We are in a season of waiting for the arrival of Jesus. And, while we count down the days of Advent by eating chocolate or reading devotions, the anticipation builds.
In the area of sex and relationships, waiting can lead us to a place where we are really tempted to compromise.
As a culture, we are too short-sighted and impatient. Where are your sights set this season? Experiencing Advent side by side means we can wait with each other.
There’s community and power and beauty when we share in each other’s suffering.
Listen in as we learn to wait together.
The church of Jesus is suffering on a big scale. We struggle with waiting.
When it comes to sexual integrity, relational wholeness, health in our sense of identity; I believe that one of the reasons the church is really faltering in the West is because we don’t know how to wait.
In the area of sex and relationships, waiting can be very hard work and become an area where we are really tempted to compromise.
Some questions to put before God this season: Where are you placing your desires? Where are you placing the “finish line”? What are you waiting for God to provide for you?
If you want to learn more, check out Josh’s latest musing on this topic at, What Are You Waiting For? (And Why It Matters.)
Click for Full Podcast Transcription
I have a recurring problem. When I go out to eat, it’s not uncommon for us to kind of leave our kids, older ones looking out for the younger ones. And they usually make something easy for dinner like frozen pizza, or macaroni and cheese. Well, here’s my problem, when I’m trying to leave for a meal out, and it’s late, and I’m hungry, and I see there on the counter, Kraft macaroni and cheese, cooked and warm and waiting, or did your nose frozen pizza, I usually want to take a nibble and then one nibble leads to another and then to another into another. And then by the time I’m leaving, to go out to eat at a restaurant, I’m not hungry anymore. I’ve satisfied myself, quote, unquote, on a $3 box of macaroni and cheese or a $5 frozen pizza, when good food was waiting for me. I think the church of Jesus, maybe especially in the West, is suffering from this on a big scale right now. We struggle with waiting. Welcome to Advent week. Number three. This is a time of waiting. It’s a time of reflection. It’s a time of hoping for the birth of the coming of the Messiah Jesus. And yet add that means beginning. And if it’s just the beginning, then there’s still more waiting to do. I was reflecting on this how, even though Advent the coming of Christ at Christmas is, is the answer to people’s prayers and hopes and dreams, literally for hundreds of years. Prophet Isaiah predicted Jesus’s death of Jesus birth by a virgin, something like 600 or 700 years before Jesus came. That’s a long time it’s a long time of waiting. And yet when Jesus came, what people expected of him both in his birth and in his life, and for that fact, in His ministry, and in his death, and resurrection, and ascension, all of that every step of the way. His followers were surprised they expected something different from him, they expected an end to their waiting. And Jesus was inviting them both to realize his coming, that he that the time had come the prophecy Boon fulfilled that, that the kingdom of God is among us and yet also to continue to wait. Well, here’s the application for us on a broad scale. I I believe that when it comes to sexual integrity, relations, relational wholeness, health, in our sense of identity, I believe that one of the reasons the church is really faltering in the west right now, is because we don’t know how to wait anymore. And add to that, not just that we’re a culture that is used to kind of getting our needs met, needs met, quote, unquote, on demand. But I think we, as churches, we often promote this kind of idea that the fact that Christ has come means that everything is better now, I mean, I remember being a part of a wonderful Christian ministry was in college. And part of what we did was learn to share our faith with our classmates, and that the general template we got was talk about what your life like was like before you met Jesus, how you came to meet Jesus, and how much better your life is now. And that’s a fair template, but it’s missing something, it’s missing the reality that even once we have Christ in our lives, there is still waiting. And you know what I mean by waiting, I mean, when we wait, we suffer waiting is hard work sometimes. And I know in the area of sex and relationships, waiting can be very hard work. And it can be an area where we are really tempted to compromise. I remember giving a talk at a church several years ago, and there’s a man there who I was talking to a group of men about sexual integrity. And during the q&a, one of the guys in the back of the room, he’s probably run it as 4040 something years old. And he raised his hand and he just lamented really complained about, hey, I’ve waited for my wife. I’ve waited until marriage to have sex. So I’ve kept myself from sexual immorality all these years. But what good is it done me I’m still single, to this day. That’s one area we’re waiting. It’s difficult. I know so many people who wrestle with same sex attraction to have a sexual orientation that’s towards the same sex. And they long for companionship, they long for either God to change their attractions to bring them into a community of friends and believers where they’re not lonely, and they’re waiting for something to happen. And when it doesn’t, it can feel really tempted to buy into the narrative of the culture that says the reason you’re feeling so lonely and alone is because you’re gay and you need to find a gay partner. And so folks in that situation or often really tempted to compromise their faith, find a gay affirming church and get involved in sexual relationships with other people to same sex. Likewise, I know people wrestling with all matter, all manner of just different sexual sins, seeking sexual integrity, who have prayed and prayed and worked and worked to see that their unwanted sexual behaviors and their unwanted sexual desires would change. And they’re still wrestling. So temptation keeps knocking, and they keep giving it just one last time waiting is difficult. Or what about the woman or man who’s in a marriage, and they’re waiting for their spouse to grow up a little bit to be a little more sensitive to see them. And they start entertaining. Instead, when that doesn’t happen. They start entertaining, the idea of divorce. It’s just a few samplings of examples of ways that waiting is difficult, not to mention that here on the earth are suffering our struggles as we wait. They’re not even are they I mean, it’s one of the results of the fall. I remember a therapist that I was on a panel with several years ago bringing this up, and I thought was so profound, that some people in their waiting for Jesus’s return for their waiting for the kingdom to come. They suffer more than other people do. I mean, we live in the West, it’s a rather rich country. And the suffering we go through here as Christians is pretty benign compared to some people in other parts of the world who are suffering, significant persecute, persecution, even to the point of of death. And on a smaller scale, we look around at people around us, and they seem to be happy, where we’re continuing to struggle. Their kids seem to be thriving, following Jesus, where our kids are not. They’re married, and we longed to be their marriage looks good, and ours doesn’t. And just as an aside, what people post on Facebook or Instagram is never the full story. This time of year, you’re going to get probably a plethora of pictures in the mail of happy smiling faces. Just know that behind every happy smiling face, there’s a lot of suffering, there’s more to the story than just that. And I’m not pointing fingers here. It’s just true for all of us. We live in a fallen world and in fallen world, in a fallen world, people are hurting, people are hurting Jesus himself said in this world, you will have trouble. And that word translated literally means trouble, you will have trouble. And not only that, but the writers of the New Testament assure us that if we are following Jesus, we actually will suffer. So following Jesus despite with that template for sharing my testimony back in college, despite what some people suggest, when you choose to follow Jesus, you’re actually signing up for additional suffering, because you are heading against the regular flow of the world you’re heading against and working against walking against the the stream that the enemy wants everyone walking in. And that’s going to put a bull’s eye on you you’re going to you’re gonna experience spiritual warfare, you’re gonna experience the strain and pain of, of trying to walk in integrity and walk faithfully to God in a world that is relatively godless. This is the reality of our faith. This is the reality of Christianity. And this is an invitation I think that we have at Advent, to re embrace this truth, both individually and collectively. Because the reality is that we can’t live this out on our own. We can’t wait on our own if we have to. We should we should do all the weekend too. But we really want to wait with each other, especially as we look around and see that others are hurting lonely, that their weight has been longer than ours. We want to walk with compassion and generosity towards each other, share each other’s waiting, sharing each other’s suffering, to ease the load of our brothers and sisters, let’s wait together this Adnet. So how do we wait? What’s the secret sauce to waiting? Well, I think the tension point for us is, is when we set our eyes to close on the horizon. So in other words, if the end goal, the combination, the end of all of our waiting, and the the victory we’re going to experience is going to come when Heaven descends upon the earth when Heaven and Earth unite. That’s when all suffering and sorrow will cease when Jesus returns, and Heaven and Earth unite. That’s when we will experience the end of our hunger, the end of our pain, the end of our sorrow, the end of grieving end of sin, the end of death. But until then, until then, even though we will experience glimpses and tastes of heaven. Thank God before that time, those tastes are just going to whet our appetite. And so what happens for us I think one of the tension points is where we we look out of Horizon and we see something we go, that’s it. That’s the destination as ever happened to you like, Now maybe you’re driving to the ocean, and you think you see the ocean, but it’s really just a mega bank of clouds, or you’re running a race and you think you’re almost there and you realize you still have a long way to go. Or you’re headed to the bathroom, this happens to my kids all the time, headed to the bathroom, and you think you’re almost there. But then you get there, and somebody is in there. So you have to wait for them to get done. It’s hard when we set our eyes to close on the horizon, and we finally have much further to go. And this happens in the areas. I think one of yours I think of right away is marriage, where where Christians have idolized marriage to the point and idolized family. And so we’ve come to kind of believe in our churches, that the the Christian life is really about getting married, having kids having happy family. And certainly that can be a beautiful part of our vocation as Christians. But it’s not every Christians vocation. Many of the people in the in the New Testament, including Jesus Himself, never got married. So when we put marriage as the end goal, this is the finish line of our Christian faith. This is the culmination of our Christian faith, or where we put raising Christian kids is the culmination of our Christian faith, or we put our kids having kids as a combination, or you pick the finish line, maybe it’s having a successful ministry, maybe it’s having a successful career, maybe it’s having financial security in retirement, maybe it’s buying a house and having a dog, whatever it is, whatever, whatever that finish line is, if it’s if it’s short of the final eschaton, the union of heaven and earth, when Jesus comes back, then you’ve put the finish line to close on the horizon. And you’re prone then to making that finish line, an idol. And when that idol doesn’t come to be in your life doesn’t come to pass in your life, then you’re at risk literally have forsaken God because He has let you down in an area that he’s never never really even promised you. If we are believing in God’s provision in a certain area, and replacing that as a higher priority than believing in God’s provision of himself, then we are faltering into the area of idolatry. So here’s my invitation to you. Because it’s it’s it’s something that I am walking through myself right now, during the season of Advent. Would we be willing this Advent, to take a look at where we are placing our desires, where the finish line is, what we’re waiting for God, to provide for us. And again, just to be clear, I’m not in any way saying that it’s, we’re not supposed to pray for things we want. Bring all your requests to God, and trust that he has good in store for you. However, the ultimate good he has in store for you may not be found on this earth, it’s going to be found won’t be found on this earth. They won’t be found on this earth until Heaven descends and earth and heaven are united. When Christ returns. That is the world you are longing for. And so even as we wait to celebrate the birth and acknowledge the birth of Jesus, this Advent, let’s remember and spur each other on to remember that we are still waiting, that the Advent that Christ’s birth inaugurated the coming of the Kingdom, and the kingdom will not be fulfilled in Christ until Christ returns. So we wait. We wait even for Christmas and we wait for Christ’s second coming. And anytime and anywhere that an idol arises and we find ourselves holding on to something in between those times. Let’s seek this Advent to lay those idols down, to smash them on the ground and return our gaze to the Lord and say, Lord, You and You alone are the one I’m waiting for. No other God will do. And let’s spur each other on towards that end. Jesus. Thank you for Advent. Thank you for the beauty of the season, and the many gifts it brings. Lord help us to receive them all with open hands, not with closed fists. And Lord help us to receive them all as just tastes. Wedding our appetite for the great banquet, the great feast, the great fulfillment that will be ours when you return. Lord come quickly. We long for you
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