Sunday, December 30, 2018

C, Christmas 1 - Luke 2:52-52 Colossians 3:12-17 "Being Favoured"

From Luke 2:51 we hear… And he (Jesus) went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52 ESV)

These are the last words spoken of Jesus till John the Baptist baptises him in the Jordan, baptising him into his ministry of death and resurrection, his ministry of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
Interesting words are left with us to describe Jesus’ years between the age of twelve, his puberty, and his baptism by the Holy Spirit and with fire, at the Jordan and on the cross outside Jerusalem.  We hear Jesus “increased” in wisdom, stature, and favour.  There is a sense with the word “increased” that one drives forward as if by beating one’s way through something.  “Increased” comes from the word to chop or cut down, to lament or beat the breast.
Jesus bore his position in humanity with submission.  He honoured his mother and father; he was obedient to his parents.  He struggled and learnt as a youth in the Scriptures and from everyday events in life.  Here the Son of God allowed himself to be taught what it was to be human.  In effect he was cut down to size from God to man, to a child, to a youth, to a young man who would bear the sin of the world on the cross.
But despite being the Son of God, he increased, he allowed himself to be pruned as a human, and struggled forward, advancing and growing, so in he whom wisdom and grace is personified was seen to come to grips with what everyone else experiences who is taught and tested in the tribulations of daily existence.  In doing so, Jesus increased in favour with his fellow country folk.  And with God, by his sacrifice and submission within the very creation he had created together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ is God’s favoured one, see to it he is your favoured one too.  Paul tells us, who believe, that Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11)  He calls you to see his sacrifice, knowing it was for you he made it.  He doesn’t do this to give you an ego boost, but rather he now commands us to put on the new self, to put on Christ.  To put on his holiness as the Son of God, but to also put on the same humility that Jesus put on to save us from sin.
He calls us to put on Christ because we are God’s chosen ones.  We are favoured by God, not because we are good, but because Jesus was — in his birth, increase, death, and resurrection.  We are favoured by our Heavenly Father, elected by God, and are being resurrected by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore Paul compels you to…
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12–17 ESV)
In short he compels you to put on Jesus, doing everything in the name of our Lord Jesus, which means doing everything in the name of your favoured One, faithfully following the will of the father, not fighting or fleeing from confronting the truth, to honour yourself, but rather forgiving as God has forgiven you.
But how do we do this?  How do I put on Jesus? In fact in my day to day life I struggle to follow Jesus.  As I increase in years I notice more and more that I do not increase like Jesus did, in submission to his family, to the will of his Heavenly Father.  Rather I notice within me an increase that strives to chop God out of my life so I can take control.  And once I take control I see I’m completely out of control together with a world that is spiralling further and further from order and peacefulness.
Jesus came into this world giving up everything that he rightfully held to be the human I ought to be, yet I find within myself aggression that seeks to separate this gift from my life in order I might gather things around myself that seem good, but in reality are a replacement for the God who died on the cross to save me from myself.
So how do I put on Jesus? How do I forgive as God forgives me? How do I let the love of God rule in my heart? How do I focus on these things when I constantly reject the increase in faith, hope, and love, through the trials and temptations that come my way?  Instead of the increase by which Jesus grew, my increase so often gives way to the temptations and the trials that turn me back into myself so I seek to use Jesus only to justify myself.
Why is my life more about disintegration?  Why am I so uninterested in being integrated with this Jesus who was born in Bethlehem?  Who gave me his all so I might give all of myself to him?  And why should I be integrated with my brothers and sisters in Christ?  Putting on Christ seems too hard.
Is this your struggle too?  If you’re honest with yourself it is.  Jesus lingers in the temple long after his family has left, not to discuss the rain or chat as we do after church, but he stays in his Father’s presence to listen, learn and ask questions.  Heaven forbid if we have to stay in church for a minute longer than we have to!  
As Jesus leads us in our lives and as he gives us deeper insight into the reality of our natural selves, that our being is human.  He allows us to see more and more who we are and why he had to be born, troubled, tested, crucified and resurrected as a human being.  What we see in ourselves is helplessness similar to that of a weak defenceless baby lying in a manger, without stature, without dignity, without favour, without what would be expected of the Son of God.  It seems all wrong but it is just so right and God allows us to experience this helplessness so we might be joined into the help God has given us in Jesus Christ.
The incarnation of Jesus in Mary is a good word from God for us to ponder when we feel the dysfunction of our lives.  When Gabriel came to Mary and told her she had found favour with God.  Know that you too have been found in favour with God.  Just like Mary who askes “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” We can pray to God the Father, “How can this be, why am I favoured, since I am a sinner?”  And we might continue, “Lord I am so helpless in my sinful nature, please save me, help me to forgive.  You are my Saviour so please save me, Lord!”
These are just the words God loves to hear.  Our cry for him to be God in our lives and God of our lives.  Just as Gabriel answers to Mary, God says to you, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1: 35)  But even greater than Mary carrying the newly Incarnate Son of God, know you have within you the Word made flesh, crucified and resurrected dwelling within you together with the Holy Spirit who is constantly pointing us back to Jesus, who has won the battle over your sin. 
The Risen Lord Jesus together with the Holy Spirit takes up the fight I am helpless to fight against my old sinful nature.  Jesus and the Holy Spirit place inside me the power of the Most High allowing me to forgive, to increase and lovingly integrate with others, despite the tribulations and temptations.  And he does this for you too.
When you struggle with this, as I do too, pray in your helplessness, beat on God’s door in prayer.  When you do you will see he has been knocking on your door the whole time, so that he might continue entering in and show you the favour he has placed upon you.  Amen. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

B, Pentecost 18 Proper 20 - James 4:1-4 "Love when it comes from God"

“Love is Love”, so they say.  This is the mantra we’ve been fed in recent times. But anyone who questions this is made to feel guilty by the political forces of correctness.  However, it is far from correct and those who defend the “Love is love” ideology display anything but love for those who differ in opinion.
But there are many different types of love.  The bible speaks of four variations of love, and in ancient Greece there are eight variants.
Briefly they are:
Eros or erotic love; in short is sexual passion and desire. 
Philia or philos is affectionate love, mateship or friendship.  In Philos there is no sexual passion.  From this root word we get words like Philadelphia (brotherly love) and philosophy (love of wisdom).
Storge is family love or kinship, it is the love that flows within families, between parents and children. 
Ludus is a playful love and is somewhat related to eros.  Ludus is the fluttering heart, the flirting, teasing love and it gives one the feeling of euphoria.
Mania is obsessive love that is jealous and possessive.  And it is from where we get the word maniac.
Pragma or enduring love and is found in couples who have been together for a long time in a relationship that is mature and willing to make compromises.  It is sensible and realistic love and it is the root of the word pragmatic.
Philautia or love of self is love turned in on one’s self.  Narcissists, those who seek their own glory, fame, fortune and are self-obsessed are caught up in philautia.
And the eighth is Agape. It is a selfless love, it is unconditional love and as such it is used of God towards humanity.  It is steadfast, enduring, accepting, generous and forgiving love.
So love is not love.  There is more to love than some would have us believe.  In fact the “love is love” mantra is built more on deception and self-justification than on human, historical, and literary reality.
As we heard these eight different variants of love, we might have distinguished some which are common to scripture.  Three are common and they are eros, philos and agape. The fourth is storge but it is only used once in conjunction with Philia in Romans 12:10.
The Word of God brings to the fore these three as the battle ground on which our Lord fights for us.  We might think of eros as erotic love but at its core is desire the struggle to force one’s will on someone else.  It begins in the child way before anything sexual begins when they take their stand against mum and dad in a defiant “NO” said to get their own way.
James speaks of this desire as passions or pleasures.  He doesn’t use eros here but rather a synonym from where we get the word hedonistic, which means self-indulgent, riotous, wild, or self-gratifying.
He says, ...if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (James 3:14–15 ESV)
James continues, What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1–3 ESV)
And in the very next verse we hear the use of philia, brotherly love or friendship.  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  (James 4:4 ESV)
Here he uses it negatively when we make friendship with the world and not with God.
Agape love appears time and time again throughout the bible.  It’s the love Jesus was pointing to when he taught the disciples over and over again he was going to be the messiah or the anointed one by being crucified on the cross.  To which last week we heard Peter attempt to rebuke Jesus for saying such, and Jesus in turn said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:33 ESV)
Today we heard again, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them,The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”  But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. (Mark 9:31–32 ESV)
We struggle to understand this after the fact.  How much harder would it have been for the disciples before Jesus went to his death and resurrection? Jesus then confounds their understanding even further by saying, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”(Mark 9:35 ESV)  A point Jesus has to stress even stronger later on by replacing servant with slave stating, ...whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43–45 ESV)
This is the very heart of the gospel, this is the love of God, the agape love we struggle to understand let alone fulfil.  In fact God is the only one who can fulfil this love. Why is this so?
One has to rewind back to the Garden of Eden where humanity, created in the image of God though that not good enough, and, was tempted and chose to seek to be like God by eating from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil.  And so they became like God and we too being God-like in ourselves seek this love of good and evil, or what we desire as good and evil rather than the love of servanthood and submission to God, the agape love, in which we were created to love God, in which Jesus came to put right by loving God whole-heartedly, what Adam and Eve got wrong and we continue to get wrong.
It becomes pretty clear that the “love is love” mantra of our day and age is far from the centrality of God’s love won for us on the cross.  In fact we are told quite clearly that anyone who wishes to be friends with the world makes himself an enemy with God. 
A spiritual reality came into being when humanity sought to be like God.  We became enemies with God. But God still did not reject us.  First, he removed himself from humanity and lets us be the gods of good and evil.  Once there we quickly realised that being the one god of ourselves is lonely and void of the love that truly sustains us. 
Being alone, being like God is the result of the fall.  And being alone is the great disease running rampant in our society today.  Whether you’re a teenager obsessing over your friend status on your iphone or smartphone (or as I call them ego phones)!  Or you’re in the latter years of life lonely and losing the independence you had once upon a time.  Plus, everyone in between who puts their hope in their farms, their families, their fortunes, or their fame.
James points out our jealousy and self-ambition is a result of our loneliness and godlikeness saying, “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (James 3:15 ESV)
In Paul’s struggle with the “infants” in the Corinthian church he says similar, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.  The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.  “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 2:12–16 ESV)
We have the mind of Christ.  He gave his life as a ransomed for you, for me, and for all people who believe he took our sin on himself on the cross.  He takes the natural person, the old Adam within, Peter and the disciples, you and me, the godlike man and woman naturally alone in the loneliness of our judgment of good and evil, and makes each of us spiritual people, with the mind of Christ.
He loves you and forgives you and gives you access into his presence forever, where there is not loneliness or need to be a god, rather you can be the creature he created you to be.   Love can only be love when God is love.
Like the Psalmist we can praise God saying, “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.  He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them.” (Psalm 54:4–5 ESV)
God is Love and anything we put before God is our enemy.  Our greatest enemy is our lonely godlike self, or anyone who tells us that there is a greater god than our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  

So rest in God!  Put off the godlike loneliness that causes so much strife and take hold of the love that is of God and eternal, and gives us the peace that surpasses all understanding which keeps our hearts and minds in the love of Christ Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

B, Pentecost 16 Proper 18 - James 2:14 "Faith and Works"

What good is it, my brothers (and sisters), if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (James 2:14 ESV)
It seems a grenade has been rolled into the mix of sound teaching; words contrary to other scripture where we’re taught we’re justified by faith, as Paul tells us in the letters he wrote to the early church!
But earlier in the text James begins with a warning about being partial or bias towards those dressed in fine clothes believing they are somehow better than the poor wearing shabby attire. He says, “show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” (James 2:1 ESV)
James goes on to show partiality as sin when we judge others contrary to how God has judged us.  Finding us guilty God vicariously placed his Son, Jesus Christ, in our place and gave us freedom we could not work through the Law.
Therefore he says, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty (the law of freedom).  For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (James 2:12–13 ESV)
So what are we to make of judgment in light of our faith and works!  James even seems to confuse his own argument by saying, “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom… (James 2:5 ESV)  God chooses the rich in faith, but on the other hand, those whose faith has no works is dead.
When these texts fill our hearing the old human nature kicks in.  We search ourselves for faith we look for works in our daily lives.  God walks in the garden of our lives and we go scrambling to defend and cover ourselves with our knowledge of good and evil.  It’s been this way since Adam and Eve hid from God in Eden.
It is exactly because of our sin that we confuse faith and works.  We all have faith and we all do works but what this faith is and what works they produce is another thing.  So the question is put: what is my faith and what works do I do to support my faith?  What is happening in us, in you, in me, when God’s word fills our hearing?  Do you act as Adam or as Christ?
Take for instance a few lines from the Old Testament reading today, Isaiah 35:6&7, “For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;  the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water” (Isaiah 35:6b–7a ESV)
Just like Adam we’re tempted to dive into ourselves turning our backs on God in disbelief when our reality seems contrary to God’s word.  Deep down it’s so easy to doubt texts like this when drought seems to be overwhelming our farms and our souls.
In Psalm 146 God delves into our hearts telling us to put no trust in princes; in one who dies as we all will die.  In the spirit of James we are told not to be partial to the finely dressed; the princely types.  What kind of judgment are we making when we deem the finely dressed as “good blokes” and others as “evil blokes”?
Rather in Psalm 146 we are told, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,  who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;  who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.”(Psalm 146:5–7 ESV)
And so we have gathered here in God’s name and testify to each other before God, “Our help is in the name of the Lord. He made heaven and earth.  I said, ‘I will confess my sins to the Lord.’ Then he forgave the guilt of my sin.” Which intentionally are pieces of scripture given to us by God to pray to him from Psalm 124:8 and 32:5.
God shows no partiality.  He judges all; the poorly dressed but rich in faith as well as the richly dressed with hidden poor faith issues, and everyone in between.  We all need the same help and we all need the same forgiveness!
So the question is, “what is faith”?  And, “what is a work”? 
So often sin within takes these questions and turns them in on ourselves and we in turn, cast a judgment on each other that’s far from merciful.  We take the word of God and we make ourselves gods over God’s word.  This is exactly the opposite of what God intends. God’s will is to be merciful to those who call on his name.  His mercy triumphs over judgment.  It’s always been that way, even in Old Testament times when the Law was put in place to atone for sin.
You see many characters in the Old Testament were sinful.  Abraham took Hagar to father a child when God had promised Sarah would have a child, Jacob was ruthless towards his brother Esau and father-in-law Laban.  David committed murder, and adultery.  And even in Jesus’ day Peter sinned by denying Jesus at his trial, yet he was forgiven and Judas was not.  So what is going on?  Sinful men sanctified by God.  Did their good works justify them?  What kind of works were going on when David took another man’s wife into his bed? Or when Abraham took Sarah’s servant Hagar into his bed?  When Jacob stole his brother’s birth right?  When Peter said he did not know Jesus and called down curses upon himself?
Faith, works, judgment, mercy.  Floods, drought, life and death.  What is the will of God?  How do we reconcile the word of God with the very real events of everyday life? So the question still stands, “what is faith”?  And, “what is a work”? 
Our understanding can swing very quickly into perspective when we begin to understand the function of God’s word in the Old and the New Testaments as God’s word that calls us to believe who we are so in turn we trust not in ourselves but look out of ourselves and trust in God. 
Despite my sinful nature God comes to me, first through the Law but now through Jesus.  No one can fulfil the whole Law but God still credited people righteous in Old Testament times.  Why, because even while seeking to fulfil the Law but failing they were looking not to themselves but to God.  They believed they were sinful but despite that trusted God.
In Gospel times, in the early church and today, there’s still the temptation to look to the self so that faith is not trusting in God but a resting on one’s own knowledge of good and evil.  And if we are not trusting in God we’re not going to believe we are sinful nor are we in need of Christ’s vicarious action.  Having made ourselves god of our own lives, refusing Christ’s vicarious action, we stop our heavenly Father from allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us both faith as well as works towards others.
To put it another way Peter, King David, John the Baptist, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, and others, believed they were sinners but allowed God to focus them not on themselves but on him.  Yes they all made mistakes; they stuffed up, but they didn’t allow their sin to separate them from God. And because they faced God their works were not things they conjured up for themselves to do but they did what was necessary while looking to God.
Faith in anything but Jesus’ death and resurrection; faith in anything but my sin that needs this vicarious action, is a dead faith!  Faith that looks out of myself to Jesus, is a faith that lets Jesus in, worked by the Holy Spirit, when we hear the word of God.  It’s Jesus’ promise that he will send a helper.  Our helps is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth, and in his name the Holy Spirit enters in and works in us, even without our knowing or feeling it.  The Holy Spirit is a mover and a shaker. 
James Nestingen an American Lutheran theologian has written a commentary on the Small Catechism called “Free to Be”.  It’s a good simple read but I want to direct you to his title on Third Article of the Creed, it’s titled, “God the Verb”. When we look to Jesus, that’s the Holy Spirit acting within. The Holy Spirit is the verb, he is the active word in the sentence of our Christian lives, as it were.
When we look to Jesus, and confess our sin, it’s the Holy Spirit acting within. With the Holy Spirit engendering faith within he also has from within us works to do.  But rarely do we realize we are doing the works because our focus is on Jesus Christ, willed by God the Father, enacted within by the Holy Spirit.
In James chapter one we hear, “Count it all joy, my brothers (and sister), when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2–4 ESV)
You too lack nothing in Christ, drought or flood, poor or financial.  Faith produces faith, and in faith you endure trials and continue to hear and receive the Word of God. And as you hear the word of God, the Holy Spirit produces faith, so you lack nothing.  Works produce faith and faith produces works.  It just comes unstuck in us when we stop looking to God and credit ourselves with faith and works while condemning others for their faith and works or lack of.
So look to God continually and ask him for wisdom and endurance; steadfastness or enduring love in our Lord Jesus Christ who through his vicarious action on the cross gives us the freedom to lay our lives down for each other in intercessory prayer, in vicarious action, in ways we don’t even realize or see, as we look out of ourselves to Jesus Christ. Amen.   

Saturday, March 31, 2018

B, Resurrection of our Lord - 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 "Holy Saturday"

1 Corinthians 15:1–11 (ESV) Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
In our culture most refer to the period of Good Friday to Easter Monday as the Easter weekend. However, Easter began today and continues for seven weeks right through to Pentecost Sunday.
But because most of us get caught up in the idea of Easter being a four day weekend there is one day¬—a very important day—that seems to be lost on us.
Ask most what the day is called between Good Friday and Easter Sunday and without hesitation most call it Easter Saturday. But in fact it is Holy Saturday, whereas Easter Saturday is to fall in six days time.
Although this needs to be mentioned here it is not the focus. We need not be too concerned about the right title for certain days. Instead we do well to visit Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and see the happenings of this day and how it affects us in our Christian walk.
After all, Jesus walked the way of the cross, for us. And now this walk, we walk hand in hand with Jesus through every part of our lives. Well, this is at least what Jesus wishes to do with us.
In First Corinthians we have heard Saint Paul was a hard worker for the Jewish cause, persecuting Christians and the new church. And after his conversion just as hard a worker for the church! But the language Paul uses in his letter to the Corinthians makes Jesus stand out in a most peculiar way. In fact, in completely the opposite way than that of Paul!
The saying is true for Paul, “when the going gets tough the tough get going.” But surprisingly it’s not for Jesus, who rather than being active was passive and on Holy Saturday, stopped in grave for the Sabbath of all Sabbath resting in death and, at the same time, descending into hell.
Listen to the language of Saint Paul in these verses… 
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
The repetition is a little lost on us in the English, but Paul pushes the passivity of Jesus in his death and resurrection in the text. That, Jesus was buried, he was raised, and (in the Greek text) he was caused to be seen by all from Peter(Cephas) to finally himself.
Jesus fulfilled his mission of salvation in the stillness of the cross, he fulfils the Old Testament law by his stillness in the grave on Holy Saturday, and he fulfilled the will of God, restoring the relationship between God and humanity to what it once was in the Garden of Eden.
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2–3 ESV)
On the cross and in the grave, Jesus puts a stop to earning our salvation through works or self-righteousness. In the stillness of his death and in the grave Jesus fulfils the Sabbath and the Jewish Law; he was still and knew that the Father was God, even though he was God too. And in this stillness of death and descent into hell, without any help, from any of us, he took the Old Adam on himself and gave us himself, atoning for our sin, making us holy and giving back our relationship with God the Father.
So how are we to reflect on Holy Saturday; the passivity of Christ on the cross, his stillness in the grave, the true unity his holiness gives us when we rest in him verses the activity of the sinful nature within, and God’s desire to rest—to rest with us?
As restless as we are, how do we rest in these days that are far from passive, while our secret thoughts and actions are anything but holy, in our constant desire to do what we want rather than be in God’s presence? How often do we seek to add our deeds to Jesus stopping on the cross and his Sabbath rest in the grave?
Take care, brothers (and sisters), lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:12–14 ESV)
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (Hebrews 4:1–2 ESV)
Satan, the sinful nature within, and sins committed take their toll on us.
It so easy to fall into unbelief, to stumble into thinking I haven’t done enough and therefore actively seek to add to what Jesus has done. Or, to be deceived into running from God and your sin believing that you’re no longer worthy.
Then there are many when tested by the trials and tribulations of this life lose faith in Jesus’ trials and tribulations on the cross for them and their loved ones and the power of his taking sin on himself to the grave and hell.
On the other hand, in trying to unburden one’s self, many trivialise sin, believing what we are or what we have done is of no consequence. Or at least as bad as what someone else has done or is doing. In this way many make God out to be a liar; cheapening his death for sin and the sinful nature.
It seems each of us is dammed if we do or dammed if we don’t! The old Adam within sins when we try to do almost anything, and the old Adam is right there again when we try to hid or divert guilt away from the sneakiness of our human nature.
This is where we as Christians are called to let the passivity of Jesus’ death on the cross, stillness in the grave, and descent into hell, work our salvation.
We can be still in Christ; in his passivity we receive his complete belief and trust in our heavenly Father. His stillness now resides in you and me. That which is completely contradictory to our human nature; Jesus’ stillness works "fulfilled Son of God'' activity within us. The Holy Spirit grows faith, and enables us to stop and rest in God’s word, and rest in the work Jesus did on the cross by being completely still.
For us sharing in Christ is now believing to the point where we can stop in him, enter his holy rest, and let the word and work of God, work in us. With the eyes of faith we are caused to see in his word our story, our life, as one with each other and God in the garden of eternal paradise. This only happens when we, like Jesus in the grave, remain passive and still, and he having been raised now powerfully works within the stillness of our trust in him together with the Holy Spirit to bring us into true refreshing rest not found anywhere else in this life.
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10 ESV)
And we know… the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 12–13 ESV)
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11 ESV)
As Jesus Sabbathed in the grave, pray to the Lord for the grace to stop, enter his rest and Sabbath in him, Amen.