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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

"God Is Faithful"

First Sunday in Advent

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge – God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Cor. 1:3-9

It’s the first week of another church year, so I’d like to wish you a “Happy New Year”! Happy New Year? Many of us are anxious at the thought of a new day, let alone thinking of the prospects of a new year! “New” suggest the possibility of change, and change can be disturbing and unsettling. Especially in the really important areas of our lives, we like to know where we stand. We don’t want change; we want certainty and assurance.

I read about a woman who called into a popular radio talk show. She was kind of half-laughing and half-crying. She told the host she was expecting a baby. The talk-show host congratulated her and asked why that was a problem. The woman said she had been married for 10 years, after a 2-year courtship. She and her husband had often shared their hopes of having children. Now, when she told him she was expecting, he told her to have an abortion or he would leave her. Suddenly, and without warning, all their yesterdays counted for nothing. Now she was given the shattering ultimatum: destroy her baby, or lose her husband!

Maybe you’ve never had a person let you down that badly – or maybe you’ve experienced even worse! One thing is for sure: people do change their mind, and people do break their promises!

So how about with God? Do we have to go through life wondering whether God too will change His promises to us? We read, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father.” But will it always be “grace and peace”? Will He continue to give us all we need to be strong for today, and for the day of our Lord’s final coming? Will we really be “blameless” before the judgment seat of God? Do we dare to hang such eternal hope on God’s promises? We need to know as we begin our walk to Bethlehem, anticipating God’s answer to our prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus.” That’s why God’s Word this first week of the Advent season is such Good News. It tells us again that “God is faithful!”

Our Faithfulness

It may be difficult to always believe that God is faithful to His promises. Our life experience tells us to be doubtful. Bankers say that the average life of a home mortgage is about seven years. Statisticians tell us that the average duration of a marriage in this country is also seven years. Promises of life-long commitment and faithfulness seem to be as renegotiable as house payments.

Besides the marriage vows, we experience a multitude of broken little promises: the repairman will be there at 9:00 in the morning; the house will be painted this weekend; the check is in the mail. No wonder we’re skeptical about promises. We’ve been inconvenienced, hurt, provoked, and ripped off! We’re victims of broken promises, and we don’t like it!

Of course, we’re not only the offended ones – we’re also the offenders! We too have broken promises great and small to spouses, children, parents, friends, employers and employees, fellow members of our church, and even God Himself. Confirmation promises, marriage commitments, letters to be written, visits to be made, habits to be changed, chores to be done, dollars to be earned – or put into the church offering – name any area of human life, and if we’re honest we’ll find promises that we’ve just plain broken.

Maybe our promises weren’t really genuine in the first place. We may never have intended to make that visit or write that letter. Our promises to a child may have been a parental stalling tactic. Our promises to our parents or our boss may have just been a way to get them off our back. We may always leave a little room to fudge, or a way to escape when we make a promise. And so we may assume that God’s faithfulness amounts to the same thing. Why should we expect more from God than we ourselves are willing to give?

On the other hand, we may be very trustworthy and faithful in keeping even the most casual promise. But there are always times when we can’t be in two places at the same time, when we get sick, when we just don’t have the money we thought we’d have, when our car breaks down – or any of a thousand reasons why we just couldn’t do what we planned to do. As blameless as we may be, it still boils down to a broken promise. Why should we expect more from God than we’re able to do?

If God will only be as faithful to His promises as we’ve been to ours, we’d have to say, “I knew it was too good to be true!” We’d have to be constantly checking on our relationship with God, never knowing for sure where we stand with Him, and living with nothing more certain than “maybe”, “perhaps”, “it all depends”, or “I hope so.”

“Grace and peace”? We sure don’t deserve it – we certainly haven’t earned it. We deserve to spend our nights tossing and turning, haunted by our sins against God and one another. If God is as faithful as we are, we’re in big trouble!

But thank God, He doesn’t use our faithfulness as the measure or the basis of His own! We can celebrate today with St. Paul because God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on us!

God’s Faithfulness

Paul makes that perfectly clear with the words, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Undeserved grace and peace, free gifts given by God out of love for us. We need His faithfulness because we’re not always willing to be faithful, and not always able to be faithful – at least not enough to deserve His gifts. And God promises to meet our need for His faithfulness in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Forget making comparisons with our own sorry records. Look what the merciful, almighty, changeless God is saying to us: He is faithful! His promises are made from a position of power – ours are made from a posture of weakness. He isn’t hindered by circumstances, or lack of resources, or a sinful nature. He is perfectly capable – as none of us are – to be perfectly faithful in keeping His promises.

God’s promises don’t hinge on what we’ve done, or haven’t done, but on who He is, and what He does for us in Christ Jesus. The apostle John tells us that “God is love.” And that “love” put on flesh and blood in our Savior, making certain the dependability of God’s promises in all things – temporal and eternal – for now and forever!

Jesus was completely faithful to the demands of the law, obeying the Father’s will in both letter and spirit. He also willingly and lovingly submitted to the law’s demand for blood atonement for sin when He went to the cross. So that God’s promise of forgiveness for us might be kept, God’s anger against us and our sin came down on His own Son! Jesus died for us according to God’s promise. According to the scriptures, He was raised again to life, so that we who trust God’s promises might have life in His name. We have God’s promise that for the sake of Jesus, we stand blameless before God.

Real Promises Now

Grace is ours in Christ Jesus. Peace is ours in Christ Jesus. Spiritual gifts are ours in Christ Jesus. God’s Spirit is ours in Christ Jesus. God is faithful in Christ Jesus.

So we can believe that the epistle isn’t just a letter written to someone else – a letter that we’ve opened by mistake. The words, “Grace and peace to you,” are for us!

St. Paul is saying to us today, “Look at yourselves; see that God is indeed keeping His promises to you even now. You’re not lacking any of God’s gifts. Your sins are forgiven. You have eternal life. The Holy Spirit lives in you. You are one with the Father, and brothers and sisters of one another. You have the privilege of prayer, and God’s own Word. You have His direction and protection, His comfort and His presence every day of your lives. Accept His peace, the peace that assures you that all is well between you and your God.”

We face so many things in our daily life that convince us that we stand alone, guilty, unloved, and forsaken. So much of what we know of the past, what we see of the present, and what we anticipate in the future tries to steal our peace, our joy, and our desire to serve God and one another with a happy heart.

We need a sure word, a trustworthy promise, a solid hook to hang our hopes on. So it’s good to hear once more that God is faithful, His promises are true, His gifts are freely given in Christ our Lord. God’s promises are complete in Him.

Welcome to a “New Year” in the life to which God has called you. He has pronounced your life redeemed by the crucified and risen Christ. As you go forward this year, go with the perfect promises of our faithful God: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”


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