Advent Devotional #1: A Riches to Rags Story

van_hornthorst_adoration_children_800x583During Advent we remember and celebrate Jesus’s first coming when “the Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). We also look forward to our Lord’s second coming when He fully establishes His peaceable kingdom.

To grasp more fully the magnitude of Advent, we want to digest over the next month one verse: 2 Corinthians 8:9. It reads: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” I would encourage you to memorize and meditate upon this verse.

In J.I. Packer’s spiritual classic, Knowing God, he reminds us that this is the key text in all the New Testament for rightly understanding the incarnation. Reading this verse is comparable to the experience of stepping suddenly into a deep pool while wading in a stream. He writes: “Here is stated not only the fact of the incarnation but also its meaning. The taking of manhood by the Son is not only a marvel of nature, but a wonder of grace.”

Everybody loves a rags to riches story. Think about Cinderella—here’s a young woman who’s literally dressed in rags, belittled and treated harshly. Her life takes a turn into remarkable fortune: she is dressed in a royal gown and made exquisitely beautiful by her fairy godmother; she becomes the focus of the prince’s affections; and she unexpectedly achieves the riches of profound admiration and love after a long period of obscurity and neglect. How inspiring and moving are all rags to riches stories.

The story of Advent is even more inspiring and moving because it starts with riches and then moves to rags so that those of us who are dressed in the spiritual rags of our own self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:4) might personally experience and enjoy the spiritual riches of our Lord.

During Advent, we recall why the eternally rich God became poor in His incarnation and humiliation for us. The Apostle Paul speaks very succinctly: Jesus became poor so that we might possess an experiential knowledge of His grace (8:9a).

What is grace? It is undeserved favor from an unobligated giver.

Do you personally know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? How important is it to you? How much do you value it? In the light of such grace, how can we who believe it be content to be anything less than His gracious and generous people?

Verse 9 moves us toward generosity by debunking the notion that giving less away and keeping more for ourselves will provide more happiness and fulfillment. It shows that God’s purpose in sending His Son was to create gracious, joyful, and generous givers.

The degree to which we personally experience God’s generosity and grace in Christ will be the degree to which we are open-hearted and open-handed with others with all of His resources – time, talents, and treasures.

E. Stanley Jones, a missionary to India, reminds us what the Lord’s grace does in our lives: “Grace binds you with far stronger cords than the cords of duty or obligation can bind you. Grace is free, but when once you take it, you are bound forever to the Giver and bound to catch the spirit of the Giver. Like produces like. Grace makes you gracious, the Giver makes you give” (Joni Eareckson Tada, Diamonds in the Dust).

Why not pray the following for yourself and your family this Advent?

Lord, make us more like You.

Make us givers rather than takers in our relationships.

Cause us to marvel at Your grace and generosity lavished on us

at Jesus’ cradle, cross, and empty tomb.

Transform us into gracious and generous people by Your Spirit.

For we pray in Jesus’ name, AMEN.

What kind of Christians are we attempting to develop at Trinity

Christians whose lives display the following features:

Doxology, the habit taught and modeled by Paul of constantly praising God and giving him thanks;

Humility, the downward growth that comes by dwelling on the free, boundless,, almighty grace of God that achieves the salvation of sinners, including oneself, through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ;

Generosity, the whole-hearted giving of oneself and one’s resources in order to show love and render service both to God and to others;

Honesty, the refusal to cut moral corners, practice deception or come to terms with injustice;

Intensity, a spirit that rejects euphoric sloth and laziness in favor of maximum effort to further God’s cause, extend Christ’s kingdom, and make the Savior known, and that goes flat out with an eye on the goal as one does when running a race;

Bravery, which, though sometimes trembling in its shoes, stands firm for Christ against all forms of opposition, belittling and ridicule; and

Solidarity with the church, both worldwide and local, the people of God who are the body and bride of Christ and one’s own spiritual family, so that one never wanders off into any form of churchless individualism, as if one were the only pebble on God’s beach.”

J.I. Packer, From the periodical CRUX, Spring 2007, vol. 43. no. 1, p. 6.

Here are a few questions that I have been asking myself:

Which of these features is most absent from my life right now? In order words, where do I need to grow the most? What is my specific action plan to do so?

Secondly, where does our church body need to grow the most? Which of these features needs the most shoring up at Trinity? What is our plan to help our church not only grow in that particular feature but also in each of these features of Christlikeness?

What attributes should mark a follower of Jesus?

Christians whose lives display the following features:

Doxology, the habit taught and modeled by the Apostle Paul of constantly praising God and giving him thanks;

Humility, the downward growth that comes by dwelling on the free, boundless,, almighty grace of God that achieves the salvation of sinners, including oneself, through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ;

Generosity, the whole-hearted giving of oneself and one’s resources in order to show love and render service both to God and to others;

Honesty, the refusal to cut moral corners, practice deception or come to terms with injustice;

Intensity, a spirit that rejects euphoric sloth and laziness in favor of maximum effort to further God’s cause, extend Christ’s kingdom, and make the Savior known, and that goes flat out with an eye on the goal as one does when running a race;

Bravery, which, though sometimes trembling in its shoes, stands firm for Christ against all forms of opposition, belittling and ridicule; and

Solidarity with the church, both worldwide and local, the people of God who are the body and bride of Christ and one’s one spiritual family, so that one never wanders off into any form of churchless individualism, as if one were the only pebble on God’s beach.”

J.I. Packer, From the periodical CRUX, Spring 2007, vol. 43. no. 1, p. 6.

A Generous Heart

Mark 14:3 says: “And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.”

A perninent word from J.C. Ryle on this incident in the life of our Lord:

“If a person once understands the sinfulness of sin, and the mercy of Christ in dying for him, he will never think anything too good or too costly to give to Christ. He will rather feel, “what shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me.” (Psalm 116:12.) He will fear wasting time, talents, money, affections on the things of this world. He will not be afraid of lavishing them on his Savior. He will fear going into extremes about business, money, politics, or pleasure; but he will not be afraid of doing too much for Christ.”

Lord, give us warm hearts towards you so that we not only understand such costly generosity but also do likewise!

A Few Distinguishing Features of Christ-likeness

Below are a few thoughts gleaned from James I. Packer in CRUX, the periodical of Regent College in Vancouver, Canada.

“With God’s blessing of our efforts, what kind of Christians will be formed by the kind of adult catechesis that we have in mind in our church community?  Catechesis is a word that summaries the whole process of teaching, discipleship and spiritual formation.

Answer: Christians whose lives display the following features:

Doxology, the habit taught and modeled by Paul of constantly praising God and giving him thanks;

Humility, the downward growth that comes by dwelling on the free, boundless,, almighty grace of God that achieves the salvation of sinners, including oneself, through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ;

Generosity, the whole-hearted giving of oneself and one’s resources in order to show love and render service both to God and to others;

Honesty, the refusal to cut moral corners, practice deception or come to terms with injustice;

Intensity, a spirit that rejects euphoric sloth and laziness in favor of maximum effort to further God’s cause, extend Christ’s kingdom, and make the Savior known, and that goes flat out with an eye on the goal as one does when running a race;

Bravery, which, though sometimes trembling in its shoes, stands firm for Christ against all forms of opposition, belittling and ridicule; and

Solidarity with the church, both worldwide and local, the people of God who are the body and bride of Christ and one’s one spiritual family, so that one never wanders off into any form of churchless individualism, as if one were the only pebble on God’s beach.”

  •  From the periodical CRUX, Spring 2007, vol. 43. no. 1, p. 6.

Here are a few questions that I have been asking myself:

Which of these features is most absent from my life right now? In order words, where do I need to grow the most? What is my specific action plan to do so?

Secondly, where does our church body need to grow the most? Which of these features needs the most shoring up at Trinity? What is our plan to help our church not only grow in that particular feature but also in each of these features of Christlikeness?