08 March 2015

Your House and Home with God in Christ

The Lord Jesus knows what is in every man.  He knows what is in you.  He knows the truth behind the lies you tell yourself, and He sees through the deceptions that you perpetrate on others.  He knows your sins of thought, word, and deed, your secret shame, your guilty conscience, and your deepest regrets.  He knows your heart and mind, your hopes and dreams, your doubts and fears.

He knows those things about you and within you that make you so afraid, because you are sure that, if anyone knew what you’re really like, what you’ve done, or what your wicked imagination dreams of doing, then there would be no hope for you, and no one could ever like you or love you.

And yet, even knowing all of that and more — knowing you, your sin and death, better than you know yourself — this same Lord Jesus does in fact love you with a passion and a zeal that is larger than life and stronger than death.  And for the sake of such Love, in order that you may have Life in Him, He comes down from heaven and goes up to Jerusalem to lay down His Life for you.

He gives Himself, and offers up Himself, as the Passover Lamb who is sacrificed for you, to set you free from the bondage of your sin and death, within and without.  He willingly sheds His holy and precious blood for you, to cover and protect you from the angel of death.  He pours out His Cup for you, and He feeds you with His own flesh, that you may feast on Him and not die but live.

By His Cross, and in His Resurrection from the dead, He prepares a place for you in His Father’s House, a seat at His Father’s Table, where you are safe and sound and able to rest in His Peace.

There is a deep and direct connection between His Love for you and His Love for His own God and Father.  In Him you see the perfect continuity between faith and love toward God and love for the neighbor; for in His fear, love, and trust in God above all things, He loves you with His own Body and Life in all the ways the Law commands.  He does you no harm but only good, even at the cost of Himself, in order to honor His Father, and to fulfill the good and gracious will of God.

As you have heard, the zeal of the Lord Jesus for His Father’s House — His zeal for His Father’s Name and Glory — consumes Him entirely.  It eats Him up: to the point of death upon the Cross.  It’s not that He loses His temper; nor is He defensive of Himself.  His righteous anger compels Him to act for the keeping and fulfillment of His Father’s Word, for the salvation of His people.

It’s not the Father He’s protecting, but the purpose of the Father’s House as the way and means by which He dwells with you in Peace, so that you are able to live and abide with Him, and call upon His Name, and rest yourself in the refuge of His grace.  The Father doesn’t need a house to live in; He’s not homeless; nor could the whole of creation contain Him, who holds it all in His own hand.

But you need the House of the Lord your God, in order to draw near to Him and to be with Him.  So it is in self-sacrificing love for you that Christ is consumed and eaten up by His zeal for God.

Your peace and life with God is not something you can get for yourself or accomplish for yourself.  It cannot be purchased with money, nor bartered for with works, nor obtained by your sacrifices.  It is accomplished by God, established for you, and given to you by His grace in Christ Jesus, in much the same way that He provided the Tabernacle (and then the Temple), the Priesthood, and the Sacrifices in the Old Testament as means of grace and forgiveness in anticipation of Christ.

It is Christ, the Son of God who has become Flesh and now tabernacles among us, who brings all of this to completion and perfection.  And He does it, not only by His Incarnation, but by the way and means of His Cross.  He suffers His holy and blameless Body to be destroyed on your behalf, as the once-for-all Sacrifice of Atonement, as the Whole Burnt Offering, and as the sweet smelling Incense, by which you draw near to the Father and are received by Him and pleasing to Him.

So it is that Christ the Crucified — in His rising from the dead, and in His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father, into the Holy of Holies eternal in the heavens — He is your Reconciliation with God; He is your Redemption, your Ransom, your Rescue from the bondage of sin and death; and, as St. Paul has said, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus is your Righteousness and Holiness.

He is the Lamb without blemish, spot, or flaw, who has been sacrificed for you and for all people.

And He is the merciful and great High Priest, who ministers before God on your behalf; who has offered Himself in your stead, in order to make a place for you; who ever lives to intercede for you.

He is the sacrificial Feast, who gives His Body and pours out His Blood for you to eat and drink.

And His Body is the Temple, whereby God dwells with you — not only with His Life-giving Word and Spirit, but with His own Flesh and Blood — and you abide with Him.  And not only do you live with Him, but in Him; and He also abides in you, that is, in your body as well as your soul.

This is what He is aiming at and fighting for when He comes down from heaven, when He cleanses the Temple, and when He goes to the Cross: He would take up residence in you, that you might live and abide in Him.  It is a marriage of heart and mind, of body, soul, and spirit, whereby He gives Himself entirely to you, so that you may find yourself entirely in Him.  Not that He would rob you of freedom, life, and happiness, but that you should have all of these things, truly and forever, in and with Him, the true and only God.

So He enters in — by and with His Cross — by the foolish preaching of His Cross, which is the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name — and He cleanses you from the inside-out.  He drives out all that clutters up your life and crowds Him out.  Indeed, by the scourge of the Cross He topples and scatters and removes all of your self-righteous attempts to build your own temple and to scale the heights of heaven by your own wisdom, reason, and strength.

To be sure, just as the Cross appears utterly foolish and useless when the Lord Jesus takes it upon Himself, it seems to be flat-out offensive and dreadfully rude when He lays it upon you.  But as He has the authority to lay down His own body and life (in holy faith and holy love), so does He also raise it up again.  And with that same authority of His Cross and Resurrection, not only does He crucify you and put you to death, but He also raises you, as well, in and with Himself; and having cleaned house in you, He brings you home to God the Father in Himself, in His own Body.

As He is consumed by His zeal for the Father and for you — for He is “a jealous God,” and He is zealous for you because you are His own — so does He consume you by His Cross, and by His fierce preaching of repentance.  But that is only one side of the story.  He also gives His Body for you, and pours out His Blood for you, the Fruits of His Cross — the Meat and Drink of His Self-sacrifice — so that you may consume Him, and eat Him up, as your Passover Lamb.  In this Meal you find that He is not out to get you, but to give Himself to you, in order to give you His Life.

Thus, He is now “what is in you.”  Your body is a temple of God, not metaphorically, but actually.  Cleansed and sanctified by the Word and Spirit of Christ, by the water and the blood, and by His forgiveness of your sins, your body and your soul are a house of prayer and a place of peace.

For His Body is the Temple of God among men, given for you here, that you may receive what you are and become what you receive: The Body of Christ.  He lives in you, and you in Him.  This is a great Mystery indeed, but His Body is your Temple, wherein you abide with God the Father, and He abides with you.  For the Body of Christ is your Father’s House, on earth as it is in heaven.

This House of God, therefore, and this Altar of the Lord, where the Body of Jesus is given to you with His Word, is where you live.  This is your home.  Here you are safe and sound, hidden with Christ in God.  Here you have Peace and Sabbath Rest, because you are forgiven all your sins and reconciled with God by the Blood of Christ.  Here is your Food and Drink, unto life everlasting.

Let us therefore keep the Feast, for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed, and in three days He has raised Himself up for you and your salvation.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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