10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
We wait expectantly for the Lord in this season of Advent. He will come again. In light of the coming “day of the Lord,” what sort of people are we to be? For starters, we know better than to think our words and actions will go unnoticed. Our lives are open books before God, and our work will be exposed for all time. Why? Because on the final day everything will be refined as if by fire—“burned up and dissolved” [v.10]. What will remain? Will our works reveal holiness? That is the question and the legacy which defines us as people who have heard the Lord’s promise to return.
This legacy seems contradictory—we are called to wait for the coming of the day of God and to hasten its coming, to hurry it up. We are called to bring it on! “Awaiting and hastening” describes one of the paradoxes of Christian life.
We are called to embrace both waiting and hastening by living lives of holiness. That means devoting our time and energy to legacies defined not by worldly terms, but by godliness. Our legacy will be measured not by financial gains or career ladders, but by the encouraging words we have spoken, the hands we have held, the help we have given, the truth we have told, the justice for which we have worked, and the love we have shared. Those legacies grow moment-by-moment, every day, no matter what else is happening around us.
Each task done in service to the Lord—products built and services rendered according to God’s greater purposes—will withstand God’s refining fire and hasten His promised return. Words and deeds flowing from a pure heart build a legacy that will stand on the final day and not be consumed when earth and sky dissolve to reveal the new heaven and new earth [v. 13].
That is the legacy we are invited to create! Thank God for the relationships and challenges of business that create opportunities every day to build a real legacy that won’t be forgotten or diminished.
© Bruce D. Baker 2013
3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
In the season of Advent we look forward to the earth-shattering good news that Jesus is born to save us. Advent is a time of anticipation, of waiting for the arrival of this good news.
This expectant waiting is altogether different from the typical sort of waiting, wondering and worrying about whether our plans will succeed or fail, whether the game will be won or lost, or whether or not our efforts will be rewarded. Those kinds of anticipation ask questions of an uncertain future, with worries based in uncertainty, fear, and/or doubt about the future.
Advent is completely different. Advent looks forward to the certain victory of God on our behalf. It celebrates his promise to bring us glory. As the prophet Isaiah preaches in this passage, “the mouth of the Lord has spoken,” and he will not be deterred. God is on the move. He is taking decisive action by his mighty arm:
Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him. [Isaiah 40:10]
Advent is more than a season of celebrations on the church calendar. It marks the decisive turning point in all history, and thus it matters for the choices we make every day. It means that we had best align our thoughts and deeds with God’s plan for certain victory, and not be swayed by worry, fear, or doubt. Our ultimate victory is secure in Christ. God’s Word of Love gets the last word.
How about the tough choices we face? Should we “play it straight” or “bluff” to get an edge on an opponent? Hedge our bets by hiding bad news? Advent means that we won’t change the ultimate outcome by our own devices. God’s might will prevail. Every time we decide to do what’s right in God’s sight, we help straighten the path for his coming. We literally prepare the way of the Lord as we act on the assured promise of Advent—the promise we have in Jesus Christ.
© Bruce D. Baker 2013
Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Here’s a good one-sentence distillation of biblical ethics. It sounds so simple. “Don’t be evil” makes a good motto. Same for “Do good” and “Seek peace.” These could fit easily on a bumper-sticker, T-shirt, or corporate S-1 filing.
The only problem is that these mottos become meaningless when cut off from their source. It’s all too easy to define good and evil in terms of what seems to work best “under the circumstances” or what permits us to avoid “upsetting the applecart.” Furthermore, there’s always the temptation to rationalize any business decision on the basis of doing what’s most pragmatic for the company. This rationale ends up believing in the advice, “Do good to do well.” In other words, the reason to do good deeds is that it brings success in the long run. While that is often true in a practical sense, it’s not generally true in a moral sense. That kind of bumper-sticker ethics might be an exercise in good practical thinking, but it forgets the source of moral goodness.
The Psalms remind us of the source of morality: worship. Psalm 34 begins here:
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together! [Psalm 34:1-2]
Ethics begins in worship, in praise. That’s the true source of moral understanding. It’s only in the context of praising God that we can sort out the ethics of the situation. We desire in our hearts to steer clear of evil, to do good, and to seek peace, because our hearts are full of thanksgiving and praise. Worship is the proper posture for ethical discernment, because thanksgiving is the mechanism which aligns our hearts and minds with God’s purposes.
“Do good” makes sense when we let thanksgiving be our guide to moral discernment, thanks be to God.
© Bruce D. Baker 2013