How Jesus fulfills a prophecy about being light in the darkness – Christmas 2022, Part 4

One of the guys who wrote the story of his friend Jesus, as I said in an earlier post this week, was Matthew.  Matthew, like John, was one of the 12 disciples who followed Jesus around for three years, learning from Jesus how to shine light in the darkness of the world.  Matthew tells us that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy we read in the previous post, a prophecy found in the Hebrew biblical book of Isaiah, a prophecy declaring that God would be born as a human baby, and through him the people walking in darkness have seen a great light.  Jesus was the light who entered the darkness. Here’s what Matthew said in his book about Jesus, chapter 4, verses 12-16,

“When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned’.”

In fact, Jesus himself would even claim the same. John writes in John 8:12, that Jesus once said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

How is Jesus light?  This week on the blog, we’ve been talking about how darkness is not just physical. It is also spiritual, relational, and emotional darkness.  When Jesus brings light into the darkness, the Gospel writer is saying that Jesus is the answer, the truth, the hope, the realness, the rightness, the fulfillment.  We see this come to fruition in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, through which he defeated sin, death and the devil, so that when we give our lives to believe in and follow him, we can have his light in our lives. 

How can we have his light in our life?  Back in John chapter 1, starting in verse 9, John says, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. … Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”

God wants to give his light to you!  You can become a child of God.  Receive him, believe in him.  Give your life to him.  I would love to talk with you about how to become part of God’s family.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Hope for those in darkness – Christmas 2022, Part 3

Where do we find light in this dark world? Where do we find hope? Sometime people seek answers in harmful ways and places.  They seek answers by indulging in the pleasures of life, or in addictive substances.  Could be in social media, pornography, or television.  All kinds of entertainment.  We try to bring light into our darkness in many ways.  But when we look to those kinds of places, we realize that they are temporary lights that often lead to ever-increasing darkness.  As we learned in the previous post, this is what Isaiah means when he says in Isaiah 8, “Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.”

One of Jesus’ earliest followers was a guy named Paul.  In an ancient Christian letter that is titled 2nd Corinthians, Paul wrote that “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

When Paul says, “The god of this age,” he is not talking about the one true God, but anything else that blinds us, keeping us from focusing on the one true light. Is there any hope for the spiritually, emotionally, relationally blind?

Into that desperate situation, God has more to say.  As we continue reading the ancient prophet Isaiah, we come to chapter 9, verse 2,  

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

There is hope!  A new light.  What is that light?  Scan down to verse 6 and we read these glorious words:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

A child king will be born, one who is mighty God.  God is telling us that he will become a person.  God who takes on human skin is the light in the darkness.  And that makes all the difference.

But how? Check back and read the next post to learn more.

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

LED headlights and people struggling with darkness – Christmas 2022, Part 2

My family has a 2010 vehicle with old headlights.  We also have a newer 2017 vehicle with bright new LEDs.  The difference is amazing.  I need to turn on the 2010’s high beams if I want to match the brightness of the 2017’s regular lights.  Have you ever been out driving, and a vehicle with new really bright LEDs shines in your eyes and your first reaction is “Turn off your high beams, buddy! Geesh, I can’t see.”  Then you realize that his lights are probably the same LEDs that you have on your vehicle.  Light shining in the darkness is a regular part of our lives. 

In the previous post, we learned that Christmas light displays have their origin in the biblical idea that Jesus is the light shining in the darkness.

But it wasn’t as if Jesus was somehow glowing brightly everywhere he went.  There is that one story called The Transfiguration where Jesus invites three of his closest friends to join him on a hike up a mountain.  There Jesus showed them his glory, turning bright white, like car LED lights on high beam, so bright, you have to turn away.  But Jesus’ transfiguration was only for a brief moment.  Every other moment of his life, Jesus didn’t shine.  Light didn’t emanate from him.  You couldn’t see him a mile away.  He had a regular human body just like ours and our bodies don’t glow.  We’re not fireflies.  When John wrote that Jesus was the light shining in the darkness, he is referring to a different light and a different darkness.

Those words would have been quite familiar to any Jewish readers of the John’s story.  Long before, in fact about 700 years before Jesus’ time, an ancient Hebrew prophet wrote some words that God gave him, words about light shining in the darkness.  The prophet’s name was Isaiah, and he was living in the southern part of Israel, an area called Judah, which is where the city of Jerusalem is located. More to the point, Isaiah’s ministry took place during an era when the people of Judah were really starting to turn away from God.  You could say that their way of life was dark. They were choosing to rebel against God, meaning that they were not serious about following God’s ways.  They were chasing after other things, forgetting God, not giving attention to God.  Getting apathetic about God.  Theirs was a life of spiritual darkness. 

In the middle of the darkness, God gave Isaiah a message about the darkness.  In Isaiah 8:19-22, while Isaiah is describing the situation is his culture, listen for how there might be some similarities to our culture.  I found it interesting how this ancient Scripture, 2700 years old, has something to say to us. 

“When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? … If they do not speak according to [God’s] word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.”

Isaiah is describing a people who are looking for answers to their problems.  They are looking for help and hope in the middle of a world that is dark.  Maybe that resonates with you.  Maybe in some way your world feels dark this Christmas.

I’m not a believer in the idea that the world is definitely worse than it used to be.  Maybe it is.  I could be wrong.  What I think is much more helpful to talk about is the reality that there are numerous people in our world who are looking for answers, people whose hope is fading, people who are feeling desperation.  They look around themselves and feel, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally, as if they are in a kind of darkness. 

In recent years, I think many of us felt some of that darkness, as we endured the Covid pandemic, and as we continue to endure divisive politics, racial upheaval, and financial pressure.  Though we are not in a war, and we cannot imagine what it must be like for people in Ukraine or Myanmar who are, we can feel an emotional heaviness about war.  As a result, we look for answers. Inwardly we can wonder, “What will help me feel okay?”

In the next post, we’ll try to at least begin to answer that important question.

Photo by Eugene Triguba on Unsplash

Why display lights for Christmas? – Christmas 2022, Part 1

One of the reasons I enjoy driving on a clear evening during the holidays is that there are so many Christmas lights out.  In my opinion, LED technology has enhanced Christmas lights.  They are precise and bright and fairly inexpensive. 

There are people who put candles in their windows, or throw a few lights around their trees or bushes. There are those lasers that shine sparkles or a moving image across an entire side or front of a house.  Some of the most impressive lights, to me at least, are the ones that illuminate trees by stringing lights across many of the tree’s branches, so that the lights look like the shape of a tree. 

At my house we just twirl a few strings of lights on the front porch posts.  We only had enough to wrap three of our four posts, and that looked dumb, so we went out and got another string of lights.  We made a basic effort. 

There are people, though, who take it to another level.  The have their whole home illuminated, or with lights flashing and changing color in tune with music.  Other people have started using projectors to add images, or even drones, all controlled by computers, like this one:

Christmas is a season of light.  And for good reason. 

Prior to the Advent Season, on the blog we have been studying the life of Jesus as told in the book of the Bible titled “The Gospel of John.”  Gospel means “Good News.”  So the Gospel of John is a story of the Good News about Jesus. The question we’ve been attempting to answer throughout that blog series is: Who is Jesus? 

On the blog next week, we’re going to resume our study the Gospel of John, trying to answer that question.  The guy that wrote the book, the Gospel of John, we believe, is the Apostle John who was one of Jesus’ followers and closest friends.  He was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life.  But why did John write about what he saw, when there were three other people who had written about Jesus many years before?

The titles of those other books are the Gospels, the Good News, about Jesus, as written by Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Those three have a lot of similarities to one another.  If you read Matthew Mark and Luke, you’ll notice that they tell many of the same stories about Jesus, often in the same order sometimes even using the same words.  So John comes along years later, and it seems he wants to tell different stories about his friend.  New stories.  Yes, there are a few that John retells that had already been told by Matthew, Mark and Luke, but many are different, new. 

For instance, John doesn’t mention anything about Jesus’ birth.  You could say he skips the Christmas story and begins when Jesus was an adult.  But that’s only partially true. In John chapter 1, verse 4, John says something very Christmas-like:

“In Jesus was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” 

John is talking about Jesus here, and his comment about Jesus being the light is very interesting.  Jesus is the light, a light shining in the darkness.  But what does that mean? 

We try to answer that question in the next post.

Photo by Juliana Malta on Unsplash

Why we need a second Advent – Advent 2022, Week 4, Part 5

Editor’s Note: This post is written by guest blogger, David Hundert. David is a current Master of Divinity student at Evangelical Seminary.

As we conclude our observance of Advent 2022, did you know we need a second advent?

The need for the second advent is twofold. First, in 2 Peter 3:8-9 we read,

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

The Lord delays his return so that all who have not yet received his Son by faith, have the opportunity to. The Lord doesn’t want any to perish without having had the chance.

The second reason is inherent in the words of John the Baptist. We must prepare the way. It is our responsibility to let others know that the conquering King is coming again. He will be making His victory tour, and they too need to be ready.

There are those who may ask, “If there is a God, why hasn’t he come back yet?” They will believe in Him when they see Him, but by then, it will be too late. We can celebrate, because the one that intercedes on our behalf, has paid that price, but as Scripture says, we need to count the cost. We were paid for with a price, and that price is simply to let others know about Him. It’s not our job to convince them, but it is our job to tell them. We are to call others back into right relationship with God.

Going back to the original metaphor, preparing the way for the Lord means we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we lay them at His feet, we’ve asked Him to plow the fields of our hearts so that the Holy Spirit can do it’s work within us. However, this being said, the task of preparing the way for the Lord doesn’t end there.

As we celebrate Advent, we are celebrating that which has happened, and that which is to come. There will be a second coming. Are you ready? Are you ready for His return? A long time ago, I heard a pastor ask, “If the Lord returned right now, and knocked on your door, would you immediately let him in, or would you leave him at the doorstep because there are things you need to ‘tidy up’ first?”

What about all those in our lives, that aren’t as fortunate, and don’t know Him? First I would ask, if they look at you and the way you live, can they tell there’s a difference? I heard another pastor ask, “If you were to be arrested and charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” What are we doing, to prepare the way for the Lord in their lives? Are you praying for them? Are you sharing the gospel with them?

If you’ve never made a commitment to Jesus or have no idea what that means, please feel free to comment below. We know that in ourselves, our very best isn’t good enough. We need more. We need something else. We need someone to intercede on our behalf.

How can we have that peace on earth spoken of by the angel to the shepherds? By accepting through faith what was given, and telling others about Him, giving them the opportunity to do the same. That truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Repentance comes before restoration – Advent 2022, Week 4, Part 4

Editor’s Note: This post is written by guest blogger, David Hundert. David is a current Master of Divinity student at Evangelical Seminary.

In the previous post, we talked about the importance of repentance. Why is repentance needed?

Consider what the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah once more. Isaiah 64:6 reads, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

In addition Psalms 14:1-3 reads, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

These passages teach that everything we do that we think is good, it isn’t good enough.

Now I’m a realist. I understand that many of you reading this post are believers and have already given your lives to Christ. However, one thing that I’d like you to grasp is that we were all once prisoners of our own sin, guilt, and shame. When Jesus Christ was born into this world, to become the one to pay for our sins once and for all, the true King freed us from that bondage, and, Hallelujah, we now serve a new King! One who is acquainted with our sorrows. When we gather at this time of year to celebrate advent, we celebrate the victory tour of the one true Righteous King who freed us from sin and death!

The good news, the gospel, is what Paul wrote in the book of Romans 3:21-26,

“But now apart from the law, (or aside from the law) the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Paul uses some good “Christian-ese” terms in there for you… Lets look at them. This passage states that the righteousness of God is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. This means that we are made right, our relationship with God is restored, through faith in Jesus Christ. Since we are all sinners equally, Jew and Gentile, Jesus’ redemption, or payment, is made available just as equally through Jesus. God offered up His Son as payment or atonement, through His death and the shedding of His blood, so that all who believe in Him through faith can be saved.

Now that the payment has been made, why does there need to be a second advent? We’ll try to answer that in the next post.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Ancient sedans and repentance – Advent 2022, Week 4, Part 3

Editor’s Note: This post is written by guest blogger, David Hundert. David is a current Master of Divinity student at Evangelical Seminary.

Do you know what ancient sedans look like? That sedan above is old, but I’m not talking about antique cars. I’m talking about ancient sedans. Keep reading below because ancient sedans will help us understand repentance.

In the previous post, we looked at a phrase from of Israel’s ancient prophets, Isaiah. In Isaiah 40:3, as quoted in Matthew 3:3, we learned about one who would build a highway for God in the desert. Were Isaiah and John the Baptist referring to a literal road or a metaphorical one? If it was literal, what would it take for royalty to travel back then? You know that it would have to be in style, right? What would it have looked like? What kind of imagery does this bring to mind?

Would it look like this?

These are ancient sedans! In Egyptian history, they looked something like this:

Imagine if one of the slaves carrying the Pharaoh stumbled? If Pharaoh took a header off of the platform, that slave wouldn’t last long would he? When royalty would travel like that, they would have to take every precaution, to make sure that accidents like that didn’t take place. They would have to send out people ahead, to prepare the way.

We did that in the military. When our unit was to go on deployment overseas for a period of time, we would send out an “advanced party” to prepare the barracks, and to square away the hangers, so that when the main force arrived, they can focus on the mission from day 1. Did ancient royalty have an advanced party?

In the country of Japan, in the time leading up to World War II, whenever the emperor, who coincidentally was worshiped as a god, would travel, people would travel ahead of him, to make sure that all windows were closed, all the blinds would be drawn and the shutters closed so that people wouldn’t even glance at him. If you were found to have looked at the emperor, you were immediately put to death. Royal travel has always been considered serious business.

Today, when the King of England travels, the people living in the area that the king is traveling to, get excited. They prepare the area by sweeping and washing the outside of the buildings, they put on their best clothes, they want to put their best foot forward. They want the King to feel welcomed. Preparing the way, meant putting on their Sunday best.

In the case of what John the Baptist was preaching, to prepare the way was both metaphorical and literal. In this case, the prophet was referring to the people preparing their hearts and minds. It was preceded by repentance on the part of the listener, followed by a tangible step of obedience in baptism. This was and still is today, an outward sign of an inward commitment.

The repentance talked of here in Matthew 3, sounds similar to the prophets of the Old Testament, calling the people into a right relationship with God that must affect every aspect of their lives. Indicating “to change one’s mind,” repentance in the Old Testament always called for a change in a person’s attitude toward God, which would then impact one’s actions and overall direction in life. External signs of repentance regularly included confession of sin, prayers of remorse, and abandonment of sin. Why was this needed?

We’ll find out in the next post!

Photo by Bertrand Borie on Unsplash

The important connection between building highways and depression – Advent 2022, Week 4, Part 2

Editor’s Note: This post is written by guest blogger, David Hundert. David is a current Master of Divinity student at Evangelical Seminary.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the meaning of Advent is connected to an ancient phrase from the Hebrew prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way for the Lord…” What was Isaiah talking about, and why is that phrase connected to John the Baptist in Matthew 3? Let’s take a look at the context of “prepare the way for the Lord.”

Isaiah 40:1-5 reads,
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Since it was rare for the common person to read and study a written Bible back then, the people of Israel were really good at memorizing Scripture. The Word of the Lord was passed down orally from generation to generation, so when John made this reference, it would have been understood in it’s context. The kindness and tone starting in verse 1 speak of compassion normally expressed in those days to someone who is grieving over the death of a family member.

In addition, these are words spoken to “my people” by “your God.” Unmistakably, this is the language of the covenant. This is something they would understand. Also, keep in mind there were approximately 730 years between the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist’s ministry.

Isaiah long before had prophesied about someone who would make straight in the desert a highway for God. What would a highway through the desert look like back then? Are we talking 2 lanes or 4? Would there have been an express lane or a camel pool lane?

The Hebrew word that we translate as “highway,” is the Hebrew word pronounced, “mesillah” which means quite a few things. One dictionary defines it as a “track firmed with stones or fill; road, highway.” Another defines it as a main road, or “an open-country thoroughfare used much, that is relatively wide and maintained.” Maintenance of a road back then would have looked a lot different than it does today.

Also, consider what Isaiah and John were saying this road would be used for. They were saying that it would be a highway for our Lord. In verses 3 and 4, the one thing the people can do is to prepare the way for the coming King. This could be seen as a reflection of the kind of road building engaged in prior to the triumphal tour of a conquering king.

But in any case it speaks of an act of faith on the part of the people. They don’t yet see the King, but they dare to believe that he is coming. It also speaks of some kind of activity on the part of those who had formerly been seized by discouragement and hopelessness.

Do you know of anyone, especially at this time of year, that might be seized by discouragement and hopelessness? Do you know of someone that might need to have someone to dare to believe in?

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The meaning of Advent – Advent 2022, Week 4, Part 1

Editor’s Note: This post is written by guest blogger, David Hundert. David is a current Master of Divinity student at Evangelical Seminary.

In the Gospel of Luke, Scripture describes an image of an angel as it appears to the shepherds, along with a host of others. Luke records them as saying,

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

What does it mean for us today, to have His peace here on earth and more importantly, how to we gain His favor?

To answer that question, we first need to answer another: What is “Advent?” What is the meaning of the word and why is it important?

“Advent” is a word with Latin roots, meaning “coming.” It is typically used to refer to this time of year when we remember the initial coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. However, “advent” can also be used to refer to the “second coming” of Jesus, for which all believers wait with great anticipation.

As we think about Jesus’ first and second advent, I want to drill down on the phrase used by John the Baptist, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” To me, this is a strange thing to say, when you are preparing to meet your Messiah.

John starts out his message with “Repent!” I got that. The most important thing that we can do to get our relationship right with the Lord, is to ask for forgiveness, and to quit making the same mistakes over and over. Check!

Then John continues his message with his reasoning for that when he says, “…for the kingdom of the Lord is near”, and I understand that as well. Each day that the Lord tarries, we are one day closer to His eventual return. Scripture says that no one knows the hour or the day. When we look at society today, we are definitely one day closer.

However, he doesn’t just stop there. If he did, I would have been okay. But he had to add, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” Are we to assume that God needed Israel to intervene in how the Lord arrives? Is it up to them to do some excavating and landscaping for Him to arrive? I read this, and it really got me thinking, there had to be more to this story than that.

John the Baptist tells us that he was reciting from the prophet Isaiah. It comes from Isaiah 40:3, and in the next post we’ll take a look at that passage in context.

Photo by Walter Chávez on Unsplash

How to be baptized with Spirit and fire – Advent 2022, Week 3, Part 5

This week in our Advent 2022 series on Matthew 3, we’ve been seeking to understand why Jesus got baptized. We learned that Jesus, through his baptism, demonstrates humility and togetherness, leading to joy.

In today’s post, we seek to understand what Jesus meant when he said that he needs to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness.  Righteousness is not self-righteousness.  It is actually doing things the right way.  A life lived the right way, which is the way that is in line with God’s heart. 

Jesus is saying, at least in part, that he is getting baptized because he is going to live a life a righteousness, which is another way to say, the way of the Kingdom of God. Jesus, in other words, gets baptized to show us what it looks like to initiate a life that desires to be part of a community who are living the way of God’s Kingdom together.

When people get baptized, they are now to live in accordance with their baptism.  Live a life worthy of your baptism.  When you are baptized, you are identifying to the world that you are a follower of Jesus.  You are a part of his covenant people.  And that means you will strive to live a life of righteousness.

Perhaps you have not been baptized and are ready to be baptized, to declare to the world that you want to pursue living the righteous life of Jesus.  What we find when we pursue the righteous life of Jesus is joy.  Not perfection, not ease, not even comfort, but his joy flowing from deep within us.

For Jesus, his baptism by water also fulfilled righteousness.  There was a fulfillment, which means a completion of a promise.  In Jesus’ baptism what is fulfilled?  What is fulfilled is exactly what John points in verses 11-12, that there was going to be a new baptism, one by fire and the Spirit.  Jesus will baptize people in a whole new way.  This new baptism would come to fruition after his death and resurrection, through which he fulfilled righteousness, and opened a new way to experience his joy.

In Acts 1:4-5, which takes place after his resurrection, Jesus is talking with his disciples and he says,

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

We continue reading in Acts 1:9 that Jesus ascends, returning to his father in heaven, and the disciples do exactly what Jesus asked them to do. They, along with the other followers of Jesus, wait for this new baptism, praying constantly. Approximately ten days later, as we read in Acts 2:1-4, the group of about 120 of them are still waiting, when the Spirit arrives, with the sound of a rushing wind, and flaming tongues rest on their heads. Jesus has now baptized them with Spirit and fire.

The Spirit fills them, empowering them to speak in other languages, telling people in the city the good news about Jesus. Peter preaches about this baptism of the Spirit, as it had been prophesied by the Hebrew prophet Joel, and how Jesus is the fulfillment of righteousness. In Acts 2:40-41, we read that 3000 people believe and are baptized, and the brand new church of Jesus is launched. We continue reading in Acts 2:42-47 how this Holy Spirit-baptized church lives.

From the very beginning then, baptism says that you not only believe but also that you are giving the Spirit of God control of your life.  When you give the Spirit control of your life, he might change you, and if we’re honest, we don’t always or even often want to be changed. 

At Faith Church our discipleship serve team has been talking about how important it is for us, as followers of Jesus, to get out of our comfort zones.  When we are filled with the Spirit, we are people who are getting out of our comfort zones, putting ourselves out there, feeling risk.  We want the Fruit of the Spirit to be actively growing in our lives.  We are weeding out the areas of our lives not in line with the Spirit. That’s what our baptism calls us to.  That’s what Jesus’ baptism called him to, a life that was fully devoted to the mission of God. 

We also people filled with the Spirit and thus flowing with the fruit of the Spirit, of which one is joy.

So this Advent, let’s prepare for the coming of Jesus by following his example of self-sacrificial love, and there we will find joy.  Let’s make the choice to live in community, together, looking for ways to live like Jesus.  To acknowledge that we have the Spirit and then follow through in our hearts, thoughts, words and actions, as we watch joy grow in our lives.

Photo by Paul Bulai on Unsplash