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Thursday, December 6, 2018

First Sunday of Advent 2018: What is Truth? Part Three

On the first Sunday of Advent this year I preached a message to the people living in the 55+ community that I visit each week. I reorganized that sermon into an essay. Because of its length, I divided the message into three parts. Part one focused on Luke 1:4 wherein the beloved physician tells us to purpose of his letter: “So that you (i.e. Theophilus) may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” Part two examined two truths God wants us to know and to live by. 

You can find part one here: https://thecontemplativecatholicconvert.blogspot.com/2018/12/first-sunday-of-advent-2018.html 

You can find part two here: https://thecontemplativecatholicconvert.blogspot.com/2018/12/first-sunday-of-advent-what-is-truth.html 

Now for part three of the truths God wants us to know: 

Truth number three: God calls us all to a lifestyle of repentance. Luke 5:31-32 “And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” 

A lifestyle of repentance means that it is not a one-time thing at some altar. It is an ongoing readjustment of our life journey. When we sin – even what some might call little sins, or venial sins – when we sin, we must repent. 

Repentance means we agree with God that what we did or said or thought was wrong. We ask Him to forgive us for the sake of His beloved Son, Jesus, who paid the penalty for that sin.  And we determine with an honest heart, and with His help, to not do again what we just did. 

And, as is often the case, if we DO commit the same sin again – what must we do? Follow the same process of repentance, ask His forgiveness, and determine once again with an honest heart to not do it again. 

God promises us: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). 

The Holy Spirit also assures us: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness . . . For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. (Psalm 103:8-14) 

I hope you caught that. God is not standing at the edge of heaven with a whip in His hand, just waiting – just hoping one of us will mess up so He can lash us back into compliance. That is not the God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place. 

Truth number four: Jesus said of Himself, “I am THE way, THE truth, THE life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6).  

Jesus is not A way to God. Not A truth. Not A life. And there is no other name that brings salvation. Not Abraham. Not Moses. Not Caesar. No one else. That’s also why Luke reported Peter’s sermon to his Jewish audience (Acts 4:12) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” 

That’s a truth many in our so-called pluralistic society don’t want to hear. “All roads lead to the same place,” they say.  And in a way, they are right. All roads outside of Jesus DO lead to the same place: 

An eternal hell. 

\That’s why Jesus warns humanity about His way, His truth, and His with the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. You’ll find it in Luke 16. We pick up the story in verse 23: 

In Hades [the Rich Man] lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.” 

When Abraham said such a thing could not be done, the Rich Man responded in verse 27: 

Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”  

Did you catch the words Jesus placed in the mouth of Abraham: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”  

Moses and the prophets spoke only Truth – which only directs us to Jesus. 

One of my favorite hymns, ‘Grace Greater than Our Sin’, was written by Julia Johnston more than a century ago. Here are some of the lyrics: 

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord/grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt/Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured /there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt. 

Grace, grace, God's grace/grace that will pardon and cleanse within/grace, grace, God's grace/grace that is greater than all our sin! 

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide/What can avail to wash it away? 

Look! There is flowing a crimson tide/brighter than snow you may be today.

Grace, grace, God's grace/grace that will pardon and cleanse within/grace, grace, God's grace/grace that is greater than all our sin! 

So, there you have it. Four truths God wants us all to apply to our lives: (1) We are all sinners who, without Christ, are doomed to an eternal torment; (2) Jesus came into our world as a baby and grew into a man who became our substitutionary sacrifice, to ransom us from certain damnation; (3) God calls each person to a lifestyle of repentance; And (4) God hopes we all will live His truths and thereby avoid what He wants us to all avoid – an eternity with people like the Rich Man in Luke 16. 

Which brings us all to the critical question: What will we do with those truths?

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