Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

He is Coming

We begin the season of Advent this Sunday. It is a season of anticipation. Last year, we followed the lectionary passages through Isaiah. We discussed the prophet’s predictions of the Messiah and how Jesus fulfilled the words of Isaiah, spoken hundreds of years before His birth. This year, the lectionary passages focus on the second coming of Christ. We don’t often think of Jesus’s second coming as a topic for the Advent season. However, just as the prophets expected the coming Messiah, we anticipate Jesus’s return. Advent is an appropriate season for this matter.

Scripture’s underlying messages regarding Jesus’s second coming are urgency and preparedness. While false predictions of the world’s end has produced confusion, Jesus’s second coming should not be dismissed as folklore. And while Scripture considers the details of this event a mystery (1 Corinthians 15:51–53), Jesus’s return is central in the mind of Scripture writers. Jesus tells us,

Be always on the watch, and pray (Luke 21:36)

Living in this sort of expectation is not common among Christians. Many have placed Jesus’s second coming outside the realm of daily thoughts. It is something “out there” that may or may not happen in our lifetime. We give it little attention. But the message of Scripture is one of urgency. Let’s consider this in light of the topic of discernment.

As we think about discerning, we often take on the posture of patience and waiting. We don’t want to move too fast; we are careful to listen for the movement of the Spirit. So how do we balance Scripture’s call to urgency with the need to wait on the Spirit? How do we keep from being a people who solely think about a future world, the time when Jesus will return and make all things right? How do we balance God’s kingdom here and now with the expectation that God is going to create a new world, a new heaven and new earth?

When we properly interpret Scripture, we often find tension. We are called to be a people of urgency, at the same time a people of waiting. We are to live in the present, keeping the future in view. It is appropriate to long for Jesus’s return, at the same time striving to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. As a discerning people, may we continually keep our promised future in sight. May we learn to live in this tension. May we learn to be faithful where God has placed us and looking forward to future promises. As John closed the book of Revelation, he quotes Jesus’s promise,

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20 NIV)

And then he adds his own prayer,

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20 NIV)

May we not be overwhelmed by the task of discerning, navigating God’s direction for us. While we are faithful to the here and now, may we continually look forward to His return.