The Power of the Cross: Reconciliation (Part Three)

Ephesians 2:11-18

He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (2:17-18 NIV).

Let’s look deeper at this reconciliation. God in Christ formed a new people of God. In the past, this aspect of reconciliation was underemphasized. This severely hurt the church when it needed this truth the most in a changing world. The church had an opportunity to demonstrate that she is God’s new society, but she wandered far into the swamp of worldliness. This happened at least twice in America, especially in the 1840s-1860s and the 1940s-1960s.

On the cross Christ accomplished the final fulfillment of the law, meaning the law covenant given at Sinai, and so he abolished it and its commandments and regulations (cf. Romans 6:14; 7:6; 10:4; 2 Corinthians 3:4-16; Galatians 3:19-25; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 7:18; 8:6-13; 9:1, 10; 10:1-10). Christ satisfied all the demands of the law for his people, and so we are legally free from it. We do not and cannot achieve a righteous way of life by putting ourselves under the law.

At the same time, the Lord created a new man or a new humanity in himself out of former Jews and Gentiles, reconciling both to God in his one body through the cross. Here is an important aspect of the power of the cross: the creation of a new people of God (cf. Ephesians 3:6).

What is the outcome of this reconciliation that makes us Christ’s new people?

  • We share his peace (2:17). Christ’s peace not only means the absence of hostility, but also the presence of great spiritual blessings. We belong to God. We are adult sons and daughters of God; we are free! We have the Holy Spirit of God, who keeps us, fills us, empowers us, transforms us, assures us, and makes Christ’s presence known to us.
  • We have access to God (2:18). This means “that the relationship is restored, that friendly relationship with God whereby we are acceptable to Him and have assurance that he is well disposed towards us” (Lloyd-Jones). Here is the beauty of worship in the gospel. You and I can boldly share fellowship with the Holy, Almighty, Sovereign God, as the Holy Spirit makes real to us the presence of the risen, ascended Christ to us.
  • We together form a holy temple in the Lord in which God lives by his Spirit (2:19-22). We are “home”, God’s home. In a practical sense for you and me, eternal joy, peace, and glory begins in your gathering of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, it does for believers in Jesus. But you can only realize it by faith. We must by faith in Jesus see one another in him.

Have you ever arrived for a gathering of your physical, extended family exhausted from a long ride in a car in the driving rain? You are weary, and you get drenched on your way into the house. You want to be there, but you feel out of sorts. But you get in the house, and your family welcomes you, takes your wet jacket, leads you over to the fire to get warm, and brings you a soothing drink to refresh your spirit. And you say, “Ah, it feels so good to be home.”

This is what I want you to understand and live. Since God has reconciled us to him through the power of the cross of Christ, we’re in God’s home. Here is peace, beauty, joy, and glory begun, if you will grasp this through faith in Christ. A church is not a place you go to that has nice buildings and exciting, glitzy programs. A church is the people of Christ, whom he has reconciled to the Father by the power of his cross. You can feel at home among Christ’s new covenant people. You ought to feel at home with them! Are you reconciled to God?

Grace and peace, David

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

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

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).

I write this post during the week that is called “Holy Week”, specifically, on that day called “Good Friday”. Christians remember the two great events of the gospel or good news: Christ’s death and resurrection. For this reason, I thought we should focus our attention on the cross, thinking especially of the power of the cross.

Perhaps you attended or will attend a special service this weekend where the church gathered around the Lord’s Table. It is interesting to reflect on the fact that as the Lord orders us to remember him, he does not tell us to remember his birth, or his miracles, or his triumphal entry, but his person. At his Table, we proclaim his death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). When we come together at the Table, we preach Christ’s death on the cross three ways.

  • The bread and the fruit of the vine represent the Savior’s body and blood.
  • Our eating and drinking of the bread and the wine symbolize our union with Christ in his death.
  • Our participation in this with one another tells that we share together in what the Lord Christ accomplished on the cross.

So then, let us think on the power of the cross of Christ! To us who are being saved, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). How does Christ save us by the cross? At the cross he shed the blood of the covenant; that is, the new or better covenant.

The power of the cross established a new and better covenant.

We need to understanding the covenant idea. A covenant is a solemn agreement binding two parties together. For example, marriage is a covenant that binds a man and a woman together as husband and wife. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant (Malachi 2:14 NIV).

In order to display his glory as the faithful God, the Lord God chose to make covenants. He binds himself to people as their God, and they to him as his people. It is like a marriage covenant, but between two vastly unequal partners. This also shows God’s glory as humble and loving.

God made a covenant with Israel at Sinai, and the center of that covenant was the Ten Commandments, written on tablets of stone. And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone (Deuteronomy 4:13). The covenant was kept in a gold box, called the Ark of the Covenant, and it was put into effect by the blood of the covenant (Exodus 24:3-8; cf. Hebrews 9:18-22). But that covenant was built upon the obedience of the people (Exodus 19:3-6; Deuteronomy 6:25; 7:12; 8:19-20; etc.) The problem of that covenant was the sinfulness of the people. The law covenant could not give life or obedience to the sinner (cf. Galatians 3:21-22; Hebrews 8:7-8).

Therefore, God made a new or better covenant. This covenant is Christ himself, God’s Servant Son (Isaiah 42:1, 6-7; 49:3, 8-9). The new or better covenant was put into effect at the cross by the shedding of Jesus’ blood (Hebrews 9:11-15, 23-28).

This is an extremely important teaching. It tells us how we can know the Lord and be his people. We journey through life, not alone, but with the living God. We are in Christ, and he is with us always. We live, not according to the law covenant, but in conformity with Christ. Our entire viewpoint is transformed. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:6-7).

Grace and peace, David

A Door of Hope (Part Three)

Hosea 2:14-23

On that day I will respond—this is the Lord’s declaration. I will respond to the sky, and it will respond to the earth. The earth will respond to the grain, the new wine, and the fresh oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. I will sow her in the land for myself, and I will have compassion on Lo-ruhamah; I will say to Lo-ammi: You are my people, and he will say, “You are my God” (2:21-23 CSB).

Finally, there is a new outlook. It is far too easy to become discouraged or perhaps even depressed as we journey through life. If we read or listen to news reports or scour the internet for information about situations, our outlook can become very gloomy. Or for others, all it takes is a visit to the doctor and follow-up testing, and anxiety about our mortality to affect ourselves, our family and friends. But God opens the door of hope widely to encourage and refresh his dearly loved people. Let’s listen to two hopeful vistas that he directs believers to ponder.

God reminds us that he is in charge of nature. There is a well-known cable weather service that delights to spread gloom and doom. They run programs to proclaim that we are wrecking our planet, and “superstorms” and other terrible events are just waiting to wreak havoc on our self-indulgent lifestyle. For example, it simply doesn’t snow anymore, but we face cruelly cold temperatures from a “polar vortex” and we just might face “blizzard-like conditions”. The shelves of grocery stores are emptied as people frantically buy ten loaves of bread, four dozen eggs, and gallons of milk. And it snows two little inches! (By the way, my family and I survived a huge blizzard with only an extra loaf of bread and gallon of milk.) And to these people, it simply doesn’t rain an inch, but the highways have “treacherous conditions”. People love to hear the “weather prophets of doom.” In all of this, people forget God.

  • However, God reminds us that every part of the agricultural process is under his control. He is very able to act in the world he created to provide us with what we need to live, and to live joyfully. God does what is good by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and filling you with food and your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17 CSB).
  • To look at this another way, Israel, Jezreel, can see God’s care, start at herself, and then trace her blessings back to God. How skilled are you at reading the “map” of your blessings?

God offers a renewed exchange of “marriage vows”, of fresh promises of a new covenant relationship. The Lord had called them “not loved” and “not my people”, because of their rejection of him, refusal to love him, and rebellion against his laws. They had broken the relationship by their spiritual adultery. God promises a better covenant relationship. In it God gives:

  • A promise of enduring love. This promise holds true for God’s new covenant people. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 NIV).
  • A belonging to each other. Paul clearly applies these words to the church. What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” (Romans 9:23-26 NIV).

Do you belong to Jesus? Are you in a covenant relationship with the Lord? Has he laid hold of you by his amazing, wonderful love? Have you trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? FAITH is Forsaking All I Take Him.

Grace and peace, David

A Door of Hope (Part Two)

Hosea 2:14-23

I will take you to be my wife forever. I will take you to be my wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. I will take you to be my wife in faithfulness, and you will know the Lord (2:19-20 CSB).

The hope (confident expectation) that God gives his people includes a new and better relationship (2:16-20) with him. This is expressed by the word husband (2:16-17)

In her early days, Israel had called the Lord baal, which simply meant “owner”, “master”, “possessor” or “husband”. But in Canaan, Baal was the chief god of the evil Canaanites, and Israel had forsaken the Lord to worship Baal. The true God no longer wanted such confusion to exist.

Therefore, the Lord chooses another word for husband, ish. This word is used in the first account of marriage in Genesis 2:23-24. The Lord wants his people to relate to him, not in a context of slavery and fear, but in a context of love, peace and joy. What characterizes your worship? Do you want to be in God’s presence? Do you approach him with gladness? This is only an illustrative question. You might confess that God loves you, because the Bible tells you. But do you think that God likes you? What I hint at is that the love of God has been trite, commonplace, to Christians. We’ve lost the wonder of being in an intimate relationship with the true and living and unlimited God. It’s like someone says, “God loves you,” and we nod our heads and think, “Yeah, I’ve heard that before.” We’re not profoundly moved by the love of God. But we think, “Would God want to hang out with me?”

It is expressed in assurances of peace and safety (2:18). Study the blessings and cursings of the law covenant (Deuteronomy 28) to grasp the importance. God acts to bring about two kinds of peace in his creation.

  • For nature to be at peace with humanity (Isaiah 11:6-9).
  • For people to be at peace with each other (Micah 4:3).

It is expressed in a new covenant (2:19-20). Compare Jeremiah 31:31-34. The Lord gives a beautiful wedding gift to his bride.

  • Righteousness – We are right with God because of the gift of Christ’s righteousness.
  • Justice – It is satisfied at the cross of Christ. See Romans 3:25-26.
  • Love – God’s covenant, unfailing lovingkindness
  • Compassion – The Lord is deeply concerned about us. This was another reversal (cf. 1:6)!
  • Faithfulness – God will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Are you delighting in your Lord? A bride who delights in her husband will love him for every gift of his love and will glorify him for his gifts to her. How do you speak of your Lord?

Grace and peace, David

Why Christ Came (Part Two)

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God’” (Hebrews 10:5-7 NIV).

Our second text makes known why the Messiah came in relation to the story of God’s glory. God chose to work out his plan through a series of covenants. There are five covenants clearly identified in the Holy Writings, and they are usually linked to major characters in God’s plan. So we speak of covenants associated with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Christ. The covenant with Abraham is called the holy covenant (Luke 1:72) or the promise (Galatians 3). The covenant with Moses is called the law or the old covenant in many places; it is also called the first   covenant (Hebrews 8:7; 9:1). It is important to keep this last designation in mind in order to understand Hebrews ten properly. The covenant of which Christ is the substance (Isaiah 42:6; 49:8) is usually called the new covenant, though in Hebrews it is also called the better or the second covenant (8:7 CSB, ESV, NLT). Now let’s focus on this second reason for Christ’s first coming.

The Messiah said, I have come to do your will, my God. Now surely he always pleased God the Father. When you read the Gospel of John carefully, you learn that all his works and words were exactly what the Father desired. When he did signs and wonders, each one was the will of the Father. When he spoke, he spoke what the Father told him to speak. How he acted was to reveal the Father to us (John 1:18). If we read this text through the lens of systematic or practical theology, we will think that this phrase is speaking of our Lord’s general obedience to the Father, and how he is our pattern to do the same. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with either systematic or practical theology, but we must not allow them to interfere with a proper understanding of any Biblical text. What is the will of God that Christ came to do?

First, in the above verses, notice the contrasts between sacrifice and offering with the body God prepared for the Messiah, and between offerings that could not please God and doing God’s will. Weren’t sacrifices and offerings established by God (see especially Leviticus) and so his will? Yes, they were! But they could not please God in the sense of being able to take away sin and cleanse the consciences of those who sinned. The Messiah had to come to provide a better sacrifice for sins, the offering of himself.

Second, notice what the writer of Hebrews said about the old covenant. The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship (10:1 NIV). It was a shadow and its sacrifices can nevermake perfect those who draw near to worship. Now a shadow is good for the purpose for which God made shadows. They show us that something of substance is nearby. But that does not make the shadow better than the substance. And when we have the substance, we no longer need the shadow. For example, my shadow might show my wife that I am walking toward her. So she is alert to my presence. But I don’t want her to kiss my shadow; I want her to kiss me!

There are too many Christians in our time that are in love with the shadows of the law covenant. Such shadows proclaimed that the Lord was near his old covenant people. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12 NIV). But now that Christ, who is the better covenant, has come and accomplished redemption, we no longer need the shadows of the law, because Christ is now in us.

Third, Christ came to fulfill the law, set it aside because it was fulfilled, and to establish the new covenant. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrew 10:9-10 NIV). Notice what the Spirit caused to be written. He sets aside the first to establish the second. The first is the law or old covenant and the second is the new or better covenant. We are no longer under the law, written on stone tablets and given to Israel on Sinai. We are in Christ, and the Spirit of Christ who lives in us is our leader in following Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Grace and peace, David

Fire from Heaven (Part Three)

2 Kings 1:1-18

“If I am a man of God,” Elijah replied, “may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men (1:12 NIV).

As the Lord God tells the story of his glory in the Scriptures, he uses events like Elijah calling fire from heaven to make known his supreme majesty. He alone is God and there is no one else. By the act, God proclaimed through his prophet, “There is no other god,” and he does not want us to entertain that empty notion for a moment. For this reason, we do well to ask, “Why is this important in our lives?

We are morally responsible to honor only the living God as God. I know that responsibility and duty are forbidden words among people obsessed with their own supposed freedom, but God makes clear the obligation of all people everywhere to confess that the Lord alone is God.

Here is a brief overview of teaching of the New Testament Scriptures honoring God as our only God.

  • They set forth clear instruction. 1 Corinthians 8:4-6.
  • They condemn the transgression of this command. Romans 1:18-25.
  • They forbid a lifestyle built on the transgression of this command. Ephesians 4:17-24.
  • They command and commend repentance in relation to this command. Acts 17:30; 1 Thessalonians 1:9.
  • They command positive action consist with the God. 1 Corinthians 1:31.

We who believe and follow Christ desire to see this command realized in the hearts and lives of people, since God’s laws are written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10), and since the Holy Spirit has been given to us to produce a holy way of life that reflects obedience to this command (Romans 7:4-6).

However, we do not enforce obedience to this command by physical means in this new covenant age. Biblically speaking, the church is not and never was a physical nation. Yet with great sorrow we admit that many have tried to join church and state, and they have brought great shame to the cause of God and truth. Examples of this wrong are medieval Roman Catholicism, Calvin’s Geneva, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony in colonial America. Even today there remains a desire among certain Christians to want to go back to the lifestyle of the old covenant theocracy and to use the “sword” to punish wrong-doers, or to call upon God to so punish. But let us avoid this error by thinking on and acting consistently with:

  • Christ’s correction of the mistake of the disciples (Luke 9:51-56).
  • The clear declaration of the Lord Jesus about his kingdom (John 18:36).
  • The correction given by the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 10:1-6).

What methods, then, may we use today to promote God’s honor in world of hatred and violence? (We know that we live in a climate of spiritual warfare also, Ephesians 6:10-18.)

  • A godly life that exemplifies the truth we claim to believe. This must begin in the home. And it demands love of other believers (John 13:34-35). We must go out in the world together where people of the world can observe that we do love one another.
  • A witness of the truth. Use the sword of the Spirit, God’s word, to spread the good news (Acts 8:4). When we get to the place where we are in conversations with them about life, we must tell them the good news of Jesus Christ.
  • A consistent life of prayer. God acts through praying people.

Grace and peace, David

Wavering Between Two Opinions (Part Three)

1 Kings 18:16-24

Next, let’s consider the object of the contest between the Lord’s prophet, Elijah, and the false prophets encouraged by Ahab and Jezebel. This is an unpopular topic in this day of the “intolerance of tolerance” (D.A. Carson). Political correctness in North America and Europe has reduced the level of communicating ideas to the level of complete silliness. If you say anything that disagrees with the opinions of the self-appointed intellectuals and pop celebrities, you are branded a bigot, intolerant, or worse and then roasted alive in social media. A truly open-minded person is willing to join in a discussion and to listen and to talk without inflammatory words.

Elijah acted in order that the reality of the worship of the Lord would be clear. True Christians are against violence and trying to coerce people to believe. We think that all people are free moral agents and must grasp the superiority of Jesus Christ and the gospel, if they are to follow him. No one can follow the Lord, unless they are convinced in their minds to follow him. Having said that, we also state that the worship of the living God is just not another religion to be tolerated. It is the right one. All others are wrong.

Someone might ask, “Isn’t that being rather narrow-minded?” Let’s use an illustration. If we had a table before us with 20 glasses on it, one filled with pure water and 19 with deadly poison, would it be narrow-minded to drink only the one filled pure water? If God’s word is truth, then all other religions are deadly error. Should Christians then work for the suppression of other religions? Israel was so ordered in the old covenant (Deuteronomy 13). No, because we live under a different covenant, which is not a ministry of death, but of life (2 Corinthians 3). The new covenant way is to avoid false teachers (2 John).

During the old covenant, God demonstrated his ability to effectively deal with sin. He operates in space and time. He reserves to himself the right to tell us how to interact with people who oppose him and truth. We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5).

In our time, we are in the midst of a great struggle within professing Christianity. Here are a few examples.

  • Is the object of religion to love God or oneself?
  • Is the Bible the word of God or a mixture of truth and error?
  • Can we even say that there is any such thing as absolute truth?
  • Is there eternal punishment for the unsaved or merely annihilation or even universal salvation?
  • Is a Christian someone who merely assents to the “Apostles’ Creed” or one who trusts in Jesus Christ alone in order to be right with God?
  • Is there any value in or purpose for being heavenly-minded?
  • Was Christ’s death and resurrection necessary to save us, or were they only moral examples?
  • Does God really care about sexual immorality?

Elijah acted in order that the people would serve God only. His demand was based upon a basic principle of the old covenant: “if… then follow…” (1 Kings 18:24). The law covenant prohibited the worship of any other gods and the making of idols and images (Deuteronomy 5:1-10). Once you know what is right, you must live in conformity with the truth. Jesus taught this same truth: no person can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). You must be for the Lord and live for him, or be for a false god and live for him.

What should we learn from this uncomfortable incident?

  • It is not enough to be brought up in a Christian home, and just to drift along with the tide when out in the world. You yourself must know Christ by faith and decidedly live for him.
  • It is insufficient to have an orthodox creed and to live a wicked life (Titus 1:16). True faith produces godliness.
  • It is not acceptable to be a Christian on Sunday, and yet fail to confess the Lord Jesus Christ during the week (Matthew 10:32-33).
  • Don’t waver between two opinions. Worship the living God and live for him!

Grace and peace, David

Psalm 63 (Part Three)

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory (63:2 NIV).

Verses two through eight presents five vital experiences of the saints (those set apart for God, which is a basic idea about true believers.) Each of us should seek to know each of these experiences in an increasing measure. Salvation is not some kind of “fire insurance policy” but the experience of eternal life with God that begins now. Each ideally will develop in an increasing measure. The five experiences are:

  • God’s glory
  • Praise
  • Satisfaction
  • Meditation
  • Trust

Unfortunately, some approach the Bible and its message with mere intellectual curiosity. They like to hear “steps for successful living” or how to be prosperous or moral or have a happy family or whatever quest they’re into. The Bible becomes a manual that provides a philosophy for life or counsel about how to get through their problems. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said years ago, they have “taken up” Christianity, but Christianity has never taken hold of them. To them, it is practical information without spiritual transformation. This psalm does not permit such an approach. It speaks of the person whom the true and living God has “taken up”. Against a barren assent or knowledge, this psalm tells us of spiritual experience with God as the center, as the great desire of the heart. King David’s purpose in this song is to shout out that God himself may be known!

It is important to remember that David lived during the time when the law or old covenant governed a person’s approach to God. His worship had to be through physical means like sacrifices offered at an altar at the earthly sanctuary, the tabernacle. We must think about the means he needed to use in worship. Certainly, all believers in God in all ages know God himself through faith. My point does not concern the reality of fellowship with God, or even whether any particular believer in one age of redemptive history had a greater desire for or intimacy with God than a believer in a different age. Everything is in proportion to one’s faith. But we ought to keep in mind the historical setting of this psalm.

When David wrote “in the sanctuary”, he meant that physical place chosen by God as the home of the Ark of the Covenant. Earlier in Israel’s history, this had been the tabernacle built in the time of Moses; later it would be the temple constructed by Solomon. David lived in a transitional period, and he meant the tent he had erected to house the Ark. During the law covenant, God revealed his glory in connection with the Ark. The old covenant people could see the cloud of glory arising from above the gold mercy seat of the Ark, between “the wings of the cherubim”. Part of David’s experience was very physical.

In the new covenant, believers in Jesus the Messiah are God’s temple or sanctuary. For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people (2 Corinthians 6:17 NIV; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Peter 2:4-5; etc.) We do not go to a place to see a physical appearance of God’s glory, but the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us (1 Peter 4:14 NIV). When we are with other believers in Jesus, we form the temple of God that we already are. The Lord Jesus is present in such gatherings (Matthew 18:20). This truth should cause us to worship together with reverence and awe! By faith we can see the Living One in our sanctuary! Since we are God’s temple, we can know his spiritual presence (which is very real; something does not have to be material to be real, witness God himself.) In our gatherings, we should see his power and glory. We should see his power in the transformation of lives. We should realize that there is shining spiritual glory in our meetings. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18 CSB).

Grace and peace, David

The Temptation of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus answered, “It is written…” (Luke 4:4, 8 NIV)

Many have written about temptation in general and this temptation of the Lord Jesus by Satan specifically. The typical approach is either that it is an important part of the doctrines of sin and temptation, or that we can learn “practical lessons” about how to overcome temptation. Usually, Christians are drawn to the second approach, because too often Christianity is reduced to a “do it yourself” (DIY) method that concentrates on “practical” 3 to 12 step plans that usually neglect the Triune God. But that is a topic for another time. Yet, I purposefully mentioned this matter, because few are aware of how their reading, interpretation, and ideas of the nature of the Christian life are skewed by a demand for what is “practical”, so that they fail to see God’s glory in Christ. Their approach to the word becomes human-centered rather than Christ-focused.

In this article, I want to present what is far less considered; that is, the importance of this section to Biblical theology, which wants to know and to tell the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. When we know this, then the passage can enrich our systematic and practical theologies.

  • Jesus came as God’s new man, the last Adam. The first Adam yielded to the temptation by the devil against the word of God. Adam the first fell in the Garden of Eden, where he was richly provided for by the Lord. He had all the food he could eat in the lush vegetation of the Garden nearby him. However, the first Adam disobeyed God, and we all sinned in him, and the reign of death began (Romans 5:12-14). Jesus Christ, the last Adam, went into the wilderness to do the will of God. Adam was told not to eat the fruit of one tree; Jesus was led by the Spirit not to eat any food, while in the desert. He would have to conquer a temptation about food to show that he was the obedient Son who could provide salvation to his people (Hebrews 5:8-9). That obedience required living according to the word of God.
  • Jesus came as the new Israel, the Servant of the Lord. God had brought Israel out of Egypt to serve his holy will to bring blessing to the nations. However, Israel was quickly side-tracked. Though God provided them with food every week, in the wilderness they complained against the Lord and his rich provision. For this reason, Jesus went into the wilderness where he lived in submission to God’s directives, without food. In the wilderness, Israel fell into idolatry (Psalm 106:19-22, 28-29). In the desert, Jesus refused to worship anyone but God alone. Israel forgot God’s miracles for their benefit. Christ did not put God to the test as they did (Psalm 78:40-41). (You can study this out more, by carefully reading Psalms 78 and 106, as you meditate on this passage from Luke.)
  • Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom, which involves the power of the Spirit (Matthew 12:28). Therefore, when the evil one tried to mislead him with the kingdoms of the world, he had no interest. His mission was to proclaim God’s kingdom, to tell people how to enter God’s kingdom, to describe the people in God’s kingdom, and to show the superiority of God’s kingdom to anything on earth (Matthew 13:44-46). He could hear the temptation about the kingdoms of the world and their authority and splendor and see all that as an enticement away from God and what is best… to idolatry. The new age of the Spirit, the kingdom of God, and the new covenant are of far greater value than any trifles of worldly authority and splendor. Jesus made the choice for the glory of God’s heaven, and so was prepared to preach the kingdom of God to others. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17 NIV). To follow Jesus requires repentance from the pursuit of worldly splendor, in order to live for the glory of God.

So then, let’s us understand that this account of Jesus overcoming temptation is more than a manual on resisting temptation. It shows his glory as God’s obedient, trusting new man, servant, and preacher of the kingdom. And as we behold his glory, we reflect it and are transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.

Grace and peace, David