Click here for the reading: Romans 13:11-14.

The reading from Romans 13 comes in the midst of Paul describing what it means to be a Christian in light of all that was said in the first eleven chapters. Here, however, Paul gives us another reason for living as Christians. The time of the end comes ever closer with each passing day. Why should the nearness of Christ’s return shape our daily lives? How does the season of Advent teach us about this? In the light of a passage like 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, what should we encourage one another to do?

Paul warns us that the hour has already come to wake up from sleep. The day is fast approaching, and the night is almost gone. Why is a danger to be spiritually asleep? How do we fall spiritually asleep? Are there dangers in the present time that threaten to lull us to sleep that former generations did not know? What kind of dangers threaten Christians that do not threaten the world in the same way? Consider Psalm 141 and what it means to call on the Lord in view of the coming dawn.

The central focus of this passage is a call to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Paul then spells out in specific detail what that means for us, not leaving it up to us to determine for ourselves. What does it mean to walk properly or decently as a Christian? In what ways do Christians fall into the sins which Paul lists? Why is it important to talk about the works of darkness in concrete examples, rather than leaving it up to our imagination? Compare the longer list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. Why do these things prevent us from inheriting the kingdom of God?

Clothe yourself with Christ, Paul says, and make no provision for the flesh. What does Paul mean by the flesh and its desires? What does it mean to make provision for the flesh, especially in the light of Christ’s return? How do we avoid making such provision? What does it mean to put on Christ, especially in terms of resisting evil desires? In Genesis 4:6-7, the Lord warns Cain to resist the sin crouching at his door. How do the negative examples of Scripture teach us about the dangers of evil desire?

Paul immediately follows this section with a long exhortation about bearing with the failings of the weak. We should build one another up and not please ourselves. How is passing a sinful judgment on one another opposed to putting on Christ? Why does Paul call for us to wake up as the body of Christ and not merely to wake up as individuals? Why should we put off even what is legitimate and not please ourselves? Based on 1 Corinthians 8-9, how can we become disqualified in these issues?

Click here for the reading: Jeremiah 23:5-8.

Zedekiah deluded himself into thinking that he could fight against Nebuchadnezzar.  Even though the Babylonian king had given him his throne (2 Kings 24), he wanted to be a king in his own right, not dependent on another.  Therefore, he sent messengers to Jeremiah in chapter 21 to confirm his delusion with a word from the Lord.  Yet what is Jeremiah’s response in chapters 21-22?  How was Zedekiah different from his father Josiah?  What makes a true king in the eyes of the Lord: power or righteousness?  Compare also Zedekiah’s refusal to listen in Jeremiah 27:12-15 with the stubbornness of Israel in Numbers 14:39-45.

Zedekiah’s sin tried to seek political solutions to his problems.  He was seeking to gain power through military means and throw off the problem of Babylon through his own power.  Yet how often do people today seek similar manmade solutions to their own common problems!  Where do people most often seek political solutions in their lives?  However, do they try to keep politics out of other parts?  Why?  What’s the difference between them?  Consider also Joshua 9 and how a failure to seek the Lord in political issues leads even God-fearing men astray.

Jeremiah announces to the king that the house of David will be cut off, but not entirely.  The faithlessness of men has led to the present situation with Babylon.  Even faithless Zedekiah is not living up to his name, which means “The Lord is my righteousness,” since he has scattered the sheep of God!  Yet how will the coming King be different from the faithless sons of David?  What does it mean for God to be faithful when men are continually faithless?  How does a passage like Psalm 146 speak to our own situation?

This passage speaks of the coming King in political and military terms, which makes a rather stark contrast to Jesus who declared that His kingdom is not of this world.  Yet in what ways is Jesus the fulfillment of even the political promises of the Scriptures?  In an age which is continually seeking to make a better tomorrow, how does King Jesus give us a true hope for the future, even in national and political terms?  Compare also the promises of victory over threatening armies in passages like Isaiah 7 and Micah 5.

Advent is a season of expectation, and this passage from Jeremiah also teaches us about the glory of what is to come.  The glory of what God has done in the past will give way to the greater glory of what He will do for His people.  How does the return from exile surpass the Exodus in glory?  How does Christ coming in the flesh surpass the return from exile?  How will the Second Coming be the most glorious act of God?  How is this progressive glory in what God does a comfort for His people?  Compare also the hope of 1 Corinthians 15 and the comfort of what God will do for His people.