So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8: 31, 32

 

Where we live does matter. But the address where we receive our mail is not nearly as important as are other aspects of our dwelling place. Let me explain what I am getting at here. Most of us aspire to certain things when it comes to our homes. There are preferred neighborhoods, size of house, styles of design, and numerous other similar factors that we take into consideration when we seek that place where we will sleep at night. Our budget is certainly one of the big influences on all of this.

 

Yet this big decision about the physical location and structure that we call home is of minimal importance in comparison to the decisions that everyone gets to make regarding the place where our minds, hearts and our souls will reside today and for all of the days of our life. Jesus invites us into a totally different sort of dwelling place. Walls made of stone or of wood do not confine it, and it is not limited by any of the factors that define and restrain our choice of a house to rent or to buy. You see, when we enter into a relationship with Christ, God provides us with His infinite budgetary resources to use in the process of living life.

 

As we follow Jesus, He leads us into the all-encompassing and life-defining reality that is called God’s word. This word includes those thoughts and ideas that are written on the pages of the Bible, but it also involves much more. God’s word is relational. It is the great truth that is the center of creation, and it is the on-going personal revelation that comes to each of Christ’s followers through the Holy Spirit. This is the word that leads us into freedom. Our past no longer defines us, and we are loosed from the constraints of parentage and from all of the other factors that people use to inhibit and restrain the full expression of a righteous life. So, when it comes to my dwelling place, let me abide with Christ in the center of the Father’s will.

 

This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet. “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Matthew 2: 14, 15

 

As Matthew wrote down these words from Hosea 11, he was quoting a passage that was very dear to the Jewish people. The full text speaks to the love that God had for His people, Israel. It reminded them that God had rescued them from their captivity and that He had given them a dwelling place of their own. It also evokes the reality of the presence of God in their midst. It was a place to dwell; that is land to subdue and till, and the presence of God in that place that defined God’s chosen people. However, as he relates this passage Matthew’s eyes had been opened to understand the true meaning behind the prophet’s words.

 

Although at the time of their original writing Hosea was speaking about the nation of Israel, God meant much more than just that. He was also indicating the way that all people could be brought out of that place of exile where we had been taken as captives to sin. I think that a part of this entire narrative of the flight of Jesus’ family from the threat of death at Herod’s hands is related to the way that Jesus does, in fact, know from experience all that we do encounter in living in this world. Although He was just a child, I would imagine that Jesus did recall this time of exile and separation, and this understanding influences His ability to connect with each of us as we live apart from our true home.

 

Without Christ we are living in a form of what Hosea was calling Egypt. This is a place of utter separation from God. It is outside of His kingdom. It is a place where we can be as good as we can possibly be, work diligently and hard, and seek to do great good; yet, we will not truly accomplish anything of eternal worth or possess a place of dwelling in God’s presence. Christ understands that evil has taken our hearts and minds captive and that Satan is attempting to hold people as hostages for his own selfish purposes. Jesus, the Christ, leads us out of that kingdom of death. He brings us into the kingdom of God; then, Christ grants calling, mission and purpose to each of His people as we engage the work of bringing glory to God’s name.

 

 

God raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2: 6, 7

 

The idea of kindness brings out certain images in my mind. One of them is that classic picture of the young person (Well, the classic version says, “Boy Scout” but these are modern times where such specifics are generalized for the sake of inclusion. This is actually and usually a good thing, too,) Back to my story; this young person is helping the elderly person across a busy street. Another of these kindness events happens when we let the person with one item or with the baby in her arms who is behind us in line at a store go ahead of us. Kindness is picking up your neighbors tipped over trash can and putting the former contents back into it. Kindness is too rare in our hurried and individualistic world. Yet, these ideas of what kindness is are shallow and weak in comparison to what Paul is describing.

 

Let’s face it; people are generally not very pleasant to be around. We deserved nothing but disappointment, anger, and condemnation from God. We come into this world dead in spirit, lost to eternity, and separated by a humanly impenetrable division from all that is loving, holy, and righteous. With full knowledge of all of this and with a heart that breaks with the experiencing of our rebellion, God chose to pursue us. He has the power and the ability to wipe us all out and to start over with a new model, but God decided to stay with His original creation. So, He provided us with the way and the means to make a decision ourselves. We can accept God’s loving gift of life that is granted to us through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection; or we can stay as we are and continue to live in the futility of our lost humanity.

 

When we accept Christ, we are changed. The dwelling place of our hearts, minds, and spirits is relocated from this world and its darkness into the realm of God Most High with its unceasing glory. God gave all for us, and He grants all that is worth having to us as His gracious gift. This is true kindness. Christ’s singular act of obedience to the Father is the pinnacle of self-sacrificial love, and all of that love is lavished upon us in the form of acceptance into ever present and eternal relationship with God. God’s acceptance of a dead-spirited and dark-hearted rebellious soul like me stands as a testimony through time to His desire to heal the brokenness of each person in this world and to the possibility for each of us of that form of deep healing and transformative change. This testimony is spoken most clearly when we choose to live with Christ openly and boldly on our lips and with His love as our foremost expression. As we treat other people and our world in this manner, we touch it with the immeasurable kindness of heaven.

 

 

 

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

And He thrust out the enemy before you and said, “Destroy!”

Deuteronomy 33: 27

 

Personally, I am very uncomfortable, even disturbed, by the idea of destroying an enemy. So are most people who I know. In our world this is the sort of thing that gets handled in video games, but it is not what we are supposed to do in real life. On those occasions when it does happen, headlines scream about the brutality, and the violence of our world is called into question. Yet, there are enemies in our times, and they pose an enormous threat to our peace and well-being and to people’s eternal souls.

 

When Moses wrote these words, it was quite clear that he was speaking about the various groups, tribes, and nations that stood in the way of Israel’s dwelling in Canaan. However, the real issue wasn’t the groups of people that opposed them; the challenge that the Israelites faced was the one of remaining true to God’s will, to His expressed desire for them and to living righteously. They were continually drawn away from God by the satanic promise of a better way and a higher knowledge. The Israelites readily turned toward a seemingly easy truth that was defined in the eyes of people. The true destruction that needed to take place involved the utter cleansing of their world so that no scrap or crumb of evil would remain to entice and to entrap them. Yet, this was very hard to do, and they did not choose to follow through.

 

We are still faced with this same challenge today. God provides us with a place of dwelling that is currently situated in a very troubled world. For it seems that the actual dwelling that God is providing is the refuge of His constant care and absolute protection for our souls. His arms of grace, mercy, strength, and blessing do completely enfold His people. Still, we do have a part to play in fulfilling God’s plan and in living within our calling. We cannot wait and watch from the imagined safety of our sanctuary and silently allow evil to reign in our world. When there is wrong afoot, we must step in to protect the weak. As anti-God attempts to control our land and rule its people, Christ demands that His followers respond. Each of us is called to examine and to purify our hearts, and we are led by Christ to walk in the dangerous way of God’s truth. When we are face to face with evil, God orders us to, “Destroy!”

For when I have brought them (the Israelites) into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and have grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise Me and break My covenant.

Deuteronomy 31: 20

 

This is strong language that comes from the mouth of the aged and soon to be dead Moses. God has granted to him a view into the future that is thrilling in the way that God will fulfill His promises to provide a dwelling place that is bountiful in all areas of human need. However, Moses also is made aware of the fact that these people who have been so hard for him to lead have not changed all that much. They will enter into the riches of God’s blessing, and they will become complacent and bored with it all. They will go off searching for something better, and they will abandon the hard discipline that righteous living demands.

 

It seems that there may very well be a cautionary tale in all of this for people today. For the most part we have it all a lot easier than the people that Moses was leading. Yet we still live in a hostile land where the only true and reliable provider of what we need is God. We live today in the shadow of constant peril. There are evil giants roaming our landscape, there are false gods calling to us with their winsome voices, and our culture makes it easy to ignore active involvement with God’s Word and in Christian fellowship. So the words of Moses are speaking loudly to me, and they cry out a challenge and a warning, “You are growing fat; you are acting like you no longer fear God and desire to serve Him with all of your heart.”

 

The righteous life is not a sedentary one. It requires that we remain active and highly vigilant. In order to avoid becoming fat in our spirits and complacent in our minds we need to continually seek out God. He desires for His people to turn to Him in prayer with worship, praise, and thanksgiving on our lips. Our Lord wants for us to stay lean and light on our feet through the constant practice of reading His Word and discussing its content, meaning and application. Christ implores us to join Him in the daily battle for the souls of people and for the healing of our sin ravaged lands. Regardless of age or physical condition, in Christ we can all remain hungry and stay lean as we passionately serve the King.

 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2: 4

 

The little phrase “but God” hovers over God’s Word and provides a tension to numerous scenes throughout it. It is a simple linguistic construction, in Greek the but is called a conjunction of antithesis, which sits at the balance point for the eternal destiny of many souls. Contemplate for a moment a god who did not operate in the manner as the “But God’ one does. This would be a god who is not rich in mercy, who does not love people in a manner that is beyond our contemplation, and who did not sacrifice himself for the sake of our souls. This is a god much like the ones that humanity has tried to create for itself throughout our troubled history. This is a god who is completely foreign to my experience of the true and living God, the great I Am, Father, Savior, and Spirit of light, life, and truth.

 

The “But God” enters into the lives of people who are broken and shattered by the corrosive and destructive forces of sin. We are all born into this world as hearers of Satan’s great lies. Each person’s story is different, but this one fact is our common reality, each of us needs to be saved from the certainty of a life that is lived in the present and in the eternal in a state of separateness from God. Christ performed the great intervention. He came out of the perfection of Heaven to join with us in our world of chaos and pain. He brings to our hearts the promise of a love that is great beyond measure and that doesn’t contemplate our worthiness before He embraces us. Christ enters the tomb of our souls and He breathes the breath of life into our lungs. Then, like Lazarus, Christ calls to us to come out of the dwelling place of the dead and to enter into the land of the truly alive.

 

It is in this new land of our inhabitation where we live with Christ. For people who know Him, this is our new home. We may be aliens and foreigners in this world where we journey, but we should not be confused by this, for we are now residing in the presence of God, Almighty. Therefore, our new address is theKingdomofGod, and we are called upon by Him to be active players in bringing the truth of the “But God” to the world that we touch with our lives. We are not called by God to be judges, and we are not called to be agents of condemnation. We are to be lovers of people and to be careful gardeners who work diligently to restore order and to bring peace into our world. When the world encounters us it should be able to readily see the effects of the transformative work that the “But God” has performed upon us, and it should know that it is being touched by His mercy, grace and love.