I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Repentance. How did such a good word get such a bad rap? The word repent conjures up decisively negative images of doomsday preachers shouting on street corners. It is largely associated with words like stop, don’t, and quit. But what if the word is positive? What if repentance is more about turning toward something really good? What if it also means go, do, and start? It is one thing to turn away from something undesirable; it is quite another to turn to something beautiful. Repent means reorienting our highest aspirations toward the best thing imaginable. We were created for lives of inestimable goodness. Notice Paul’s bold prayer from today’s text:
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best.
That’s what I want—my love overflowing more and more with knowledge and full insight to help me determine what is best. Said another way: I want to think like God thinks. Said another way: I want the same mind in me that was in Christ Jesus. Time for one more? How about, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2 NIV).
Let’s get fiercely practical. Your soul or inner life is like a garden. It responds to the law of reaping and sowing just like everything else in the universe—we reap what we sow. Here’s the tricky part. Sow roses—reap roses. Sow tomatoes—reap tomatoes. Sow nothing—reap nothing. Right? Wrong! Sow nothing—reap weeds! We didn’t even have to plant them. This is what Scripture means when it says we are sinful by nature. To be sure, repentance means weeding our souls, but even more so, it means sowing the seeds of incredible things. Remember yesterday’s call about bearing fruits worthy of repentance? While weeding helps tons, fruit-bearing only comes from sowing new seeds.
Now watch how today’s text wraps up with where this is all headed. It’s all about the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. Advent means repentance—pulling the weeds, but even more, sowing new seeds.
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. Thank you for this beautiful invitation to repent, to leave behind the futility of behavior management and to set my heart on the vision of a flourishing garden. Thank you that my life is not my project but yours. Come, Holy Spirit, and teach me how being transformed works differently than endlessly striving to transform myself. Show me the seeds to sow. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
How is this Advent unfolding differently for you than in years past? Can you identify a seed you sense the Spirit wants to sow in your life today? Generosity, maybe? Patience?
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