Silent Sabbath

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 23:50-56

Friday, before the sun set, Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’s body down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and placed it in a new tomb. Mary Magdalene and the other women watched the burial, mourned, and planned to return after the sabbath to cover the body in spices and perfumes.

Imagine the looks of silent shock around the shabbat dinner Friday night. Imagine the silence of Saturday.

It was meant to be a day of rest, but I imagine it was a day of restlessness for the followers of Jesus. Their rabbi, their Messiah, their King, their hope for freedom from Roman occupation was dead. One of their closest friends, Judas, had turned Jesus over to the Jewish leaders and then committed suicide. One of the leaders of their band of brothers, Peter, had just denied even knowing Jesus in the moment when Jesus needed him most. Everyone else seemed to scatter except the women and the beloved disciple John.

What just happened?

Everything happened so fast. Have you ever had one of those moments of confusion and disillusionment that seemed to move faster than your thoughts and feelings could process? When things finally slow down, as they did that sabbath, everything comes rushing back. Flashes of scenes play through your mind.

Jesus in the Gethsemane agonizing in prayer.

The soldiers marching toward them with torches.

Jesus getting struck on the face.

The mock trial.

The early morning pronouncement of Pilate that left them in shock.

The beaten and bloodied image of Jesus stumbling up to Golgotha.

His eyes.

What was on his head?

The clank of metal on metal met with screams of pain.

Our Savior hanging there.

The smell of blood and death.

The lifeless body.

The dark tomb.

All the images flashing in their minds on repeat. Then the questions. How could this happen? Why would God let this happen? This can’t be God’s plan. Why didn’t God stop this? What do we do now? How can I go back to my old life? Will the Romans come for us next? The Jewish leaders know us. Are they going to hunt us down? What about my kids? What are we going to do?

Silence.

They couldn’t have known that while they were feeling defeated, Jesus was defeating death.
All they knew was silence.

Sometimes God does His best work in the quiet of disillusionment…

…if we would only hold on until morning.

Uneven

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

Spring has sprung. Flowers are blooming and trees are budding. The dead of winter is giving way to the new green life of spring. One thing that is true of plants that is also true of our life with Christ is that growth is progressive but uneven.

Sometimes we expect that if a person is mature in one area of life, they are mature in all areas of life, but this just isn’t how maturity works. As we grow in Christ, we tend to grow in fits and starts. We grow in pockets. One pocket of our life in Jesus can be really well developed while other pockets are left under-developed. Growth is uneven.

In Matthew 12:44, Jesus describes our inner life like a house. Just like an actual house, there can be some rooms that are clean and in order and other rooms that are moldy and messy, full of asbestos dust and toxins.

We see this all the time at our church as we pray for people. People with certain parts of their life fully surrendered to the Lord also have parts of their life that are still in bondage to the enemy. Though the house belongs to the Holy Spirit (He has the title and deed – 1 Cor. 6:19-20) and many rooms are clean, we’ll still hit pockets of strongholds that need cleaning and deliverance.

Too often the church has bought into the modern worldview comparing humans to machines. But according to the Bible, we are less like machines and more like plants. We need cultivated. And as we grow, we grow unevenly. This is why hunger for the Lord is so important. Hungering for more of God in our lives keeps us praying the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24. It invites us to ask the Lord to expose the dark rooms of our lives to the blinding white light of Christ. Plants need light.

Jesus said it this way:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:19-21

Is it time for some spring cleaning in your life? Ask the Lord if there are any unsurrendered pockets of your life with Christ. Ask Him to search you and reveal any inner rooms that are dark and moldy. Ask Christ to bring His blinding white light to expose any offensive way in you and to lead you in the way everlasting.

Sensitivity

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 

Romans 1:21

The Bible speaks of a process where our heart either becomes softened or it becomes hardened. Obedience over time softens a person’s heart toward God. A sensitivity to the Holy Spirit develops that allows us to follow His lead without having to be shoved. The hope is that with a gentle whisper from the Lord, we’ll step out and do what He asks. Paul described this process to the Galatians:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 

Galatians 5:24-25

Yet, the opposite can happen as well. The more we resist the Lord–the more we do our own thing and follow our own way ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit–the more our heart will harden. Obedience will become more and more difficult.

Paul told Timothy to beware of false teachers whose “consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). What an image! Our conscience, which should be soft and tender, sensitive to the touch of the Spirit, can become so hard and numb that it loses all sensitivity, as if seared with a hot iron. Exposure to sin over time is what does this.

However, as your connection with the Lord grows and as your faith matures, you’ll notice a sensitivity develop. You become both more sensitive to the Light and to the darkness. Do you know that feeling of the top layer of skin being removed to reveal the new, raw skin underneath? This is what happens to our conscience. This is what it means to live with a circumcised heart.

Practically, this sensitivity is necessary to get better at sensing the leading of the Spirit. If you want to follow His promptings and hear His voice, this kind of sensitivity is necessary. It is not emotional sensitivity, although it will affect your emotions; it is spiritual sensitivity. And what you’ll notice is that things will start to bother you that never used to bother you.

What I have found in my own life is that this sensitivity has led to me being able to sense things in the spirit realm much easier. I can sense when darkness is around. I can more easily sense when someone is being deceptive. I can sense when a demon is tormenting someone. I can more easily sense when the Holy Spirit wants me to do something or say something. 1 Corinthians 12:10 calls this “discerning the spirits.” But it comes with a down side.

I can’t watch many TV shows or movies that have dark content in them anymore. It used to be that I couldn’t watch horror movies. Now it is so much more. Dark themes of violence, death, murder, abuse, sexual immorality, homosexuality, (even foul language) and the like bother my conscience at a level that is uncomfortable. If I watch something with that kind of content, I feel like I got slimed. I can feel the darkness and demonic influence behind it. Sometimes I am even given revelation into the twisted mind that wrote the scene I just watched, and it is deeply disturbing.

When we get comfortable with sin, we start to get comfortable with darkness. It stops bothering us. We start to feel quite at home in things that are macabre and disturbing. Our hearts and minds harden to it, and we lose our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Participation with darkness, even in entertainment, can grieve the Spirit.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:30-32

We all say we want to hear the the Lord better. We all say we want an interactive relationship with the Holy Spirit where He guides our steps and speaks to us clearly. But do we want all that comes with that? It will requires a new level of sensitivity in your spirit that will make you sensitive to both the Light and the darkness in the spirit realm. It will require a new level of cleaning things out of your life, including what you are entertained by. It will require protecting the tender, sensitive heart and not letting it be hardened again by sin or letting it be slimed again by the world.

The Fog of Unforgiveness

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

1 John 2:9-11

John reveals here the bad fruit of living in unforgiveness. Unforgiveness leads to resentment, and resentment to bitterness. Bitterness creates a breeding ground for hate. This is why living a lifestyle of forgiveness is absolutely essential for those who follow Jesus.

We forgive because we have been forgiven. When someone hurts us, there is a relational indebtedness that occurs. There is a feeling that they “owe” us. Forgiveness is choosing not to hold onto that debt. It is not saying that what they did was okay. Just the opposite. Forgiveness is saying that what they did was not okay and yet, because we’ve been forgiven, we will release the debt and cancel the indebtedness. Jesus taught us this in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35.

From this parable we learn that Jesus has forgiven us way more than what He is asking us to forgive. The debt that has been canceled for us is way more than the debt we are canceling for others. We also learn that living in unforgiveness leads to our life being tormented by the enemy. John is echoing that reality here in this passage of 1 John.

Unforgiveness, which eventually turns into hate, causes us to walk around in darkness. We lose the ability to see reality clearly. Everything gets filtered through the dark lenses of hate, bitterness, and resentment. When we live in unforgiveness, we lose our ability to dream about our future because we are stuck in the past. The chains of hate are shackling our life to the person who hurt us, and we find ourselves unable to move forward. Forgiveness is the only thing that will break that chain.

I wonder how many people who say, “I don’t know where I am going in life,” don’t need to “find themselves” but instead need to forgive someone who hurt them. They wander and meander in life and can’t figure out why. Maybe John is telling us one possible reason. Maybe they don’t know where they are going because the darkness has blinded them. Maybe darkness has been given permission to invade their sight because they were unwilling to forgive and the fog of hate clouds their future.

In The Light

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life…

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 1:1, 5-7

Once again we see that the message we receive in the books of the New Testament are not speculation about Jesus. What we are reading are the eyewitness accounts of those who “heard,” “have seen,” “looked at,” and “touched” Jesus Himself.

The message that John is proclaiming is one that he heard from Jesus and now is relaying to us. What is that message? God is light; in him there is no darkness. There is no imperfection. There is no lack of justice or lack of love. There is no darkness at all.

Having fellowship with this kind of God means that we too must walk in the light. We too must live out the truth. And when we stay in the light, two beautiful things happen.

First, we have fellowship with one another. There is a unity that results from purity. There is a community that is born out of holiness. Walking in the light not only connects us intimately with the Father, but it begins to connect us with others who are walking in the light. We become the family of God. We become true brothers and sisters in Christ.

We too often think “personal sin” has no effect on anyone but ourselves. But we see here that sin, even when it is so-called “private,” has communal ramifications. Infection in one part of the Body, when not addressed, spreads to the rest of the body. Sin brings division.

The second thing that happens when we walk in the light is that the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin. Here John mixes his metaphors, but we get the picture. Light cleanses and purifies. The longer we stay in the light, walk in the light, live in the light the more different areas of our life get cleaned out. Layer by layer the Holy Spirit restores and heals. Room by room the light of Christ exposes the moldy areas and lets fresh air in.

There are people who do “good things” who are walking in darkness. Walking in darkness is about being out of step with the Holy Spirit and heading in the opposite direction of Christ. It’s a lack of surrender. It is a self-directed, self-sufficient, self-absorbed life. Walking in darkness is about the trajectory of a person’s life.

We can’t claim to have fellowship with God, intimacy with God, friendship with God and continue to walk in darkness. Those two realities are incompatible. Walking in the light doesn’t mean we are perfect. We can walk in the light and make mistakes. We simply recognize our sin or error, ask forgiveness, repent, get up, and keep walking. Walking in the light is about moving in the direction of the light, not about being perfect. It’s about keeping in step with the Spirit and letting the Light guide our steps.