“To the elect…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:2).
According to Peter’s opening salutation, we are chosen by God to be “sanctified” by the Spirit – literally, “made holy”, or set aside for God’s special purpose. He then says this purpose is obedience to Christ. Easy enough, right?
But, Luther says (and this jibes with my personal experience) that “it is hard for human nature, hostile to it and exceedingly humiliating, to submit to Christ, give up all its own possessions, and account them contemptible and sinful. But yet it must be brought into subjection.”
This is our holiday-season dilemma. Our human nature wants nothing to do with holiness. Our flesh loves any chance it can get to feed itself with reckless abandon. “Just one more cookie, it’s Christmas!” “Ahh, just buy it – we can pay that off in January.” The underlying credo behind the season: It’s not the season of disciplined living – it’s the season of unbridled fun!
That dichotomy should make NO sense to the Christian, who truly and genuinely believes that God’s will and ways bring the greatest joy and blessing. Why would we ever put our discipleship on the shelf? Especially during a season that has Christ’s name on it, and is supposedly set aside for His honor and worship?
If the truth be told, I think it’s because many people don’t believe Jesus and His Word. We say we do, but, well, we really don’t. We want to believe so we get eternal life when it’s all over, yes. But, really, we think the descriptions of godly, Spirit-filled living in the pages of the New Testament are have-tos, not get-tos. Deep down, many of us wish we could have our salvation cake, and eat all the sins we want, too.
The advent season reminds me of this sobering reality: God says to live one way, but there’s something in me that wants to table that lifestyle, and instead indulge in the world. The classical Advent season, which had been a corporate call to “let every heart prepare Him room”, has now been deconstructed and reassembled into a December-long commercial-bonanza/flesh-feeding-frenzy. Do I go along for the ride? Or do I stand up against the cultural tide, and insist on living differently?
The season becomes a test of what I really believe: If God’s way truly is the best, why would I stray from it, even for a moment?
E * O
* As Luther says, “Be not so bold as to try to explore the depths of the divine foreknowledge with the human reason, for thus you will certainly go astray, you will either begin to doubt or be thrown overboard to take your chances…if we consider the foreknowledge of God in the manner Paul is accustomed to do, then it is comforting beyond measure. Whoever considers it differently, to him it is something horrible.”