Easter 2015: Normal or Abnormal?

Easter Apr15

Out of the darkness
new life exploded
All sin’s deceptions
fully defeated
He lives! He lives!
Life’s fullness He gives!
Jesus, Your Kingdom
forever established

Naturalists tell us that animals which exist predominantly or entirely in the dark, possess particular faculties that enable them to live in a world that to the rest of us is so abnormal. Yet for these animals, this habitat of darkness for which they are so superbly equipped, is the most normal.

So we could ask what is normal, the darkness or the light? To which we would most probably say that it depends on our perspective – whether we are the night prowlers or the day workers!

We could also ask a deeper question. How much of what we take for “normal”, would be “normal” in God’s eyes? We could, maybe should, ask this over all facets of our lives – our attitudes, the way we conduct relationships, the way we work, the way we behave, the ethics and morality we consider acceptable, the state of our health, the fruitfulness of our work … are just some areas we could reflect on.

Darkness as a Biblical metaphor describes the state that exists when we are in rebellion against God. It is the result of sin and the legacy of sin. Here, the apostle Paul is not simply saying that we are saved from sin. He is referring to the controlling influence that darkness has over our world. Yes, by the grace and mercy of God, we see his goodness at work – without which we would be truly lost. But we can’t escape from the reality that so much of what we see and experience in the world, is compromised by sin. It’s like seeing the world through a distortion lens. Yet we have lived with the distortions for so long, that we accept it and its shortcomings as normal.

The resurrection of Jesus breaks the hold of sin and brings us into the freedom of his new life. In this new life, our perspectives are different. Though our knowledge and understanding may not yet be perfect, we have a new lens through which can view and experience life. It is the perspective of light, not of darkness. It is God’s normality, not the abnormalities of sin. It is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, working in us (Ephesians 1:19)! It is the strength and power to break through the bondages of sin to live in the abundant life that Jesus promises us (John 10:10). It is gaining God’s perspective that lifts us above the despair of failure. It is redefining normal in God’s terms, not accepting the damage caused by sin, as normality. It is experiencing God’s supernatural in the natural.

May the resurrection life and light of Jesus fill you through his Holy Spirit.

Ship, submarine or sunken wreck?

God has given us a precious gift, in Jesus, of his rest and peace, which are to guard our hearts and minds for life. We in turn, need to keep our hearts settled in this gift. Too often, the voices that we allow to dominate us are those that arise out of the ways and views of the world, that shout to us of the need to achieve, to perform, to prove ourselves, to strive after what we desire and to assert ourselves if we want to move ahead. We even say to one another, “You’ve earned your rest”, or “You deserve that break”.  Yet, God’s way runs opposite to this. He doesn’t ask us to earn our rest. He invites us to enter his rest.

At times, even the idea of “remaining in Jesus” conjures up for us thoughts of whether we’ve done enough to ensure we remain in him. Have I prayed enough? Or attended sufficiently to studying the Scriptures? Or made the right choices in my decisions? We see rest as a reward for our effort. On the other hand, God gives us rest, as a gift of faith (Heb4:1,9).

Being a gift, we don’t have to strive to attain it or seek to find it. We simply need to receive it and remain in it. Which means, as Jesus told us, not letting our hearts be troubled, nor allowing fears to take hold, nor giving room for anxieties to crowd our minds (Jn14:27). Because when we allow these things to enter our hearts and minds, the natural consequence is for us to leave the rest and peace of God in which we are to remain and instead chew on the poisoned apple of troubles, fears and anxieties.

Entering and remaining in God’s rest is first and foremost not about whether we are doing the right things but about where our heart is settled. It’s a place we arrive at through faith and trust, not by effort and striving. It’s the place where in our heart of hearts we are truly surrendered to his goodness and sovereignty and will not fight him. It’s the place where Jesus “like a sheep before her shearers (was) dumb” (Is53:7) – a resignation, not to weakness, defeat and despair, but a resignation in trust to the purposes of One who was greater than him.

So, are you a ship, submarine or sunken wreck?

As a ship sails through the sea, so we could sail through God’s gift of rest. In contact with it, but never immersed in it. As the ship keeps out the sea, except when she needs some of it for ballast, so we could continue in life to our own tune, except when we feel a need for God, which is when we turn to him and try to take on board some of his peace and assurance. The danger is that living this way takes us further and further away from being close to the Lord and one day we find that we’ve lost the relationship and with it, his rest and peace.

A submarine enjoys life submerged in the sea. This may represent for us, life that’s immersed in the rest, peace and joy of God. But the submarine exists by keeping watertight compartments that keep out the sea. This may speak to us of the areas of our lives which we have not submitted to God’s rest. Usually, these are those issues that we see as being really important for our well being and therefore over which we want to keep control and so we don’t want to let go of them. The danger is that what we can’t let go of ends up dominating and controlling our lives and undermining our sense of well being. They take over our thinking and clutter our minds with anxious thoughts and burden our hearts with anxieties. It leaves us unable to hear the Spirit’s voice of direction and comfort, nor experience his peace.

The sunken wreck is totally in the sea and the sea is in the wreck. Although the two are separate, yet they cannot be separated. Here’s a picture of life that’s fully submerged in Jesus. He fills our all, with his all. His peace is like the filter through which we relate to the world. In our circumstances in life, the question whether “God will work it out” somehow doesn’t even get asked, as our hearts are fully settled in unconditional surrender to him and resting in him. The wonderful secret of the wreck is that in its “oneness” with the sea, it provides a place for the growth and development of all types of new life. As we remain in Jesus, through remaining in his rest, we find it to be the place from which we receive the power of his life – which is all we need to live life to the full, in his peace, love, joy and power … and to bring others into this life.

In repentance and rest is your salvation (wholeness), in quietness and trust is your strength. (Is30:15)

Click here, for the full podcast of this teaching (“Remaining in Jesus”, Parts 1 and 2), including added material to help us reflect on what keeps us out of God’s rest.