JESUS IS – THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST

March 1, 2021

Minister In a Robe

As far back as I can remember I loved going to church, yes, even our Lutheran church. But back in the day, way back, as when Jesus led the youth group, there was no such thing as a children’s church during the service. This archaic behavior meant that all kids, irrespective of age, had to sit (suffer) dead silent and totally still in the pew, or else, “God was going to get us!” But even as an “ants-in-the-pants” tiny lad, I was awed by the spectacle of the service, especially what was called the “homily.” Nevertheless, one thing puzzled me, “Why did the guy doing most of the talking wear a black robe? My parents didn’t know the answer but it looked as awesome as it did mysterious.

 

In many liturgical churches today, ordained ministers still wear what we Methodists like to call, “John Wesley’s Business Suit.” In antiquity, however, the ministerial robe was designed as a symbol of humility. Today, more with the prestige and “set-apartness” of the minister in mind. Before I take this horribly hot and heavy thing off, how do I look (lol)?

 

Series Recap

Thus far in our “Jesus Is” series we have seen that Jesus is the Divine Creator, the Perfect Man, and the Solitary Savior. Today we look at another aspect of his being as we go to Hebrews 4:14-16,

 

Heb. 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

High Priest Aaron

The Hebrew pastor is the only New Testament author that calls Jesus, the “Great High Priest” (pontifex maximus). Throughout his amazing book he compares Jesus with two other famous high priests, Melchizedek and Aaron. To do justice to Melchizedek we’d have to do a deep dive mid-week study on him so today let’s focus on Aaron.

 

Aaron,  Moses’ older brother, was the first high priest of Israel (Exodus 28:1). God established the priesthood through him and then designated his family, the Levites, as the priestly tribe of Israel. As high priest, Aaron had three major functions: (1) Steward  the “Urim and Thummim.” (2) Supervise the sacrificial system, that was designed to remove the daily sins and guilt of the people through the sacrifice of animals and grains. (3) Make sacrifices on the Day of Atonement.

Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement was a national holiday which was celebrated  on the 10th day of Tishri (7th month, Sept-Oct- Yom Kippur). On this highest of holy days, Aaron offered sacrifices for the sins of the entire nation. He could do so only after replacing his regular priestly vestments (tunic, sash, robe, ephod, and breastplate), with a simple white linen garment (holiness). After undergoing a series of ritual cleansings, he was then consecrated with the “oil of anointing.” He was then eligible to enter into the section of the Tabernacle called the “Holy of Holies.”

 

Once in the Holy of Holies, Aaron offered sin offerings to God. These consisted of a bull for his own sins and two goats for the sins of his people (one sacrificed, one released). After the bull and goat were sacrificed, Aaron sprinkled their blood on that part of the “Ark of the Covenant” designated as the “Seat of Mercy.” He did this seven times. If God was pleased with the pomp, pageantry, and procedure, he allowed his “shekinah” (glory) to materialize in the form of a cloud to rest atop and within the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34, 5). This was a visible sign that God had forgiven all the sins his people committed in the past year. What was being graphicly/gruesomely displayed on the Day of Atonement, however, was that the act of atonement itself (covering/removal of sin) was costly, and demanded a steep and valuable sacrifice. This is why Hebrews 9:22 makes clear that, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Leviticus 11:27).

 

The Great High Priest

With this background ensconced in the minds of his listeners the Hebrew pastor contrasts Jesus’ high priestly administration with that of Aaron’s. As “Great High Priest” Jesus is:

Merciful and faithful (2:17).

Passed through the heavens (4:14).

Sympathizes  with our weaknesses and tempted in every way we are,

yet without sin (4:15).

Selected and Anointed by God above everyone else (5:1).

Has the character of Melchizedek (5:10, 6:20).

Saves completely, is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners,

exalted above the heavens, and always prays for us (7:25, 26).

Sits at the right hand of majesty in heaven (8:1).

High priest of a greater and perfect tabernacle not man-made,

and not a part of this creation (9:11).

Both Sacrificer and Sacrificed (9:25).

Atoned for our sins not with the blood of animals but his own blood (13:11).

 

Why is it important that we know Jesus as our “Great High Priest?” Many are the reasons but the two explicit in our text are that we might “Hold Firmly” and “Go Boldly!”

 

Hold Firmly

The first is to “Hold firmly!” Hold firmly to what? “To the faith we confess” (“unswervingly to the hope” 10:23). The Hebrew pastor is writing to a congregation that is being severely bludgeoned by persecution (Hebrews 10). They are ready to throw in the towel. So he encourages them, not with a “rah-rah sock them in the jaw” speech, but with the understanding that their “Great High Priest” sympathizes with their suffering because He Himself suffered so much. Ever feel like surrendering in the “Fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12)? If so, hold firmly to that glorious day you first confessed Jesus as your Savior and remember that although your circumstances might have changed, He has not! He is, as Hebrews 13:8 reminds us, “The same yesterday, today and forever.”

 

Go Boldly

The second thing is “Go Boldly.” Go boldly where? “To the throne room of grace.” As we saw previously, Aaron, and only Aaron, could go once a year into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. He did so, not with confidence, but in fear and trepidation worried if God would accept his sacrifice. Because God did accept the once-and-for-all sacrifice Jesus made for us on the Cross, not only are our sins atoned for but he opened up heaven for all of us. Now, we at any time can go boldly into the throne room of our heavenly Poppa and let him know what we need! The “go boldly” command is really a call to prayer, i.e., big, bold, and audacious prayer prayed in faith. If you don’t have a prayer life, get one now because the God who loves you so much that he died for you, is waiting for you to come and pay him a visit

 

*Jesus is on the Mainline-Tell Him What You Want*

 

Conclusion: Confession Cards

Jesus is our “Great High Priest” who has removed our sin and opened up the holy of heavenly holies for us. Let’s practice holding firmly to the faith we confess by filling out our confession cards and let’s do our best to spend at least 15 minutes a day in prayer with him starting this week.

It’s Personal!

Luke 19:2-4

A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

 

I am doing a Bible study with the Middle Schoolers, and the title will be “It’s Personal.”  I think I am getting more out of it than the group is.  Praying they will!  To think Jesus knows me by name is an amazing thought to me!  I know HE is there and I can come to HIM anytime, but to see me personally over the crowd, WOW! What a comforting thought to have?   I need to have a drive like Zacchaeus had, to climb a sycamore tree, to see what this man Jesus was all about.

We already have someone in our life who knows us in a personal way.  Jesus knows every single one of us by name, not because He has to, but because He WANTS to. He WANTS to know us in a real, personal way. Maybe it’s hard for us to believe that Jesus WANTS to know us personally for reasons similar to feeling; He’s too big and important to notice us? We haven’t heard or seen Him? We don’t know much about Him and aren’t sure if He’s real? We feel like He only cares about judging us and making rules? We feel like He wouldn’t want to be close to us if He knew who we really are and the decisions we’ve made? No matter what we think or feel about Him, Jesus knows our name because to Him, it’s personal.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV).

I challenge you to climb that sycamore tree to see what Jesus has in store for you.  God wants us to have a personal relationship with him and wants us to serve our neighbors with all the love and gifts HE gives us.  So let us do this, let us take the climb.

 

Kathy

Jesus the Perfect Man

Introduction:

In companion with our “God Is” series we launched our “Jesus Is” series last week and discovered that Jesus is fully God like the Father is fully God and that he is the Divine Creator of all things. Unlike his Father (and us) however, Jesus has both a divine nature and a human nature. Today, we take a minute to look at the human nature of Jesus.

Da Scriptures

Jesus’ human nature is clearly taught in the Scriptures. In the prologue of his Gospel John writes (1:14)

The Word became flesh and lived with us.

In his epistle John adds (I John 1:1)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

Paul writes in Galatians 4:4

When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law.

In what is known as the first hymn of the early church, Paul tell us in Philippians 2:5-8

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Colossians 2:9 and 1 John 4:2 speak of the physicality of Jesus

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.

Every teaching that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.

Human Emotions

We are now over 2 millennia past the original Christmas. Thus, our natural tendency is to emphasize the divinity of Jesus over his humanity. So this week I asked some folks what the most wanted to know about the humanity of Jesus? The majority responded they wanted to know if he truly experienced the feelings we do? Indeed he did. Jesus wasn’t like a detached and emotionless robot acting human like Arnold Swarzenegger’s terminator did in the greatest movie of all time, “The Terminator.” Jesus wasn’t artificial intelligence and he wasn’t a ghost in a shell, or as the Germans put it, “Ex Dues Machina.” He was truly human and as such he experienced every human emotion. For instance, Jesus lived, laughed, cried and died. The prophet Isaiah didn’t call him “a man of great sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) for nothing.  However, he also experienced happiness and bliss. Furthermore, he was thoughtful, empathetic, sympathetic, compassionate, and caring. He exhibited courage, boldness, fear, and disgust. He had a wonderful sense of humor as he was constantly needling his disciples – most of the time calling them big babies. He experienced the pain of rejection and ridicule, loneliness and isolation. Betrayal (thanks Judas) and temptation (yet with no sin-Hebrews 4:15). He had his share of friends and enemies.

Emotional Intelligence

However, although he experienced the full-range of emotions he never let them control his attitude or cause him to do something he might regret. In this way, Jesus had tremendous emotional intelligence, i.e., self-awareness in that he knew what he felt and why he felt it. Therefore, he could manage his emotions before they managed him. Moreover, his personality was the perfect blend of extravert-ism and introvert-ism and being task oriented and people oriented. He also had spiritual intelligence, social intelligence, and relational intelligence (excluding marriage intelligence, because he was smarter than we are lol).

He also had intelligent intelligence in that as God he knew everything but as human he had to learn everything. As Luke 2:52 tells us, Jesus “Grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” He also had physical intelligence. The Greek word “techna” means craftsman and infers that Jesus was proficient in the trades of his day, not just carpentry. In other words, he was more of a general contractor and as such, he had the skills to pay the bills. Heck, he even had culinary skills as he made breakfast for his disciples. Just like us, however, he had to get up every day and grind out a living even before he began his public ministry at the age of 30.  Thus, he got tired, bored and on occasion, frustrated.

Jesus experienced the personal issues we do. As a biological organism, he had to blow his nose, brush his teeth, take baths, make trips to the restroom, sleep, eat, and even clip his toenails (deodorant?). It almost sounds irreverent to point out these things but they are certainly true.

Aging

Moreover, Jesus experienced the dynamics of aging. Although we know nothing of his life from the ages of 12-30 we do know that he was an infant, toddler, and grew through pre-pubescence, puberty, adolescence, early adult, and adulthood along with all the growing pains associated with that process. At the age of 33 he laid down his life for us on the Cross. From our perspective that’s not only tragic but way too young. However, life expectancy in his day was only 35. Now, I’m not suggesting he was ready for the nursing home or assisted living, but he was well past his physical peak at his death. Thus, he endured, much like we do today, all the bumps, bruises, and incumbrances of aging. Although he had power to heal himself there is no evidence he did and my bet is he didn’t. Remember, he laid aside his “omni” qualities to truly experience what it meant to be human.

Why?

In sum, Jesus was as “flesh and blood” in every way we are, in every way possible. Of course, the biggest difference being that he was perfect, sinless, and flawless, and we, not so much. Jesus was the perfect man. But why? Why did God even bother to become human with all of its weaknesses and vulnerabilities, limitations and ignominy? I mean, at the end of the day, being human kind of sucks, you know, with that mortality rate always hovering around 100%? There are many reasons, which we will flesh out in the remainder of our series, but for now let’s cover two.

A Theological Reason. Jesus created the physical world as “good” with humans as the crescendo of his creative acts. Jesus taking on a physical body and then rising from the dead physically, signals that his creation is still good and will be fully restored in the New Heavens and New Earth. This is why God didn’t send an angel, or another kind of medium, to save us. Instead, he sent us his Son, the Perfect Man.

A Practical Reason. Scripture tells us that we are “Fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and made just a “Little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5). Paul said in I Timothy 4:8, “Physical exercise is of some value, but godliness has value in all things.” Thus, it is God glorifying to exercise and eat right as, and to do so both as an atomic habit and spiritual exercise! God cares about how we treat our bodies so for some of you it’s time to get active and turn that mush into muscle. We are not to neglect them or do anything to purposely to abuse them (10 hours of screen time per day-yuck).

Conclusion:

By far Jesus is the most fascinating person of all. He is truly divine and truly human, the perfect Son of God and perfect Son of Man.  Let’s be in awe of who he is and praise him forevermore. Amen!

Word of God Stands Forever

Isiah 40:8

The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” – Isaiah 40:8 

One year we grew sunflowers in our back yard and for some reason that year they came up beautiful and full of color.  Normally if you know me I do not have a green thumb, its so bad that I can kill a cactus.

One day they were beautiful sunflowers and a week later they were dead.  Could you imagine if the Word of God fades like the sunflower, here one day and gone tomorrow.  Thank God the word of God stands forever!!  I would of loved to have the view of those beautiful sunflowers all year long. But know I can always have the Word of God to guide me through life.

I also remember living up North when the grass turned brown during the winter months.  Then spring would come and you would feel alive again.  The Bible always gives you a breath of new life in Jesus Christ.

The Bible isn’t just an ordinary book. It’s easy to tell that by simply reading it. When you read the Bible, you realize that your it speaks to you in a way that no other book can.

The Bible claims to be truth, but also that it will stand the test of time. The Bible has remained for years and continues to speak and apply to our lives.

So, if you haven’t spent some time reading the Bible. Get to know the God of the Bible who wants a deep and satisfying relationship with you.   Let Go Let God!

 

Kathy

Introduction: 

Shortly before his death a few weeks ago, the famous CNN late night talk show host, Larry King was asked that if he could interview God what would he ask him? Over the course of his career Larry, a genetic and religious Jew, had conducted over 50,000 interviews with a wide-spectrum of fascinating people from all walks of life. His response was surprising, “If I could interview God I would ask him, ‘Did you have a son’?” As Christ followers I think we could answer Larry King’s question in the affirmative. Yes, God had/has a Son. If he didn’t I doubt we would be here right now. However, understanding who he is tends to be the most confusing subject of all.

Preachers like to say, “When there is mist in the pulpit there will be fog in the pews.” When it comes to Jesus we don’t any mist or fog regarding his identity. Thus, a month ago we launched a series called “God Is.” In conjunction with that series we now start a fresh one called, “Jesus Is…”

Jesus Is Divine

Who is Jesus? Jesus is both God the Son and the Son of God and as such, everything we learned about God the Father this past month is true of Jesus. Like his Father, the Son is also a loving, eternal person endowed with omni-attributes and infinite holiness. As God, Jesus is unmade, uncreated, with no beginning and no end. He is fully God like the Father is fully God. He, as the Holy Scriptures teach and the Historic Creeds attest, is “Very God of very God.” Thus, he is co-eternal, co-equal, and co-substantial with the Father. Jesus is the only person that is “Fully Divine and Fully Human.” In other words, he has both a divine nature and human nature (we only have a human nature.)

Jesus’ Divinity in Scriptures

Tons of Scripture teach the divinity of Jesus. Here’s a few. In the Prologue of his Gospel John says (1:1-2)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

 

In Colossians 1:15 Paul says of Jesus

He is the image of the invisible God…

 

The author of the Book of Hebrews writes (1:3)

 

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.

 

The word Paul used for image is “icon.” The word the Hebrew author used for representation is “character.” Taken together, the divine Jesus is the perfect image and character of Father God.

 

Jesus Knew He Was Divine

While on earth, Jesus was aware of his divinity. He told Philip, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). To the unbelieving Jews, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30). In John 5:17, he told the religious establishment, “My Father and I are always working.” Another way that Jesus knew his divine nature was by his continual use of the Divine Name. The Divine Name was first revealed to Moses when he met the pre-incarnated Jesus in the Burning Bush. Moses asked him who was he was. Jesus simply said, “I Am that I Am” (Exodus 3:14, Ego Emi). The Holy name of God was so sacred that the Israelites made-up the substitute name, “Yahweh” so as to never mispronounce it or use it in vain. The punishment for doing so was death by stoning. Yet, Jesus constantly used the Divine Name for himself knowing full well the penalty. Listen to a few of them

I am the Door. I am the Bread of Life. I am the Resurrection and the Life. I am the Light of the World. I am the Living Water.

I am the Way the Truth, and the Life, the only way to the Father. I am the True Vine. I am the Good Shepherd.

Others Knew He Was Divine

Others knew of Jesus’ divinity as well. When Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was, Peter proclaimed, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). When the centurion punctured Jesus’ side, he proclaimed, “Surely this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). When Doubting Thomas met Jesus for the first time after the resurrection, he exclaimed, “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28). Even the demons knew the divinity of Jesus. When he confronted the Legion of Demons possessing one man in the Gadarene Garden, they asked Jesus, “What will you do with us Son of the Most High” (Mark 5:7). Even inanimate objects recognized Jesus as divine. When he commands the storm to stop stormin’, the wave to stop wavin’, the disease to stop diseasin’, and death to stop deathin’, they all instantly stop their hostilities to God’s creation and his people.

 

Jesus Is Divine Creator

One of the most amazing, albeit most misunderstood, facts about the divine Son is that he is the Creator of all things. John 1:3 states clearly

 

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

 

As does Colossians 1:16-17 where we read

 

16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–

all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Previously, in v15 Paul entitled Jesus the “The firstborn of creation.” The word he used here, “proto-tokos” means that Jesus is the source of all creation, not that God created him. Hebrews 1:1-3 also speaks of Jesus as the Divine Creator

 

1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,

2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe…3 Sustaining all things by his powerful word.

When Moses penned the very first line of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth,” little did he know the God he was referencing was actually God the Son.

 

Conclusion:

Why is it imperative that we have no fog or mist in our thinking when it comes to the identity of Jesus.

Religious cultic movements like the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and even the Muslim faith itself, either deny and distort the divine identity of Jesus. If we are fuzzy or vague and don’t know the “orthodoxy” regarding Jesus, we will be easily sucked into their deception (a personal example). Not so here! When these groups knock on your door tell them that Jesus is the Divine Creator and watch them run for hills. As they are running remind them that Jesus didn’t become God, he always was God, and that he is not a god among many gods. And at that, not a lesser God, semi-God, or small God. He is fully God and as such is worthy of our worship, our lives, and our utmost love. We need to know Jesus’ true identity not only to protect ourselves but to give clear and cogent answers when others ask about who he is (I Peter 3:15).

As Divine Creator, Jesus has made mucho promises to humanity, especially regarding the value and purpose of life now and the eternal life in the world to come. Because of who he is only he can pull off these promises. He alone is ultimately and utterly trust worthy.  Therefore, we can trust him 100% for everything, especially our salvation. Let’s pray to do so now.

Honey Do List Love

Ephesians 5:1-2

1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us

and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 

In chapter three of the great letter to the Ephesians, Paul prayed for us to experience the love of Christ which “surpasses knowledge” (v19). Furthermore, he wanted us to constantly be full of Christ’s love so that we could become “imitators of God” and have the capacity to “live a life of love.”  The most poignant way we do these godly things is to love each other with the love Christ has loved us.

Since Christ practically loved us by going to the Cross for our us, how do we practically love each other so as not to commit the tragic sin of “word only love” (I John 3:18)? We do so with one simple formula: every time we verbally express our love to someone we immediately back it up with an act of love. For instance, when I tell my wife I love her, I do something for her, i.e., put the dishes in the dishwasher, pick up my dirty clothes, take her out to dinner, or perform any other item  that is prominent on her “Honey Do” list. In so doing, I will grow in love and she will be blessed. So give practical love a try for the rest of today and see if you experience the same.

Agape,

Pj

God Is Love

Introduction: What If?

Thus far, in our “God Is” series we have seen that God is a personal eternal being endowed with omni attributes and infinite holiness. Could you imagine however, if God was an eternal person but not loving? He would be a capricious despot. Or if he was omni without love? He would be an all-present, all-powerful, and  all-knowing indifferent cosmic dictator. Or even if he was holy without love? He would be unmerciful to anyone less holy than he. Now for God to be all of these things and not loving would be scary and the universe would be a horrible place in which to live! But thanks be to God that’s not the case. Listen to the most important three-word phrase you will ever hear. It is found in 1 John 4:16, “God is love.” 

God IS Love

God’s very nature is love. Love is not a property or attribute of God but the very essence of who he is. It’s not that God loves, or has more love than everyone else. He’s not just a fun-loving guy. He is love, like the sun is hot, like water is wet, and like sand is dry. Love is who he is and his love is the source of all good, grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness we have ever enjoyed or experienced on this planet. The first half of I John 4:16 tells us to “know and rely” on God’s love while Ephesians 3:17-19 wants us to grasp it, be rooted and established in it, and ultimately be full of it

17 So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Agape!

If we are going to flourish in God’s love we need to understand the nature of it. The main word for God’s love in the New Testament is “agape” and it has five essential characteristics:

#1 God’s Agape Is Impartial. God loves everybody the same (Romans 2:11). He loves the saints as much as he loves the sinners. He loves the rich as much he loves the poor and vice versa. He loves his enemies as much as he loves his friends. He doesn’t love you more than me or me more than you. In other words, God plays no favorites with his love. He doesn’t love us anymore when we are good and any less we are bad. Furthermore, he will never love us more than he loves us right now and he will never love us less than he loves us right now.

#2 God’s Agape Is Proactive. God doesn’t wait for us to love him before he loves us. I John 4:17 tells us that he “loved us first.” His love doesn’t kick in when we attain a certain level of goodness, piety, or obedience. Just the opposite. He takes the initiative in loving us as Romans 5:8 makes clear:

God proved his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

#3 God’s Agape Is Sacrificial. God’s love for us cost him something that he cherished the most, his Son. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son.” The word “gave” here is the language of sacrifice and we find it again in Romans 8:32,

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

If love is measured by service and service is measured by sacrifice then greatest act of sacrifice is God giving us his Son and his Son dying for us.

#4 God’s Agape Is Unconditional. There is absolutely no “ifs ands, and buts” in God’s love for us. God’s love has no pre, mid, or post conditions at all. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul says we are saved by “Faith through grace and not of good works.” Grace is the expression of God’s unearned love. He doesn’t love us because we are lovable or worthy (we are not) but because of the unconditional nature of his agape.

#5 God’s Love Is Eternal. We clearly see this characteristic in Jeremiah 31:3 where God assures the Israelites

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

God has loved us in the past. God is loving us now in the present. God will love us from infinity and beyond.

 Two Things

Two things before we figure out what we are to do with God’s love. The first is to be thankful over the sheer irony that God loves us but hates our sin. Our sins, whatever they are, are an affront to God’s holiness and cost God his Son. Let’s never forget that, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner” because it true. God could have hated the sinner along with the sin but instead he hates the sin and loves the sinner.

Secondly, let us remember that the Bible is the only “holy” book that teaches that God, as the Maximal Person, loves in the ways we just described. No other religious work, not the Bigha Veda, Book of Mormon, Upanishads, or Quran, teach that their “god” is perfect in love. If their gods love at all, they do so much in the same we mere mortals do, partially, reactively, selfishly, conditionally, and temporarily. Who wants to worship gods that love like that?

Love With God’s Love

So what are we to do with God’s love? We are to be transformed by it so that we can love others the same way God loves us. As Christ followers we are commended to love God (our first love), love our neighbors, love ourselves, love one another, love our families, love those who love us, love the unlovable, love the stranger, love the least, the last, the lost, and the lonely and, as icing on the cake, love our enemies, i.e., those who hate and persecute us. Love for enemy is the highest and hardest of all loves and proves that we are truly “born of God” (I John 4:7) and as Jesus said, “are the children of God.” Listen to how he explained it in Matthew 5:43-45

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’   

44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,               

45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

We are called to love everyone, including our enemies, and we are to do so with the love God loves us with. How are we going to do that? To find out, first let’s see where we are on the love ladder. 

*Love Ladder Illustration* 

Romans 5:5

We will only have the capacity and motivation to love all people, from easiest to hardest, if God’s agape is continually filling our hearts. And this is exactly the supernatural dynamic Paul said would happen to each Christ follower. In Romans 5:5 he tells the Corinthians

God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

The HS pours God’s impartial, proactive, sacrificial, unconditional, and eternal love into us the moment we open our hearts to him. He keeps pouring it in there until it overflows into love for others, no matter who the others are! That’s how we respond to the God who is love and loving.

Conclusion

We conclude our God series today to focus on Jesus, the God/Man next week. My prayer is that you trust God more because you now know that he is an eternal, omni, holy, AND loving person. Truly there is nothing or no one like him!

Bought for a Better Life

I Peter 1:18-19

 

18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,

19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect

 

In the Roman world a slave could buy his way out of slavery or have a wealthy benefactor to do it for him (if he could find such a person). The market terms for such a transaction was called, “ransom” or “redemption.”

Peter sees Jesus’ death as the ultimate price God gladly paid to free us from the slavery of sin. His payment, i.e., his own life and blood, was infinitely superior to that of gold and silver used to redeem slaves from physical slavery. The hymn, “Jesus paid it all” is wholly accurate in that He could not have possibly paid more.

However, Jesus did not pay the steepest price JUST to purchase us from spiritual slavery but to redeem us from an “empty way of life.” The word Peter uses here means, “futile, vain, void of meaning and purpose.” In other words, Jesus didn’t die just to save us FROM sin but to save us TO a brand-new life. This life would be dedicated to God and to others. This life would be reoriented to the things of God and not the things of the world. This life would desire holiness rather than unholiness. This life is the “abundant life” Jesus promised to give to all who faithfully follow him (John 10:10). Start living the redeemed life Jesus died to give you and be fulfilled forevermore.

Agape,

Pj

Rely on This For That

2 Timothy 1:8b

“Rely on the Power of God”

Unlike other religions, Christianity is not about a bunch of moral and ethical law/rule/commandment keeping which we try to obey, out of our own self-discipline, will, and determination in the hopes of earning heaven someday. Yes, God certainly wants us to live awesomely moral, ethical and loving lives. He expects nothing less but he wants us to do so, not in our own strength but in his power. In fact, God knows that we are basically inept in being who he wants us to be and doing what he wants us to do if we go at it alone.

Thus, throughout the New Testament we are constantly encouraged to rely on his all-powerfulness essentially for everything.  Here are some of the classics: Philippians 2:12, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is at work in you.” He is re-creating us as “his new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), he is “conforming us to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29), he is cultivating within us the “characteristics of Christ” (Galatians 5:22), and he is making us into his “workmanship productive for all good for works in Christ” (Ephesians 2:10).

Personally, I want to love God more. I want to be more holy. I want to be more like Christ. I want to be more kind, loving, peaceful and joyful. I want to be a please God more and become a better husband, father, pastor, and friend. And I will be all of these things and much more if I continually rely on God’s power (which I get through prayer and Word). And so will you.

For the glory of God and our joy,

Agape,

Pj

The Holy God

Introduction: Profiling God

The last few weeks we have been profiling the most important and fascinating person of all, God! We trust that our profile is correct because it is based on God’s own self-revelation, his Word. Thus far, we have discovered that God is a knowable eternal Person that seeks to be in relationship with us. We have also seen that he is the only person with omni attributes, i.e., omnipotent, omniscience, and omnipresent and therefore is trustworthy in all he promises. As we continue our “God” series let’s explore what I believe is one of the most neglected aspects of who he is.

God Is Holy

Listen to just a few of the plethora of Scriptures that talk about the core character of God

Isaiah 6:3 The seraphs were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Exodus 15:11 “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

I Samuel 2:2  “There is no one holy like the Lord. There is no one beside you.”

About Holiness

God is holy and holiness is the most obvious dimension of his character. When the Bible says God is holy it means he is the absolute standard of purity and goodness. Holiness is the foundation of who he is, what he thinks, does, and feels. Holiness is the basis of his commandments, laws, goodness, justice, judgements, wrath, and punishments. God’s holiness is the source of everything that is right and righteous, pure and sacred. It is the basis of unchanging morality and spirituality in the universe. It is how we know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Holiness is reason #1 he sent his Son to the Cross. Because of his holiness, God has never had a sinful thought, an impure motivation, or a misguided action. Holiness undergirds, motivates, and guides his love. God’s love is holy love, not sentimental or emotional. Holiness is what separates God from what he has created and sinners from his glory. It is the very thing that makes him unapproachable as people like Moses, Isaiah and Paul quickly found out. God is transcendent in his holiness. Holiness is the radical difference between God and the false gods of human heart and history. God’s holiness is the restraint and bulwark against evil. It is the singular rebuke against situational ethics and moral relativity. Nothing convicts the unholy more than the holiness of God. It dispels the darkness and dispenses the light. It is synonymous with his name, fame, and glory. It is simultaneously his most compelling and repelling feature. We know nothing about God apart from the holiness of God. On God holiness RC Sproul writes

The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.”

You say, “OK” I get it. God’s is “Holier than thou, me, and everyone else but what does all of his holiness have to do me now? Short Answer? We have to become holy like God is holy. Anyone want to say “Holy Moley?” or “Holy Cheese and Crackers?” It’s true that out of God’s sheer holiness comes the most transformative and audacious of his commands. In I Peter 1:6 (Leviticus 19:2) God says

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

If you have kids or grandkids you are used to the infinite regress question. You know, when the kiddies want to avoid doing something the keep saying “Because Why” ad nauseam and in rapid succession until they wear you down or you want to sell them off for a herd of turtles. Why are God’s people to be holy? Because God is. There’s no better or higher reason! And this demand for holiness is not for just one hour on Sunday, weekly activities at the church, or when doing our daily devotions. It is for all that we do and say wherever we are. I Peter 1:15 tells us

Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.

Holiness Is Health

In conjunction with I Peter 1:15, Hebrews 12:14 bluntly tells us to “pursue holiness.” Three reason we need to pursue holiness other than God is holy and expects us to do so. The first is that holiness is health, soul health. After his unholy affair with Bathsheba, David lamented in Psalm 32:3-4

3 My bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  

I have been in ministry since Jesus led the youth group and as such, have counseled hundreds of couples. Some of these relationships, unfortunately, were being imperiled by infidelity. Honestly, not in one of these situations did the offending spouse say, “That was great, can’t wait to do it again.” Nope, just the opposite: remorse, sorrow, guilt, and pain. Unholy acts poison the soul much like cancer poisons the body. Morality, based on God’s holiness, and revealed in his Word, brings health to the soul according to Psalm 19:7

The law of the LORD is perfect reviving the soul.

Do all your morality in pursuit of God’s holiness and you will enjoy the healthiest and strongest soul of all.

Holiness is Happiness

Not only is holiness health but it is also happiness. I hear it all the time, “Jesus didn’t die to make us happy but to make us holy.” It’s true that Jesus died to make us holy but I don’t see a dichotomy between holiness and happiness. Why? If unholy thoughts and actions pull us away from God then holy thoughts and actions draw us closer to him. And if God is the source of all ultimate and unbroken happiness then the closer we are to him the happier we will be (Psalm 16:11). In “Only the Good Die Young” theologian Billy Joel got it dead wrong when he said

I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners have much more fun.

Truth be told, sinners do most of the crying and saints do most of the laughing. And the saints will have the last laugh because of our third reason to pursue holiness.

Holiness is Heaven

Holiness is heaven. Listen to the back half of our Hebrews 12:14 passage

Pursue holiness without which no one will see God.

You might object, “Wait a cotton-pickin’ minute.” “I’m not getting into heaven unless I pursue holiness?” Right, you won’t. Heaven if for the holy! However, this aspect of holiness is not speaking of attaining sinless perfection. If it were, no one would ever get into heaven. This “won’t see God” warning is tied to Jesus’ Beatitude of Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

This dimension of holiness speaks of being set apart for God and being fully and faithfully devoted to him. Are we?

Conclusion

John Wesley, an original member of the Oxford Holiness Club, said that our first task is to pursue holiness of heart and life. We do so because God is holy and by pursuing holiness we will lead healthier, happier, and heavenly lives. Let’s do it.