BRACE YOURSELF

6.24.18 Pentecost 5B

Pentecost B

JOB 38:1-11

Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels j shouted for joy?

8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?

 

 

“There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”  Who said it?  And about whom was it said?   This was God speaking about Job.  Now, there is only way it is possible for God to speak this way about a human being, and he tells us what it is.

“…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

“And without faith it is impossible to please God…” (Hebrews 11:6)

Job was a man who trusted God.  The faith that was planted in him continued to guide and direct his life.  He believed God’s Word and that God would provide the promised Savior from sin.  That’s what faith does to a person.

Job was not just a man of great faith but also a man of great wealth and earthly blessings. He had 10 children, 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 donkeys, and many servants.  In other words, he was the richest of the rich for that time. There are plenty of “Christian” preachers that will use this type of Scripture to say that if you are faithful you will be blessed and prosperous.  If you have great faith in God, then you will have great blessings from him.  If you are God’s child, then you should get everything that makes you happy. However, that just doesn’t seem to fit with the main purpose for God’s Word.  God’s wants people to be saved.  On every page of his Word the point is to point people to Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the victory over the devil that he accomplished for us, and the home we have in heaven.

That’s probably why God allowed all this stuff to happen to Job.  In one day all of the earthly blessings were gone, poof! If you would lose everything, what would your reaction be?  Anger? Misery? Bitterness? Shock? Depression? Do you remember what Job said?  He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

The next day it was his health.  Boils festered on his skin to the point where he sought relief by scraping himself with broken potsherds.  You would expect most people to become more than a little upset in these circumstances.  It might not even surprise you if some would curse God, but Job said, “shall we accept good from God, but not trouble?”

This is when three of Job’s friends come into the picture. They didn’t exactly help the situation.  In times of terrible grief, you might want friends to grieve with you and comfort you.  You might need them to point you again and again to Jesus and his promise of salvation and peace and hope.  Nevertheless, when you read through chapters 3-37, you will find that Job’s friends weren’t the positive people that Job needed in his time of trial.  Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did not point him to peace and hope through God’s promises of salvation.  They tried to give him reasons for his devastating loses.  Their idea was to say that Job was a good man who didn’t deserve such disaster.  He must have done something wrong to upset God.  In order for Job to fix his problems, they encouraged him to ask God for answers.

Job’s friends were useless. With no help from them, Job began to question God.  He didn’t lose faith or curse God, but he did get a little bit of that childish “why me” attitude.  He thought that somehow, he deserved answers to all his questions.  When Christians get that kind of attitude, it’s not going to help you.

What if God’s gives the honest answers?   What if the Creator of heaven and earth speaks to the sinful created ones?  What if the Lord of lords and King of kings comes to the lowly servants with his almighty, booming voice?  What if the one who fills all things decides to zero in on one puny, tiny little man who happens to think he has a bone to pick?  What happens then?  Well, then it’s time to brace yourself!!

In chapter 38 the Lord actually did this to Job.   He didn’t use a church or a cathedral for his message. No Old Testament prophet or priest was needed.  No, the Lord’s pulpit was a raging storm.  Ask the disciples in that boat during that torrential turbulence on the Sea of Galilee what it’s like.  Fear might be an understatement!

It is not just the storm from which God speaks that causes uncomfortable feelings, but it is the questions God asks: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” Show of hands: who wants to answer the question that God just asked?  No one!  Really!  Job didn’t answer, and neither would I.  That’s because you and I know the answer to that question. “I am.  I am the one who brings darkness to your light, Lord.  I don’t possess all knowledge like you.  I don’t know the perfect game plan for my life like you do.  It’s my fault when I don’t trust your power and plans.  I’m the one who is too often filled with fear and not faith in all your promises.”

The questions didn’t stop there. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

With each question, Job and all of us, get smaller as God gets bigger.  Do you want to know about this world and how it’s made?  The Lord describes all the details of creation as the expert builder.  He marked off the dimensions of the globe and the universe.  It was his work, not Job’s, not ours.

Next, our God is the only one who knows at exactly what time the angels were made.  At some point during creation, God made his messengers and heralds and they were singing his praise and shouting for joy all the way.

Then, the topic changes to water.  You know, we can’t do much to contain bodies of water.  We put up the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.  We dug a few canals.  We try to hold flooded rivers under control.  We try, but there isn’t much we can do with water.  God talks about water like it’s a little baby.

God describing his power should not make us afraid, but these verses paralyze Job and us because that’s what sin does.  It makes the perfect, holy, all-powerful God terrifying.  It is sin that makes God’s control unsettling.  It is sin that makes faith so hard and fear so easy.

Job was blameless and upright.  He shunned evil.  But he still had sin, and you can see what sin does.  Sin fights with faith.  Sin wants me to be the master.  Sin wants me to have control.  Sin wants me to have all the answers so that I won’t need that faith nonsense.  Sin makes me tell God what I want and what I don’t want.  Sin leads me down the road of fear to utter destruction.

I hope you notice that the problem is not the Lord, the problem is you and me.  When Job was demanding answers, God says, “brace yourself like a man.”  God turns it around the way it should be and tells Job, “I will question you, and you shall answer me.”

 In all the verses from the first lesson, did you hear one peep from Job?  Nope.  The Lord asks Job two full chapters of questions and in chapter 40:4 Job finally says something,   “I am unworthy – how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.”  That was a smart thing to say.  Job didn’t have an answer, and neither do you.  Sinners can only brace themselves when God asks questions.

Thankfully and only by God’s grace, we aren’t left in our uncomfortable quandary.  God does not want us to be filled with fear but faith.  So, are you ready for this?  Brace yourself!

God did not just ask the questions. Instead God does something that no one can even understand.  He came up with something to Job, to you, to me, and to the whole world lost in fear.  God says in his Word, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

God is done asking questions. He knows no matter who it is, Job or present-day people like you and me, we can’t give an answer.  So God prepared an answer for us.  The one who can answer all the questions that God gave to Job and that God gives to us is… Jesus Christ, the Savior.  The Bible says,  “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

You can’t answer God, but God answers for you anyways.  Jesus stands up on our side.  He says, “I was there when the foundations of the world were laid.” Jesus tells his Father for us, “I was holding the measuring line when you stretched it out.  I was there when the footings were set.  I was there when the seas burst forth.  I was there, Father.  And if that’s not enough, I was there when the soldiers carried out Pilates orders.  I was there when the nails were pounded into the cross. I was the one who said ‘It is finished.’  I am the one who conquered sin.  I was there when this world began and I was the one who saved this world from certain destruction.  I am He.” Because of Jesus, you have the answers you need.  Don’t be afraid any longer.  Find the strength and relief that God has given you through Jesus.

God takes care of everything else.  Faith in him will always be better than fear. Job experienced that. God had allowed it all to be taken away.  Job wanted answers, but God gave him the only answer he needed.  God gave Job a living Redeemer.  He is the answer to all of God’s questions.  And above all that, in the last chapter of Job, God doubles everything – the camels, the donkeys, the servants – all of it.  Job deserved none of the blessings, but God is rich in grace and rich in love.  He did not provide those things to show us that faith equals an earthly return.  He is a kind and gracious God who will provide all your needs.  Simply trust his power and promises to do that.

The same answers that God gave Job are for you.  God gives you the inconceivable.  He gives you his Son as your Lord and Savior.  He gives you his showers of grace while you live here.  And he gives you an eternal home.  So, brace yourself, because in Jesus, God gives you more than you can ask for.  Amen.

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FIRST OF MANY

6.10.18 Pentecost 3B

Pentecost B

Genesis 3:8-15

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring a and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.

 

 

I find the beginning chapters of the Bible absolutely astounding. Here’s why.  As much as the smartest scientists and philosophers and astrophysicists tell us they know absolutely, completely, for sure that the world is most likely, probably something like 4.5 billion years old maybe, they were not present for the beginning of time and so they have no clue what they are talking about.  There is a lot of intrigue about the origins of this universe and world and a lot of uncertainty if you listen to those “smart” people.

The answer, however, is neatly packaged by the only one who was there before it all began. In the first chapters of Genesis, God tells us that everything came into being from God who made it all out of nothing simply by his almighty Word.  We are not descendants of dumb luck or absurd chances that some cells decided to be little swimmy things in water and then decided to be bigger swimmy things, then little slithery things, then walking things, then hairy and bigger walking things, then less hairy walking and talking things.  How can that possibly be the most sensible belief about the beginning?  If that is the answer then we wonder why there is a problem in our world with bullying, porn, violence, abuse, immorality, arrogance. That kind of thinking about our beginning gives life no value.  It gives us no purpose and no reason to exist.

When a lot of people see Genesis and the Bible as a bunch of nonsense, fairytales and fantasies, anything but facts, I find these first couple of chapters so very enlightening, comforting, and true.  And I think we can help people see it this way.  If Adam and Eve are the very first human beings, then we would expect to find characteristics and qualities that you and I also have.  As we hear about the devil successfully tempting the first human beings into sin – where he tells lies as if they were truth, where they don’t value God the way they should, where they don’t value each other the way they should – we would expect that to be a way that is still effective on humans today.  After they fall into sin we would expect them to handle it in a way that you and I still do today.  And as God approaches them after their sin, we would expect him to deal with them in a way that he still deals with us today.  These first chapters do not tell us things that are peculiar, mythical, or specific to a certain time or place but they tell us something universal.  These first chapters explain so much about you and me.  Like I said, I find that absolutely astounding.

The beginning of Genesis is not a story that you and I have to try and figure out.  It is not like any other book or story because this book, it has us all figured out.  Reading through these first couple chapters, we find out who we are and what makes us tick.  We find out why we treat each other poorly.  We find out why we cope with sin the way we do.  We find out how God intervenes and rescues us from all of those things the way he does.  As we look at this section of the Bible we see all of the firsts – the first days, the first people, the first temptation, the first sin, the first human reaction to sin, the first divine reaction to sin –  but this is just the first of many times that these things happen all the way up to today.

When we pick it up in Genesis 3:8 Adam and Eve have just done what God told them not to do.  The devil tempted them to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and they did.  So, now what?  What is the solution to this problem that Adam and Eve have brought into the world?

Adam and Eve have their own ideas.  They take cover.  They take cover behind fig leaves that they sewed together, because they needed to cover this new concept of shame.  God comes on his normal stroll in the garden, and Adam and Eve take cover in the trees of the garden.  They now need to cover up this new thing called guilt.  And finally, when God confronts them they take cover with excuses, blaming, and even blaspheming against God.

Notice the changes in Adam and Eve that happen because of sin.  In an instant their relationship with God was different.  God was so good to them. They were in perfect union with him.  Now God’s footsteps sound like police sirens, from which they desperately want to hide.

In an instant another relationship was different.  Up to this point the devil had been the one pointing the accusing finger at God, even blaspheming him.  He said, “You can’t trust God. Look, he’s holding out on you with this tree.”  Now, not only had Adam and Eve listened to the devil, but they became fluent in his language.  Adam points the accusing finger at God and says, “The woman you put here with me —she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  Because of the first sin, Adam and Eve ran from God and were now speaking the same language as their enemy, the devil.  In other words, that first sin made them afraid of their Father and friends with their foe.

Like I said this was the first time that happened, and the first of many times since.  Adam and Eve’s behavior here reveals something that is true for you and me.  As human beings we have a deep-seeded desire for two very important things: to be known and to be loved.  For most of us we would like to go through life with someone, someone to share things with us and to know us.  And we want those people to love, accept, and approve of us.

But when sin comes into the picture, we can’t really have both.   If someone really knows everything about you, then some might not want to love you anymore.  So, we’ve got these two things and, given the choice, you probably would want to be loved, which means you might give up being completely known.  Just like Adam and Eve, we take cover.  We hide.

That’s pretty easy to do, isn’t it?  We hide from people at work, at school, in the neighborhood, at church, with friends, and even in extended families.  We hide stuff and put only the best version of ourselves out there.  Is there a more terrifying thought than if all of our acquaintances, our casual connections, would suddenly know everything that only our close friends know?  What if suddenly all of our close friends knew everything that your family knows?  What if your family knew everything that only you know?  And what if everyone knew everything?

That is true for one person; he knows it all.  When we are confronted with that truth, then we can become very good at speaking the language of our enemy.   We point the finger at God and blame him.  “God, your plan for my life, the way you want me to live, your guidance for the so-called good life about how I should think, speak and act, well it just is not right.  It’s not exciting.  It’s not fun.  It’s not fair.”  It’s like the irrational hope of a someone caught red-handed in sin, thinking that hiding behind the lies and finger-pointing will somehow help them escape their guilt.

That’s what happened for the first time here in Genesis 3 to Adam and Eve, but it was just the first of many.  This is what sin does to us.  It makes us afraid of our Father and friends with our foe.

There they were, Adam, Eve, and the devil newly allied with each other against God.   The three of them should have been placed like bottles on fence posts.  Boom, boom, boom.  1,2,3.  Blown to bits.  But God stepped up in a different way.  God says, “I’m going to rearrange things here. I’m going to bring Adam and Eve back to my side.”  He looks right at the devil and says this: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

This is a big verse in the Old Testament.  This is God’s declaration of war against the devil, and it’s the first indication of how God is going to win that war.  One of Eve’s own descendants, one born of a woman, would crush the devil even though it would come at a great cost to himself.  This verse is the first promise of our Savior, Jesus.

You might look at those words and say, “I don’t know if I see that!”  Why would God be so cryptic and vague?  Why didn’t he just come out with it: “Jesus Christ will die on the cross to forgive your sins?”  This promise was exactly what Adam and Eve needed in that moment, nothing more and nothing less.  God basically gave them an empty bowl of a promise that, over time, would be filled with more and more and more details.

When God said that one of Eve’s descendants, one born of a woman, would crush the head of the devil, it happened.  The fulfillment of that promise was a male born of a woman, just a woman with no human father, so that he was both true man and true God.  When God promised that he would crush the head of the devil, and the devil would strike his heal, it happened.  Jesus defeated the devil not with brute force but hidden behind weakness and suffering when he died on the cross.

God went on to describe what life would be like for Adam and Eve in a sinful world, how everything that had been perfectly good would now be bad, how their work would be frustrating and hard, how childbearing would be painful, how their marriage and relationships would now have strife.  That would be too tough to hear, if it had not been for the promise that God had spoken.

And this promise worked for Adam and Eve.  A little while later Adam and Eve had a child, and sure enough it was a boy.  Adam and Eve looked at their son and thought, “Here is the one. This is the answer to God’s promise, the Savior.”  They were a little soon.  Jesus would not come for a couple thousand years, but it shows that God’s promise worked.  Two people who had been afraid of their Father had been given faith in their Father instead.

In contrast, think about what God’s promise did to the foe, the devil.  God says to the devil, “One of Eve’s descendants is going to crush your head.”  Can you image the thoughts that filled the devils head after that promise was made?  “Who!?! When!?! Where!?!?”  But God didn’t give those details.  I can only image the devil wanting to be present for every birth after that, waiting to see if it was a boy and wondering, “Is he the one?”  How that promise taunted and tormented the devil from that point forward.

Look what our good and gracious Father is doing.  He finds people who are afraid of their Father and friends with the foe, and he gives them faith in their Father while putting all the fear on the foe. In the garden was the first time God did this, but again it’s just the first of many times after that.

You and I are so good at being the person who irrationally hopes that they can hide behind lies and finger-pointing and escape our guilt.  Part of the reason we do it is because we often forget that there’s a better solution.

God steps in with his promise to us.  He says “I am not charging you with any sin.  I declare you innocent of all guilt because I have already charged it to my Son.  The punishment you should pay, I have already given to him.  Not only are you fully forgiven and free, but, because that sin is paid for, no one can ever bring it against you again.  No one can every charge you with it because the penalty has already been paid.”

God has spoken that word to you, and every time we see a little bit of water connected to that powerful Word of God he speaks it again.  “You don’t need to be afraid of your Father anymore.  I have given you faith.  I have made you a part of the family forever.  The foe is the fearful one.”

For all who have this faith in Jesus we have undeniable and unending comfort and peace.  And that means we have no reason to hide behind excuses, lies, and finger-pointing.  God has provided the real solution to sin’s problem.

In fact, with God’s word of promise we find out that we have those two things that we desire deep down, the desire to be known and the desire to be loved.  With our Father in heaven we have someone who knows us, better than anyone, better than we even know ourselves.  And yet he still accepts us, approves of us, and loves us more than we could ever imagine.

All of this is ours from our Father through his Son, our brother.  That’s why family is most definitely and always will be better than the foe.  To God be the glory.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PUT THE DEBT-REPAYMENT TO REST

6.3.18 Pentecost 2B

Pentecost B

Colossians 2:13-17

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

 

It can be a heavy load. People often say they “want to get out from under it.”  It can stunt the growth that people want in their life.  It can ruin the fresh optimism that many a college graduate possess.  What am I talking about?  Debt! For a lot of people debt is a dirty word with catastrophic consequences if you aren’t careful.

And it’s a word we need to talk about today because the Apostle Paul brings it up right there in Colossians 2, verse 14: χειρόγραφον, that is the hand-written certificate of indebtedness.  A person who was in debt had to write this legal note with their own hand so that they knew the debt and its terms.  This debt then needed to be repaid according to the terms.  People might not have to write the debt notes with their own hands today, but there are still terms for the repayment.

So that’s one reason why so many people work so hard to get out from under debt.  But it turns out that it is getting harder and harder to do.  Turns out debt in America is a pretty serious problem right now.  Here are some stats I found.  The average American home carries $137,063 of debt.  That can be credit card, a car, a house, a student loan.  The average median income is about $59,000 per year.  And you’re going to need that income, because we all know that debts need to be paid off.  In order to pay off a debt you have to work… a lot.  What other option is there?  So, you work and maybe you get an extra job.  Maybe you have to make some sacrifices: put that dream house, the vacation, the family plans on hold for a couple years.  Debt has that kind of grip on people sometimes.

No wonder debts can cause some serious anxiety.  No wonder America is one of the richest nations in the world, but the people are also some of the most unhappy.  We make a lot of money, but we have plenty of things to spend it on.  Most of the time it seems the money is already spoken for before people actually have it in their bank accounts.  And we are told that is just the way it has to be.  Contentment is not really part of the vocabulary anymore.

This is so consuming that not just bank accounts but lives are profoundly impacted.  In premarriage sessions I bring this point up.  One of the huge marriage stressers is finances.  Debt can suck the life and enjoyment out of love to the point where people who were once so committed to one another and so selfless with each other become so self-seeking and combative that marriages break apart.  Money or the lack of it gets in the way.

The harder you work, the more time and effort you put in to paying off debts, the more those other important moments in life are taken from you.  When debt takes over like that, it can be a cruel slavery.  Debt can be the death of freedom and love and joy and peace and hope.  It can feel like the death of the life you wanted.

Now this talk about financial debt is pretty intense.  It doesn’t have to be like this.  Debt can be very manageable.  There are a lot of resources that can help you plan and prioritize properly so that debt won’t overcome you.

But there is a debt that will always overcome.  There is a debt that is so oppressive and nasty that it does take each and every life it touches.  The Apostle Paul says it is a debt that “stood against us and condemned us.”  That is not just a couple years of work.  The debt Paul wants us to think about isn’t about working more hours and being smarter to pay something off.  This debt that stands against us and condemns us is sin.

It’s possible to think that this debt is like any other, that you have to pay it off.   Follow God’s laws and do the religious stuff because that is how you get out of the debt we have to God.  There were people in Israel that saw it that way, people in Jesus’ and Paul’s day saw it that way, and there are plenty of religious people and churches that still promote this pay-off-your-own-debt system today.

And so you have people who read their Bibles, volunteer at their churches and in the community, post on social media, and all that kind of stuff thinking that they are addressing this debt of sin before God.  We aren’t immune to that.  The thought crosses your mind that a little bigger offering will get you a little more of God’s goodness this week, the church and religious Facebook shares means you are making up for the other couple hours you wasted online, and signing up to help with an event raised you up a couple levels in God’s book.  It’s only natural to think that following God’s laws and doing good things means we are doing are part to pay off this debt of sin.

But how’s that going for you?  Does it feel like you are getting out from under that load?  Or is the repayment process so constant and so crushing that there is no joy and no freedom?  That’s probably because this repayment method of following laws and doing good works was not the way God intended to save you from sin.

To all those people in Colossae and to all the people who still think that the way to get out of sin’s debt is a personal repayment plan, Paul says that all of the Old Testament laws were “a shadow of the things that were to come…”  A shadow gives you a faint glimpse of an object or person that is coming or going.  It’s not the real thing.  If you are walking with your earbuds in and you notice a shadow coming from behind you, you might think, “It’s someone who’s going to mug me!”  “It’s a someone exercising a lot better than I am.”  “It’s a bratty kid messing around on his way to wherever bratty kids go in summer.” “It’s a friend meeting me for our morning walk.”  There are a lot of possibilities when it’s just the shadow, but you don’t know.  Then, when you turn and see it was the mailman on his morning route, do you keep thinking it’s am mugger or a kid or a runner?  Do you continue to look at the shadow and only the shadow?  NO!  You have the real thing.

All of those Old Testament laws were the shadow, not the real way to pay for sin.  God was pointing people ahead to the way God had planned to deal with the debt of sin.  God would make the payment himself.  That’s the reality.  This debt of sin cannot be paid off by the work of sinful people.  Sinful people will only make more debts.

In fact, as Paul says, sinners can’t do anything for this debt.  Look at the beginning of verse 13, “When you were dead in your sins…” The dead can’t pay off anything.  They can’t do any work.  They can’t make payments to God.  If that is the case, we need someone else to make the payment.  We need someone else to cancel it.  We need someone else to forgive the debt of sin completely.

“When you were dead in your sins and tin the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”

That’s the work that counts.  The law could never do that for us.  The shadow is not the real thing.  The law can just show us the kind of payment that is necessary.  It’s perfection.  And God’s law does a really good job of showing us that perfection is not in us and that we have incurred an unpayable debt.  With that debt of sin there is no joy, no freedom, no peace, only death.  God knew that you and I could not do the work and keep up with the payments.  So, Jesus stepped in.

The load of our debt, he carried.  The crushing and suffocating weight of our iniquities, he bore.  The death my sins have earned, he endured. The hand-written certificate of debt that you and I have written again and again to God, Jesus took.  He reached out his hands and made the payment.  That’s the reality.

And that’s the rest we have through faith in Jesus.  Jesus died for our sins and then he rose so that we have a something other than death.  We have life with him, Paul says, a life without worries, a life without fear, and a life without work. Now that’s the freedom and peace and joy and hope we are looking for.  That’s the freedom and peace and joy and hope we could never work for.  It has been given to us freely by a gracious God.

But let’s be clear about this life we have.  It’s not free from God but free with God.  It’s not rest from God but rest in him.

Not surprisingly there are religious teachers and churches saying that if your debt of sin is completely canceled by Christ, then that means you get to enjoy freedom in any way that makes you happy.  You should experience your passions and desires in your own individual way with no one telling you that you are wrong.  And that makes plenty of sense in a world that is all about pursuing your own personal happiness.

But your own personal happiness has changed now.  It’s not about serving yourself.  This new life in Jesus makes you realize that serving yourself gets you nowhere, because doing all that work to pay off your debt is not an option before God.   It’s not about you.  So that also means thinking that God has paid of your debt to give you the freedom to pursue anything that makes you happy is far too selfish.  That would exclude Jesus from your life, because he could never agree to such self-serving pleasures. He would never want you to go running back headlong into the debt that he saved you from.

See, we are alive with Christ.  We follow him.  We serve with him.  We love like him.  It changes the way we look at happiness and freedom. He has given us rest from the overworked slavery to paying off our debt to sin.  He has given us rest from the selfish relaxation of fulfilling all my desires and pleasures.

Instead, we are alive with Christ.  That’s where we have peace and joy.  The debt is gone.  The payment has been made.  We have a free place in heaven where we will live with Christ.  And while we live here on earth it’s no different.  We live with Christ.  We live with his rest. Rest that is found in his Word, in his house, in his sacraments, with his people.

This is the rest we have in Christ.  As this rest in Christ causes growth in your faith and in your life this summer.  Don’t be shocked if you notice some people in your life who could use some rest from their debt repayment or from their lost selfishness.  But you know how to put that to bed.  Give them rest in Jesus.   God grant it.  Amen.