Sabbath Rest and Common Grace From the Front Porch

From where I’m sitting, on the front porch of my Grandparent’s house in Dover, Arkansas, the earth moves slower. The sun rises and sets slower here than anywhere else. It is here on this front porch in this rural community where I see God’s common grace the most. If there was ever a place exemplified sabbath rest, it’s here. It is an atmosphere of peace, solitude, and rest that seems to melt away the cares of this veil. It is a healthy and wholesome thing for every person to have a place like this to think, to pray, to focus, to gather, and to regroup. So, my question to you is this: where is your place like this? Where is your place to sit and solve the world’s problems? Where is your place to rest and get away for awhile? Did you know that the Bible actually commands rest?

 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” – [Exodus 20:8-11 ESV]

 

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – [Mark 2:27 ESV]

 

I believe that rest in and of itself is a form of common grace. Why? Because everyone enjoys rest at some point. It’s a universal concept enjoyed by converted and the unconverted alike. Even workaholics have to sleep sometime and whether they want to admit it or not, they enjoy the feeling of their head hitting the cool side of the pillow. Why do we need a sabbath rest? Because we’re only human. The sin nature that we inherited from our father Adam causes work to be toilsome and as a result, our bodies ache and become sore. If we overwork our bodies, they get hurt, bones break, muscles get torn, and so forth. Because we are sinful, we have one of two equally sinful extremes that we revert to in response to work. We either avoid work altogether and become lazy, or we go overboard and work ourselves to death without ever resting. Albert Barnes’ gives a picture of what it looks like to rest biblically without being lazy.

 

For his rest from toil, his rest from the cares and anxieties of the world, to give him an opportunity to call off his attention from earthly concerns and to direct it to the affairs of eternity. It was a kind provision for man that he might refresh his body by relaxing his labors; that he might have undisturbed time to seek the consolations of religion to cheer him in the anxieties and sorrows of a troubled world; and that he might render to God that homage which is most justly due to him as the Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and Redeemer of the world.”
– Albert Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament (On Mark 2:27)

 

There’s a quote from Perry Noble that I think is very applicable here. “Refusing to work is lazy, refusing to rest is disobedient.” We commit sin when we take it upon ourselves to work beyond the physical limitations that God has set for our bodies. Sometimes we need to rest and in our resting, give glory to God who gave us the ability to work and rest.

 

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The Closet Concept

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
– Matthew 6:5-6 (NRSV)

“Prayer is the most powerful resource we have in this life; yet, many only turn to it as a last resort. When unbelievers pray for repentance of sin and ask for God’s forgiveness, prayer is the spiritual dynamite that obliterates the darkness and despair of a sin-soaked soul.” – Franklin Graham

A while back I preached on the subject of the Prayer Closet. I’ve found myself being gripped again by the conviction of the Holy Spirit about this subject. I’ve failed in my own life to pray like I should. I have a great head knowledge of prayer, but the journey from my head to my heart seems to be longer than it seems.

God has been showing me recently that effective prayer will always do one of two things. It will change the situation or it will change how you view the situation.

When Jesus tells us to pray, He tells us to go into our room. I’m old school, so I prefer how the King James renders the word “room”. It calls it the “closest”. The word “closest” might give us the mental imagery of that miscellaneous room in our house where we keep coats, jackets, old clothes, board games, and various other things. But, what do we put in the closet? What do the coats, jackets, old clothes, and various other things have in common? Why do we put them in the closet? It’s simple. We don’t want to deal with them.

So, what is Jesus saying when He tells us to go into our closet? Is it so we can have private time with God? Certainly that’s part of it because Jesus even says that the hypocrites love to stand in the street corners and the synagogues and pray publicly, and He tells us not to be like them. But I think there’s another aspect of the closet that we’re missing. The closets in Jesus’ day weren’t much different than our closets today. They were storage spaces, and guess what went in their closets. That’s right. Crap they didn’t want to deal with.

In Jesus’ command for us to go into the closet and pray is not just a command to pray privately, but a command to confront issues in our life that we’ve dismissed and just don’t want to deal with anymore. Maybe there is habitual sins in our lives that we’ve tried to hide away from everyone else and shove into our proverbial closet, but Jesus clearly sees what we choose not to see and implores us to to go to Him in our prayer closet confront everything that might hinder from a deeper walk with Him.

In the NKJV, Matthew 6:6 reads like this:

“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

It actually implies that our Father is in the secret place waiting on us to come to Him in prayer. He’s excited to hear from us in prayer, and He longs for us to allow Him to work in our lives and deal with those issues that we’ve shoved away for so long.

Sacred: Part 3: Growth and Maturity

“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. But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?” – 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:4 (ESV)

“All in favor of impeaching J. J. Parker as the senior pastor of Nickel Grove Free Will Baptist Church say Aye.”

A chorus of ‘ayes’ and it was done.  23-year-old J. J. Parker was no longer the pastor of the small church that had voted him in a little under a year ago. What was the reason? Was it financial infidelity? Was it sexual promiscuity? Did he preach heresy? Did he have a hidden problem with drugs or alcohol? No. Even worse. He voluntarily paid for the church to have new carpet. Not even a new carpet color, just new carpet. And when he moved the pews back, he forgot put Brother Taylor’s pew back in the third row. This wasn’t just any pew. This was a pew that Brother Taylor had placed there in memory of his father who had been a deacon at this church for 32 years. This careless act of forgetting to place that pew back in the third row had gotten him voted out just as quickly as he was voted in.

This story is based on true events that happen in churches all across the country all the time. Why does this happen? Why can’t a church keep a pastor for more than a year or two at a time? Immaturity. That’s all it boils down to. People are immature in their faith and they begin to identify themselves with a person or a movement other than Christ. It’s okay to be fans of some theologians or follow some movements to see what God is doing through them, but it’s never okay to place your faith in that person or movement because they can fail.

Churches often place their identity with a pastor that catered to their every whim and did things exactly the way they wanted them to be done and as a result they handicapped that church and left them to wallow in their immaturity when it came time for them to leave that pastoral position. This is a disadvantage not only to the congregation, but to the new incoming pastor that has to clean up the mess that the old pastor left behind.

What Paul addresses in this passage is maturity and growth. He is writing to them a second time (1st Corinthians is actually the second letter to the Corinthians because the first letter was never recovered, thus 2nd Corinthians is actually the third letter), and he’s not perfect people by any means, but he is expecting a people that have grown since the last time he wrote to them. He’s thoroughly disappointed.

Parents, imagine you’ve potty-trained your baby. They are now independently going to the bathroom on their own. Then one day you’re in the living room and your child is play with his/her toys and you see that familiar look on their face and that all too familiar odor creeps into the room. After once going to the bathroom on their own. They’ve pooped their pants. This is no accident. This is a regression back to days gone by when making the effort to go to the bathroom was even an issue and someone else could clean up the mess. This is exactly what Paul is feeling at this point when the Corinthians are exhibiting immaturity and lack of growth.

Ultimately, what is happening is that these people are attaching their faith to a person rather than putting their faith in Christ.

“For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”
– 1 Corinthians 3:4 (ESV)

The Corinthians are forgetting that guys like Apollos and Paul had to be trained in godliness just like they are being trained in godliness (Acts 18:24-28). We idolize people instead of worshiping, loving, and receiving instruction from Jesus. In the end, when we truly submit to God’s Spirit we allow Him make us mature and grow us in the beauty of His holiness.

Sacred: Part 2: Fellowship

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” – 1 Corinthians 1:9-10 (ESV)

In this series, I’m going to use 1 Corinthians to cover some basic things that we can’t afford to forget as Christians.. In the first two posts I made in the series, I discussed who Jesus is and why it’s important to know and believe His deity and humanity.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at Fellowship. The word for “fellowship”, in the Greek is koinōnia it literally means to be “in intimate community and participation”. This would be like a tightly knit group of people that have a strong common bond. When Paul talks about the importance of fellowship and unity, he makes it clear that you can’t have true fellowship with each other unless you first have fellowship with Christ.

Fellowship With Christ
In verse 9, he says that we are called into the fellowship of God’s son. What does this mean for us? It means simply that we have intimacy with Jesus. We are to walk so closely to Him that our hearts break over what makes His heart break. If you truly love someone, you’re torn to pieces when you see them suffer. Our hearts should be broken over the injustice in the world. Our hearts should be broken over those that reject the love of God. That’s only a tiny fragment of what it means to have intimacy with Christ.

Let’s take a look at the writings of John for a minute:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:1-3 (ESV)

John is writing to three people groups, Believers, Judaizers that claim to be believers, and Gnostics who claim to be believers. The big issue with the Gnostics is that they believed that Jesus could not have been fully a human being. What the Judaizers couldn’t understand is how God could be human. The Judaizers also believed that the resurrection was a hoax created by the apostles.  John is immediately starting off His letter addressing the issue by tell them that we have touched Him, we have heard Him, and we have seen Him. There is no way this could be an illusion. If it was, then it was an illusion shared by over 500 men (1 Corinthians 15:5). 

If we want to go deep, we’ll break this down, Lots of people saw Jesus without ever hearing what He had to say. Still, there’s a great number of people who heard what He had to say, but never got to touch Him. There are very few instances where people got to touch Him while He was on Earth, but now that He’s at the right hand of the Father anybody can come before the throne of grace and touch Him. In the words of a pastor friend of mine, “That’ll preach.”

In John 20, Mary can’t touch Him because He hadn’t ascended (John 20:17). Yet, when Thomas sees Him, Jesus tells Thomas to do more than touch Him. He tells Thomas to thrust his hands through the scars (John 20:27). The difference is that Mary didn’t need to touch Him to believe, Thomas did. A touch from Jesus is always available when we need it.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

We touch Him because we have fellowship with Him. We have fellowship with Him because Jesus tore down the veil of separation between God and man with His blood.

Because God made a way of fellowship with Him, we can have fellowship with each other.

Fellowship With One Another

 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)

Throughout the rest of chapter 1 and then on up into chapter 3, Paul addresses the issue of divisions. In verses 11-17, Paul talks about how people were dividing over who they were baptized by or by what teachings they followed. Christians were picking and choosing their favorite theologian and dividing over it. Then you had this fourth group of people that said, “We don’t care about theology, we just cared about Jesus”, hence the “I of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 1:12. These are the same arrogant people that think being “non-denominational” makes them special because they’re not actually apart of a denomination. Regardless, that’s a different rant for a different time.

Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun, we have the same problems today that the Corinthians were having then. We start allowing ourselves to be students of Calvin, Wesley, Luther, or others and we allow trivial theological differences to divide us.

In the words of Mark Driscoll, “It’s okay to disagree, it’s sin to divide.”

As a matter of fact in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul implies that dividing over trivial things like that is a sign of spiritual immaturity. So, here’s what I want your big take away to be from this post: Jesus died to make a way for you to have fellowship with Him and with others. It’s stupid to divide over trivial things when Jesus is so much bigger than your differences and He is the best common denominator you can have with someone.

Be blessed today!

Sacred, Part 1: The Jesus of the Church: His Humanity

“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” – 1 John 1:1-4 (NRSV)

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14 (KJV)

In my last post in this series, we started talking about Christ and His proclamation of His deity. Just as a short review, covered parts of John 8 and talked about how Jesus directly referred to Himself as “I AM”. John 8 and many other passages of Scripture affirm the deity of Christ as well as numerous Church fathers and the Creeds of the early such as the Nicene Creed:

“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made. “

In this post what we will attempt to cover is the humanity of Christ which is just as important as affirming the deity of Christ. If we make the mistake affirming Christ’s deity and not His humanity, then we commit the Gnostic heresy of believing that Jesus was some supernatural angelic figure that had no human qualities. This would be described as the early Church heresy of Docetism that taught that Christ only appeared to be human. This teaching as well as the teaching of Apollinarianism (the teaching that claims that Christ had a human body, but not a human mind or will. If this view were true then Christ could not redeem the human mind or will, only the the body. But Christ did not die for only certain aspects of humanity.) stood in stark contrast to the Biblical concept of te incarnation. Jesus died to restore all the aspects of humanity, which is why we can have a renewed mind (Romans 12:1, 2), a new spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23), and a new body (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

An awesome theologian, J.I. Packer once said:

“But in fact the real mystery, the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us… lies not in the Good Friday message of the atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation.” 

Here’s the thing, if you read the Bible and claim to believe in the Bible as the inerrant word of God, then you can’t deny Christ’s humanity. He was hungry, He was thirsty, He experienced pain, He experience happiness and joy at celebrations with friends and family. Not only is He just as much God as His Father in Heaven, but He was just as much human as we are. 100% man. 100% God.

“Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.”
– Saint Augustine of Hippo

As a result of being fully human, Jesus can fully restore all aspects of our human nature. Jesus made all of this possible by the blood of His cross, and He rose victorious over sin, hell, and the grave. Allow these last two passages of Scripture to resonate in your heart as you consider the humanity and deity of Christ.

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NRSV)

 “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 (NRSV)

Sacred, Part 1: The Jesus of the Church

What is it about the holy that scares people? It’s simple. Differentiation. R.C. Sproul said that the simplest way to define ‘holy’ is that which is separate or other. It seems that the Church has taken that to extremes to the point that we are abandoning sacred doctrines. Holy doctrines. Distinct doctrines. Doctrines that are imperative to the very foundation of what we believe. Out of these distinct doctrines that we’re going to look at in the series, the foremost that we will address is the deity of Christ. We cannot build the Church of Jesus without the Jesus of the Church being the foundation. There can be no edifying sanctification unless there is first regenerating salvation. So, let’s begin.

Now, let’s get something straight, I’m not going to be able to get into the depth and richness of who Jesus is in one blog post. That would take too much time and energy. I’ll go over Jesus’ huge claim in John 8 and we’ll go from there.

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them,“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. – John 8:52-59 (ESV)

Let’s catch up, Jesus is schooling the Jews in theology by informing them that He is God and if they abide in His words, then they will be free. The problem is that believe that they are already free. Watch this.

“They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” – John 8:33 (ESV)

In the case of the Jews, denial is not just a river in Egypt. In the Old Testament, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, they were taken captive by Babylon, and even now, as they are making this statement, they’re being dominated by Rome. This is the very reason that people refuse to see Jesus as God. People don’t need God if they are under the impression that they are their own god. No one is going to want the freedom that Jesus offers if they believe that they are already free.

Now, if we fast forward to what Jesus tells them in John 8:58, then we’ll see what He’s really trying to get through to them.

“Jesus said to them,“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” – John 8:58 (ESV)

If you are a grammarian, then this sentence will drive you absolutely bonkers if you have no idea what Jesus is saying. What you think He’s going to say is “before Abraham was, I was also”, but no. He decides that bring the name of God into it. He blatantly makes the claim that He is God. How do these Jews that claim to know God respond?

“So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” – John 8:59 (ESV)

Here’s the issue. We read this passage and think to ourselves, “Those horrible pharisees. They shouldn’t throw stones at Jesus when all He’s trying to do is help them understand who He is.” We don’t acknowledge that we, at times, are the Pharisees. Every time we hear a sermon, read a book, or read a passage of Scripture that convicts, and we don’t respond the way we know we’re supposed to, we might as well pick up rocks to throw at Jesus.

So, what does this mean for us as the Church? As the Church, we should be responding to Jesus everyday in faith and repentance. It has been said that the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay. Do a self-evaluation. How are you responding? Are you being melted by Jesus or are you hardening yourself against Him and kicking against the pricks as Paul did?

Everything

“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” – John 12:3 (ESV) 

I made a Facebook status about this thought the other day, but I just really felt led to expound upon it some more. 

Everyone knew what was happening. They could smell it. It was thick in the air. It was more than the familiar scent of oil. It was the smell of someone pouring out everything they had ever worked for on the feet of this man that had spent the last three and a half years starting a revolution. To Mary, Jesus was more than a mere man, He was the son of God, He was the lover of her soul.

This sacrificial act of kindness began with her evaluating within her heart what Jesus was worth to her. Then finally, she made the decision. She poured it out. Everything. She poured everything out for her Everything. At this point, she had heard Jesus mention at least three times that he would die and be raised on the third day. She knew that to give everything to Him now.

What does Jesus mean to us? What is Jesus worth to us? Are we willing to give up everything we’ve worked for for Him? Is He everything to us?