From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.
Devotional Text: Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24-25
You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.
Hi, this is Brent White, and welcome to Day 2 of my new series of Advent podcasts. This is another song from Jon Anderson’s wonderful 1985 Christmas album, 3 Ships. This is an original composition called “Where Were You?” I can’t say enough about this record. It’s one of my favorite albums, Christmas or otherwise.
Years ago, I heard an interview with actress Patty Duke, who struggled for decades with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. She said, “What a relief it was when I received the diagnosis! I finally had a name for this thing that had caused so much harm in my life!”
I can only imagine… Healing can’t take place until we know exactly what the problem is!
During this season of Advent, it is fitting for us spend time reflecting on a problem that harms all of us human beings. The Bible has a name for it: sin. It is a problem over which we are utterly helpless. You can hear Paul describe this helplessness in his words from Romans 7: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
I’ve never been in Alcoholics Anonymous, but I admire the organization and its twelve steps. I had a professor in seminary who had a friend in AA. In fact, his friend’s AA group met in his church’s basement. One day my professor was was in the narthex of his church, about to walk into the sanctuary for a church service, when he saw his friend emerging with other members of his AA group from the basement. His friend saw my professor, motioned to the basement door, and said, “That’s where church happens!”
That’s where church happens!
As a pastor who—you know—plans and presides over church services all the time, I hope that’s not true. Or at least I hope it’s not exclusively true. I hope church also happens in the sanctuary.
But I get his point: I wish church looked a lot more like AA meetings! After all, if you’re in AA, everyone knows exactly who you are and why you’re there. You don’t play games. You don’t put on airs. You don’t pretend to be somebody else. In fact, you identify your problem up front—when you meet people: “Hi, I’m Brent, and I’m an alcoholic.”
What if we church members identified ourselves to one another in a similar way? “Hi, I’m Brent, and I’m a sinner.”
Just this past weekend, I talked to a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to my door. After arguing over about the doctrine of the Trinity and the way their church modified the King James Version to promote a badly distorted version of the gospel, I urged them to repent of their sins and believe in the Jesus Christ revealed in God’s Word. They took offense at this: “We’re not calling you a sinner!” they said. “Why are you calling us sinners?”
“You don’t understand,” I said. “Of course you’re sinners! And I am, too!”
Unless or until we understand and accept this sad reality, we’ll never understand why Christmas comes to us as such amazingly good news!”
We are sinners. We deserve death. We deserve God’s wrath. We deserve hell. Apart from what Christ accomplished through his life of perfect obedience to the Father and his atoning death on the cross, we are lost. Hopeless. Helpless.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”