ADVENT DEVOTIONAL FOR 2017
REIGNING WITH CHRIST
[Jesus said] “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” John 16:7-11
It is said that Jesus is the greatest Christmas gift of all. The more precise truth is that Jesus gives the greatest Christmas gift of all—those who accept the gift of His grace are free from condemnation and live free from condemnation. When we say that Christians reign with Christ, the most important implication of that statement is that we also extend our love and grace to others without condemnation. We refuse to condemn others, and we refuse to allow their condemnation of us to stick.
It can appear, therefore, that Christians allow all manner of evil to go unchallenged. Christians are great at condemning evil in the abstract, but we are forever accepting, loving, and refusing to condemn the actual sinners that come into our lives. I won’t say that the messiness of this is always pure or above reproach, but when celebrities, politicians, or business leaders stand condemned by the media, by public opinion, or by the courts, you can usually count on church families to support and defend the disgraced when no one else will.
There is a good reason for this. Christians are to stand for truth in the abstract, but are to allow the Holy Spirit to deal with personal sin, by bringing the sinner not under external condemnation but internal conviction of their sin. It is easy and tempting for Christians (and every other human on the planet) to condemn misconduct; but it is much more effective, though requiring great patience, for a Christian to model a life of joyous submission to God’s will, while waiting on the Holy Spirit to work in the life of someone lost in sin, addiction, prejudice, or greed.
Notice that the Holy Spirit does not work to bring a person into obedience to the law. The reason that the Holy Spirit brings about conviction of sin, is to manifest to sinners their need for the salvation that Jesus offers (“of sin, because they do not believe in me”), to bring them a righteousness not based on law but on the finished work of Jesus (“of righteousness, because I go to the Father”), to cause them to rejoice that it is not they but their Evil itself which is under judgment (“of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged”).
Through grace worked in the death and resurrection of Jesus and by means of our faith in that work, God has adopted us into His family. We have come into this relationship with Him without any reference to any good thing we have done and without deserving it at all. Any power we have to resist evil in our lives comes not from our subjection to rules and regulations but from the new desires and impulses born from believing that our old selves were crucified with Christ. Therefore, we do not believe that others can be “brought into line” by subjecting them to the rules and regulations that did not save us. For that reason, we offer to others unconditional love and acceptance, even as we agonize over their misbehavior in prayer, calling on the Holy Spirit to work that internal conviction that will free them from sin without subjecting them to condemnation.
PRAYER: Dear God, save me from the temptation to judge others myself. Instead, give me grace to meet the evil in others by loving them, forgiving them, and constantly petitioning You on their behalf. May I be one who invites the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of others. In Jesus’ name I pray this. Amen.