During the twenty years that we lived overseas, I often lost track of upcoming American holidays. Before wide-spread internet connection, I have to admit that the last Monday of May was usually spent with end of the year parties and summer plans.
Yet, I vividly remember my first Memorial Day weekend back in the states in 2007. As our church sang patriotic songs and remembered those who had died for our freedom, I was moved to tears and ashamed that I had so seldom celebrated this national holiday.
First called “Decoration Day”, the Memorial Day-type observance began as a day to decorate the graves of fallen Civil War heroes. Although placing flowers on the tombs began as early as the first year of the Civil War, it wouldn’t be until over 100 years later that the federal government would set aside a specific day to observe the holiday.
As Christians, today should be a very special day for each of us. Of course, we must remember those who have given themselves for our country’s freedom and thank the families of those who are remembering their loss.
But, we have another death to remember. That of our own.
Our old self died when He died (Romans 6:6).
Let’s take some time today to remember this glorious fact and visit our own gravesite.
When God looks at who you were before Christ, He sees a dead man – complete with coffin and tombstone. Your body of sin has be done away with, so that you no longer have to be at sin’s beck and call (Romans 6:7).
Remembering our old man doesn’t create any fond memories within us. That was one life that we can rejoice with its passing. When we were made to die to that old way of life, we were then released to enter into a whole different life that was already blameless and free: the very same Life of Christ (Romans 7:4).
With our gravesite full, we have been released from the rules and regulations of offending God. Christ can’t offend Him – so neither can we. Instead, we can serve God on the other side of the grave – in newness of Spirit – not the tit for tat of the Law-regulated living (Romans 7:6).
Spend a moment at your own burial plot.
As you walk away, know that you will probably need to come back here tomorrow.
Because remembering that we are already dead to sin helps us live like we are already in the heavenlies.
(What’s in your sarcophagus?)
“Do you have a minute?”
The young woman at the mall kiosk approached eagerly, hoping to entice passerbys with her product. As I glanced at her small booth, I noticed the slick display included everything needed for renewed energy. Everything that is, except a chair.
As I skirted past her counter, I remembered a Biblical work place without available seating. Adorned with a gilded, golden lamp stand and life-sized angels guarding the mysterious mercy seat, the temple never provided chairs for it’s ministers. “Every priest stands daily,” says the writer of Hebrews (10:11).
The girl at the mall kiosk stood because her employer wanted to make sure she remained busy. The absence of proper seating in the tabernacle was for a slightly, different reason. Their priests simply never completed the work. “Every priest stands daily…offering…the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11). They never got finished.
Day after day. Month after month. Year after year, they kept the rules. But, “the Law…never by the same (continual) sacrifices year by year…(made) perfect” (Hebrews 10:1). Obviously, regulating religion wasn’t the balm for a clear conscience (Hebrews 9:9). So, over and again, the priests continued their endless task, upright on their feet.
All that standing kinda wears you out, doesn’t it?
But notice the difference when Jesus ministered. “He, having offered one sacrifice for sins…sat down” (Hebrews 10:12). He has perfected “for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). “It is finished!” He announced (John 19:30). Your sin problem has been resolved permanently. Your guilt has been eliminated for all time. And when He returns for us, He is appearing “a second time for salvation without reference to sin” (Hebrews 9:28). Hallelujah!
It was the “obedience of the One” that made us righteous, not our own rigid adherence of the law (Romans 5:19). So, even though I know that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh”, I still have reason to shout out my thanks to God (Romans 7:18, 25). I still mess up, but “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Isn’t that great news?
Today, the Jewish priests are still standing at the temple to minister. The lady is probably still standing at the kiosk at the mall. But, praise the Lord, Jesus has sat down at the right Hand of the Father. “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). No matter what your situation says, “let us hope fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Let’s believe!