Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wounded for Life

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, … let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith … -- Hebrews 10:19-22

This isn’t what I really want to talk about.  I want to talk about joy and how we take the wrong things too seriously.  I wonder if there is such a thing as being seriously joyous or joyously serious.  But I’m not ready to do that, and this may be the way to it anyway because joy must have the right environment.  Just as a plant needs light to live, joy needs confidence and assurance.  We can only experience joy in anything when we lose ourselves in it.  I can’t lose myself if I’m worried about my performance and measuring up.  I can’t lose myself if I constantly checking to see if I am good enough, if I have to go back and see if I meticulously followed all the right steps and used the correct protocol. 

When Jesus died upon the Cross, we are told:  And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split (Matthew 27:51).  That same passage tells us that tombs were opened up by the quake and … many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many (vv. 52-53). 

The veil in the temple between the Holy Place and the Most Host Place was symbolic.  God could not dwell among men.  We usually think about this in terms of God’s holiness and our sinfulness as if God would be offended.  We would appear so filthy and horrible that He would just be sickened and disgusted, that He would have to kill us because He is just too pure to look upon us apart from the blood of Christ.  I think, though, that God’s locking Himself away, so to speak, under the Old Covenant, was a mercy to us.  Remember that Adam hid himself in the Garden.  The fallen are repulsed by the Divine.  We are the ones who cannot stand it, who cannot stand in or stand to be in His presence.  So God dials it back, veils it. 

Now we have Christ to mediate for us, to be the conduit, to make the fullness of God accessible to us because He is fully man as well.  When it talks about flesh here, as one commentary says, it’s not talking about the Lord’s body which is the temple, but about His frail human flesh, His human nature.  It is through the fully man part of Jesus that we are now able to enter into to the fully God part – God and man united, brought together in Jesus of Nazareth. 

Christians talk about grace, but we still have this bias toward performance.  It may no longer be about washings and kosher food and not doing work on Saturday, but we emphasize church attendance and service and giving.  People who do all that are better Christians -- people who go on the mission field, people who pray two hours every day, people who read their Bibles through every year, and so on.   These are a better class of Christians.  Sure, jokers like me will go to heaven but I’ll be in steerage.  We’re not first-class Christians.  It’s the first-class Christians that are advancing the kingdom and all.  I’m not much better than a stowaway or a hitchhiker, kind of a parasite. 

I’m not criticizing the first-class Christians because I don’t think they see themselves that way – the genuine ones.  It’s that I’m striving on my own to be a first-class Christian, and I know I’m not making it.   The reason is because I’m not seeing the way that has been opened by and in Jesus Christ.  I’m not in the Presence, and I’m not going to enter in by performance or by striving.  I will perform – or better – I will be fruitful once I’m in. 

You can a limb off a fruit tree and take it over to another fruit tree and graft it.  But in order to do that, you have to make a cut in the second tree -- the new, living tree -- so that limb can connect.  Once you do that, it is going to be a productive branch.  You can take the same limb and tie it on a fence post or even tie it onto a tree, and it’s not going to do anything except die.  I guess you could even tie fruit on the dead stick so it looks good, but all you are going to wind up with is decay and stench. 

A Roman soldier shoved a spear into the side of our Lord the same way a gardener would make a cut on a living tree for a graft.  Through that rent in His flesh, I may be grafted in as a son of God.  We are in.  Life, eternal life, the life of God is flowing into us.  How can we, then, not be fruitful?


julie said...

Beautifully put, Mushroom, especially that last paragraph.

Quite often, I think, we have no idea just what fruit we bear. Does the grafted limb know it has been grafted, or does it only know that it still has life? But having been grafted in, we still bear fruit, just the same.

mushroom said...

That's a good question. I've met people who were a blessing to me, and I'm not sure they even knew how fruitful their lives were.

We see it, but the branch is just there going about its business.

There was an expression they used to use in sports when they would say that someone who was having an extraordinary game was "unconscious". I think that's the way it is sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Hard to know about fruit. Decay and stench, that is just roots making life out of death. Being surrounded by fertilizer is dirty and smelly. Work with what is given, and the rest is up in the air.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent post, Mushroom.
I'm not an expert on joy (no, really, I'm not) but it seems to me that the most joyfull people I have met aren't aware of it as much as those who have the blessing to know them.

I was about to say it's a subconcious connection to being To Him, but really it's a supernatural connection to God.
Or a higher conciousness we are unable to have without Him.

Thus the grafting.

I would also venture to say there ain't no serious joy, only different purities of it. Besides, we are in danger of boxing in joy if we try too hard to be serious about it.
Then again, we do the same thing if we try too hard to be glib.

mushroom said...

You're probably right. I am often guilty of trying to force joy. It never works.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I often will force a smile while waiting in long lines. Definitely don't feel joyful about it though.
Then again, I reckon it's better than complaining or getting upset over it.

mushroom said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to be pleasant for the sake of others. That may be the subject of today's post.