Monday, 8 August 2016

The promises of God

Today is all about Promises.
The Grand theme running through today’s readings and indeed through the entire Bible – the golden thread that joins everything together - are Promises made and Promises kept.
The Golden thread that binds the whole of the Old Testament together is that God has made promises to the whole of humanity, in fact the whole of creation, that in the end, Justice will prevail, Good will overcome evil, Death itself will be defeated and a glorious future of Life love and peace awaits those who keep the faith and the whole of the New Testament is a record of those promises of God having been kept.
Today in Hebrews we are given the start of a long list of characters from the Old Testament who believed the promises but never saw them fulfilled. For faith as the author writes (v 1) is this “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.
Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua and then a whole host of minor characters, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets.
They all believed the promises given by God and they all acted in faith but never saw the promises being kept. They trusted God despite not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
That same Golden thread that weaves its way through the Old Testament emerges in the New Testament which is the record of all the people who saw that light shining in the darkness, recognised the light and realised that God had acted decisively to fulfil his promises made.
In short, Christian faith is trust that the promises of God have been fulfilled in the man Jesus Christ.
Let us remind ourselves of those promises. The promises of God are that in the end, evil would be defeated, Justice would prevail, the righteous would be saved, there would be a new heaven and a new earth, God’s Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, and we would be brought close to God and live with Him together in paradise. God would be all in all.
On the cross Christ defeated evil and opened a door to give us direct access God. Jesus described himself as the “gate” to the sheepfold as well as the shepherd. No one comes to the Father except through Him.(John 10:9)
Jesus asked the Father to pour out his Holy Spirit on all flesh on those who respond in faith and Pentecost is the festival on which we celebrate that fact. (Joel 2:28, Isaiah 44:3, Acts 2:17)
Jesus rising from the dead is the supreme sign given to us that the new Heaven and the new earth have been inaugurated. Jesus is called the firstborn from the dead. “Firstborn”(Colossians 1:18), meaning that many are going to follow and live forever in the new heaven and the new earth.
In the cross and resurrection we have seen the promises of God inaugurated but without being totally consummated.
We the church, the standard bearers and witnesses to the resurrection live in the time between the promises being announced but before the final end when the whole of time and history will be brought to an end only in order that the new beginning is known and seen by all and God will be all in all and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
So there is a gap and the church is living in the gap between the Kingdom being started and finally being fulfilled, so just like all those characters in the Old Testament, Jesus tells us to have faith. 
Jesus tells us in Luke’s gospel not to get complacent or lose faith for our reward is coming. He tells us “stay dressed for action, and keep your lamps burning and be like men who are waiting for their master to return home from the wedding feast so they may open the door to Him when he comes and knocks.”(12:35)
This will happen when we least expect it.
None of us knows when our life will be taken from us and Jesus implores us to be ready. Any one of us could die today. We can die safe and certain of our own salvation and be at peace in the knowledge that Jesus is with us always and forever, or we could die as a stranger to God and be conflicted, frightened and alone.
So faith is still important even though we, as believers are witnesses to the resurrection.
We occasionally sing a hymn in church which is apt for today which goes

When we walk with the Lord
  In the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way;
  While we do His good will,
  He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
  But to trust and obey.