The Purpose of Advent, Part 2

 

 

There is a four-fold purpose for Advent; that is, the coming of the Son of God to our world. Last time, we looked at the first reason: 

 

The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.  (1 John 3:8 | TNIV)

 

The apostle John makes it very clear that the first reason Jesus came was to “destroy the devil’s work.” The works of the devil are things like: death, deeds done in darkness, hatred, and lawlessness in general. Essentially, you could distill all the works of the devil down to one word: Sin. All the ills that have plagued mankind since the fall of Adam are due to sin. Sin causes death. Sin causes sickness. Sin causes hatred. Sin is what separates man from God, one man from another, and even man from himself. This very simple fact leads us to the second reason for Advent: Jesus came to take away our sins.

 

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.  (1 John 3:5 | TNIV)

 

The One who never sinned came to take away our sins. 

 

1 John 3 is all about holy living. That sounds like a quaint notion to the modern Christian ear, but the fact remains, even the modern, sophisticated believer is expected to be holy.

 

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.  (1 John 3:2, 3 | TNIV)

 

I love the sentiment behind verse 2: “What we will be has not yet been made known.” We are all “works in progress,” aren’t we? The complete revelation of our final nature is yet to occur. In other words, what we will finally be like when our salvation is at last complete is a mystery. John doesn’t even speculate what our final, eternal state will be like. It’s enough for him to know – and he hopes his readers will understand – that when Christ appears, we will be like Him. Paul wrote along similar lines to the believers in Rome – 

 

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29 | TNIV)

 

This is what predestination is all about. All believers have been predestined to become like Jesus! What a glorious thought that is. Even now, though you may not notice it happening, believers are being transformed – transfigured – into His likeness. Now, I know some of you find that hard to believe. The reason why you find that hard to believe is that way too many believers think that this transformation is all accomplished by God doing some kind of mysterious, supernatural work in us. That’s not altogether incorrect, by the way. He is doing a supernatural work in all Christians. But, the key to this transformation is found in the third verse. If you, as a believer, truly believe that when Christ appears we shall be like Him, then you will be doing your best to be like Him right now, before He appears! You see, you are not a passive participant in this miracle. If you honestly believe in the Second Advent, then you should be trying to live holy lives; the kind of life Jesus lived when He came the first time. This is one John’s favorite techniques to encourage holy living: He holds up the incarnate Lord as an example for us follow. And it’s a brilliant technique. If you call yourself a “Christian,” you are necessarily claiming to be like Christ, and if you claim to be like Him, you must start living like He did in this life, even as you wait for Him to return. To live otherwise is showing the world you’re not a serious Christian or that you’ve given up hoping in Him.

 

If you think this teaching is extreme, or unique only to John or Paul, think again! Jesus once said something very similar.

 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  (Matthew 5:8 | TNIV)

 

The “pure in heart” is a person who is trying to live a holy life; he is a work in progress.

 

But not only is looking forward to the Second Advent a good motivator for holy living, as is looking back to the First Advent to the example set by our Lord’s perfect life, John gave us a little help and encouragement in reaching the goal of holiness. It’s good that he did this, because I can hear what some of you are thinking: Holy living is almost impossible! How can I live without sinning? John gives us the answer.  First, the ugly truth about Christians is that they are all sinners. 

 

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.  (1 John 3:4 | TNIV)

 

Here are two universal truths in a single verse. First, everyone sins. The text does say, “everyone who sins,” but there isn’t a human being who has ever lived who is excluded from this truth, except Jesus, of course. Everyone sins. That’s the horrible extent of the sin problem in mankind.

 

The second universal truth is that “sin is lawlessness.” When a person sins, he breaks God’s law; he rebels against what God wants. It’s a deliberate choosing to go your way, not God’s way. Lawlessness isn’t the result of sin, rather, it’s what sin is. 

 

So, can you enumerate your sins so far today? Nobody can look back over a day and add up all the sins they committed. It’s impossible to do this. Nevertheless, you are responsible for them. Thank God for Advent, which helps us all out.

 

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.  (1 John 3:5 | TNIV)

 

This verse should give us all some hope. Jesus came to take away our sins.  The word “sins” here means “missings of the mark,” and includes our willful missings of the mark and our missings of the mark that are done in ignorance. It includes every thought, word, and deed in which we have missed the mark of God’s purpose for our lives. It includes all the things that stand between man and God. John declares with authority that Jesus came to take all those “missings of the mark” away from us. 

 

But, how does Jesus do that? What did John the apostle mean when he wrote it? Think back to when Jesus came the first time; when His cousin, John the Baptist said this:

 

Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29 | TNIV)

 

John the Baptist used the same word that John the apostle used for “sins,” only in the singular. Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” When John the Baptist wrote that Jesus “takes away the sin of the world,” he meant was that Jesus “bore the sin of the world,” or “carried the sin of the world.” The Hebrew equivalent for that phrase, “take away,” is found in the story of the scapegoat in Leviticus 16. It was a goat upon which was placed, symbolically, the sins of the people, then driven out into the wilderness, taking the sins of the people away from them. The suggestion is that the sins of the people were lifted off of them and placed on the unfortunate animal, and then the animal was forced out in the wilderness, where it would just wander around and die, forever separating the sins of the people from the people themselves. 

 

John the apostle declared that Jesus appeared so that He could come into a relationship with human beings, get underneath them, lift the burden of sins from them, and take it far, far  away.

 

In the deepest part of every human being, there is a regret we all share. We all regret our sinfulness. Maybe some people don’t call it that, but everybody, if they were to be completely honest, hates the “bad things” they have done in their past. Everybody has entertained, however briefly, the whimsical desire to go back and change their sinful behavior; to make right the wrong they caused. I’d wager that some of you would give up your right eye or your right hand to do that. But we can’t do that. There’s no going back, is there?

 

To all those who know their sin and hate it; to the men and women who carry around the knowledge of wrongs done in years gone by as a perpetual burden upon their souls, John’s declaration that Jesus came to take all that away is the greatest blessing of all. Jesus appeared somehow, in some way unknown to us, to carry that burden from us.

 

Let’s look for a moment at that last phrase of verse 5, “And in him is no sin.” Or, as we have been saying about sin, “He never missed the mark.” The One who never missed the mark appeared for the express purpose of lifting, carrying away, and erasing the missing marks of others. This sheds a light on the famous Christmas promise:

 

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.  (Matthew 1:21 | TNIV)

 

It’s interesting and significant that it says, “…he will save his people from their sins.” You’d think that Jesus would “save His people from Hell,” or “…from damnation.” The problem is sin; it’s the thing nobody can save themselves from. Get rid of sin, and the threat of Hell and damnation vanishes. Jesus, the One who never missed the mark, came to do just that for us. 

 

And you can see how He did that on a small scale during His three years of ministry on earth. Just think about the teachings of Jesus. All of them were designed to free man from his sins. Think about the works of Jesus – all of His miracles and deliverances; the signs and wonders – all designed to reverse the results of sin. Yes, our Lord’s miracles were supernatural, but all of them – the healings and deliverances – were simply the restorations of what had become unnatural to the natural. Jesus’ earthly ministry was simply taking away the results of sin. Over and over again for three years, Jesus showed His power to lift sin from people, set them free from the results of sin, and send them on their way, whole once again.

 

That was the first Advent. When our Lord returns, He will do on global scale what He did on a local scale the first time He was here. We talk about “the Passion of the Cross,” which was really the passion of God for His lost creation. Imagine, a loving God who paid a visit to His damaged creation for the purpose of returning it to the way it was before sin ruined it. 

 

The second reason for Advent was to take away our sins, and in doing so, we and all creation will be completely restored and made whole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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