Almighty and ever-living God, You have given exceedingly great and precious promises to those who trust in You. Dispel from us the works of darkness and grant us to live in the light of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that our faith may never be found wanting; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
If you live in any community for very long, you will run into someone like this. Usually the whole community is aware of them. They are dangerous people, apt to explode. When I grew up there was a fellow like that. He was angry all the time and people gave him a wide berth. He was a harsh, hard-edged man. Through the pull of his daughter and wife, however, he eventually came to church. He had enrolled his daughter in the local parochial school. He was not about to have any of that religious stuff, but it was a good school. He would come to hear her class sing or when they put on a little play.
Then he came to her Christmas program. She was a character in the tableau. Her class sang. I think he could not keep his guard up against those words when it was his little girl singing the songs. And the Holy Spirit found a way inside his heart.
What followed was wonderful, even shocking to watch. Piece by piece the Spirit disassembled the life of anger and defensiveness which he had so thoroughly constructed for himself. It was not a momentary thing. It took time, but the change marched on. I think of this man when I pray that God would dispel from us the works of darkness. Years later folks would come to church and be shocked to see him sitting in a pew with his family, smiling and laughing with folks before or after a service. “is that really who I think it is?” they would ask.
In one sense, no it was not him anymore. God had granted him, in some measure, to live in the light of His Son. As Paul, another fellow who was called from the works of darkness to live in the light, once wrote: it is Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Sometimes we imagine that our lives are ours to amend and fix. The whole self-help industry is built on this assumption. The Bible speaks another word. God’s promises work a miracle in the lives of people and bring forward the faith which we desperately need. He wasn’t the same man, but he was the same man remade.
This week and next we consider the end of things, the judgment of God, and the reappearance of Christ on the last day as our glorious King. Your enemy will want you to focus on how you have failed and to fear that day. It will all be true. You have failed. But that message is critically incomplete. For God has not failed. He has kept his promises. Sometimes, like in the life of the man I once feared and now call friend, I get to see the promises clearly. But the promises still are true, even when I cannot see them. Christ has made me holy in his blood. He has risen from the dead so He can be my judge and judge me based on his work on my behalf. He has promised me life, not death.