Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lent, Holy Week and True Freedom in and through Jesus Christ

So here we are, on Palm Sunday, celebrating the start of the most important week in history - Holy Week. A week which some two thousand years ago climaxed in the death, burial, and then the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. A week, the celebration of which, for the Christian, is literally, not metaphorically, a matter of life and death. As those who accept the events that took place, and go on to obey the Living Word - Jesus Christ - have Eternal Life.

And those who chose to ignore this profound sacrifice that God in His Mercy, taking on the form of sinful man, made on that first Good Friday, have no life, even though they live.

And for me, very few things bring this eternal truth into sharper focus, than the verse of an old hymn that I have been singing all week:

Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown ,

When thou camest to earth for me......

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word

That should set thy people free;

But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn

They bore thee to Calvary

O come to me heart Lord Jesus

There is room in my heart for thee

It is a very painful thing, a thing that causes one great distress, to witness, at first hand, once again, people who you know and love and share a life and country with, " mocking Jesus". Ignoring His sacrifice. Questioning the Bible account of this historic week - the very Word of God, which according to the Scriptures is God-breathed ( 2 Timothy 3:16). Ignoring the Passion of our Lord. Questioning the relevance of His Passion for them. And therefore " bearing Jesus (all over ) to Calvary". Why O Lord? What wrong has my Lord done......... writes the hymn writer with the same kind of pathos, angst and bewilderment. This Almighty God, in human form, who came to set us free - from sin and death, and ignorance, and from being a prisoner to the schemes of the Devil. This Jesus, who was obedient, even to death on a Cross. Why? How can the love for Carnival, Dance Hall music, the desire to be popular, to be rich, to have all the bling in the world, the quest for the ultimate in what life has to offer in its various forms; how can all these things, which are here today and gone tomorrow compete with the joy of serving God and enjoying life eternal? What do it really profit a man or woman to ..........but to lose his or her soul?

The longer I live, and the more I am allowed the great privilege of sharing in the deepest secrets of the human heart and experience, the more I am convinced ( and express myself very clearly, respectfully but without apology) that only the Christ who came to set people free, from all manner of afflictions, but all rooted in sin, can provide the peace that they ( we all) desperately yearn.

No doubt that's why the Lord led me to read time and time again the Ephesians passage about

spiritual warfare, and to send out the following text message to some of you.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes - Bible. Real Life - Put on Christ. How? Colossians 3."

It is the plan of the enemy- the devil - that we should not be obedient to the Living Word of God and worship Jesus as Lord and Saviour. It is the plan of the devil that we should ignore Holy Week - for all different kinds of reasons. Or at the very least, not place too much emphasis on events that took place a long time ago, "and we do not even know when", but view them as something which is of no relevance to a modern rational human being - which is even worse.

It is the plan of the enemy that different Christian denominations should argue about the Biblical authenticity of celebrating Holy Week. It is the plan of the enemy that " bun and cheese", and abstention from chocolates, alcohol and cigarettes, should play an important part in our understanding of Lent. The devil has all kinds of schemes to get us to shift our focus, even the baptised people of God, from concentrating, like St Paul, on knowing only Christ and Him crucified. How? That's why the Lord led me to read sections of Colossians 2, and then 3 in conjunction with the advice that :

Our struggle is is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of this world and against the spiritual forces of of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 5:12. NIV

This is why St Paul wrote: " As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV and

" And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ....." 2 Cor. 4:3-4. NIV

Those " Living Words" refer to non-Christians, but we, the 'redeemed', of God are warned in Colossians 2, and given clear instructions in chapter 3, how to " put on Christ", so that we too might not miss the significance of what took place on that first Holy Week.

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.......In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature....with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. he forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations,that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross........

Therefore so not let anyone judge you by what you eat or what you drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration, or a Sabbath Day. These are a shadow of things to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head.........

Since you died ( in baptism) to the principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules. " Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations, indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."

The essential point here is that, celebrating the events of Holy Week in and by itself, or for that matter going to church on Sabbath or Sunday in and by itself, or avoiding alcohol or pork or

" worshipping angels", all are of no account, unless in and through such activities we are drawn closer to the Christ who died for all mankind on that first Good Friday.

Having this understanding, of dying with Christ in Baptism - and therefore there can only be one baptism - and our lives now being in His life, Colossians 3 now helps us to put on Chris. So that we, unlike our disobedient friends, relatives, colleagues, can "put on Christ". And therefore be enabled to take our stand against the devil's ( many ) schemes, which include - in some instances illness; always, the fear of the finality of death; and temptations of various sorts all of which have their root in a call to disobey the Living Word of God, and "lead Him to Calvary all over again", this Holy Week.

Sections of Colossian 3.

" Since then you have been raised with Christ........set your minds on things above and not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God....

Put to death then whatever belongs to your earthly nature; sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed which is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips.

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.....

Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him.

O come to my heart Lord Jesus

There is room in my heart for thee.

I pray God that throughout this Holy Week, and at its glorious end on Easter, and forevermore, we may all pray the words of this wonderful hymn. Amen