Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Access to God Is “in the Spirit”: Ephesians 2:14–18, Part 6

We lived in fear that we would face the God of wrath in our sin, until Christ came and died so that we might call God, “Father.”

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from Desiring God http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/14422918/access-to-god-is-in-the-spirit
via DG

Should Christians Keep the Sabbath?

Should Christians Keep the Sabbath?

Of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Israel, perhaps none has provoked more controversy and debate than the fourth: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Does the Sabbath commandment still hold today?

None of those who answer in the negative suggests the Sabbath was a second-tier command in the Decalogue, a good idea but not mandatory. No, the Sabbath served as the covenant sign between Israel and her God, unfolding a weekly drama that testified to God as mighty Creator (Exodus 20:11) and merciful Redeemer (Deuteronomy 5:15). On the Sabbath, Israel declared total dependence on her covenant Lord, a Lord more than able to uphold his people even though, for one day in seven, they hung up their shovels, laid aside their plows, and rested from their labors.

The question, then, is not whether Israel should have kept the Sabbath under the old covenant, but whether Christians should under the new. Should Christians keep the Sabbath? The question may sound nonsensical to some. We keep commandments one to three and five to ten, don’t we? So why skip number four?

Yet strewn throughout the New Testament is telling evidence that, in Christ and the new covenant, the Sabbath has found its fulfillment.

Jesus: ‘I will give you rest.’

Readers of the Gospels soon discover just how crucial the Sabbath was to the Jews of Jesus’s day. The seventh day marks the setting of so many clashes between Jesus and the Pharisees that when we read something like, “Now it was a Sabbath day . . .” (John 9:14), we expect trouble.

Strictly speaking, the only commandments Jesus broke on the Sabbath belonged to Jewish tradition, not divine law. In their zeal to define exactly what a person could and could not do on the Sabbath, Jewish leaders laid on the people’s backs a spiritual burden heavier than any physical burden (Matthew 23:4). Jesus attacked such traditions with the vehemence of one who saw more clearly than any that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Yet even though Jesus never broke the fourth commandment, he did hint that a change to the Sabbath may be coming. If we could remove the chapter break between Matthew 11 and 12, we might notice, in the context immediately preceding the Sabbath controversies in Matthew 12:1–14, these arresting words: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The rest offered on the Sabbath was now being offered in Christ.

A grand claim lies behind this grand promise: “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). D.A. Carson writes,

That Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath is not only a messianic claim of grand proportions, but it raises the possibility of a future change or reinterpretation of the Sabbath, in precisely the same way that His professed superiority over the Temple raises certain possibilities about ritual law. (From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 66)

In Jesus, something greater than the Sabbath is here.

Paul: ‘Let no one pass judgment.’

Two passages in particular from the apostle Paul spell out the implications of Jesus’s lordship over the Sabbath. The first is Colossians 2:16–17:

Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

“What Paul says here is remarkable,” Tom Schreiner writes, “for he lumps the Sabbath together with food laws, festivals like Passover, and new moons. All of these constitute shadows that anticipate the coming of Christ” (40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law, 212). And since Christ has now come, observing the Sabbath is no longer a matter of obedience or disobedience. Rather, Paul says, “Let no one pass judgment on you.”

Romans 14:5 holds a similarly striking claim. Consider Paul’s words here alongside a typical old-covenant statement about the Sabbath.

You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. (Exodus 31:14)

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5)

If an old-covenant Israelite esteemed “all days alike,” he might be stoned to death (Numbers 15:32–36). Yet Paul evidently felt no need to impose the Sabbath command on his Gentile converts. Some in Rome, it seems, wanted to keep the Sabbath (and so esteem “one day as better than another”) — perhaps Jewish Christians eager to maintain the traditions of their fathers. Paul had no issue with those Christians, so long as they refrained from pressuring others to imitate them or suggested that salvation hinged on obedience to the Sabbath (compare Galatians 4:8–11).

For the sake of Christian freedom and mutual love, Paul says simply and remarkably, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

Hebrews: ‘We who have believed enter that rest.’

The author of Hebrews brings us closer to the heart of why the new covenant does not require a literal seventh-day rest. Christ’s first coming did not abolish rest; rather, it ushered in a deeper kind of rest than the Sabbath could ever offer.

According to Hebrews 4, Israel’s Sabbath day always pointed forward to a far greater day: the still-future day when all creation will enter fully into the rest foreshadowed and promised in Genesis 2:2–3, the very first seventh day. “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). The ultimate Sabbath rest is coming, when God’s people will enjoy work without toil, hearts without sin, and an earth without thorns.

Yet even now, Hebrews implies, we feel the first waves of the coming rest. In Christ, we “have [already] tasted . . . the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5), rest included. For, the author writes, “We who have believed enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:3) — not “will enter,” but “enter”: fully later, truly now.

And how do we enter that rest? Not mainly by putting aside our weekly labors for one day in seven, but by believing: “We who have believed enter that rest.” Faith in Jesus Christ brings the rest of the seventh day into every day.

John: ‘I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.’

Of course, when Christians today speak of the Sabbath, they almost never mean the seventh day, but the first day: not Saturday but Sunday. But surprisingly, no New Testament writer ever refers to Sunday as the Sabbath. When Jewish (and perhaps some Gentile) Christians observed the Sabbath, they would have done so on Saturday, as Israel had done for centuries. But that doesn’t mean Sunday held no special place in the early church. Scripture suggests that it did, only under a different name: the Lord’s Day.

The phrase “the Lord’s Day” appears only in Revelation, where the apostle John writes, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10). But other passages suggest that “Lord’s Day” simply put a name on the church’s common practice of gathering on Sunday. In Ephesus, Paul met with the church “on the first day of the week . . . to break bread” (Acts 20:7). Likewise, Paul instructed the Corinthians to set aside some money “on the first day of every week” (1 Corinthians 16:2).

None of these passages shows the early church resting, as if they considered Sunday their new Sabbath. Richard Bauckham goes so far as to write, “For the earliest Christians it was not a substitute for the Sabbath nor a day of rest nor related in any way to the fourth commandment” (From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 240). The majority of these early Christians likely needed to work on the first day of the week. (Sunday was declared an official day of rest throughout the Roman Empire only under Constantine in AD 321.)

The passages do suggest, however, that Christians worshiped on the Lord’s Day. Perhaps in the morning before work, perhaps in the evening afterward, the first believers gathered to praise the one who rose “very early on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2; Matthew 28:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:19). When the stone rolled away from Jesus’s tomb on Easter morning, true Sabbath rest arrived, and a new day dawned.

Lord of Our Days

So, should Christians keep the Sabbath?

In one sense, no: under the new covenant, no Christian is bound to the fourth commandment as such. We may still decide to rest one day in seven — and indeed, wisdom seems to support the practice of imitating God’s own 6-and-1 pattern (Genesis 1:1–2:3). Especially in a day when many can work anytime anywhere — answering emails after dinner, taking calls on the weekend — we may do well, even for one day in seven, to say, “I worked yesterday, I will work tomorrow, but today I rest and worship.”

In another sense, however, Christians should keep the Sabbath always. And here we do find a connection between the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Lord’s Day. Andrew Lincoln writes,

In the Old Testament the literal physical rest of the Sabbath pointed to future rest; but since Christ has brought fulfillment in terms of salvation rest, it is the present enjoyment of this rest that acts as the foretaste of the consummation rest which is to come. In other words, it is the celebration on the Lord’s Day of the rest we already have through Christ’s resurrection that now anticipates and guarantees the rest that is yet to be. (From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 399)

Every Lord’s Day, we come again to Jesus, weary and heavy laden (Matthew 11:28). We trace the shadow of the Sabbath to its substance (Colossians 2:17). We hear again in the distance the sounds of the future Sabbath festival; we glimpse again by faith the glow of “innumerable angels in festal gathering” (Hebrews 12:22). We look again into the empty tomb and hear Christ say, “Peace to you!” (Luke 24:36). In other words, we find rest — the kind of rest that remains long after Sunday has passed.

Without regularly experiencing this kind of rest — and with special power every Lord’s Day — it matters little how much rest we give our bodies. Our rest will be restless, and our work will become a desperate attempt to secure for ourselves the rest that we have not found in Christ. Neither the sluggard (who works for the weekend) nor the workaholic (who has no weekend) has yet learned to enjoy the rest of the true Sabbath.

Not so with those who have heard and heeded Jesus’s invitation to “Take my yoke upon you . . . and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29). The world and the devil would have us work even while we rest. But Jesus would have us rest even while we work. And here, in this Christ-saturated resting and working, we live out the Sabbath today.

from Desiring God http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/14422919/should-christians-keep-the-sabbath
via DG





from デイリーブレッド

Monday, April 19, 2021

Four Defining Moments for Young Marriages

Four Defining Moments for Young Marriages

In Charles Dickens’s classic Great Expectations, Pip meets the cruel and contemptuous Estella, who tortures him throughout the novel with unrequited love. But Pip doesn’t really love Estella. He loves what she represents — a stratum of society to which Pip hungers to belong. Pip is blinded by his swollen expectations, and only later comprehends the true cost as he remembers the day he met Estella:

That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day. (75)

“The formation of the first link on one memorable day” — reading those words made me think about how decisions regarding marriage and within marriage can become defining moments for marriage. God sprinkles the newlywed years with these moments — experiences, events, or decisions that determine (and sometimes alter) a young couple’s direction.

1. The Moment Marriage Reveals Your Heart

Kimm and I had only been married for a few months when she said something that pushed one of my many buttons. I remember this overwhelming feeling that if I didn’t speak immediately, the earth might tilt off its axis. So, I deftly informed Kimm that she was making me angry, making me sin.

From my perspective, this made perfect sense. After all, before marriage I’d been quite the specimen of Christianity. But now that I was married, sin was spilling out all over. My plans for earthly perfection were under serious threat. But God’s plans for my transformation were well underway. A defining moment was before me.

In reality, I don’t have buttons Kimm can push that make me sin. Conflict typically unearths what’s already buried in our hearts. It exposes the selfish things we love more than our spouse — actually, more than Jesus. Christ’s own words clarify the problem: “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:18).

God often uses marriage to draw out our remaining sin, and that’s good. When our sin bubbles to the surface, we begin to see the hopelessness of trusting in ourselves. God uses that revelation to form humility and dependence in us. When marriage reveals our hearts, we learn that we’re not really triumphant warriors who conquer sin in every battle, but weak and desperate sinners who continually need his grace (1 John 3:20).

2. The Moment You Abandon the Moral High Ground

Typically, when I sit down at a restaurant, I already know what I want to order. I made the decision about one minute after we decided to eat out. For Kimm, ordering is an art, and the menu is a palette of colors — just a jumping-off point from which she can design her own creation.

When we were first married, I believed that my decisiveness was morally better. I assumed Kimm’s apparent indecision — the way she uses menus as a means of creative expression — was a weakness. Sure, my decisiveness could be a strength, but that didn’t justify my self-righteousness or moral superiority. Strengths become weaknesses when they make us smug.

Remember Jesus’s parable of the two sons in Luke 15. The younger son asked for his inheritance early. He split town and then blew his dad’s money on parties and prostitutes. Eventually, the young man repented and returned home, and his father forgave him. In the throes of joy, his dad threw a huge party.

Most people think that the parable is about the prodigal, but really it’s aimed more at the older brother. This dutiful rule-keeper was incredulous over the party and angry at his father (Luke 15:29). The older brother felt morally superior to the younger one. And as Jesus tried to show his listeners, that was the more significant sin.

When we proudly cling to moral high ground, we miss out on the joy of marriage. But when we step down from our perch and see the level playing field through the eyes of a fellow sinner in need of grace, our hearts are tenderized by the gospel, and differences become another reason to celebrate and love.

3. The Moment You Become Best Earthly Friends

Carolyn G. Heilbrun once said, “Marriage has owed too much to romance, too little to friendship.” Touché. But if friendship is going to define our marriage, we must work to nurture, protect, and prioritize the right kind of friendship.

First, being a good friend begins vertically rather than horizontally. Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Jesus is the best friend. So to be a good friend to your spouse, you must first cultivate intimacy with the Savior.

Second, your best friend on earth must be the one you sleep with each night. That friendship must be jealously guarded. Your spouse should never be displaced by others with whom you enjoy spending time, as important as those other friendships are to a healthy marriage. It’s great for husbands and wives to have interesting friends in their life — they add richness and spice. But remember: “A man of many companions may come to ruin” (Proverbs 18:24).

Finally, if you’re going to be friends with your spouse, you need to prioritize that old-school face-to-face connection. You know, the kind that involves sitting with, looking at, sharing with, and experiencing each other. Don’t displace that by relying too heavily on online alternatives. No text string or Instagram post can replace the tender words of an embodied spouse.

4. The Moment the Marriage Bed Requires Some Assembly

Marriage is more than sex. Way more. But as far as fringe benefits go, sex is pretty cool. However, those who think sex is enjoyed easily are either selling something, or they’re single. Never in the history of the world have newlyweds brought more baggage into their married sex life as they do today. Bad experiences, past relationships, divorce, abuse, pornography, shame — sometimes the marriage bed is so littered with baggage that newlyweds can barely find each other.

I think that’s why Paul was so direct with the Corinthian couples: “Do not deprive one another,” he exhorted (1 Corinthians 7:5). Paul knew that sex in marriage can be difficult and, for that reason, easy to neglect. If you are in that defining moment right now, here’s some counsel.

First, try to talk honestly about how you feel. Talk can only be wise when it happens, so don’t allow the delicacy of this topic to go unaddressed. Talk about the distractions and discouragements that might make sex difficult for you. Ask questions and listen attentively to your spouse’s responses.

Second, serve one another. Sex isn’t something we demand. Rather, a husband and wife give sex to one another as a gift (1 Corinthians 7:3). In pursuing the pleasure of your spouse, you are glorifying God with your body.

Finally, pray for each other. Take what you have discussed to the author and perfecter of your sex life. Ask for his help. Remember that sex is a conversation God has already initiated with us in his word. Believe that he is for you. God created sex and delights in married couples enjoying it. Trust him by talking to him together.

Divine Opportunities

A defining moment — that “first link on a memorable day” — can set the direction of a marriage for years to come. How newlyweds respond to these moments determines whether they stumble along separately or move forward together.

Young couples, mark these four moments as divine opportunities, and allow the good news of the Father’s love for you to be what defines the future of your marriage.

from Desiring God http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/14420688/four-defining-moments-for-young-marriages
via DG

Did Abraham Laugh at God’s Promise?

Paul looks back to Abraham and celebrates his unwavering faith. But is Abraham’s laughter at God’s promise in Genesis 17 really a faithful response?

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from Desiring God http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/14420689/did-abraham-laugh-at-gods-promise
via DG