11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10: 11-14

The work of human priests was never done. They needed to be continually making sacrifices so that God would forgive the sins of the people and of the nation. Before Jesus, there was no other choice, and without Jesus there is still none to be found. We may attempt to accomplish His work on our own, but that will always be futile. There is simply nothing that we can do and no effort that we can exert that will accomplish forgiveness in the eyes of God. People may seek to follow a righteous and a holy path through life, we might even live with generosity and care for others as our mission, but Christ remains the singular and the sole way to gain access to the presence of God in this life and into eternity.

All of the work of perfecting salvation from sin and redemption from death’s hold upon all people has been completed. The cross was the point of that outworking, and Jesus was the sacrifice that stands in total sufficiency at that moment in time and for all of time to follow. Now time continues onward in its journey to its completion, for a day is coming when there will no more time. Then the ledger of life will be closed and counted and those that are found within it will stand before God in their forgiven and holy state while all others will be duly noted for their rejection of the Savior so that they will be separated from God’s presence and cast off to experience the outworking of that decision to turn away from Christ and His offer of redemption.

In Christ we can now rest from the work of achieving a position of acceptance before God, but that does not mean that the work of this life is done. For, in Christ, we are called to live out to the fullest that grace and forgiveness that we have been granted as the greatest gift that it is possible to receive. Now we are free to act in love without fear, to speak the gospel of Christ without hesitation, and to give all that we have without concern about tomorrow’s provision. The High Priest that we serve may be resting and waiting for the fullness of time in one sense, but He is also very active and involved in this world in many other ways. The Spirit is with and within us, and as we offer up ourselves without hold-back or reservation, He will lead us and implore us into taking actions that can, in God’s will, lead others into that same presence of Christ that has already saved us.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

 

God’s concept of safety is rather strange or even strangely odd. As a parent, I have often taken action when my children seemed to be heading toward something dangerous. We parents try to anticipate our kids actions and pull their hands back from the hot or the sharp objects, and we hold those same hands when we head out of buildings into the areas where cars or other dangers are present. We warn them about the perils of life and give them instruction about safe navigation through those places and situations as we hope and pray for that safe return at the end of the journey. There is no question in my mind that God functions and operates as a parent to us all; yet, His concept and approach to this activity is different from mine in some very important ways.

 

The Lord is far more concerned with the security of the soul of His children than He is with our flesh remaining intact, unbruised, and our bodies staying unshaken. He cares most deeply about the sorts of harm that our minds takes in and the ways that our hearts are bruised by exposure to the sinful distractions of this world. I am not trying to say that God doesn’t enter into protecting our bodies or that He is not concerned about taking us through our days whole and safely complete, but I do believe that this outcome is not first in His order of priorities. I am also not suggesting that the spiritual health of our children is not of paramount importance to most parents, but we still tend to engage more of the time in their physical protection and in our training of them in how to stay whole and physically safe.

 

Thus, David sings out his praise to the Lord for the way that He alone brings about the true safety that our souls, hearts, and bodies need in order to fully rest. The Lord grants to us a dwelling place within the security of His presence so that we can lie down and get the sleep that we so desperately need. This is a form of slumber that can take place even when we are surrounded by the forces that God’s enemies have called up against Him and us. The rest that God grants to us is a gift that flows out of His presence as we turn toward His face in thanksgiving and prayerful meditation on His Word and in submission to the words of life that He speaks into our racing hearts and that He pours over our aching muscles. We can place our trust in the Lord as He tucks us into the security of His loving care and sings His words of truth to sooth our hearts and calm our minds into a state of peaceful slumber.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

Psalm 139: 7

 

There is one singularly constant presence in the entire universe, and that is God. This is a very comforting fact for many people, but it is also highly disturbing for others and fiction for some. Yet, God’s presence and involvement do not depend upon our belief or unbelief. As the author and the creator of all that is, both seen and unseen, the Lord’s handprints are found on it all. However, unlike the evidence that people leave behind us by virtue of our fingerprints or traces of our DNA, God has touched the structure and shaped the essence of all that is at the level of its most elemental component. This is true for people, animals, plants, and the earth and sky. This is also true for all that exists in the realm of the spiritual.

 

For me, the presence of God is the reality of my world. This is not always so easy to accept, and my thoughts and actions certainly don’t consistently demonstrate this understanding. Thus I wonder, how can I become angry to the point of thinking violence upon others when they are God’s image-bearing children? Or, where do I get the right to think in terms of superiority and inferiority in these same beloved beings? These questions are just examples of a long list of possible ones that I could pose concerning my personal lack of faith in the truth of the Lord’s total sovereignty over creation and of His unceasing engagement with and in all of it.

 

In truth, I am a flawed and still sinful person who has been redeemed by Christ, and my awareness of these various ways in which I am living outside of God’s will and off of His righteous path is proof of the fact of Christ’s redemptive and transformative work in me. David’s rather rhetorical questions in this psalm do have a simple answer for me too. There is nowhere and no time when I am not in the presence of my Lord. So, I cannot find myself in a situation or circumstance wherein God will not be my strength, counselor, and protector. All He asks of me is that I trust Him and have faith in the Lord’s loving care for me and for the rest of creation, for there is great comfort in God’s presence and my soul finds peace in following His will.

 

And God saw everything that he had made, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 1: 31

 

This world is the work of God’s great creative expression. This includes all of it from the atmosphere around earth, the planet itself, the creatures upon it, and all of the people who have ever populated it. We are all designed, shaped, and fashioned by the hand of the Creator, God. As God completed His work, this entire world was perfect and without flaw. There was nothing lacking and it contained everything that was needed to flourish and to thrive. We all know the story; disobedience and rebellion were brought to the scene by an actor from outside of this perfect creation. So, Satan entices the innocent and they respond by rebelling against the authority of God. It’s a theme that is repeated on a daily basis in our world. The path of rebellion is one that all people choose and by which all of creation is damaged.

 

Like humanity, the rest of creation is a mixture of good and evil: just and oppressive, beneficial and harmful, and loving and hurtful. This world is a crazy-quilt tapestry of all that is righteous and good mixed with everything that is sinful and evil. That which is godly stands shoulder to shoulder with that which is ungodly. We all live among people and things that are clear expressions of God’s glory and among those that are working in opposition to Him. That is the nature of the world in these days. That is why God sent His Redeemer Son to this world. The Father wants to see His creation restored to the peaceful kingdom of His design.

 

Unfortunately, this restoration will not occur without much greater upheaval and turmoil. The evil that is infused into the world will not surrender its hold on existence easily. It is powerful and it operates with great cunning, guile, and deception. Yet, its life span is temporary, its hold upon creation is tenuous, and the destruction and pain that it brings is reversible. Christ is victorious over it all, and He will reign over this world forever. Today, in Christ, we can live in the peace and the joy of His victory. We can bring the glory of God to every person and place that we contact in our day. God’s desire for restoration can become ours as well. We can see and appreciate the beauty of God’s presence in our world, and as followers of Christ, we can accept God’s grace and forgiveness, and we can impart love to sooth the wounds and the pain of living in a place of conflict such as this.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new Spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36: 26

 

Hopelessness can be an easy place to get to. Yet, it is a very hard place to be. It is a condition of the heart and the mind that can also become our total state of being. Even when it is connected to some specific area or aspect of life, this loss of faith in the possibility of healing and personal surrender to the inevitable failure of restoration tends to dominate our perception of life. However, even in these most difficult of times in our lives, God is present, and He is totally aware of our condition and desires to provide answers. When God seems so distant and His voice is silent, this is usually the result of our unreadiness or unwillingness to turn fully to Him and to listen carefully to His voice and to accept what He says.

 

God’s promise to restore and to heal is not dependant upon our state of mind or our actions. He is faithful to His word, and God desires to walk through each and every aspect of our lives in intimate relationship with us. The Lord will never depart from us, but He will not force us to turn to Him until we are ready to allow Him to work within our hearts. This is the point in our day where we have a decision to make. Do we want to continue to go through life carrying around the weight of a heart that is hardened into stone or are we willing to face the pain and the hard work of allowing God to transplant His new heart of living flesh into us? It seems to me that the only rational answer is to admit that we are so worn out by going through the things that we are dealing with without the wisdom, strength, and encouragement of the Spirit of Christ that we are willing to endure any momentary pain that is needed in order to gain His promised change.

 

Although it may seem frightening at first, one of the ways that we can begin this transplant process involves opening up of our inner selves to God’s searching and revealing. As you enter into a time of meditation and prayer, ask God to reveal Himself and His presence to you. Ask that He would show you how and where He is truly engaged in your daily life. Allow the Spirit to show you the ways that you are closing yourself off from God’s desired transformative work in your attitudes, thinking, and actions. As you do this, consider how that, despite God’s total presence, your life is not one in which Christ is evident and the fruit of His Spirit is not flowing from you. These areas of hardness of heart, of sin, are aspects of yourself that should be laid upon the altar of Christ and confessed to Him. Now you can fully accept Christ’s grace and forgiveness and set out on the new course that God has revealed to you. In the light of Christ’s mercy and grace hope is restored and true living is found.

 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whosoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8: 12

 

Jesus says a couple of very big things in these two sentences. He promises us light that is the purest possible, for it comes from light’s source. He also tells us that there is something about this form of living in which we are walking in Christ’s light that brings about life. Additionally, this is a form of life that is superior to the one that we are granted at birth. Light and life, life through the light, it is almost as if Jesus is setting out a riddle for us to solve. However, the solution has already been granted to us, and God’s word explains it clearly for everyone who wants to know eternal truth.

 

Light is the place of safety. It is also the medium by which organisms grow. Light destroys corruption and disease. Light cleanses and it purifies. Light warms our bodies. It provides us with food. It is an essential element in God’s creation of this world. The light that is God and that comes from who God is needed to be upon the earth before everything else could be created. It is the foundation of all that is upon the earth. It is in the light that we live, and it is into the elemental light of God’s presence that Christ calls us. He is the light that was present from creation, for Christ is the elemental light. He is the light that is ever-present, for through Christ the darkness of sin has been defeated.

 

So, Jesus is saying to us that each and every person who decides to truly follow Him will be walking in the light that brings about life. This means that our lives are brought under the restorative rays of Christ’s healing touch. The darkness of our natural souls is also exposed to the pure light of righteousness. This light doesn’t seek to destroy us; rather, it goes after and destroys the sin-weakened cells in our hearts and minds. The righteous light of God’s truth brings about healthy growth that makes us ever stronger. In Christ and by His Spirit, God’s Word becomes a plentiful source of this light. With Christ we can walk through the darkest passages in this world and our way will be illuminated. Through His presence in us, we become sources of the light that saves lives and that brings about safety and strength.