What Jesus Made Holy Week About

More than any other Gospel writer, Matthew records how Jesus spent the last week before his Crucifixion. From the city-snarling Triumphal Entry, through the public scandal of clearing the Temple, through the Star Chamber councils of the public religious leaders, Matthew gives a historically rare, almost day-by-day record of how Jesus spent the last week of his public ministry.

As I’ve read through the chapters, a theme has emerged that threads through almost everything Jesus said and did in what we call the first Holy Week:

Readiness for the coming of the Lord.

The managers of the Temple, with their perverse preoccupation with commerce, aren’t ready to worship God or love his people.

The fig tree, with leaves but no fruit, is not ready to be harvested by the master of nature.

The wicked tenants aren’t ready to receive their master.

The scribes and Pharisees, who should of all people be most ready to welcome Yahweh into the world, are too obsessed with their own glory to see him.

If it shows up in modern Christian thought at all, the language of “readiness” has been co-opted by dispensationalists pointing at their Rapture calendars. To adapt Chesterton’s language, the worst possible fate has struck it: it’s been associated with the unfashionable.

But if Jesus made it the theme – in teaching, action, and story – of his last big, public week, then maybe we could take a breath and ask what it might mean.

What are we making ready for?

First, what are we supposed to be ready for?

Jesus builds the expectation around a few key images / metaphors:

1. A harvest

The Temple, the fig tree, the tenant parable, and the prophecy of the final judgment show God (represented by Jesus) collecting the “fruit” of his people’s work.

Many Old Testament offerings came after major “harvests,” either of vegetables or of animals in breeding season. The firstfruits of Israel’s produce were offered to God, showing Israel’s dependence on his provision, before the remaining bounty was enjoyed in fellowship with God and with one another. It was a physical reminder that Israel, like all humanity, were stewards of God’s creation.

Jesus’ parables do address the use of physical “fruit;” but, as his indictment of the Temple managers and religious leaders makes clear, God also expects a “spiritual harvest” in the worship, well-being, and care of his people’s souls. We’re to be prepared to offer fruit to God.

2. An evaluation

Related to the image of the harvest, Jesus tells us that the Master – God – will examine and evaluate the work of his people. All through this section, people are judged “prepared” or “not prepared” for God’s coming kingdom:

  • The fruitless fig tree
  • The “fruitless” Temple
  • The sons who do (or do not do) the Father’s will
  • The man not dressed for the wedding feast
  • The sheep versus the goats

The combined force of teaching after teaching drives it home: we are to be ready to be evaluated by God. The next question leads us to what he’s looking for, but he’s looking.

3. A wedding feast

This may come as a surprise after the intensity of the second idea, but Jesus uses the language unmistakably often: there’s a party coming. In some ways, the end of history is going to look like a wedding feast thrown by God himself. There’s a joyful end coming, and everyone ready is going to be invited.

The rest of the Scriptures flesh out these pictures of the end of time: the moment when God blows the whistle on this season, and says it’s time to collect instead of work. When God judges the world, sorting the just and the unjust from one another. And when God throws a better-than-the-end-of-a-Harry Potter-movie feast for his people, swallowing up the shroud of death itself and celebrating the marriage of his Son to the Church, the Bride.

What does readiness mean?

So if this what we’re called to be ready for, who is and isn’t ready?

The God-glorifying versus the self-glorifying

One bright line is drawn between those who build their lives around God’s glory, and those who build around their own.

The parable of the tenants and the condemnation of the religious leaders makes this clear. Stewards, who didn’t own the property they worked and should have gladly offered it back to the owner, schemed instead to keep all the good for themselves. Leaders who should have been concerned first with God’s glory drew others’ praise to themselves instead.

A classical Christian definition of sinful man was incurvatus in se, “incurved on the self.” Those obsessed with their own praise or popularity literally cannot see God, because their eyes are too full of themselves.

By contrast, even the son who at first says “no” to his father, then changes his mind and does what he was asked, is declared obedient. The “tax collectors and prostitutes” (Matthew 21:31) receive the kingdom of God, if they turn from themselves and look to him instead. To be ready for the coming of the Lord is to be living for God’s glory rather than our own.

The others-serving versus the self-serving

Another bright line – maybe the starkest, in Jesus’ prophecy of the sheep and the goats (25:31-46) is between those who serve others and those who serve themselves.

The cursed in this prophecy aren’t cursed because of active sin: Jesus doesn’t say, “you starved me, imprisoned me,” etc. They’re cursed because they failed to care for others, because they did not take opportunities to do good that they could have.

By contrast, those welcomed into the kingdom – shocked as they are by Jesus’ words – are those who made time to serve the needy. Those who cared for the hungry, the poor, the stranger. Readiness for the coming of God is not a “heavenly-mindedness” that makes us step over the needs of others; heavenly-mindedness is giving our attention and our time to serve others.

The faithful versus the forgetful

This one may seem stranger than the others, but Jesus also draws a line between those who are simply willing to respond to God’s call, and those who get distracted. The parable of the wedding feast (22:1-14) contrasts people too preoccupied with their business to answer the king’s invitation, with the random people off the streets who accept it. A faithful servant keeps to his duties, even when his master is delayed; a faithless one abandons his post (24:25-51). The faithful bridesmaids prepared themselves to wait longer at their posts than they expected (25:1-13).

God has not told us when this coming will happen: Jesus himself said that even he didn’t (24:36). We’ve waited for 2000 years so far; it could happen tomorrow, or could happen ten or a hundred thousand years from now. It’s tempting as we get older to abandon our waiting: to start looking after concerns like our retirement, or those countries in Europe we haven’t visited, instead of God’s kingdom. But very clearly, God has said he wants to find his people waiting when he comes.

Waiting on this side of Easter

I was more sobered by this study than I thought I would be. The intensity of Jesus’ warnings feels more like a burden than a liberation. And maybe it should: Jesus had come into the city to die, and he’s told his followers they should expect the same. As we’ve studied in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has more often personalized and intensified the claims of God’s law than lightened them. We’re still called to readiness.

But Jesus’ death and resurrection give us two (they give us so many, but two big ones) tools to strengthen us in making ready for the coming of the Lord.

The assurance of God’s grace

The first tool is the assurance that God has buried all our sins, all our failures, and left them in the dirt. That anyone who turns their watchfulness – their faithful waiting – to Jesus receives a once-for-all victory over self-glory, self-serving, and existential distraction. That when we find ourselves in those things, we can confess them, grieve them, and know that they too were crucified with Christ.

The assurance of hope

We may wait our entire lives without seeing God return. Even in the few decades after all this happened, people were asking why God seemed so slow (2 Peter 3). With such a long delay, we can be tempted to give up hope.

But Jesus’ resurrection – his rising from the dead, into the seed-life of the new creation (1 Corinthians 15:42-45) – shows us that there is a new creation coming. There is a beautiful finish on the way. And as we make ready, we can know that the king is alive, and the king is coming again.

image: He Qi, “Women at the Tomb”

 

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Longing for the Kingdom: An Advent Devotional

I hadn’t planned on posting this to my blog, but it’s just too good.

For Advent this year, we had members of Soma’s congregations write meditations on themes related to four of Jesus’ Beatitudes, and compiled it into this devotional:

  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God

(we’re preaching through those Beatitudes this month)

In addition to the original meditations, we also have original artwork (for external and internal covers) by Abby Nelson and Jingo de la Rosa. And it’s all just so good.

If you’re interested in an Advent devotional this season, this one starts December 4; and you can go through it either on its own, or after listening to each Sunday’s sermon on our sermons page. Just reading through the content to get it ready for print was great for me, and I’m really excited to go through it day by day through this month!

“Better Than:” The Spirit of Fasting

If, like me, you didn’t grow up marking Lent, the whole practice of fasting may seem strange to you. I want to love God more, so, I don’t eat? Or maybe I do that juice cleanse I’ve been thinking about, because hey why not? It was kind of a New Year’s resolution and I bombed it in January, so I can try it now.

A few years ago, I came across a psalm that transformed my understanding of what fasting is supposed to accomplish.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:1-8)

David wrote this psalm “in the wilderness of Judah” – during one of the times he was on the run for his life. The “wilderness diet,” so to speak, would have been pretty lean: scarce water, scrubby plants, no fruit, maybe the occasional lean and gamey deer if you’re lucky. David is likely spending his days with the hollow feeling of not having enough to eat.

That makes the visceral imagery he uses to describe his longing for God all the more powerful. Instead of asking for a no-longer-dry tongue, “my soul thirsts for you.” Instead of asking for a full belly, “My soul will be satisfied [in you] as with fat and rich food.” He’s letting his hunger turn his heart to long for God more.

The emotional crescendo is verse 4:

Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.

That’s where the light came on. The spirit of fasting – what we’re supposed to understand when we give things up for God – is captured in the phrase “better than.” God’s love is better than life. God’s spirit is better than a spring of water. The memory of God is better than a steak dinner.

Fasting is giving up a good thing to remind ourselves that God is better than that. It’s temporarily depriving ourselves, not to practice self-control or feel like dirt, but to try to direct that longing to the ultimate good. As Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

That means that instead of just depriving ourselves, fasting accomplishes its fullest purpose when we replace that lack with something of God. We replace a meal with time meditating on the Bible. We spend time in prayer instead of with Netflix. We practice silence and solitude one evening instead of time with friends.

The good things in life are good; but God is better. If you’ve never practiced fasting before, consider these questions:

1. What is one “good thing” in my life that I think I need more than I do? (that I’m afraid to give up for a time)

2. How can I let go of that thing and “replace” it with God, to remind myself that God is better than that?

Image: “San Gerolamo,” by Caravaggio

A Lament on Behalf of Men of Color

Every so often, our church takes time to lament: to bring some piece of our fallen world before God and cry out for him to make it right. Just as the Psalms teach us to pray prayers of thanksgiving that we may not feel personally, to teach ourselves thanksgiving, they also teach us to lament even when a situation doesn’t touch us personally: a hurt in part of our church body is a hurt in all of it.

This lament was written into the shootings of black men our nation saw this week. Whatever happens with these two individual cases, it’s indisputably true that black men are treated with mistrust and violence more than other individuals.

How long, O Lord, will men of color live under undue suspicion? How long will they be met with the threat of force instead of any shred of trust? How long will they be killed by police officers at disproportionate rates?

We pray for justice to flood our land: every crack and crevice, from police encounters to jury rooms. We pray that all men and women would receive equal dignity, equal opportunity, in fact as it is in our laws.

In the wake of these events, God, we pray that anger and hurt can be expressed in peace. We pray for justice, not revenge; we pray for reconciliation, not retaliation. As we find ways to grieve and protest, let no other lives come to unnecessary harm. We pray these things, knowing that only your Spirit has the power to ultimately transform hearts. We know that only through repentance and reconciliation through Jesus will these things change forever. Our nation needs you greatly in this time. Have mercy, Father. Amen.

Reclaiming Meditation

When you hear the word “meditation,” what comes to mind?

A yoga studio?

Sitting cross-legged and trying to empty your mind?

For most of the West, “meditation” has generally become more associated with Eastern religions than anything else. When we stumble across the word in Scripture – in Psalm 1, say – we aren’t necessarily sure what to do with it:

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (vv. 1-3)

And that loss is a shame, because Christian meditation is a rich practice that was close to the heart of Christians for centuries. Look among the monks of the Middle Ages, the Puritans of the early modern era, or the evangelists of the 19th and 20th centuries – all of them, without fail, will point to words like Psalm 1 and commend this practice.

But what is it?

Not emptying, but filling

In contrast to Eastern meditation, which uses either silence or a repeated formula to try to empty the mind, Christian meditation tries to fill the mind with Scripture or other truths of God. At its heart, meditation is thinking deeply about God or about God’s Word.

One helpful if kinda gross analogy is that of a cow chewing its cud. Cows (outside of farms) can grow to hundreds of pounds entirely by eating grass: no small feat, if you’ve ever tried to live on protein-less salad alone. But cows can manage it because they have four stomachs through which food is processed; they swallow some grass, process it, spit it back up, chew it (that’s the cud), swallow again, and repeat, until they pull every bit of nutrition there is to pull out of that grass.

In the same way, the living and active words of the Bible can be that life-giving to us: but too often we don’t take time to get out the nutrition that’s there to be had. We skim a text, pray for 30 seconds, and go our way without coming back to what we’ve read.

Mind, soul, heart, strength

In putting this into practice, the most helpful way for me to actually meditate is to adopt Jesus’ command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. I don’t do all of these even in a good meditation session – and those have been few and far between since we had kids – but when I can, I try to look at a passage of Scripture through these lenses:

The mind: What is there to learn?

  • What’s the main point of this text?
  • What information does it have to teach: about God, about the world, about how I know God or live with God?
  • Does this remind me of other passages of Scripture? What extra light do they shed on the text?

The soul: What is there to imagine?

  • Is there a story or a poem I can try to make real in my mind?
  • What images or ideas is the writer using? What is he saying with those?
  • How can I put myself into the story?

The heart: What is there to feel?

  • What’s the emotional tone of this passage? What does the author feel so strongly about?
  • What does this passage show about what God loves or hates? Do I feel the same way he feels?
  • How can I paint the beauty (or ugliness) of this thing in a way that moves me like I should be moved?

The strength: What is there to do?

  • If this were radically true in my life, how would my day change?
  • What is God asking or commanding in this passage? How does he provide for someone to do that?

This is a sample list rather than an exhaustive one – there’s not a single prescription on “how to meditate” in the Bible – but hopefully it can be a helpful start!

Practical Tips

I’ll close with some very practical tips:

1. Silence is golden

If you can do this in absolute quiet, that’s hands-down best. If for whatever reason you can’t manage that, create an environment that’s as undistracting as possible: instrumental music without 30-second commercial breaks, etc.

2. Use pen and paper

At this point in my life, trying to think clearly without writing is like flapping my arms to fly. I need a journal if I’m going to put down thoughts in any coherent order for any amount of time.

Also, I do a lot of writing on the computer, but even so I focus better with a print Bible and print journaling than digital.

3. Try to memorize

Even if all you can manage is one phrase or one image, do what you can to remember it and come back to it during the day – the practice itself will make you a better memorizer, and will keep truth fresh in your mind.

4. Talk about it

I’m an internal processor, so I learn best through writing. But – especially if you’re an external processor – what you’re learning will stick better if you tell someone about it. Have a check-in with someone where you talk about what you’re meditating on and where it’s leading you!

Image: “Saint Augustine,” by Philippe de Champaigne

Why I’m raising support to work with Soma

This month makes one year since we started work with Soma Church in Indianapolis. One year of shaping her public voice (Communications), stewarding her Downtown congregational systems, and helping shepherd her Downtown members.

One year – one new website, a rabble of bloggers, a 200-or-so-person congregation, and three-nearly-four community groups later, I’m truly grateful for what I’ve seen and what I’ve been part of in God’s work in this city. This wasn’t our plan when we moved to Indy in 2013, but Allison and I (and our two born Hoosiers) are happy to call this “home” for this part of our lives.

One aspect of our life here that I haven’t blogged about before is that Soma can’t afford to pay me a whole salary. We were able to give this congregation a running start through a lot of external generosity; and even now, our congregation’s lead pastor raises a hefty chunk of his own salary. Our people are generous, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to be paid a full salary.

I’m writing this now because we’re starting our financial year; this will be the only piece I write about raising support, because that’s not the main thing this blog is about. But I wanted to take a moment to invite any interested readers to consider hearing our vision for working with Soma and consider partnering with us in this mission.

So if you keep reading this, you’ll read 1) Why Soma’s worth raising support for; and 2) how you could join our support team, either financially, through prayer, or both.

Why Soma is worth it

For starters, I’ve been in a couple of situations – summer missions, an unpaid internship – where I raised a bit of support, and I swore every time that any job that required fundraising was no rodeo for this cowboy.

So there’s that.

But in Soma, Allison and I have found a church we’re enthusiastic to belong to. I could list a lot of reasons why I love this church, but here are two:

  1. We confess our need for Jesus every Sunday

One of the most foundational truths of Christianity – maybe the bedrock existential reality – can be summarized in the words “I need Jesus.” I need Jesus, the Scriptures tell me, because as the active will of God he holds all my molecules together (Colossians 1:17). I need Jesus because, as the rightful king of the universe, his approval is the only verdict that really matters in time and in eternity (Revelation 1:17-18). I need Jesus, because only in his death and his resurrection am I reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

All Christians know they need Jesus – Soma’s not special there. But every time we get together on Sundays, we walk through a basic liturgical pattern of adoring God, confessing sin, hearing assurance, and (at the end of service) commemorating Jesus’ death for us. Confessing sin in particular – owning my guilt before God, without excuse – is a special act, because it makes me feel afresh my need for Jesus. It makes God’s grace sweeter, like fasting makes a steak that much richer. That liturgical practice is one thing I love.

  1. A great mission in a great city

Soma’s vision is to see the good news of Jesus redeem every aspect of Indianapolis – from individual lives, through families, neighborhoods, and schools, into local businesses. We’re involved in sharing the good news with our neighbors; with supporting a handful of public schools in the city; with helping men recover from addictions and be restored to their families; with cultivating dialogue between racial groups to further unify our city.

There’s a lot of exciting work going on. Some of it has borne fruit already – we’ve baptized people who had major spiritual revitalizations. And some may not bear fruit for years – we’re in process helping a few people find sustainable housing and work. In Soma, we’ve found an enthusiasm to see all these aspects of God’s kingdom grow in the city.

And downtown Indianapolis has both a lot of great things happening, and a lot of needed work. On one hand, there’s been a lot of generally-recognizable good happening in the downtown area over the last several years: economic development, people owning homes and neighborhoods. We live in a neighborhood that’s transitioning from being characterized by drug trafficking and prostitution to one with a stable, healthy population.

But on the other hand, there are still huge physical and spiritual needs in the city. We live down the street from a public school that may not be able to open again next fall; a number of schools in the city are failing, not able to serve their transient populations well. Our part of town has a lot of people who were left behind when the factories left Indianapolis, who have few economic prospects and little hope. And the population that is growing in the city is largely post-churched, loosely tied to a mainline church but with little knowledge of the heart of Christianity. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we’re glad to be part of that through Soma.

What we need

Those things being said, here’s what we need and how you could help.

  1. Prayer

We need people praying for God to work in the city; to guide me, my family, and my church deeper into reconciliation with him, and to make our work bear fruit.

I send out a monthly prayer letter to the people on my prayer team; if you’d like to join it, please email josephrheawrites@gmail.com to let me know and I’ll add you on!

  1. Giving

All told, we’re looking to raise $29,000 for this financial year (and probably the same amount for next). Any money that comes in over what I need in a year will go toward the next. You can email me with any questions you have on this, but the steps are:

  1. Go to our Giving Page and click either “Repeating Gift” or “One-Time Gift”
    1. (if you do “Repeating Gift,” it’ll have you set up an account, which takes an extra step)
  2. Select “Soma Downtown” for the congregation and “Interns and Residents” for the designation – that’s the fund that I get paid out of
  3. For a one-time gift, you’ll put your info in and that’s that; for a repeating gift, you can set it up monthly, annually, or whatever

Lastly, these gifts are tax-deductible; we’ll send a giving receipt to everyone who gave at the beginning of 2017.

Thanks for considering joining us in this season!

Image: painting by Indianapolis artist Kyle Ragsdale

Covenant Marriage: Present-Love and Future-Love

Western romantic stories run on present-love. Present-love fuels the boy-meets-girl excitement of Romeo and Juliet. Present-love drives the beat of Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You” (until he has to say bye, bye, bye, at least). Even marriage has to bow before present-love, if present-love leads elsewhere (like it does in every single romance in the new Musketeers).

The elevation of present love is also obvious in the Millenial approach to marriage: a 2014 TIME Magazine survey showed that well over half of Millenials like the idea of marriage, but would prefer a model where partners would have the option to reup or walk away after a set number of years. In other words, marriage is fine when we’re in love; but if love leads us elsewhere or “fades away,” we shouldn’t be locked into a relational framework that makes leaving hard.

Now, present-love is fantastic. I absolutely love my wife, and I love being in love with her. I love her being in love with me. I enjoy so much about her, and I plan for things always to be that way. Present-love should fill a marriage like cream fills a Twinkie. The Bible is all about present-love too; Song of Solomon is a book-length, blush-inducing panegyric on it. Check it:

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
    so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
    and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
    and his banner over me was love.
Sustain me with raisins;
    refresh me with apples,
    for I am sick with love. (2:3-5)

Oozy.

So the Bible loves present-love; present-love is great.

But it isn’t enough. And the covenantal nature of Christian marriage offers something greater than present love. Here are the man’s oath and vows from the Book of Common Prayer:

Wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?

I take you to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance.

This oath – this solemn statement of love, made in covenantal marriage – has nothing to say about present love. Every promise asked and every promise made is a promise of future-love.

The bedrock of covenantal marriage isn’t that I love someone a whole lot right now (though hopefully I do); it’s that, even in my early thirties or mid-twenties or late teens, whenever I’m making those vows, I’m promising that I’m going to make them true day after day after day after day after day, as long as we both live. It’s looking forward, not to what I hope will be true thirty years down the line because we’ve beta-tested this thing and it seems promising, but what I will make true, by God’s grace, as long as we’re together.

What makes future-love so great? Two reasons:

1. Future-love doesn’t change, though we do

There’s song by the band Voxtrot – they didn’t make it, but they were great – that’s both so clever and so painful:

“I’d leave you for the person you used to be.” (from “Soft and Warm”)

We change over time. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – it might be very healthy – but in one sense, we become different people as we age and (hopefully) grow. I don’t have the same preferences I did when Allison and I married, less than five years ago; I don’t have the same habits; even my temperament is a little different.

If present-love is my highest aspiration, then I’d better hope each iteration of Allison likes each iteration of me at least as much as she did the one she married, because there’s always the risk she’ll reach a point where I’m “too different,” or she becomes “different,” and someone else becomes more appealing.

Future-love promises that it doesn’t matter who either Allison or I “become,” because I’m me and Allison’s Allison; and we’re sticking together.

2. Future-love gives security rather than anxiety

Again, if we’re living for present-love, then we become beholden to wherever “love” (i.e., my feelings) might lead. I’ll always be wondering when I might feel like the National’s “About Today:”

Today, you were far away
and I didn’t ask you why
What could I say? I was far away
You just walked away
and I just watched you
What could I say?

How close am I to losing you?

By contrast, future-love promises an endurance that transcends circumstances. It transcends the small changes that can rouse up pettiness and grumbling. It transcends disagreements and fights. It even transcends being sinned against. It promises never to fight against my wife, but always to fight for her and for our relationship.
For Christians, of course, this is grounded in the steadfast future-love of God himself. The death of Jesus for our sin, which bought us to be his Bride, is the promise that God’s love for his people will transcend time and circumstance. He saved us, as Titus 3:3 says, when we were eaten up with sin and self-centeredness; he stays with us, not because we’re faithful, but because he has sworn his own faithfulness. God’s enduring future-love gives security to his own people; it also gives us a bedrock on which to promise future-love of our own.