Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Christ's Bride: the Betrothal and the Feast" - sermon notes for 06/06/10

(You can hear the sermon audio here)

Matt 26.26-29 and Rev 19.6-9

David showed us last week that God calls himself Israel's husband: Isaiah 54, "...your Maker is your Husband". The image of mankind being either in or out of a marriage with God, or cheating on Him, is presented throughout the Old Testament, and it continues into the New Testament when just as God the Father called himself the Husband, so Christ calls Himself the Bridegroom (Jn 3, also Matt 9 and 25). Paul continues the theme calling earthly husbands to follow Christ's eg (Eph 5.25-27).

The great climax of history as we enter new heaven/earth is described amongst other things as our groom returning for His bride (Rev 19). But first, there's another New Testament passage I'd like us to look at that seems to bear no relevance to the pic of Bride. Or does it?

Read Matt 26.26-29. Some manuscripts insert "new" = NEW COVENANT. A new marriage proposal. What does this have to do with the bride pic? Let me explain:

The Betrothal:

Jewish marriages focus on 2 separate parts: BETROTHAL and MARRIAGE. Nowadays it usually occurs together, but in ancient times these were separate: the betrothal itself was as good as declaring the couple married but they did not live together immediately as man and wife. Unfaithfulness within an engagement was considered as adultery. When Jewish man makes a betrothal, he presents the KETUVAH (written notice of the covenant being made). This protects the woman's rights. It is the written vows (Scripture!). If she accepts, she drinks from a cup of wine her bridegroom has poured out for her. The groom says: "I will not drink of this cup until we are reunited".Sound familiar? If he did, he'd be proposing to somebody else! He then goes away for a set period of time (up to 1 year; to prepare a place) when they are then brought together for the marriage ceremony.

Betrothal for us = an absolute promise by Christ that He asks for our hand for eternity. Absolute security, the promise of everything that matters, made possible by Him. And He didn't just humble Himself to get on one knee to propose this, but humbled Himself to death on a cross so that chasm between us and God might be bridged by Him. And he has now gone away to prepare a place for us (Jn 14.2-3)

At the Last Supper, Christ confirmed His betrothal: "Here's the cup, will you marry me?". And once He'd finished His work on the Cross, He went to prepare a home. One day he'll return to take those who said "Yes" back home with Him forever.

Do you know His security? Do you have confidence in His absolute promise to you? (Josh 1.5, Heb 13.5, 2 Cor 1.20a)

So we're between betrothal (as good as married, secure) and the wedding feast itself...

The Feast:

Rev 19.6-9

Looking forward to that great party with our King as everything is consummated, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that there's so much to enjoy now. Until our great wedding feast with Christ, we can find great excitement in knowing we can never know Him enough. We should be never having enough of Him! Are you enjoying the great romance?

Are you betrothed to Christ? Or are you only dating Him? Are you merely flirting with Him? Don't miss out on the great romance that is available to you, RIGHT NOW.

Equally important: are you betrothed to Him, but flirting with another? My marriage = not just a promise in 1994, but a daily promise. Same here. Secure in betrothal, FOREVER, but also a daily walk here and now.

...CHOSEN: v9: “invited” = who? = the Bride. No one gets in as a guest. You can't slip in as a friend of the church. You don't come to the feast as a distant relative. You're in or you're out. You are invited to accept His marriage proposal. It's up to you.

...ADORNED: v7b-8: What are those righteous deeds? Didn't Isa 64.6 say they were like bloody rags?
  • But, in HIM = Bride/Church's gown of righteous deeds is her groom's gift of grace
  • Eph 5.25-27: “sanctify”, “cleansed”, “present... to Himself in splendour” - our righteous deeds (Rev 19.7b-8) are a co-labouring, a responsibility, but only made possible in the first place by HIS cleansing.
Who are you adorning yourself for? Who are you trying to change for? Yourself? Others? Christ? Who are you trying to please? Flirting elsewhere?

Note: the gown of fine linen/righteous deeds is provided by Him, and meant for Him: Esther, as she was preparing herself for presentation to King Xerxes - when he chose her as wife - she was GIVEN the things she needed for adornment. She didn't bring her own make-up bags and fancy outfits she'd been able to afford from the Next sale: HE provided the cosmetics, perfumes and "Anything she wanted" (Esther 2.13).

The Betrothal:
  • Have you accepted His proposal? Are you only dating Him? Or merely flirting?
  • Have you been drinking from another cup/unfaithful?
  • Are you secure in His absolute betrothal/promise?
 The Feast:
  • Who are you adorning yourself for?
  • Are your deeds (linen) what He has provided, or purely legalistic WORKS?
 Cell Questions:
1.What aspects of life can we be in danger of flirting with? How can we be unfaithful to Christ as our groom?
2.How can we keep our eyes from straying away from our Groom?
3.Does anybody struggle with the security that Christ's betrothal promises? How can we help each other know this truth more and more?
4.Pray for each other, and share if appropriate, regarding our motivations: who are we trying to please? Ourselves? Others? Him?

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Beacon Touchpaper #23: "God's Welfare System, part 1: Shalom"

"But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jeremiah 29.7, ESV)

"Shalom" is a Hebrew word uttered by Jewish people as a greeting everywhere. Its basic translation is "peace", but it has a far greater meaning than some simple truce or state of mind. SHALOM encapsulates wholeness, completeness, health, fullness, rest, harmony, well-being... When Jesus often greeted the disciples with "Peace be with you" ("Shalom aleichem", John 20.19, 21, 26), He was not merely hoping they'd be calm and happy; He fully intended that they receive complete fullness through Him as Saviour. Shalom is the process of restoration to wholeness. Jewish people in their greetings are expressing a yearning for something that only their promised Messiah could bring. And He did.

We live in a broken world, where the once-perfect, FULL relationship between God and man has been fractured by the chasm of sin. And yet in Christ we find the complete restoration of that relationship once again. In His perfect life, death and resurrection, Christ has made it possible for us to be reunited with God the Father: whole and complete. Christ is also known as "Sar Shalom", the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9.6): His shalom extends beyond salvation to the ultimate restoration of all things to how they were first intended. And that restoration begins right here, right now, through us as His people.

In our nation, the concept of a "welfare system" guarantees minimum standards, social protection and provision of services. But these can only go so far in healing the cracks we see around us in "Broken Britain": abuse, anger, addiction, hurt, sickness... Nothing will ultimately heal these except for Christ's shalom. And in the same context, when God spoke to the Jewish people through the prophet Jeremiah about their place of exile, He told them to "seek the welfare of the city". That very same word translated as welfare is... "shalom".

We too are called to seek the shalom - wholeness - of those around us through meeting their needs and expressing Christ's love for them. Look for the needs around you and be Christ to them. That's God's welfare system. We will continue to study this verse in depth over future Touchpapers but in the meantime, "Shalom aleichem". Peace be upon you and our town.


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