Sunday, June 5, 2011

Father Knows Best

One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat.  But the Pharisees said to Jesus, "Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?"
Jesus said to them, "Haven't you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions."
Then Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath...”  (Mark 2:23-27)  NLT

Many people I’ve talked to about Christianity over the years believed Christianity is primarily about rules—“Do”s and “Don’t”s.  God is viewed as the heartless, controlling parent who is hiding something good behind his back and controls his children with fear and anxiety.  The world sees Christianity as a collection of prudish rules (about sex in particular).  This isn’t terribly surprising since Christians often make the mistake of representing Christianity that way themselves.  Just within the church, we can sometimes become legalistic and wrap our lives around the rules we find in the scripture.  After all, rules we can see and hold on to.  Rules give us a measuring stick, which means we can compare ourselves to those around us and feel better about how we’re doing.  But if we are wise, we’ll realize that the rules found in scripture don’t work in our favor at all.  We can’t be good enough to satisfy the standard (which, it turns out, is perfection).

Jesus certainly didn’t come to create rules.  He came to create relationship.  He died to clear a path between us and God, to pave the way for us to receive the most incredible gift we could have been given:  to be adopted into the family as heirs to the kingdom.  He died to put our focus on Him rather than on a set of rules or those around us.  And he wants us to know Him.  In fact, our salvation hinges not on how well we follow the rules but rather on the presence of an actual relationship--whether or not we know Him and He in turn knows us.

"Not everyone who calls out to me, 'Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.  On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.'  But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws.'  (Matthew 7:21-23)  NLT

As part of that relationship, God wants us to follow His will for our lives and to trust Him with everything that we are.  Is that to control us or put us under his thumb?  Of course not.  Do factories ask people to wear hard hats to control them?  The correct answer would be no.  We know we are no longer slaves to the law (just ask Paul) and we know that God chose to do that for us.  God wants us to be free--free from the law's condemning nature, free from sin, free from regret, etc.  At the end of the day, God wants what's best for us.  The rules he put in place (the law) are now a guide, meant to protect us from our own stupidity, our own nature, and the fallen nature of this world we live in.  

So now let’s consider the Sabbath.  Jesus said that we weren’t made to benefit the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made to benefit us.  The Sabbath is not simply another part of the measuring stick.  Instead, it’s for our benefit because God made us and he knows what we need (in this case, rest).  God knows that our spouses need us to rest, our children need us to rest… We need us to rest too.  The Sabbath honors God whom we love and it also puts work in its proper perspective, helping us to create the right balance for our lives.  Work is something we do, not who we are.  I do not belong to my employer; I belong to God.  I do not trust my employer to meet my needs.  I trust God to do that. 

So how will you honor God this week on your day of rest?  Any ideas?

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