Rolling Stones: Why The Torn Veil & Split Rocks Matter

It’s the most pivotal moment in history…

…Jesus…on the cross…

…a joy once set before him, now the weight of the world.

Battered and bruised, he waits; the darkness of sin in foreign space. The epitome of innocence now weeping for his father…

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

One can only imagine what it must have been like to be a bystander watching this wonder working power helpless on a tree…to stand amidst this moment in time as it became a moment for eternity.

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Would you agree?

If not, permit me to explain through the lens of some rocks, a veil and why it tore immediately after Jesus’ last breath.

During Jesus’ ministry, the holy temple in Jerusalem was the hub of Jewish religious life, a place where animal sacrifices and scroll readings were carried out according to the Law of Moses. In this temple, a veil separated the Holy of Holies from the outer court for three reasons:

  1. The Holy of Holies was a landing spot for God’s presence
  2. The Holy of Holies was a place of consecrated communion between God and the high priest.
  3. The Holy of Holies signified man’s separation from God by sin foreshadowing sanctification through atonement.

Isaiah 59:1-2 (ESV) and Hebrews 9:6-9 (AMP) capture this in tandem:

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

“…the priests continually enter the outer [or first section of the] tabernacle [that is, the Holy Place] performing [their ritual acts of] the divine worship, but into the second [inner tabernacle, the Holy of Holies], only the high priest enters [and then only] once a year, and never without [bringing a sacrifice of] blood, which he offers [as a substitutionary atonement] for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. By this the Holy Spirit signifies that the way into the Holy Place [the true Holy of Holies and the presence of God] has not yet been disclosed as long as the first or outer tabernacle is still standing [that is, as long as the Levitical system of worship remains a recognized institution], for this [first or outer tabernacle] is a symbol [that is, an archetype or paradigm] for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which are incapable of perfecting the conscience and renewing the [inner self of the] worshiper.”

To recap, that’s over a millennium of one high priest making one annual visit to encounter God under first covenant law. That’s intense. I can only imagine if memes existed back then, how many would hinge on ‘no pressure’ taglines.  Not to mention if John 3:16 was extrapolated back to Exodus:

Before God could send His one and only Son, He had one and only day to meet one and only mediator1, a high priest oblivious to how the blood of his lambs bode the blood of the Lamb.”

Of course, I’m being jocose in my paraphrasing. But perhaps you’re still wondering, ‘What does any of this have to do with Jesus dying on the cross?

To answer this, let’s compare Matthew 27:50-51, Mark 15:37-39, Luke 23:44-47 respectively:

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent!’”

Now, before we pursue our bottom line, let’s note some contrasts:

  1. In Matthew, we see the veil tearing and rocks splitting; no mention of the centurion.
  2. In Mark, we don’t have rocks splitting, but the centurion is introduced confessing Christ as the Son of God.
  3. In Luke, we have time stamps and are re-introduced to the centurion who this time confesses Christ as innocent. Unlike Matthew and Mark, the veil is said to have been torn prior to Jesus’ death.
  4. Interestingly, the common denominator in all accounts is the torn veil. While not mathematically confirmed by Scripture, Exodus suggests this veil was likely near 60 feet high and four inches thick meaning not even Samson could not tear this thing.

Merging the differences, the moment fleshes out…

 “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ Having breathed his last, the earth shook, the rocks were split, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was the Son of God!’”

From here, we can now grasp the magnitude of the moment.

Once Jesus surrenders his spirit, it’s at this point the veil tears; however, the orientation of the tear is significant as it didn’t occur randomly, but from top to bottom. The commentary on this can be simplified as follows:

  1. The significance of the torn veil was the consummation of Christ’s sacrifice and atonement.
  2. The significance of the torn veil splitting top to bottom was the Holy Holies now being open to all people for all times.

Put another way, the veil tearing top to bottom not only captured the movement of God’s holy temple from manmade structure to internal dwelling, but also foreshadowed the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.  No longer was the Old Covenant relevant where high priests represented the masses; rather, Christ could now be both our High Priest and the way to get to Him.

Hebrews 8-10 breaks this down beautifully, specifically when 8:13, 9:8-9, and 10:19-20 (ESV) are linked together:

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” 2

To quote Michael Houdmann, “The things of the temple were shadows of things to come, and they all ultimately point to Jesus Christ. He was the veil to the Holy of Holies, and through His death the faithful now have free access to God.

As for the rocks splitting, though often lost in context, this, too, is a meaningful anecdote. While the torn veil signified the tearing of Jesus’ flesh, reconciliation between God and man, and Christ’s post-salvation residence, the split rocks captured the effects these had on the physical world. A preview of the tomb, the split rocks were more than a consequence of the earthquake following Jesus’ final breath, but rather a permanent reminder for humanity that death is the ground of resurrection…that what happens in the spiritual can’t be excluded from the physical.

The rocks, in a way, also signaled the resurrection of our earthly bodies (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-54) and a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:18-29). Granted, theologies vary enough to warrant a second post for a different day; the bottom line is the rocks were both imagery and analogy to God’s sovereignty in creation, His power in death, and His intent for new life.

I love how John Piper paints this in Desiring God:  “The earth was shaken and rocks split by a sovereign earth-controller and a powerful rock-ruler. Human deaths don’t shake the earth and split rocks. God does. Rocks don’t have a mind of their own. They do what God bids them do. And they shook and split.”

Come to think of it, what a visual the rocks are to Christ’s identity as our everlasting rock (Isaiah 26:3-5), our fortress in whom we take refuge (Psalm 144:1-2). True, the veil reminds us the barriers once between God and man are now a pathway to walk in boldness (Hebrews 4:14-16), but the rocks remind us that pathway is also one we can walk in confidence.3

And that, my friends, is why we celebrate Easter: To commemorate Christ as our greatest anchor amidst a shaking world and our greatest security amidst a collapsing one. When life is unstable, He is able. How sweet it is to know the power of the Cross will always be enough to crack the rocks of life…

…that at the mention of His name, mountains bow down and the seas roar…

…the work of His hand having taken the nails for us

As we approach Easter, my prayer for you is that as you come into a fresh understanding not only of what Christ came to do, but what He longs to do in and through you in the days to come.

Until then, I wish you all a wonderful Easter full of peace and rest as you reflect on the ultimate sacrifice.

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Already the math gives me tingles
  2. Pretty remarkable how fluid those passages run when put together
  3. Courage is for today; boldness is courage matured; confidence is boldness matured. Shout-out to Benji Block for the breakdown. (Edited by Cameron Fry via Canva)
Cover photo creds: newagechristianity.org (Edited by Cameron Fry via Canva)

Kingdom Agents: The Reason We Exist (Part 1)

As mentioned in last week’s podcast, His Girl Fryday exists to bridge the bivocational divide between ministry and marketplace.

Yet, while our mission is to provide tools for your influence, give value for your destiny, and find the balance between sacred and secular, our vision…the reason why we exist…is worth discussion.

For starters, we see you as significant…a Kingdom agent made to influence (whether in business, church/missions, or both) who, like us, need routine refreshers of truth and how they apply in challenging situations.

For instance…

What do you do when an authority figure chews you out…

…or when a subordinate isn’t getting the job done?

How do we cope when a friend/colleague is stuck in sin…or when organic community constantly seems out of reach?

No question, there’s a whole lot of life to troubleshoot this side of heaven; however, while your worldview, your perception of reality, matters, it’s not until we apply a Kingdom grid to it that we begin to respond in a transformative way.

Thus, when it comes to why we exist…we exist to equip…to help you react/respond on God’s terms…whether it involves overcoming past mindsets and habit patterns or troubleshooting leadership/relationship issues.

‘Cause truth is: it’s one thing to know you’re significant, but it’s another thing to know who you are (i.e. a Kingdom agent) in the face of selfish tendencies and compromised philosophy.

Paul, in part, talks about this in Romans 8 when he says, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.” (v. 37)

What are ‘all these things’?

Backtrack to v. 35 – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword?”

Essentially, Paul is saying nothing can shield us from God’s love. Yes, we can choose to turn our backs, but this doesn’t mean we’re out of God’s reach.

Therefore, because God is for us and has given everything necessary for goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), we can take confidence in being more than a conqueror and extend it into our marketplace function1.

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As for this resource…

…it’s not only our heart to see the church embrace what God is doing in the marketplace…

…but our passion, as de-compartmentalizing ambassadors on the frontlines and sidelines of whatever race you’re running, to inspire ‘walk and talk’ alignment and connection among the bivocational/marketplace body.

That is why we exist.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll dive into why we, as marketplace ministers, must see ourselves as agents of heaven on a rescue mission.

‘Til then, peace to the journey,

~ Cameron Fry

Footnotes

  1. Basically, building and extending this confidence answers ‘why we’re here’

Cover photo creds: Image Paper Safari

3 Ways to Sharpen Your Sword

As I journey towards my 2018 resolutions, I’ve been increasingly reminded of last year’s renditions…

  • Lose 3-5 more pounds…check.
  • Talk more with extended family…check
  • Use social media less…check
  • Engage co-workers more…check
  • Read the Bible in a year…

…well, turns out I’ll need a few more months.

But that’s not the point.

The point is as I’ve pursued these quests, the drive to fine-tune the details within them has surged1 (more on this in a future post). Still, with the one goal outstanding, I believe it’s worth discussing how we, as Spirit and Truth believers, are to mature in our sword handling.

For as Paul explains in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Word of God is from the Holy Spirit and since every Christian is in a spiritual battle with the evil in this world, we need to know how to handle the Word properly.

Granted, much can be said about how we train offensively and defensively; for now, let’s narrow our focus on three practical ways we can sharpen our swords in 2018…

1. Know the Word

As one who’s never housed a protective firearm, it’s difficult relating to lethal proximity. Assuming I carried one, I imagine I’d be satisfied simply owning it early on.

But imagine I purchase a gun, hide it somewhere safe…and a week later an intruder invades. How would I respond?

Would my action not be dependent on preparation (i.e. how I studied the manual, familiarized myself with the handle, etc.), innate awareness, and calculated risk (i.e. what’s the quickest, most secure way out of the situation)? In what would be most beneficial to my family?

Unfortunately, when it comes to spiritual warfare, we often approach our swords of the Spirit like hypothetical ‘me’ with a gun. We know the Spirit lives in us, we know what the Spirit is capable of…yet are easily content in feeling secure within a covering we don’t know how to defend.

As Hebrews 4:12 states: God’s Word is His living, active, double-edged sword designed to illuminate our hearts and protect them from the enemy. The fact God would provide a penetrable weapon to reach the core of our hearts while destroying those with evil intent only confirms 2 Peter 1:3 (“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…”).

Therefore, if we want our swords to be effective offensive and defensive weapons, it’s critical we take them to the master whetstone that is Scripture.

Now I know this may sound confusing given Paul equates Word to sword whereas Hebrews associates through metaphor. Yet, if we apply John 1 to Ephesians 6 and accept the circular reference, we can better understand how a) our sword as armor is designed to be refined by sword as Scripture2 and b) the more we discover God and His ways, the better we’ll combat temptation and satanic schemes.

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2. Grow the Word

As mentioned, sharpening our swords requires the ultimate whetstone (i.e. the Word); however, if we want them to be maximally sharp, we must grow understanding in what it inspires.

Far too often, we cap our readership to God’s Word and pleasure material. We read our daily Scriptures, spend our fifteen minutes with God, only to fill our leisure with hobbies and extra-curricular pursuits. Yet, while rest certainly has its place, if we use it to shield ourselves from the divine inspiration in others…are we not lending God a partial ear?

For instance, my passion is to create content, but I know if I want to improve this skill while growing closer to God, I must invest time in revelations apart from my own. After all, if I forsake the inspired word given to a brother/sister in Christ, I not only risk limiting my understand of certain truth, but also locking God’s word in distraction rather than hiding His word for action.

Think of it this way…

…to read God’s Word is to exercise our spirit by truth; to discover God’s Word in authorized works is to exercise truth by His Spirit.

Yes, it’s true only the Scriptures are breathed out by God; however, if our aim is to be more like Christ, we must embrace how God is inspiring others through them.

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3. Show the Word

Imagine if I told my wife, “I love you. I may not show it, but I want you to know it.

That’s crazy, right?

Clearly, my love for her should be tangible, the evidence of promise as opposed to some platonic aphorism.

Of course, my wife knows I love her based on what I regularly sow; however, when it comes to living the Word, we must remember our mindset should be the same.

For as great as studying the Word and its inspiration is, it’s meaningless if our actions contrast our beliefs.

James 1:22: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Romans 2:13: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

‘Cause truth is: we weren’t made to just read and believe, but lead and achieve so others can discover their Lover. That’s why you and me are here.

As for our swords, we weren’t made to simply know what can be done with them; rather we were made to use them for the sake of sharpening them time and time again.

Like light at the top of the hill, our swords must reflect a life on the frontlines…a life that reflects Jesus yet also allows iron to sharpen iron. Only then can we, by the Spirit’s power, use the Word to save souls and nourish them with spiritual strength.

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Footnotes

  1. For instance, don’t just lose 3-5 pounds; lose 3-5 net pounds with 1-2 more upper body muscle pounds factored in
  2. In shorter words, the sword is what refines it (i.e. the Word)

Cover photo creds: kevron2001 – Deviant Art

Dear Church: Get Real, Not Relevant.

I got something to say…

…and gotta get it straight before the sun goes down.

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If the church wants to be a city on a hill, then why is it trying so hard to be relevant?

Not to suggest the church should be indifferent towards evangelism or complacent in discipling; I’m just sayin’ since when did the church become ashamed of the Gospel? Since when did she start making it about you…and your receptivity to truth?

‘Cause truth is: the church was never meant to be culturally relevant or well-received, but contextually real and eagerly given.¹

For what we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the wonderful things God has given us.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:12 (AMP)

 “[So I have intended] to come to you, in order that I may reap harvest among you…both to the wise and to the foolish. I am eager to preach the gospel to you…for I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” ~ Romans 1:13-16 (ESV)

Granted, most of you agree; however, in a time when church gets commission, but not Gospel…where truth is seen as content only worth its reach, it shouldn’t surprise us why many struggle to get God since what’s being modeled to them is more marketable than relatable.

Thus, it’s worth asking: How do we conquer the divide (be it deception, segregation, warped ecclesiology, etc.) in a way that gets us back to fishing for men without the bait? 

To answer this, we must accept…

  1. Relatability and relevancy are two completely different thing (more on this in a future post; ’til then, note Jesus’ interaction with outcasts (Luke 15, 1 Corinthians 5, Matthew 21, Mark 5, John 4).
  2. The world isn’t looking for church to be relevant; it’s desperate for something real, radical and revolutionary.
  3. When we’re reaching out, embracing in, and loving like Jesus, we never have to attract people to the Kingdom because it’s already there in front of them.

Remember the church’s call is to draw near to the lost like God, not draw the lost to find God.

Sure, our church may be in the midst of a powerful sermon series with catchy taglines to promote. But at the end of the day, what the world really wants is the reality of grace abounding as people love the way they know how.

‘Til then, I charge the church to get real about her entitled expectations. ‘Cause honestly, whether or not we’re in favor of a church’s peripherals (worship style, tech incorporation, service flow) or demographics (diversity), shouldn’t distract us from what ultimately matters – people fearlessly living and loving like Jesus…who are willing to resonate truth rather than make it relevant.

Remember Jesus didn’t die for you so you could be you; He died so we could be of same mind and heart so those lost and afflicted could join in. He didn’t die so you could be convinced how special you are; He died so you could tell others why they are.  He didn’t die so you could be served; He died so you wouldn’t have to worry whether or not you are.

And that, my friends, is what the Gospel is all about:  serving those deserving, giving to the living, bringing unity to community, telling not selling…I could go on.

Maybe you’re sitting there discouraged wishing things could turn around. If so, I want to encourage you tonight: while it may seem you gotta get your life in order to make a difference, you can make a difference in order to make a life.

Yeah, you may think you have nothing to offer, you make think your faith isn’t ‘attractable’, but given the Word says it’s who you are over what you have (1 Peter 2:9, Galatians 3:27-28), you never have to worry about having something to lose and nothing to give.

As for the church, I also encourage you: whether you’re pitching a product, promoting a series, or marketing a vision, never forget…

  1. The ‘me’ in ‘follow me’ (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17) is not about you.
  2. We’re called to make disciple-makers, not gain followers.
  3. Millennials don’t want your relevancy; they want your authenticity.

After all, when we “present a ravishing vision of a loving and holy God”, we not only capture their attention, but their hearts as well.²

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Selah.



Footnotes

  1. Vaters, Karl (2016, March 30). “Forget Being Culturally Relevant.” Christianity Today.
  2. Dyck, Drew. (2017). “Millennials Don’t Need a Hipper Pastor, They Need a Bigger God”). The Aquila Report.

Cover photo creds: Pinterest