The Power of the Cross: The Blood of the Covenant (Part Two)

Matthew 26:27-28

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (CSB).

The power of the cross reaches many people groups. The Lord moved their thinking from the old people to the new people. Jesus had to change their thinking about the people of God. The law covenant was given to Israel, and focused on the few of the people of Israel. The high priests of the law only offered sacrifices for the house of Israel. The law set Israel apart from all other nations as the people of God. It excluded the nations (the Gentiles); in fact, the law with its commandments and regulations was a dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:11-15).

Christ came to bring the promises of the gospel to all nations. When Christ held the cup in his hand, he spoke of the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. This connects to Isaiah’s great servant song (Isaiah 52:15; 53:11-12). The new great high priest offers himself as a sacrifice, not just for Israel, but for the whole world, meaning people from every nation (1 John 2:2; cf. Revelation 5:9-10). Here is the basis for the evangelism of all peoples (Luke 24:47). We can tell all people everywhere the good news, for Christ died to save a people from all nations. Together, we can take the good news of Jesus everywhere.

The Lord moved their thinking from some of the people to all the people. In old covenant Israel, not everyone was holy or set apart to God. Holiness was a concept expressed physically, and easily lost by ritual defilement. Only Aaron’s descendants in the tribe of Levi were priests. The tabernacle system brought one near (the high priest), some relatively close (the priests), and others somewhat closer, but it kept most at a distance. But in the new covenant, everyone is set apart to God (Hebrews 10:10). We are a holy nation and a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9-10). Therefore, in the Lord’s Supper all of us are told to eat of the bread and drink from the cup. When we gather to worship, we are all priests joining together to praise the Lord. Everyone is a priest and can minister for the Lord.

The power of the cross secures forgiveness of sins. Everyone has the same great problem. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Our problem with sin starts from our inner person, what the Bible calls the heart (Mark 7:20-23). But sin does not stay in the heart. It moves out from ideas and attitudes to words and actions (Romans 3:9-20). We are all guilty and justly condemned. What can we do?

The new covenant provides the forgiveness of our sins. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Hebrews 8:12 NIV; cf. 10:15-18). The sacrifices of the law covenant could never grant real forgiveness; they could not touch the problem of guilt (Hebrews 10:1-4). However, Christ’s better sacrifice of himself provides and guarantees forgiveness and takes away guilt (Hebrews 10:11-18). Now we can draw near to God (Hebrews 10:19-25)! Therefore, when we gather at the Lord’s Table, we remember his sacrifice, in which the blood of his better covenant secured the forgiveness of our sins! Isaac Watts wrote the following hymn.

Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace
Or wash away the stain

But Christ, the heavenly Lamb
Takes all our sins away
A sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they

Believing we rejoice
To see the curse remove
We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice
And sing his bleeding love

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus and live for him (Hebrews 12:1-2)!
Grace and peace, David

Holy Desires (Part Nine)

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.” He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  Working together with him, we also appeal to you, “Don’t receive the grace of God in vain.” For he says: At an acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. See, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation! (CSB)

Usually when we think and talk about desires, we confine the topic to human desires. We fail to take into consideration God’s desires. This contributes to an impersonal view about God, but God is very personal. He wants our hearts to get in line with what he knows and loves as good, holy, merciful, and kind. God desires that sinners hear his message of reconciliation.

God makes known his desire through his holy word, the Bible. Two ways we see his desire in this passage:

  • The quotation from Isaiah 49:8 – God does minister help to those in need; God is committed to help those who declare the good news, whether Christ, or the apostle Paul, or the Corinthians, or you and me.
  • The testimony of the apostle – “Be reconciled to God” (5:20)

God makes his desire known through the ministry. He has given the ministry (5:18) and message (5:19) of reconciliation to us. Since God is still the sovereign Lord and humans still rebel against God, the great and necessary task in every generation is to serve God and people by proclaiming the good news of reconciliation. As has been said, there are two things you can do on earth that you can’t do in heaven: sin and tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. Can you guess which one God wants you to do?

We serve as ambassadors from the Great King to sinners. We have been commissioned to communicate God’s way of peace to other people and to appeal to them to be reconciled to God. When a pro basketball team is trying to sign a key free agent, it will enlist its already signed players to appeal to the free agent to sign with the team. We are on God’s team and we ought to urge others to join us. We have a high calling to declare God’s message precisely and clearly, and to do it in a way that makes known God’s desire for reconciliation. Are you doing your part on his team? Let’s not brush this question aside! Let’s face our responsibility and fulfill it.

God desires that we share his desire. We are to communicate his encouragements to people to be reconciled to God. We beg you (5:20). “We cannot fail to detect the strong note of urgency and compassion in the Apostle’s language” (Hughes). When you beg someone to do something, you really want him or her to do it, don’t you? Today is the pleasant or welcome time (6:2) for anyone to return to God in repentance and faith.

We are to communicate the Lord’s urge for people to be reconciled to God. We appeal or urge people (5:20; 6:1). God’s message is to become our message. We must look at people and opportunities to talk with people with God’s eyes.

Now… now…. We live during the time when people may be saved. At the second coming of Christ, the year of God’s favor toward sinners ends and judgment comes. Seize the opportunity that God has given to you to tell others the good news.

Grace and peace, David

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part Seven)

dscn00411 Corinthians 12:3

To evangelize is one of the great purposes of the church. The Lord Jesus has sent us out on his mission. What is this mission? Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 HCSB). Since we are to make disciples or learners of Christ, our mission is to turn people from the pursuit of sinful desires to become fully committed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our friends and families; in fact, this should be our great joy and desire. However, this message is unwanted and disliked by those who need to hear it. Rebellion against God and his ways, refusal to love God, and rejection of God as God, what the Bible means by sin, is deeply rooted in the ideas, attitudes, and desires of people who do not follow Christ.

It should be very clear to us, not only from the Bible but also from our evangelism experiences, that the work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for anyone to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18). Since we are considering the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, it is very appropriate to consider his work in salvation at this point. A correct understanding of the work of the Spirit of God is essential for evangelism and growth of the people of God. It is also important for us to grasp where the Spirit has brought us from, in order that we may understand what we now are in Jesus Christ.

The answers to three questions will help us see the need for the Spirit’s work in salvation. In this article, we will think about the first question. Let us begin with, “What is the difference between religious ritual and spiritual reality?”

Consider the context of verse three. From 7:1 through 16:4, the apostle Paul is answering a number of questions that the Corinthian church had asked him, questions about marriage, Christian liberty, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, the resurrection of the body, and collections for God’s people in need. The Corinthians were very excited about the subject of spiritual gifts, but they were also very confused, which is clear from the length of this section (chapters 12-14)! From my experience, it is hard to tell what subject will get professing Christians revved up the most. Is it prophecy, predestination or spiritual gifts, especially speaking in tongues?

Highlighting the Corinthian problem:

  • They had a problem regarding a proper focus on Christ. This contributed to their fascination with things like spiritual gifts rather than Christ.
  • They had a problem with realizing and appreciating their unity in Christ. They pursued the individual rather than the community.
  • The Corinthians had a problem about spiritual discernment. They had trouble with testing every teaching or statement by the Scriptures, assuming that if someone manifested some kind of spiritual experience that it must have come form the Spirit of God. That is the reason for Paul’s statement in 12:3.

The Corinthian believers needed to learn that error is to be rejected, regardless of how spiritual it might seem. This is the issue of show versus substance. Also, truth only comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in a human heart. When the Spirit is at work, he glorifies Christ and produces the confession that Jesus is Lord (cf. Romans 10:9-10). Christ is both God and Ruler of the person who truly makes this confession. This is where spiritual reality is, not in loudness about personal experiences of spiritual gifts. The Spirit produces passion to follow Christ, not to glory in spiritual gifts that one claims to possess.

The Corinthians sound a lot like contemporary Christians, but that is not how we should be! A proper grasp of the Holy Spirit’s role in salvation will help us toward spiritual maturity.

Grace and peace, David

Exceeding Great and Precious Promises

img_5166Psalm 12:4-8

Music is an essential part of the worship of the Lord. As we look at the Psalms from time to time, I hope that each of us will not only accept this intellectually, but delight in songs of worship and praise emotionally and experientially. Although we only know the lyrics and not the music of the Psalms, we know from the superscriptions that they were intended to be sung, sometimes by choirs. To illustrate the dramatic involvement we should have when we read the Psalms, picture the cast of a Broadway musical or a great choir singing Psalm Twelve. The psalm opens with the cast or choir singing the opening four verses in a minor key. A certain hopelessness is generated that leaves the audience almost despondent. Who can stop the arrogant, malicious liars? Everything is ominously quiet as the audience ponders their fate.

Then suddenly, a very rich baritone voice breaks the gloom and sings in a major key the words of hope found in verse four. “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs” (NASB). The psalm communicates the great truth that our deliverance comes from outside of human capabilities. Rescue comes from the Lord. It takes his powerful word to oppose and to overcome the lies, the malice, the pride of the ungodly. We might look at the situation and mourn, but the living God can speak and produce victory. As in the time of the Exodus, God observed the suffering of people and promised to act (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-8; 6:5). Someone might wonder, “Why doesn’t God act immediately?” Remember the plan of God. The time of rescue from Egypt came according the time that the Lord had announced to Abraham (Genesis 15:12-16). According to the same pattern, the time of rescue from the ungodly will come at the Lord’s appointed time. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14 NASB). Until that time we live and wait in hope of the promised victory.

Next, a beautiful soprano voice rejoices in the promises of God. The words of the Lord are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times (Psalm 12:5 NASB). Listen to the voice delighting in the security of what God says. Part of the worship of God should involve remembrance of his promises. Think of the hymn that we know as “How Firm a Foundation”. Originally it was called “Scriptures Promises” and then as “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises” (from 2 Peter 1:2 KJV). Here is the opening stanza:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

We must live in faith on the pure words of God.

The psalm closes with a grand response to God’s precious promise from the whole choir or cast. You, O Lord, will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever. The wicked strut about on every side When vileness is exalted among the sons of men (12:7-8 NASB). With hope based on God’s word, his people can expect him to keep and preserve them. Has this changed the situation that induced the cry for help? In one sense, it hasn’t. When the people of this world exalt vileness, they will strut about, boasting that they can do whatever they want. But in another sense it has for God’s people, because they confidently anticipate the change, the new finality of the new creation in new heavens and a new earth. God will eternally keep us in his constant care.

The question is, “Are you willing to live in this firm hope?” We can all want “heaven now”. But our God is working out his plan of good news for all the people groups of the world. Our part is to pray and to spread the good news everywhere. Follower of Christ, you and I share in the assignment to tell others. Let’s pray for specific people to whom we can make known the way of salvation.

Grace and peace, David

Fellowship with God

This morning we had our weekly guys’ Bible study and breakfast. It was a joyful time of sharing our lives, the scriptures, and prayer with each other. Afterwards, I went for a morning walk to get on my way to my daily goal of ten thousIMG_0482 (1)and steps. It was also time alone to share my life with our Father in heaven.

Fellowship with God… Do you ever feel that you have a hard time knowing that delight? There are occasions when God seems so real and near, and others when we’re filled with doubts and fears and plain loneliness. Have you ever felt like God has deserted you? Many times, those feelings can be diagnosed as consequences of our sins. Thankfully, we always have a way back through Jesus Christ our advocate (1 John 1:6-2:2). But that is not my topic today.

Let’s focus on first steps with fellowship with God. The word translated as fellowship in 1 John 1:3 is koinonia, which means to share, to partner, and to participate. We share life with God, the Maker and Ruler of everything. God has given us life, and this life is in his Son (1 John 5:11). Since this is true, we should consciously and deliberately share our lives with God. This means something as personal as communicating with the Father when you are on a walk. Speak to him about your ideas, aspirations, troubles, and desire to know him better. God designed us to communicate with him daily, and so we ought to open up our lives to him.

Next, fellowship involves partnership. We are God’s fellow workers. He has a plan to make more and more worshipers through the gospel of Christ. Our part is to extend the good news to other people, as we live in faith, hope, and love. At our breakfast this morning, we dreamed about what we would like to see happen and how to get there. Prayer to the Father is a crucial part of this partnership.

Another aspect of fellowship is sharing with people in need. Who are the hurting, pain-filled, lonesome, troubled people in you world today? We only have to open our eyes to see them. How can you share Christ’s joy and peace with someone of them today? It can be as simple as a kind word or an offer to have coffee or tea with them. This is part of your fellowship with God. You and I are Christ’s ambassadors to tell them of the grace and peace they may have.

Fellowship with God today!

David