Do Not Shrink Back – A Devotional Sample

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Since the beginning of Advent, Reformed Margins has offered a free devotional resource. You can find it at the top of the home page and by clicking this link.

Below is an excerpt from that devotional. It was posted for the Second Monday in Advent. A new devotional will post by 9 a.m. EST every morning (except Sundays). We hope this is a helpful and encouraging resource for you this Advent season.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. — 1 John 2:28

We await the return of our King.

But how do we wait?

What characteristics mark our waiting?

The first letter of John provides a helpful starting point as we answer these important questions.

The Apostle John affectionately names his fellow believers “little children.” This carries with it two meanings.

First, the Christians he is writing to are his spiritual children, the fruit of the church planting work he has done in the region.

But secondly, John knows that each and every one of these men and women have been adopted as children of God. In this sense, he is also one of the “little children” who is called to emulate their heavenly Father.

These little children, adopted sons and daughters of God, are commanded by John to abide in Christ so that when Jesus returns they may “not shrink from him in shame.”

I have felt the shame of sin. I know the displeasure my sin brings the Lord and that my sinful actions, thoughts, attitudes, and words grieve the Holy Spirit.

So how are we not to shrink from Christ when he returns? How are we to stand confident when our King comes to reign?

Spend time with God’s people.

The Church is not a helpful appendage to the Christian life, it is the organism God has created and elected unto salvation. We need our brothers and sisters.

It is within the Church that we are spurred toward holiness and encouraged in our spiritual growth. Here we use our spiritual gifts, confess our sins to one another, and live under the spiritual authority of elders and pastors that God has called as undershepherds of the flock.

And it is in the Church that we remind one another that our salvation is founded not on the intensity of our faith or the consistency of our faithfulness, but on the covenant love and faithfulness of our God. We stand boldly at the time of Christ’s coming because Christ has given us his righteousness.

Meditate on the Word of God.

The Scriptures are the lifeblood of the church. In them, God reveals himself to us and unfolds all that we need to understand for salvation and a faithful life. The pages of Scripture proclaim the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and display the mighty works of God.

And so we need to meditate on the things God has spoken in the Scriptures. As the Psalmist says, “Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints…” (Psalm 85:7-8). Let us hear what God says that we may be filled with the peace available in Jesus Christ. As this peace fills us we are reminded again that we are the adopted sons and daughters of god. And we will not shrink back from our Elder Brother when he returns to restore all things.

Prayerfully Act in Accordance with the Will of God.

To abide in Christ is to remember Paul’s charge: pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Yet prayer that is unaccompanied with action is disobedient prayer, for James tells us that saying a prayer for the poor without taking action to help their station is a sign of dead faith.

Many things in this world require Christians to act. We must actively seek the good not only for our fellow brother and sister Christians, but for our neighbors and even our enemies (Matt 5:44).

And so we must lead the fight against the social ills and sins of our day (e.g. poverty, racism, sexism, etc.) We must be among the loudest voices crying out to those in power for justice and mercy.

But we must also seek the good of those in our immediate spheres of influence. It is easy to write a blog post or a social media screed. It is easy to make a phone call to a Senator or local politician.

It is more difficult to come alongside a young mother whose partner is incarcerated. It is more difficult to provide comfort to the mentally ill around us this Christmas season. It is more difficult to work with patience alongside those brothers and sisters with whom we profoundly disagree.

We are to prayerfully act in accordance with the will of God in all of these matters.

And as we work we will find that our actions conflict with the values of this world. So be it. “If they hated me they will also hate you,” our Lord said (John 15:18, paraph.) We must still prayerfully do the work of our Father in heaven that the world may see our good works and give glory to God.

There is no magic formula for abiding in Christ. To borrow from Eugene Peterson, abiding in Christ is a long obedience in the same direction.

And yet, as we abide in Christ we know that we do not have to shrink away from him at his coming. Instead, we can boldly approach his throne knowing that our righteousness is secured by his sacrifice on our behalf.

We can come to our Lord in the confidence that he has made us worthy. We will not shrink away but fall into the embrace of our King who will call us good and faithful servant.

Marcos Ortega

Marcos Ortega (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is an Assistant Pastor at Goodwill Church (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) and lives in the Hudson River Valley in New York with his wife and two daughters.

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