Are you ready?

The Covington News - - RELIGION - JONATHAN SCHARF COLUM­NIST

It’s get­ting closer. The end of the Mayan cal­en­dar has caused so many to talk about the end of the world. They say it will be next Fri­day, Dec. 21. Of course, God said we wouldn’t know when — but we do know he’s coming. So it is im­por­tant to ask if you’re ready. Are you?

Last week, we talked about Malachi’s prophecy of this coming of God, and all the things that stand in our way of be­ing ready, all the things that make us un­wor­thy to be in his pres­ence. We heard his mes­sage and the mes­sage of John the Bap­tist that make us ready: “Re­pent.” Now he goes on and shows us how that re­pen­tance stuff has power, how it truly pre­pares us for his pres­ence. Or to use Malachi’s words, it “pu­ri­fies” us.

Read Malachi 3. He uses some pretty po­tent pic­tures to so vividly de­scribe Je­sus pu­ri­fy­ing and re­fin­ing us. He talks about a laun­derer’s soap and a re­finer’s fire used for the cleans­ing.

Truth­fully, nei­ther of those sound real pleas­ant for the thing be­ing cleaned. The lye the laun­derer used was a cor­ro­sive alka­nine sub­stance that ba­si­cally ate away the stain. The laun­derer used his tools of beat­ing and strik­ing the fab­ric, rub­bing it against the hard wash­board, twist­ing it and wring­ing it. Not much fun for the ob­ject, but that is what is needed to do the job.

And the re­finer’s fire, well, that sounds even worse. But look at how he used it. Malachi writes, “He will be like a re­finer’s fire... He will sit as a re­finer and pu­ri­fier of sil­ver; he will pu­rify the Le­vites and re­fine them like gold and sil­ver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring of­fer­ings in right­eous­ness, and the of­fer­ings of Ju­dah and Jerusalem will be ac­cept­able to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.”

Je­sus’ work with us works, and he pu­ri­fies all the things we so of­ten fall short on. He makes even the bad things that hap­pen to us work out for our good. How? Be­cause HE pu­ri­fies all we do. He went through it him­self first. He be­came one of us and worked that clean­li­ness so he has it to give to us.

You see, our Re­finer didn’t just drop us into the fire and leave us. Our Re­finer con­trols the fire, uses the fire, im­proves us by the fire. And by ac­tu­ally tak­ing on him­self the full fire of hell’s wrath on the cross, Je­sus has ef­fec­tively re­moved the fire of hell from our fu­ture. So He has changed the fires we go through here from scary to help­ful, from de­struc­tive to re­fin­ing.

Think of how he did that. More sac­ri­fic­ing than any fire­fighter ever could be, he en­tered our burn­ing house to save us. And in or­der to do that, he had to re­move his pro­tec­tive gear. He was God, im­mune to pain and suf­fer­ing and death, but he re­moved that and walked right into our burn­ing world and felt the pain of our guilt and shame and fail­ures. He died in this fire of sin to res­cue us. And just like a fire­fighter in a burn­ing build­ing needs the vic­tim to re­al­ize the dan­ger so he can help, God does the same for us. God sent his mes­sage and his mes­sen­gers to make us re­al­ize our need, to make us see our Sav­ior.

Right here in his word, he does that, and then, as

Malachi writes, “Sud­denly the Lord you are seek­ing will come to his tem­ple; the mes­sen­ger of the covenant, whom you de­sire, will come,’ says the Lord Almighty.” When Ad­vent’s mes­sage of re­pen­tance pre­pares our hearts — we are ready to cel­e­brate the Sav­ior this sea­son is all about. Je­sus, the “mes­sen­ger of the covenant,” came to ful­fill that covenant — that prom­ise of our Sav­ior. He came to take our hu­man place and pay our sin’s price. And he came to give us the gift we eter­nally de­sire — heaven — pres­ence with God, ab­sence of pain.

Now, of course, in the mean­time, there will be wars and ru­mors of war; there will be lack of love and sick­ness and disease and hurt and pain and all the rest. Cars will be wrecked and houses lost, stuff de­stroyed. Je­sus proph­e­sied that the earth will shake and our stuff will be de­stroyed. And he’s al­ways right. It’s just that now the hard stuff is used for our good.

That changes things. That ac­tu­ally strength­ens us to be ready for the Ad­vent — the coming of Je­sus — in ev­ery way. So as you see and hear things that can get you worked up about th­ese end times. When the busy­ness of De­cem­ber and the stress of the sea­son threaten to take your peace — re­mem­ber the truth.

There’s an old Peanut’s comic strip that shows Lucy stress­ing out about the world flood­ing. Li­nus re­minds her of God’s prom­ise of the rain­bow, to which she re­sponds, “You’ve taken a great load off my mind.” Then Li­nus says, “Sound the­ol­ogy has a way of do­ing that!”

Be­ing re­minded of God’s prom­ises puts our hearts at rest. We can get so worked up so eas­ily. Yes, 11:11 a.m. on Dec. 21, is coming soon; Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day are right around the cor­ner and all your par­ties and prepa­ra­tions fill the cal­en­dar — lots to stress about. So don’t ne­glect your time back here in God’s word and in his house where some sound the­ol­ogy can give you peace this hol­i­day sea­son. Malachi asked the ques­tion in the text, “Who can en­dure the coming of the

LORD?” Well, I can, and pre­pared by his word — so can you.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Wor­ship ev­ery Sun­day is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at abid­ing­grace.com.

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