Friday, April 29, 2016

160501 Consider Jesus

Hebrews 3:1-6 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
The letter to the Hebrews is directed at people who are sorta in the middle. The Lord wants to encourage them during a time of trial. It seems that the community receiving the letter contained people who had received Christ as Lord as well as people who were “on the fence”. As long as we understand that is the situation we will be able to understand some of the difficult passages. Today we look at the instruction to “consider Jesus” directed at Christian believers who “share in a heavenly calling”.
“Consider” is a word that calls us to “think about” Jesus. I am afraid that we do not think enough about Jesus so today we’re going to look through several passages in the book of Hebrews that teach us about Jesus so we can meditate on him even more. First of all we rejoice in the fact that…
Jesus is our great high priest. Let’s look ahead to Hebrews 4:14-16. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The Bible tells us that we needed a mediator to stand between us and God. Jesus is that mediator! Jesus came to earth and became human so that he could become a faithful high priest in the service of God. By becoming such a priest Jesus is able to enter into the heavenly places with his own blood to turn aside God’s anger at our sin. As a result of his taking on human flesh Jesus is able to recognize and sympathize with our weaknesses because he was tempted in every way as we are. Even though he was so tempted he never sinned.
Jesus would not have been a priest under the Old Testament system because he was from the tribe of Judah not Levi! Therefore, God made him a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17). As our high priest Jesus is able to become the sacrifice for us since he had no need of a sacrifice for his own sins as those priests of the house of Levi had to do (Hebrews 7:27). Praise God our sins are paid for by the shedding of Jesus’ blood. This also explains the changes in the law of God. Hebrews chapter 7 verse 12 tells us that, “when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” With the rise of Jesus as our high priest the Levitical priesthood comes to an end. Jesus is our high priest and…
Jesus is our example in prayer. We see Jesus’ prayer life in Hebrews 5:7-10. In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Since Jesus had laid aside his divinity and took on human flesh he had to pray, just as we do. Jesus prayed with a loud cries and tears. He did this because of the importance of the things he was praying about! We today do not seem to have the same intensity or earnestness that Jesus showed. Obviously in his human nature Jesus was under deep emotion in his prayer time. However, he was not heard because of the loud cries and tears he was heard because of his reverence. That reverence reflected a godly fear that we must learn to have. If he is going to be our example in prayer we need to recognize the seriousness of our prayers.
We are not to pretend that we have strong emotions — that’s hypocrisy! We need to see the world we live in through God’s eyes. We need to see the needs of a hurting dying world all around us. When we do it will be very natural for us to pray with intense emotional involvement and, as Jesus did, be able to expect God, as a merciful Father, to respond to our heartfelt prayer. We should accept, and be thankful, for intensity during our prayer time. Jesus prayed with intensity and we should recognize the horror of our world and our prayer should be influenced by that recognition. Jesus is not only our high priest and our example in prayer…
Jesus is our access to the Father. Let’s move ahead to Hebrews 10:19-22. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Under the Old Covenant those who came to worship could only enter into the temple courtyard. They had to be outside of the holy place, which was the first room in the temple. A priest went in there daily to replace the bread, to replenish the incense, and to care for the menorah. Once a year the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies. The Bible tells us that when Jesus died on the cross the curtain that blocked the view of the Ark of the Covenant was torn in two beginning at the top. From that time forward all believers are able to enter into direct access to God. The offering of Jesus Christ, once for all, gives us confidence to enter the true holy places in heaven.
Jesus is our great high priest; our example in prayer; our access to the Father and…
Jesus is our assurance. Let’s move forward to Hebrews 10:35-36. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
Those who are saved by grace through faith have a better relationship with God than the people of the Old Covenant. Since Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all we have been rewarded with a confidence they could not have had. They had to bring their sacrifice daily before the altar outside the temple. This was a picture — if you will, a “show and tell” — describing the work of Christ for us. There was no saving merit in that system of sacrifices. Old Covenant believers were accepted by God only on the basis of the future work of Christ.
Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. And coincidentally no access to God. Jesus did not enter into an earthly holy place he entered into the real holy place in heaven itself on our behalf. With his own blood Jesus gave us access to the Father. And full assurance that we would be heard when we pray since Jesus intercedes on our behalf and the Holy Spirit also intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:27)
Jesus is our great high priest and our example in prayer. Jesus is our access to the Father and our assurance that we will be heard when we pray.
Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith. Now let’s go forward to Hebrews 12:1-2. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
The great cloud of witnesses mentioned here seems to represent all those who have gone before us in faith. Hebrews chapter 11 gives us a list beginning with Able who offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain and continues throughout history to list many of those of whom the world was not worthy. We should imitate their faith as we grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord.
In order to do this we need to lay aside everything that hinders us! Every relationship that draws us away from God! We must destroy every argument and high opinion that is raised against the knowledge of God. Every thought must be made captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
We need to run with determination under direction of the Holy Spirit and when we do we will no longer seek to satisfy the works of the flesh.
Our Lord Jesus is our example in this matter. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith. Our Lord was running such a race when he went into the Garden of Gethsemane the night he was arrested. Jesus, who had no sin of his own, faced the horror of becoming sin for us so that we could be the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Having taken our sin into his own body Jesus nailed it to the cross so that we might be able to die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus recognized that he was about to face sorrow unto death but his prayer to the Father was, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)  Hebrews then tells us that the joy set before him caused him to be able to endure the cross, despising the shame. And now he is seated at the right hand of the throne of God in heaven interceding for us…
Jesus is our advocate. Let’s move ahead to Hebrews 12:22-24.  But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
The contrast shown in these verses to the ones just before it is a clear picture of the difference between the Old Covenant and the New. When Moses came to the mountain and the people saw the blazing fire, darkness, gloom and tempest along with the sound of the trumpet and a voice that frightened them even Moses trembled with fear (Hebrews 12:18-21).
We have come, by contrast, to Mount Zion the city of the living God. We have come to a gathering of angels and to the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven. We have come to God, the judge of all. In facing that judge we have Jesus, our advocate, as our defense attorney. As we stand before the judge on all counts we would have to say “guilty”. However our advocate will be able to plead that we have confessed our sins and he has — by virtue of his sacrifice — forgiven us of our sins and has cleansed us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) and has replaced our unrighteousness with God’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
We can rejoice in the fact that we have Jesus as our great high priest and our example in prayer. We can rejoice in the fact that Jesus gives us access to the Father and assurance that we will be saved. We can rejoice that Jesus is the founder of our faith and our advocate in time of need. We do not have to fear that we will lose what he is given us because…
Jesus is always the same. Let’s look ahead to Hebrews 13:8. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
As part of the Godhead Jesus is the same as the Father. One of the attributes of God is that he is unchangeable. We can define this attribute as, “God is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and he acts and feels differently in response to different situations. This attribute of God is also called God’s immutability.” Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 163). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
In the book of Malachi God said that he does not change and as a result the sons of Jacob are not consumed (Malachi 3:6). James reminds us that all good things come from God, “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17). We can rejoice in the fact that our God is not “wishy-washy”! He is steady and sure, faithful and steadfast in every way.
God tells us through Isaiah, “           “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11.… I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it (Isaiah 46:8-11). God is unchanging in his purpose and his promises. Once he promises something he will do it! Only a change in the situation, such as repentance on the part of the subject of God’s anger, will there be a change in what God has promised.
Jesus is our high priest who is our example in prayer as well as our access to the Father. Jesus is our assurance because he is the founder and perfecter of our faith. Jesus is our advocate and always remains the same. Since he never changes he can always be trusted. He is able to fulfill his promises to us because…
Jesus is the Shepherd who paid the price. Let’s move ahead to Hebrews 13:20-21. Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus earned our sanctification or holiness for us. As a result of his paying the price for us and rescuing his sheep Paul could write to the Corinthians and say, “Christ Jesus… Became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). We are to consider Jesus because he is everything we need: high priest; an example in prayer; our access to the father; our assurance; he is the founder and perfecter of our faith; our advocate who is always the same and — praise God! — Jesus is the Shepherd who paid the price for our sins so that we could be born again into the family of God. We are to focus on him and not on ourselves. We should rejoice in all the God has done for us through Jesus Christ our Lord.
When we consider Jesus we are considering everything we need. We simply need to have the mind of Jesus working on our hearts. Though he was God he did not choose to hold on to his position. He emptied himself and became a servant born of a woman at the right time to give humanity an opportunity to be saved. His name is so high that every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11). You will confess him as Lord in the judgment or you can confess him as Lord now. Is he your Lord?

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

042416 Loving One Another

John 15:12-13 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
We are commanded to love one another several times in scripture. In fact, Jesus is the greatest evidence of the love of God to us. In the light of His great love it is easy for us to go on a guilt trip. How could we ever measure up to that? Besides, when we are commanded to love how can we really feel like loving? Well it seems we are to do this the same way God does.
We see god's great love in Christ. In fact, Jesus was the demonstration of God's love. The Bible says that God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Love that will cause one to die for another is far beyond what the average person calls “love”.
We often see that love as creator to creation. We can see the love of God in the beauty of the world. However, that is pretty precarious, nature often turns its wrath upon us. In fact a major natural disaster is called, “an act of God”. Wouldn’t it be nice if an especially beautiful day were to be called “an act of God”?
The love of God was given in Christ to call us back to a relationship deeper than that revealed in nature. It is the relationship of one rescued from the ultimate consequence of his or her sin by One who loves them beyond their imagination.
God's love grows out of God's friendship. Normally we do not think of God as being our friend but He is the greatest friend a needy person could ever have. In the Bible God calls Abraham and Moses His friends. Jesus called His disciples "friend" and through them He passes that friendship to us. In fact, Jesus prayed for those who would believe in Him. This includes all true Christians.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21) This prayer did not stop with His loving us and our returning that love. This prayer went on to ask that we be one, just as God is One. The hurtful divisions in the Christian Church today are a rebuke to that prayer of Jesus.
His friendship should be the basis of our friendships. Those who observed His life called him a friend of sinners. Jesus ministered to people as friends and we should too! The only ones who felt His rebuke were the religious hypocrites. He never turned aside the hurting or the spiritually needy. This was His example to us to be a part of the answer to the problems of our world rather than a part of the problem.
When we have found the friendship of God in Christ we must share our good fortune with our friends and family. We need to be like the woman in Jesus’ parable of the lost coin. In that story a woman had lost one of her ten silver coins. When she found it, she called together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!” In the same way we are to reach out to our friends and family to share our faith with them. Not because we are somehow superior to them but that we have found a great treasure and wish to share it.
A deep desire for a friend is born in each of us. That is designed to draw us, ultimately, to God. As a result of finding that friendship we are granted the joy of befriending others on earth and receiving friendship from them. Let's make a commitment to make friends here among the people of God fulfilling Jesus’ command to love one another. Let’s then go out and make friends for the kingdom of God among those we meet everyday. No one is too far away to be received as a friend of God.
We need to share the gospel as a sign of our love.
The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it–or the righteousness of another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.
There are at least three things that must happen in order for the gospel to be clearly presented as the good news from God.
First, there needs to be an exclamation of the facts concerning salvation. And those facts are: A) all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
 B) the wages of sin is death! (Romans 6:23) C) Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins. (Romans 5:8)
Second, there needs to be an invitation for a personal response on the part of the individual who repent of his or her sins and place their trust in Christ. Jesus himself said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29). This is a personal invitation that seeks a personal response from each one who hears it.
Third, there needs to be a promise of forgiveness and eternal life. God promises, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Along with these three things there needs to be an assurance that Christ will accept all who come to him and sincere repentance and faith seeking salvation: “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)
Please, be sure your unsaved friends and family members hear the gospel and have an opportunity to respond to it.

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