Can you experience rest without obtaining it? It turns out you can, if you know your ultimate rest has already been secured. Even when life becomes hard, you can rest in the awareness that things at the very end will turn out well.
On the road to Bethlehem, Ruth said to her widowed mother-in-law, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16–17) Every Christian is called to follow in the footsteps of Ruth.
Ruth said, “where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge.” Rather than making the sensible, safe decision, Ruth made the sacrificial one. Christ left the glory of heaven to lay down his life to give us new life (Philippians 2:1-8). Christ often calls his followers to choose the road of sacrifice.
Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. What did Joshua do for Israel? God used Joshua to save Israel from her enemies in the promised land.
Let us think about that for a moment. In the days when the angel spoke to Joseph, Israel was under Roman rule. Joseph may have thought this child would one day, like Joshua, save Israel from her Roman oppressors. The angel did not say that. He said, “he will save his people from their sins,” not from Rome but from their sins.
Like first-century Israel we often mistake the hope of the world for geo-political solutions. We say we want someone to save our nation, someone who will stand up for what is right in society, a hero by our standards who will take care of whatever or whoever we think our enemy is. Jesus does not save in this way; his salvation works on a deeper level.
Abraham had big thoughts about God. Abraham believed that God had the power to bring dead things back to life. Abraham believed that God could summon things into existence that did not previously exist.
Abraham did not put much stock in appearances. Decades had passed since God promised to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation. That promise depended upon a son, which he and Sarah did not have. Now their reproductive organs were as good as dead, which meant for a child to be born to them at their age was about as likely as a virgin giving birth. Though they wavered, they did not break. Though the branches of the tree swayed in the winds of life, its roots remained firmly planted in the promises of God. Though the ship tossed in the high seas, its anchor remained firmly wedged in the promises of God. Instead of his faith weakening over the years of waiting, Abraham’s faith matured, deepened, and became stronger. He did not walk by how things appeared; he walked by faith. (Romans 4:18-22)
Do you walk by faith in the promises of God that he has made to you in his Holy Scriptures? Faith can look very strange to the world. By faith, the followers of Christ do things that make no sense to the world. Christians spend their time, money, and energies doing things the world does not understand. We love and pray for our enemies, not motivated by anything we will get from them in return. We just love them. We sacrifice our time, perhaps even our vacations, to provide acts of kindness and compassion. We speak the truth even when no one wants to hear it. We proclaim Christ to a dying world, which often seems quite content on dying.
The Apostle Paul said: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:31)
Many people mistakenly think that the New Testament in some way depreciates the significance of the law written in the Old Testament. Some say that the doctrine of justification by faith alone supports this. The Apostle says, “By no means!” Why?
Let me ask you a question: what is the rally cry that gets you going? What helps you get out of bed in the morning? I am talking about your “boast” in life. Pastor and author Timothy Keller said, “What you boast in is what gives you confidence to go out and face the day. It is the thing of which you say: I am somebody because I have that. I can beat what comes against me today because I am this. What you boast in is what fundamentally defines you; it is where you draw your identity and self-worth from.”
Take out a piece of paper and write on it whatever you thought of when I asked you the above questions. Finished? Now set that piece of paper aside – we will come back to it. The doctrine of justification by faith alone does something very counter intuitive to all our boastings.
Messages regarding racism surround us. Many claim to have the answer that will help resolve racial divisions and prejudices. Only time will tell whether these novel solutions will deliver what they promise. But what if the answer exists tucked securely in the pages of the Bible? What if our racial divisions need not something new but something that has always been there though underused?
Over the last two weeks, I have asked one of the key questions of our time, “how do you detoxify a situation that you do not have the power to change on your own? I answered that question by saying, “you align yourself with someone more powerful who can” (1 John 4:4). I then gave some basic practical tips that could help those who trust in Christ shine his light into darkness and season society with his flavoring (Matthew 5:13-16).
These practical tips included: greet those you meet, return wrongs with rights, beautify your tongue – by which I meant speak words of blessing and not of cursing, kill with kindness, don’t say everything you think needs saying on every topic, take your cues from Christ and not the world, and finally leave room for God’s vengeance.
These seven tips represent a sampling of the Bible’s teaching on Christian living. While many hail the teachings of Christ in these regards, anyone who has taken them seriously will tell you they are near impossible. How did Jesus himself practice what he preached?
How do you detoxify a situation that you do not have the power on your own to change? You align yourself with someone more powerful who can (1 John 4:4). These basic practical tips continue the list offered in last week’s article.
Don’t say everything you think needs saying on every topic.” Jesus cautioned his disciples about sharing wisdom. While we ought never to shrink back from speaking the truth (Ephesians 4:15), we ought to realize that some people are not ready for the truth. Give those around you just enough truth and wisdom as they can endure and no more. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you (Matthew 7:6).”
How do you detoxify a situation that you do not have the power on your own to change? You align yourself with someone more powerful who can (1 John 4:4). These basic practical tips can help you shine Christ’s light into darkness and season society with Christ’s flavoring (Matthew 5:13-16).