Archive | January 2015

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final Thoughts on Hebrews 5:1-11

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek”; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.           NKJV

Hebrews was written to the Jews to show them that Jesus is the Messiah, and as such, is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament ceremonial laws including the establishment of the high priesthood. In our text, we are given a three-fold portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, Jesus was appointed by God the Father as the believer’s high priest (vs. 1-4). The high priest had to be a man (v. 1). No other created creature could serve as high priest—neither angel, nor animal—he had to be human. In the person of Jesus, God became a man (Jn. 1:14, Phil. 2:5-8). As sinners, the Old Testament high priests first offered up sacrifices for their own sins before offering up sacrifices for the peoples’ sins (vs. 2-3). Because the high priest himself was a sinner, he was unsuitable as a satisfactory, substitutionary sacrifice to pay for the sins of others. God solved this problem by becoming a man Himself, and living a perfect, sinless life in the person of Jesus, so that He was able to go to the cross and become the perfect sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 4:15, II Cor. 5:21). No man could legitimately appoint himself as high priest (v. 4). Only God could appoint a legitimate high priest, and that is exactly what God the Father did in appointing the Lord Jesus Christ as high priest (vs. 5-6, 10-11).

Second, Jesus was approved as the Savior and High Priest through His suffering and perfect obedience (vs. 7-9). In verse seven, the word “from” is translated from the Greek word “ek,” which literally means “from out of the midst of.” Jesus’ prayer was not for His heavenly Father to “keep” Him from dying, but rather to raise Him “out of the midst of” death. God the Father answered Jesus’ prayer by raising Him from the dead (Psa. 16:9-11, Acts 2:24-32). We are told in verse 8 of our text that Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered. It’s easy to obey authority when it doesn’t cost anything to obey, or if it’s something we want to do anyway. But real obedience is learned by doing that which does cost, or by doing that which we do not want to do.

Third, Jesus was anointed King as well as High Priest. In the Old Testament, God anointed some men as priests and others as kings, but no one was ever anointed by God as both priest and king—with one exception; a man named Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20, Heb. 7:1-4). God declares that Jesus is a high priest after the order (arrangement or pattern) of Melchizedek (vs. 6, 10), because God the Father has not only appointed Jesus to be High Priest, but to be King as well. In fact, in Jesus, you have all three anointed offices, prophet, priest, and king, in one person. Jesus began His public ministry as a prophet, speaking by direct revelation from God (Heb. 1:2). He concluded His public ministry as a high priest when He offered up the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and He still continues in that ministry of High Priest where He stands at the right hand of God the Father, offering eternal intercession for all believers. Jesus also sets at the right hand of God the Father, having been anointed as King (Lit. King of Kings = I Tim. 6:15, Rev. 19:16), and one day He will return and reign visibly and gloriously over all the nations of the world (Eph. 1:20-22, Matt. 28:18, Psa. 2:6, Isa. 32:1, Zech. 9:10). The scripture declares that every knee will bow, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Lit. Master, Boss, the Sovereign Ruler of all creation) to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).

We all have two choices in life. We can either accept Jesus as our personal High Priest and Savior, and willingly serve Him as our King, and reap eternal blessings and joy as a result. Or we can reject Jesus as our personal High Priest and Savior, and stand before Him some day as our King and Judge, and reap the eternal torments of Hell as a result. But either way, He will be exalted as King.

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From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Isaiah 58:1-14

In this chapter the Lord rebukes the Israelites for their half-hearted and hypocritical religious actions and calls for them to repent. From this chapter, there are three lessons we can learn regarding religious service that is pleasing to God.

First, religious service that is pleasing to God must be sincere (vs. 2-5, Jos. 24:14, I Tim. 1:5, Rev. 2:4, II Cor. 1:12). The “you” that your fellow church members see; is it the real you? Or do you feel like you have to put on a front or else you will be criticized and labeled unspiritual? If that is the case, then there is a spiritual problem, either with your life (if you are trying to cover actual sin), or with your church (if you have legalistic members who put their own personal preferences on the same level as the commandments of God). Even if the problem lies within the church members, who are you trying to please, God or men? (Eph. 6:6).

Second, religious service that is pleasing to God must come from a repentant heart (vs. 5-6). Simply going through the motions of religious duty, doing the right things for the wrong reason, is nothing more than cold, dead formalism and is not acceptable to God. The Lord commanded the Ephesians, even though they had sound doctrine, good works, and were outwardly obedient to the scriptures, to repent because they were not doing these things for the right reason. They were just going through the motions, rather than serving the Lord out of a heart of love for Him (Rev. 2:5). God doesn’t want our sense of religious duty; He wants our hearts (Psa. 51:16-17). When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind (Lk. 10:27). If our hearts belong to the Lord and we love Him with all our being, His other commandments will fall naturally into place in our lives (Matt. 22:40). When we truly repent of our sins and purpose to serve the Lord with our whole hearts, then the Lord will give us spiritual enlightenment and healing (v. 8). If we truly repent of our sins, then God will answer our prayers (v. 9, I Jn. 3:22), but if the Lord does not have our hearts and we insist on doing things our way, rather than God’s way, then He will not respond to our prayers (Psa. 66:18). It all comes back to the state of our hearts again.

Third, religious service that is pleasing to God must be centered on others, not on self (v. 7, Jas. 1:27). Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39, Mk. 12:31). God promises that if we will put the needs of others ahead of our own greed, then He will make us a light to those around us and bless our endeavors (vs. 10-12). The Lord also promises that if we will spend one day a week in public worship with our brethren, rather than spending it on our own pleasure, then we will experience His joy and find satisfaction in our souls (vs. 13-14). Corporate or public worship with God’s people ought to be a joyful experience, and when it’s not, there is either something wrong with our hearts, or else there is something wrong with our church. We ought to enter into the public worship services joyfully, not simply out of a sense of duty, just because God requires it of us. When we enter into the worship service, our hearts should be filled with excitement for the opportunity to worship the Lord with His people; not attempting to hide who we really are behind a mask of spirituality.

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Psalm 40:13-17

Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me! Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion Who seek to destroy my life; Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonor Who wish me evil. Let them be confounded because of their shame, Who say to me, “Aha, aha!” Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” But I am poor and needy; Yet the LORD thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.           NKJV

This final portion of Psalm 40 is a prayer of David during a time of persecution by his enemies (vs. 14-15). In this prayer we learn three lessons from David’s godly response in his persecution.

First, we need to pray in times of persecution. Of course we need to pray all the time (I Thess. 5:17), but especially in trials because God is the one who is able to deliver us from any trial—including persecution (v. 13). In verses 14-15, David prays for deliverance from his enemies. Notice that he does not pray for the destruction of his enemies. There are times in the Psalms when David does pray for the destruction of God’s enemies (as opposed to his own personal enemies), particularly when they are bringing dishonor upon the name of the Lord, or threatening God’s people. But David is not praying for the destruction of his personal enemies and neither should we. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. We especially need to pray for the salvation of our enemies. How glorious for one whom was once an enemy to become a brother or sister in Christ.

Notice the three things in verses 14-15 that David does pray for regarding his persecutors. First he prays for his persecutors to be brought to shame and dishonor. A person will never be saved until they first become ashamed of their sins. Second, David prays for his persecutors to be confused (lit. perplexed or amazed). How would persecutors normally expect their victims to respond to their abuse? With anger? With hatred? With cursing? How amazed will our persecutors be when if we respond with blessing, and kindness, and prayer for their salvation and spiritual welfare? Third, David prays for his persecutors to fail in their wicked schemes against him, whether it is to ruin his reputation, harm his loved ones, or take his life. Whatever his persecutors’ evil designs against him may be, he prays that they will fail.

Second, even in the midst of persecution by our enemies, we should rejoice in the Lord and glorify Him (Psa. 34:1, I Thess. 5:18). We can do so in the knowledge that, even in persecution, we are exactly where the Lord intends us to be; and that He has us in those circumstances for our best spiritual interest (Rom. 8:28). Instead of viewing trials, even persecution, as a curse, we should view it as an opportunity from God to bring glory and honor to His name (I Cor. 10:31), and even if we are unable to see anything else good in our persecution, we can certainly rejoice in the fact that we are saved (v. 16). If we were not saved, we would not truly seek God in our lives. We might cry out to Him, wanting our trials alleviated, as the wicked often do in severe circumstances. But the wicked are not truly seeking the Lord because they care anything about Him, and therefore God will not hear their prayers (Mic. 3:4). Conversely, God always hears the prayers of the righteous (v. 17).

Third, even in the midst of persecution, the righteous are confident that God is aware of their trials and will respond to their prayers for help (v. 17; Psa. 15:29, 34:15). The first prayer that God ever truly hears is the prayer for salvation (Jn. 9:31, Rom. 10:13), and even the prayers of believers will go unanswered when they are out of God’s will (Psa. 66:18, I Jn. 5:14).

How do you respond when persecution comes into your life? Do you pray for the salvation of your persecutors? Do you desire God’s will in those trials, even above your own will? Do you give God thanks for the salvation of your soul and the opportunity to glorify Him?