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From the Word: 12 Not that I have already obtained it, or am already perfected, but I pursue it so that I may acquire it, because Christ Jesus has acquired me. 13 Brethren, I do not consider myself to have acquired it, so I do one thing: forgetting the past, I reach toward the goal. 14 I pursue the goal in the award of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12–14)
From the Confessions: The Small Catechism – part 109
What does God declare concerning all these commandments?
He says: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5b-6)
What does this mean?
God threatens to punish all who violate these commandments. We should, therefore, fear his anger and in no way disobey them. But God promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. We should, therefore, love him, trust in him, and gladly keep his commandments.
Pulling It Together
This may not be that hard to imagine. Think of the family dinner table with parents and children gathered for the evening meal. Now picture the children glued to their phones. They allow no time for interacting with mother and father because they are captivated by their friends’ posts in social media. This is no way for relations to be an actual family.
Nor will you grow into your faith, or receive “grace upon grace” (John 1:16) from Jesus by ignoring him. Word and Sacrament are necessary; they are the means by which we pursue the goal that we have yet to obtain. The promise is present, just as a child is given the family name, but a Christian is not one in name only. We are to imitate Christ, praying to the Father and listening to his Spirit in Scripture and Sacrament. This is how we are being perfected by God: by being in relationship with him through his Word and the sacraments.
We are pursuing a goal, one promised to those who hold on to God’s promises to the end. God accomplishes this through Word and Sacrament, by our giving him our attention, listening and receiving his grace. This is the way of pursuit that leads to eternal glory, the way that ends with the prize of the “morning star,” Christ Jesus himself (Rev 2:25–28).
Prayer: Help me hold fast to you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
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The season of Advent is not only a time of preparation for Christmas, it is a time to consider God's long-term plans and how God has promised that he will intervene in the lives of his people, and the world itself, on the coming Day of the Lord. Prophecy Fulfilled is a four week Bible Study about the Old Testament prophecies of our Lord's Advent, showing how these prophetic words were fulfilled not only in the coming of Christ over 2,000 years ago, but how they also point ahead to the return of Christ in his Second Coming.