Saturday, January 27, 2018

Covenant of Day and Night

If you can break my covenant of the day and my covenant of the night, so that there should not be day and night in their season, then may my covenant be broken with David my servant, so that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne... Jeremiah 33:10-11

Sometimes the Lord needs to repeat himself.  Even Jeremiah had stopped praying to God, and in the prison where he was being held the Lord spoke to him and told him that if he called on him, if he prayed to him, the Lord would answer with great visions that had never seen.  Interestingly, God immediately shows Jeremiah a vision that he had seen before (32:24).  Why? Because the message for us is not in God's chastisement of Jeremiah.  He's not telling us that if we call out to him, he will give us visions and words of prophecy.  No, he's telling Jeremiah not to give up on being a prophet, just because he is in prison.  He's, at the same time, telling us that we need to not give up just because the world is hostile towards us.  Pray to him, through the scriptures, and he will speak to us through the scriptures.  He told Jeremiah something that he had forgotten, which is that he would never leave nor forsake him, and then he tells him something important that he had already told him before, a prophecy for Israel and Judah.  Likewise, he tells us something that we have forgotten, that he will never leave us nor forsake us, but he's not going to tell us anything new that cannot be found in scripture.  The Bible is all we need.  The prophecy for Israel and Judah is also for us, because we are in the church, and Israel and Judah make up the church.

This is an important point to remember when reading the scriptures.  Of course, they are all about Jesus, but they are also about the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church.  The Bible speaks to us as individuals but even more so as members of Christ's body.  Christ saves us because he saves the church, and we are members of the church through faith.  This is important to remember, because if we are believing that Jesus has a relationship with us apart from his church, we may be worshiping a different Christ.  Many today clutch tightly to the "personal relationship" with God and at the same time reject the church altogether.  Without the church, though, texts like Jeremiah 33 have no application for us and we are left attempting to apply verse 3, meant for Jeremiah himself, to our lives, and we end up seeking visions and prophetic words outside of scripture. We can understand this chapter better if we apply this prophecy of Jeremiah 33 to ourselves not as individuals but as the church.

The church is disparaged today, as it has been throughout history.  We may not be individually feeling the wrath of the world upon us, but we can see the church being crushed violently wherever it attempts to share the gospel and preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  The church attempts to fight against the secular world, playing by the world's rules, but as we see from history, the result is the church's own demise, either by becoming secularized itself or becoming persecuted more mercilessly.  God allows the world to persecute the church, because when the church loses its faith in the God of the Bible, he hides his face from it.  Remember, we may not lose our individual faith in Christ--there is always a remnant--but the church as a whole may.  We feel the persecution, more or less, dependent on how closely aligned with the true church we are.

In the midst of persecution, however, God remembers his true church and nourishes it back to health.  He reveals to his church both peace and truth.  He restores the church to its rightful place.  God doesn't stop there, he goes further.  He cleanses his church of sin, for there is no deliverance, no joy, without the remission of sins.  And this remission of sins can only be found inside the church.  The fact that the church has not perished in the face of persecution, that it continues to thrive even in the bleakest of places, causes the world to take note.  Even today, when we think that the end is near for Christians, God still preserves his church.  From the outside it seems desolate, but from inside comes the sound of singing.  In this church that seems desolate, there is a resting place for the flocks of the Lord, for the Good Shepherd to tend to his people.

The desolation shall be filled again. The empty churches will be glutted with voices of praise. God promised it to Israel.  He promised it Judah.  And he promises it to his church.  And the promise is, of course, Christ, the branch of righteousness from David.  He was born in Bethlehem, the Messiah, and he walked the earth and died for our sin.  He will come again to judge the quick and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.  The church is saved through Christ. What's more: this glorious reign of Christ was set in stone from the beginning.  Never was the throne of David to be left empty, God assures Jeremiah. Neither shall the church be without a priest to sacrifice.  Christ is the great high priest, and he committed the greatest sacrifice--himself for the sins of the whole world of believers.  His is a single sacrifice that satisfies continually, replacing the continual sacrifices of the earthly priests.

Here next is the focus of the prophecy.  How glorious is the Lord in that he will never let destruction befall his church!  The covenant of the day and night are our pillars.  The Lord tells us that if we are able to break those covenants so that there is no day and night, remembering that these covenants were established on the first day of creation, then he would in return break his covenant with Christ, the king and great high priest.  Since we are unable to break such strong covenants as NIGHT and DAY, there is no way the covenant of Christ will fail.  Remember, night and day existed without the sun and moon, without astronomical bodies, so even the failure of the sun in the sky will not break the covenant.

Hope comes in the form of Christ!  Never let the world tell us that the church is done.  Never will it die.  Never can it be destroyed.  If the Lord has no covenant with day and night, if he has not created heaven and earth, then Christ is cast out.  Since those covenants are unbreakable, more so is the covenant with Christ unbreakable and everlasting.  The captive church will be restored, for the Lord has compassion on all his children.  Look to the pillars of day and night and know that God will never forsake us.

Saturday, January 20, 2018


Whatever he tells you to do, do it. (John 2:5)

Mary's conversation with Christ in this passage reveals a lot about the relationship between the sinner and the savior.  Jesus is her son, and so in obedience to the law, he needs to obey her.  She has not commanded him to do anything, however.  She is merely making a declaration, but he sees into her heart and understands the motives there.  She tells him that the wedding has run out of wine.  She is telling Jesus this, because she is prompting his divine nature.  She only has authority over his human nature, however.  Jesus responds with his divine nature by calling her "woman" instead of "mother."  He asks her, "what does this have to do with me?" Because she has no authority to command his divine nature.  She is a sinner, just like us.

And yet, we are told within the boundaries of the alternate version of Christianity that permeates our country that this is the relationship we are to have with Christ.  Jesus is our magic genie who will give us what we want when we want it.  Indeed, Psalm 23 does read, "The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want."  Jesus is happy to give us what we need in life, but he is the driving force.  We receive good things on his own terms.  We do not will the Lord to do anything.  He does out of his mercy and his providence.  When we abide in him, our wills follow his will.  Our wills should never lead his.

Mary repents of this transgression.  She says to the servants, "Whatever he tells you, do it."  This isn't her announcing that her son is going to obey her instructions anyway. She is responding humbly to the Lord's chastisement and informing the servants that they should respond with perfect obedience, not like she had done by presuming authority.

And finally, the miracle. Christ does provide for the want, but he does so on his own terms.  His way is better than anything we could have fathomed.  Christ's wine is the best possible, and it manifests his glory, the purpose of all his miracles.  Jesus is not a genie.  He is the genuine article.

Likewise, all our efforts on earth are like mere water in cisterns.  When we allow Jesus to control our lives, and when we surrender to his total truth, he turns our water into wine.  He glorifies our sinful deeds and turns them into good works.  Faith in Christ produces fruit that lasts forever, fruit that has been carried out in God.

Friday, January 12, 2018

My Father's House

And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" Luke 2:49

Where do we find Jesus?  We take him with us, through life, as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  But this "working out" of salvation is sanctification and it consists of us following the Spirit's lead.  We work out our salvation in conjunction with God's spirit, but only as saved Christians.  The act of justification, or being counted righteous in the eyes of God, the transfer of the soul from eternal death to eternal life, is an act solely on the part of God. He does that alone.  We are sinful enough to not want that.  We want to work out our salvation with God's help, but not his lead.  The ungodly want to work out their salvation without God entirely.  The "saved" want to control the direction of their sanctification and turn to God only when they need assistance.

We drag Christ along with us as we attempt to be good people.  We are excited to show our savior how well we are doing.  Look how I'm obeying the law, we tell him.  Aren't you proud of me? we ask him.  We drag him along like a little child, because the words, "and a child shall lead them," mean nothing to us.  We don't want to surrender to Jesus, because Jesus is just a little boy.  We have allowed the Christ child into our lives, and the first thing we do is tell him the "rules" of living with us.  Here are the ways I do things, we tell him.  If I need you, I'll call on you.  Otherwise, just do your magic in the background.  Keep me from falling into holes.  Prevent bad things from happening to me.  Make my dreams come true.  Don't get in the way; remain silent; watch me be a good person all by myself.  Offer some constructive criticism when I ask for it.  I've got this.  Watch me roll.

And we go on and on, living our lives, trying to be good people, trying to love our neighbors as ourselves, and we suddenly find that Jesus is not with us.  We were going about our daily routine, doing good deeds in the way we saw fit, and we looked about for Christ in the thick of all our plans, and we found him not.  We didn't know it at first.  We thought he was with us the whole time, and he was merely remaining quiet because he approved of the way we were handling things.  He was so enraptured with our behavior, with our love, that we believed him to be there on the sidelines, like a quiet fan, silently cheering us on.  But we didn't realize that the silence was due to his absence.

We try to find him nearby.  We try to find him among our friends and family.  He is not there.  We try to find him among our things.  We try to find him among our desires.  We try to find him in the laughter, in the tears, in the joys and sorrows of our life.  Certainly he should be there!  Doesn't he care for us?  We find him not.  We scour our lives for all the things we are doing "right," because that was where we believed him to be.  We do not find him there, either.  We even try to find him in our despair.  No Christ.

So, we go back to the beginning to search for him. We search our salvation.  We remember our conversion.  We ponder on the moment when we moved from the congregation of the ungodly to the congregation of the righteous.  We try to remember how we felt.  We try to recapture that feeling.  We try to remember what words were spoken that opened the eyes of our hearts.  What was said?  What did we read?  What did we hear?  How did we taste and see?  To continue in sanctification we have to re-experience our justification.  Where do we find that?

The Word of the Lord is a temple of knowledge.  The Bible is the place where the one, true God is found.  The scriptures are the place where we read about Christ, the real Christ, not the false Christ that the world presents.  This is where we found Christ before and where we find him again.  We heard a sermon.  We heard a friend's testimony.  We read a verse that moved us.  We learned about the truth.  We took a hard look at our lives, and we compared it to the life that Christ offered.  We realized we were in a dark place, that we were without hope.  That our attempts to save ourselves had failed and would always fail. They will fail forever.  Our only hope, we realized, was in full trust in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  God made a way for us to be saved.  It was a solitary way, but it was an easy way.  Faith alone in his blood.  He died so we could live.  He did all the work.  How easy is that?

And his answers are the best answers.  We hold up the wisdom of the world to the wisdom of Christ, and Christ's wins every time.  We try earthly philosophies, pseudo-religious philosophies, myriad worldviews, and they all fall short of the glory of Christ's gospel.  His wisdom crushes the wisdom of the world.  His Word, where we find his wisdom, is impervious to anything else written.  It withstands the test of time.  It has not been refuted yet.  It can only be refuted by alteration, by misinterpretation, by inattention.  It can only be attacked by false teaching.  But in reality, his Word, his Bible, his scriptures abide forever.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  The Bible attests to this.  This is where we found the Christ that changed us.

Through Christ's word we understand things we once wrestled with all our lives.  We couldn't understand creation.  God's Word revealed it.  We couldn't understand sin.  God's Word exposed it.  We couldn't understand redemption.  God's Word exuded it.  We were astonished at how clear everything became, once the antiseptic spray of the Bible was applied to the darkness.

But we left the excitement behind.  We attempted to live our lives the same way was did as before we knew Christ.  We attempted to fall into the same ruts, love the same rabble, wear the same rags.  We discovered that the World hates Christians, so we tried to be "cool" Christians who could love Christ and the world simultaneously.  Surely Jesus would still fix everything.  Our lives have been fixed by Jesus, right?  Things were tough, but now Christ has made our lives better, right?  But as we went along, trying to incorporate Jesus into our old lives, we forgot that his change in us was permanent, and so we attempted to change ourselves back, and we kicked against the goads.  We were "saved," but we refused to be changed.  We then went a great distance away from God, and we then decided to look for Jesus, and we discovered that he had gone back to the basics.  He has gone back to his scriptures, and when we sought him, we found him there.  There he remains, and if we are to follow him, we need to follow him there.

At first we are angry.  Why is he taking us to this boring place?  Why can't he build on the progress that we made on our lives before we found him?  We have invested sometimes years in our old lives.  Can't Jesus build upon what we already started?  Christ says no, because what we built was taking us to hell.  We were building our own Babel, trying to reach God, but really reaching perdition.  Conversion means to turn from your sickness and walk in the opposite direction, with Christ, but we wanted to keep going in the wrong direction, dragging Jesus along with us.  We search for Jesus in the places we want him to be, but we can't find him.  When we go back and search for him in the places he is likely to be, we find him.  Those places are in the Word of God, the truth, everlasting life.

We are distressed, because we WANT him to be in those evil places that we can't let go of, and when we confront him, he responds, "Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"  Why were we looking for him?  Did we not know where he must be?  Why do we look for Christ among the wiles of the world?  We do we look for him among the weeds?  Why do we look for him among the thorns, the brambles?  Why do we look for him among the darkness of the world, our natural home?  Why are we even there in the first place?  Why did we try to drag him back to our homes of darkness, our sinful lives of reproach?  Why did we think he would want that?  Why was that dark place even an option, and why was it the first place we looked, the place we assumed we would find him? 

Why didn't we know that he would be in his Father's house?  Why would Jesus Christ be anywhere but his Father's house?  He even tells us that he MUST be in his Father's house.  He cannot be anywhere else.  He can only be found in the Word of God, the scriptures, his Father's house.  And for believers, he is found in our hearts, because we are temples of the most high God, but our temples are places of learning and teaching.  They are not emotional roller coaster rides of mindless feelings.  When boy Jesus was in the temple, he was teaching and answering questions and crushing the wisdom of the world with his own.  When we find him in the temples of our hearts, his Father's house, we find him teaching us the truth, our learning the truth, the answers to all our problems about life.

And still we do not understand.  When we come to Christ, we give up everything we ever held dear.  We destroy the old passions, and Jesus becomes our new life.  He is ours, and we take him with us, but we don't carry on the way we did before.  He changes us from the inside out.  He alters our hearts until we hate the things we used to love and love the things we used to hate.  He rebuilds us.  We are born again.  Our foundation is now Christ, the Rock, upon which we build our house, a house not in darkness but in ever-shining light.  Jesus is our all in all.  He dies on our behalf.  His death opens up the way to life for us.  But one thing we can never do is try to take him into the darkness with us, to try to pull him into our old, sinful lives.  He will not go, and if you are able to go back, you cannot have been born again.  That is a place you will not want to ever go to again.  You may see it from afar, and you may even shed a tear for its loss, but you will never desire it.

You are on a new path, a narrow one, and you are following Jesus, not leading him.  He is taking you where he wants you to go.  He leads you into righteous paths, all for his name's sake.  Remember these things.  They are the difference between life and death.  Do not take Christ with you.  Submit yourself and let Christ take you with him.  He will lead you to love.  He will lead you to righteousness.  He will lead you to paradise.