OUR GREATEST NEED
“If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness,
So God sent us a Savior!
I have bemoaned that most of the teaching I have heard on the Sabbath has been unsatisfying to me because it is either viewed as a policy with a list of joyless regulations or as an old-fashioned obsolete shadow of the past. The sabbath policy people imply that God loves the Sabbath and created man for it when Christ said the opposite, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” So here is the New* View from the lips of the Savior: The Christian Sabbath is the Lord’s Gift for His Beloved to unwrap every Lord’s Day.
We learn from the highest authority that “the Sabbath was made for man.” We certainly need it and it blesses us. But we would have never had it had it not been MADE FOR US. And it was made for us by Him who needed no rest to woo us to rest and worship. What genuine love that presents the gift of the Lord’s Day to protect men from themselves and the exploitation of each other, to guard us against workaholism and burnout and lead us to a fully enjoyment of God and others!
If the Sabbath is just a rule, something I have to do, some duty or regulation, there’s no refreshment and no joy. Humans tend to view rules according to convenience anyway: I’m late so I’ll speed; taxes are high so I’ll fudge. The Sabbath is also not just a benefit that we can take or leave if we feel like we need it or not. Christ indicates the the Sabbath is a gift specially designed for us so this places a different motivation in our hearts. Now I don’t know about you, but I love gifts and the nature of gifts is to create ANTICIPATION, just ask any child before Christmas what she wants to do with the wrapped presents under the tree. The motive of gift-giving is from a heart of affection for the recipient, a gift is a token of love. Moreover, when you receive a gift from someone who loves you, your natural desire is to excitedly unwrap it even before the appropriate time. The Christian Sabbath is the Lord’s Gift for His Beloved to unwrap every Lord’s Day.
Jesus proceeds to claim His rightful ownership over the Sabbath when He adds, “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Jesus with sovereign freedom exalts himself over the Sabbath. The King is here and His Name is Wonderful! He is a Servant and a Giver and Lover so as the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus is saying, This is My Gift to Give not your Rule to Police.
The Sabbath is FOR man and TO God. Those who are in union with Christ are freed to enjoy His Gift of Christian Sabbath. A weekly gift for the ceasing of duties, resting your mind, calming your anxieties, refreshing your soul and engaging in the dynamic synergism of corporate worship! We are to think of the Lord’s Day not as a regulation to keep, not as a law that can be violated nor even of a benefit that we can take or leave but as a Gift given to us by a Generous God to unwrap every Sunday to receive the Grace that He wants to impart to us. A sustaining Grace which we desperately need and can only be found in corporate worship.
So don’t leave the Gift unopened: Gifts are not for taking or leaving. When someone you love and who loves you gives you a gift, you can hardly wait to unwrap it. If your lover gave you a gift and you left it sitting upon the table still wrapped and then you received another gift and you also left it wrapped next to the other on the table, what does that say about your feelings toward your lover? And when your lover arrives to see the wrapped gifts stacked up, what emotions are evoked? Remember: Loving the Giver means enjoying His gift.
Have you seen the show on Discovery Channel, called Dirty Jobs? The show profiles the unsung American laborers who make their living in the most unthinkable — yet vital — ways. They highlight jobs such as Charcoal Maker, Disaster Clean-up Crew member, sewage plant worker, and bone black plant technician. It is interesting to note that in the Christmas Story, the birth of the Good Shepherd was first announced to a small group of Shepherds who had one of the dirtiest jobs of the time. The birth of the Perfect Lamb of God was announced to those who prepared lambs used for temple sacrifices during Passover.
When the King of Kings sent out his baby announcements, he started with those at the bottom of the social register and invited men from the despised class with a lowly job, a group of devout men who smelled like sheep dung and crusted animal blood under their fingernails. Because of this they remained unclean and were unfit to attend corporate worship. But in the Lord’s heavenly wisdom He determined to utilize the marketing network of this small lonely group of dirty shepherds to make known the birth of His Son. A group of men, who likely knew more sheep by name than they did people. He chose outsiders, men who didn’t get invited to anything so that even you and I could come to Him, no matter how much dirt, guilt or shame we have. With dirty shepherds at the party, we would never feel out of place.
“If then we desire to come to Christ, let us not be ashamed to follow those whom the Lord, in order to cast down the pride of the world, has taken, from among the dung of cattle, to be our instructors.” – John Calvin
Sometimes kids help us to question things we’ve always accepted. Like the one child who asked his father, “Does the Baby Jesus ever grow up? Seems like he’s the same age every Christmas.” There’s a scene in a recent Will Ferrell movie where he is praying to the baby Jesus. He responds to the criticism of his family by saying, that he likes the Christmas version of Jesus the best because he’s cute and cuddly but still omnipotent. Some are offended by the scene in the movie while I think we should pay attention to what it reveals about us.
Ferrell’s words resonate a little bit with our wandering, independent hearts because we like the Christmas version of Jesus the best too. You see, if Jesus never grows up, He never makes any real demands on our lives. The baby needs us, we don’t really need the baby. But Christmas is more than cuddly omnipotence and Jesus does grow up to fulfill the offices of our Prophet, Priest and King. But perhaps the most important thing about the Christmas Story is not that Jesus is/was a baby but that in the Incarnation, God lowered Himself to the lowest levels of humanity to communicate to us about Himself using baby talk so we could understand.
Just for fun, here’s a link to a clean, edited version of the above referenced scene in the Will Ferrell movie, Talladega Nights:
I was an impatient child. Some might say that I still am. But I remember doing a lot of waiting when I was younger. And it seemed that I waited forever for Christmas to come. In fact, I began my annual anticipation of Christmas Day on December 26th. Christmas represented everything that was special and fun about being a child, a rescue from the doldrums of math class and sibling spats. I wanted Christmas everyday but the sad part was that I had to wait a whole year for it to come again.
Memories of waiting for Christmas as a child help me deal with my anticipation and expectation of Christ’s return. I know well the truth of the common proverb, “To one who is in expectation, even speed looks like delay.” While there are lots of things that I enjoy about the world He’s given me: my wife, kids, friends, church, coaching, teaching, college football, music, coffee, Gulf Coast seafood and Disney World just to name a few, I am still reminded everyday that this is not heaven and it certainly isn’t home.
So, I live in expectation of Jesus coming back sometimes with both eyes lifted toward heaven, but more often cross-eyed with one eye on heaven and the other fixed on the earth. I long for a world that is free from sorrow, death, pre-mature babies struggling to breathe, cancer, chronic pain, the pressure to perform, the compulsion to be liked, relationship difficulties, my sin and your sin. In heaven, all of that goes away in an instant!
Moreover in heaven, I get to realize everything for which I have been created as I get to worship my Savior with a pure, unsinning heart. I receive my treasure and He is Christ, my Creator and Redeemer. I get Him and my eyes will be fully opened to the totality of what He has done for me!
The old Scottish Pastor, Robert Murray McCheyne penned a poem in 1837 which expresses some of these thoughts:
When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.
When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.