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Monday, December 1, 2014

Preparing for the Coming of Christ Pt 1 (Zephaniah 1.1-18)


{If you find this sermon and series useful and chose to use it, please give credit where credit is due; and let me know. Thanks, Mike}
Preparing for the Coming of Christ
Zephaniah 1.1-18

Mighty God, your servants the prophets – like Zephaniah – spoke of the grace that was to be ours, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories, and so they were serving not only their day but us (1 Peter 1.10-12). Therefore, give us ears to hear in Zephaniah what the Spirit is saying to the Church (Revelation 2.6); for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Sometimes sobering words in the middle of gaiety and joviality are important. Though I’d rather talk about things that make our heads swim with happiness and glee, yet happy things are not always healthy or holy. Christmas time is one of those seasons in which the whole flow of the culture serves to muddle up and clog our hearts with “donning our gay apparel” and “decking our halls with boughs of holly” “Fa la la la la la la”. But the story that lies behind Christmas, in reality, is about something far more joy-filled and somewhat terrible: It’s about the coming of Christ the King, both the initial coming and the final coming of Christ. And so for the next 3 weeks we will be focusing on: Preparing for the Coming of Christ.

Hearing this word of God. You’ve just heard this horrible, unnerving account from the Prophet Zephaniah read. It seems a shame to waste all this ink and breath reading some harsh words about the coming of the tumultuous Day of God, when Christmas is just around the corner. But there are 2 things to keep close to your mind while reading this or any other Biblical prophet. (1) 1 Peter 1.10-12, and (2) 1 Peter 4.17-18.

Pondering this Word of God. Zephaniah served during the days of the reforming King, Josiah. Zephaniah’s work appears to have been primarily done as preparation for the reformational actions of the King. His main theme is the Day of the LORD is near and the Church of God best arrange her affairs, for judgment is about to come to the household of God. V.2-3 we see that the judgmental actions of God will reverse creation (man, beast, birds, fish is the reverse of Gen. 1.20-28, days 5 and 6). V.4-13 The prophet denounces the varying degrees of compromisers, from the blatant to the bland (4-6) and from the “greats” to the “grassroots,” from the faith-breaking leaders (8-9) to the misbehaving merchants (10-11) to the luxury-laden complacent (12-13). What is startling is God’s lumping the bland of v. 6 with the blatant of v. 4 & 5, and the luxury-laden complacent with the faith-breaking leaders of 8. These folks of v.6 and 12-13 were as bad off as the out-and-out rebels…. Comprise can be done blatantly or blandly. During this commercially heightened season, maybe we also need to hear how dangerously close to the edge we can come if we allow ourselves to dulled and numbed by the hustle, bustle, stuff and accumulation (12-13). // He then ends the chapter by painting the gloomy picture of experiencing God [as compromisers and complacent-17b!] (14-18).

The most obvious theme of this serious prophecy is the coming of the day of the LORD (about 14xs in this chapter alone), that it is a water-shed moment in time/space/history. To be sure, the working-out of this prophecy momentarily crashed into Judah’s history as Babylon [God’s hand against Judah] doled out God’s judgment. But the day of the LORD permanently blasted into the world, quietly and humbly at the Lord Jesus’ first coming, and the Day of the LORD will unfold in full display when the Lord Jesus comes one last time. He came, as the saying goes, to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Prepare for the Coming of Christ!

Shaped by this Word of God.

·        1st- I find it very interesting that John, in Revelation 1.10, calls Sunday “The Lord’s Day”. The allusion may be to the thought that each and every Sunday is the taste of the Day of the Lord, because it divides people (Ps. 1.5: “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous”).

·        2nd- It may be that for some of you, some of us, there is a need to be pulled out of the sentimentalism that blankets and suffocates Christmas, with its rustic crèches, and the dullingly repetitious background noise of “buy more” “gather more” “collect more” hurry, hurry, hurry. And instead you need to be prompted that the story behind Christmas is about the coming of the Lord, and that coming of the Lord ushered in the day of the Lord against those who turn away from Him, and ushered in the Day of the Lord  for those who longingly look for the Lord Jesus, the One who will turn all wrongs to right. 1 Thessalonians 5.1-10. Prepare for the Coming of the Christ!


·        3rd- It may be that for others the reminder needs to be made that blatant and bland compromisers, faith-breakers and forgetful, are in the same trouble. They are doing the same things, either by commission or by omission. “Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3.18). Therefore Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Prepare for the Coming of Christ by believing in the Christ who has come!
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