Faith is the joining of belief and actions. We see that Mary, not only believed the angel Gabriel, but also said “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to you word.” (Luke 1:38) Mary then proceeded to honor, carry and deliver Jesus. Likewise, in Matthew 1, Joseph not only believed that Mary was carrying one conceived of the Holy Spirit, but he also obeyed and took Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:24-25). The Lord showed them how to believe and they obeyed out of that belief. This is why hearing from and knowing the Lord is essential to right obedience.
Faith is enduring and encouraging; it is interactive. How incredible of God to give us a way to interact and participate with him! This is faith; that what we do is born of who God is and what He has done. It is no secret that Billy and I love to study using four simple questions. Who is God? What is He doing? Who am I in light of who God is and what He’s doing? What can I do in light of who I am? These questions were written by Jeff Vanderstelt and further instruction can be found in his books, guides and videos. These have been infinitely helpful for us as we figure out how to work out our faith. We love to study this way, not just because it cultivates a joy and reverence for God, but also because it helps us process what right obedience looks like. As we understand that right obedience comes from our identity in Christ and His work, it is only natural that we also understand that sin comes from wrong belief. Wrong belief about ourselves, what we are to do, what God is doing and who God is.
Think about weeding a garden. It is more beneficial for us to take out the root of the weeds. We can continue to snap off the evidence of foreign roots, but it is not until the root is pulled out that the weed stops growing. Weeding allows the intended fruit to flourish. Granted, a garden will look beautiful if you snap the weeds off at the soil, but it is not the whole story of what’s going on under the surface. That is a lot like our hearts. When we continue to stop our bad behavior without rooting out the incorrect belief, we are making the garden presentable for the day but not in any way aiding the growth of good fruit.
If we learn to see that all of our behavior is rooted in correct and incorrect belief, it will allow us to grow in a deeper understanding of who God is, and will allow us to experience healthy patterns of repentance. I think that, in legalistic church cultures, wrong repentance is something that is so highly exalted, that even right repentance is triggering. You might find yourself asking, “But Lisa, isn’t all repentance good?” In short, no. The reason that all repentance is not good is because of our motives. If I am obeying Christ because it gives me status or makes me feel good, I am not pulling my sin out at the roots, but am simply giving it a shiny new name. This is a victory that Satan has been claiming in our churches for far too long. We have bowed down to the enemy and allowed him to teach us to call our worship of money, good stewardship. Likewise, we have called our obsession with safety prudence; we have called our self-righteousness morality; and our judgement of the world (and subsequent insolation from it) we have called sanctification. We, as the Bride of Christ, need to stop trying to make ourselves look good. Christ has already done that work for us and done a much better job of it than we could (if I do say so). If we are so far removed from repentance that, when we see another person’s sin, our heart immediately says “I can’t understand doing THAT,” then we are not working out our own faith daily. Repentance is the bed fellow of faith and we need to walk in it daily. This is not so that our shame can teach us how to behave better, but so that our right vision of God can lead us into His arms.
Faith leads us to right repentance because it continues to point us to God as the author and finisher of our faith. Right repentance looks like awe; it looks like obedience; it looks like a heart turned towards God in worship. Our faith is only as strong as the object of it. If our faith is centered on anything but Jesus, it will fail. Faith, like Hope, is worship. It is God’s children acknowledging His position as good and right and perfect, and teaching our actions to flow out of that heart understanding. As you light this candle, remember that you are on a journey. The only “arriving” we will do is when we enter the presence of our Lord when this life has ended. And there, because of the blood of Jesus, He will say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” We have not earned faith, but we can certainly participate in it. Believe well brothers and sisters, lean into His grace and keep the faith!
Scripture reading: Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25, & Luke 2:1-7
Thing Remembered: Mary and Jospeh’s journey to Bethlehem
What does faith mean to you?
What does it mean for someone to be “faithful”?
How do we see God being faithful to His promise?
Who did God use to fulfill the promise How do we see Mary and Joseph having faith in this situation? What are promises that God makes that we can have faith in?
O Come All Ye Faithful
Away in a Manger
Children’s craft: Popsicle stick stable and painted rocks as Mary, Jospeh, Jesus and others (Angels, shepherds, sheep barn animals, star, etc.) and pebbles marking the journey Mary and Joseph made.
Adult craft: Create your own Nativity Set with crochet dolls, peg dolls, corks or any other craft material. Mark the path to the stable with major events in your faith journey.
Closing Prayer: O, Lord stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son. Through faith in Him have we been made worthy to serve thee with pure hearts and minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen