Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 9:9-38

bibleLast week, we followed Jesus as He continued to perform miracles demonstrating who He is, the Messiah, the Son of Man prophesied to come. We left off with Jesus making a major point that He was given authority to forgive sin, and the demonstration of that authority was given in the form of healing a paralytic. The crowds are following the spectacle and seeking healing and deliverance from demons, but Jesus purpose is an eternal one, not merely temporal. So that we do not get mired in analyzing miracles in isolation, today we’ll work through the rest of Matthew Chapter 9 so that we can keep the over-arching context of what we are seeing here. Jesus is the Gospel, not the miracles. The Miracles testify of Him.

The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

Matthew 9:9-38 (ESV)

Jesus Calls Matthew

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This is a good opportunity to point out the principle of interpreting the unclear with the clear in Scripture. Jesus’s response to the Pharisees is a bit of pointed sarcasm here. The last statement is the key to the sarcasm, Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, He came to call sinners. Is He saying the Pharisees are righteous? Only in their own sight, by their own measure. The Apostle Paul addressed this very well in his letter to the Romans:

Romans 3:9-20 (ESV) | No One Is Righteous
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18   “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Clearly, Jesus was not acknowledging the righteousness of the Pharisee, but dismissing them according to their unbelief. A sick person needs a physician, but a sick person who believes himself to be well will not seek a physician. In fact, even when a physician tells the person, “you are not well” the sick person who esteems himself more highly than the physician will think the physician a fool and reject his call. When it comes to sin and salvation, there are no valid “second opinions”. Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, for there were none to be called. All have sinned. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.

Matthew 9 | A Question About Fasting

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.

I’ve seen this passage used to justify mandating some proposed change in church practice, structure, or doctrine. Such approaches usually compel the listener to git rid of the old and become new so that you can get a new and fresh (word/anointing/impartation/etc.). That is not what Jesus is teaching here. Notice that the disciples of John include themselves with the Pharisees in the fasts being questioned. The old wineskin is NOT about orthodoxy, stubborn resistance to change, or Pharisaism. What fasts are these disciples (and Pharisees) observing that Jesus’ disciples were not? The fasts of the Mosaic Covenant. The old covenant points forward to Christ. Now that Christ had arrived, He would usher in a New Covenant (wineskin) by His body and by His blood into which He will pour His Spirit (Pentecost) to all who are brought into the covenant by faith.

Hebrews 8:1-7 (ESV) | Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant
8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Hebrews 8:13 (ESV)13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

Jesus made it clear that fasting in and of itself was not going away, just that the mandated fasts of the old covenant were not binding on the disciples who lived in the presence of God the Son, Jesus.  A time would soon come when the disciples will fast, when the bridegroom is taken away from them. New wine in a new wineskin, we fast in worship to God in light of the Gospel, not the mere observances of the Law.

Matthew 9 | A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live. 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well. 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well. And instantly the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

Faith. The father had faith that Jesus could raise his daughter from the dead. The woman had faith that touching His garment would make her well (as opposed to making Him unclean). I’ve seen many a teaching follow rabbit trails out of this passage, stay focused on the message of faith in the person of Jesus. There were doubters (the flute players and crowd making commotion) who laughed at Jesus. These were unable to interfere with God’s work. Jesus put them outside, and healed the girl. The focus is on faith in Who Jesus Is.

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

Faith. Not in the miracle, but in the person of Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

Unbelief. Dangerous, stubborn, prideful, arrogant, narcissistic, unbelief. The sin of unbelief is our birthright in Adam. Praise be to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for by His blood we might be made sons and daughters of the Most High, adopted into the kingdom of Heaven and into the Promise of Eternal life as our inheritance, in Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Amen. I want to take this moment also to point out a major distraction within the Pentecostal community. An unhealthy fixation on the apostolic signs and wonders is unhelpful for the preaching of the Gospel of Salvation. Jesus was walking in the flesh, preaching of His Father’s Kingdom and performing miraculous signs and wonders and unbelief yet remained. As the Apostles were sent out from Pentecost, the signs and wonders that followed them did not end their persecution either, but served as a testimony to their preaching, that they were indeed sent by Jesus Christ out into the world to preach. We have that word and the same Holy Spirit, but we dare not trade the preaching of the Word of God for the preaching of signs and wonders. That is backward and a huge distraction from our Commission as Stewards of the Gospel of Grace. Preach the Word, and God the Holy Spirit who remains Sovereign over His Gifts will convict the hearts and call sinners to repentance. I think it is fair to say to the Evangelical Church in general, “Stop trying to major in the minors, preach the Gospel, make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them all that Jesus has commanded.”

Matthew 9 | The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We serve a truly Great and Compassionate God. Jesus taught in the synagogues and proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom. He healed every disease and every affliction. There was nothing He couldn’t heal. There is nothing He can’t heal. Did everyone believe in Him? No, for if they had there wouldn’t have been anyone to plot His death.

We need more laborers today. Jesus told His disciples to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. One final warning for this post to the modern-day evangelical church industry… the Lord of the Harvest sends out laborers into His harvest. It does not fall to men to scheme, manipulate, woo, and entice the lost into the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no call to “church the unchurched” or to make the Gospel “more Relevant” to our culture. That’s not our call, that’s not our commission.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV) | Preach the Word
4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Be Perfect

 We talk a lot here about the need to preach Law and Gospel in equal measure. Too many churches preach Law with a mere mention of Gospel taken as Given or a start-point. If you’ve been tracking some of the sermons and lectures we’ve shared lately (Dr Rod Rosenbladt and Tullian Tchividjian), we have been drawing attention to the need to remain focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ without ignoring the Law and without placing born-again Christians back under the burden of the Law. Rod Rosenbladt did a great job in his sermon of accepting responsibility on behalf of the Church for allowing bad Law preaching to beat-down Christians into sad or mad Broken Christians. It come down to preaching all the Do’s and Don’ts of Godliness (Law), the 5 steps to perfection in [topic] based on [Law], and we’ve allowed the Gospel of Grace to go unspoken or left as a “given”. We all have to deal with this creep into legalism, even within the less orthodox traditions with a slightly diminished view of Scripture that look for “new” and “fresh” words of inspiration/revelation. Whether Lutheran, Calvinist, or Wesleyan the drift into the legalism of works-based righteousness is ever-present.

 Be Perfect, as Your Heavenly Father is Perfect

Not every preacher who slips into the error of legalism does so intentionally. I’m willing to guess that the vast majority are well-intentioned and struggling with the paradox of being both sinner and saint as born-again believers. Let us begin with where this passage is preached. It comes from the Sermon on the Mount, particularly Matthew 5:48. As we’ve been studying the Gospel According to Matthew in our Gospel Wednesday segments, it should be fresh in our minds what Christ was preaching… He was preaching the Law from Chapter 5 through Chapter 7. Since we’ve so recently gone through this sermon in detail, allow me to work through portions to illustrate what is going on for this

Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV) | Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus came to fulfill, not abolish, the Law and the Prophets. He goes on from here to address major areas of the Law and actually elevates the Law. He actually makes the case that no one is capable of fulfilling the Law satisfactorily. Notice here, that even the scribes and Pharisees will never enter the kingdom of heaven by their law keeping. This is Law, not Gospel. Now, before we get to the last segment on the Law of Love, let us first remember that the command to Love God and Love Neighbor is a commandment of the Law (not Gospel).

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) | The Great Commandment

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Does that make Love evil? No! But we’ll get to that. For now, let’s close out chapter 5.

Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV) | Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Is this the Gospel? No. Jesus is preaching the Law. The Law is not measured by our standards, but by the standard of the Holiness of God. And ONLY Jesus Christ could fulfill the Law.

Hebrews 7:11-28 (ESV) | Jesus Compared to Melchizedek

11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him,

“You are a priest forever,
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Hebrews 10:1-10 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

10 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

So, we see that perfection was attained on our behalf by Jesus Christ. His perfect blood atones for our Sin. His works secure our righteousness by way of a Promise. Jesus fulfilled the Law that no one else could fulfill.

Our Right-Standing Before God is by Faith not Works

Romans 5:1-11 (ESV) | Peace with God Through Faith

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

So the Law is of no Value?

No. The value of the Law, the purpose for the Law remains the same, its purpose is to reveal and expose sin. The remedy for the sin exposed by the Law is repentance at the foot of the cross and receiving forgiveness for our sin, in Jesus Name, because of His Finished Work on the Cross.

Romans 6:15-23 (ESV) | Slaves to Righteousness

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 7:7-12 (ESV) | The Law and Sin

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Simultaneously Sinner and Saint

The problem is trying to resolve the paradox of being set free from sin by faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross and continuing to live out our earthly lives in fallen, sinful flesh.

Romans 7:13-25 (ESV)

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

A day will come, when our healing from sin will be complete. That day, is the Great Day of the Resurrection. Whether by our deaths or by the Return of Jesus Christ for His Church, our flesh will be put away, and the sin with it. And those of us who by faith are found in Christ Jesus… His blood having been shed for our sin, His righteousness and perfection imputed to us by Grace through Faith, we will be made alive in Him. Never again slaves to sin and death, never again in fallen, weak flesh. Praise be to God for His Grace and Mercy.

We do not overcome the flesh by trying harder in the flesh. The righteousness of the Law is not attained by observing the Law, it can only be obtained by faith in the One who is Righteous. In fact, if there is one thing we should “do” is die to the flesh, die to sin, and repent. Humble confession and repentance before a Righteous and Holy God, with Jesus Christ as our intercessor, our substitute, our Savior. I pray that the Church repents of its treatment of the Gospel as merely a “reset” or “a one-time thing” rather than a life-long understanding of “It Is Finished”.

Romans 15:13 (ESV) 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | Alistair Begg – A Superior Covenant (Hebrews 8:1-13)

2011-alistair-begg

Today, we’ll visit TruthforLife.org for a sermon by Alistair Begg. Given yesterday’s tough examination of Tithing and the Malachi 3:8-10 proof text, I thought it best that we reach into the archives of Truth for Life and listen to Alistair Begg teach on the topic of understanding the covenants, and really about how to approach the whole of Scriptures.

Sermon link: A Superior Covenant

The Bible is like a two-act play: the second act makes no sense without the first. The New Testament is understandable and significant only in light of the Old Testament. In this passage, the writer helps us understand the necessity of the Old Covenant sacrificial system as it foreshadows the perfect sacrifice of the New Testament Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

Alistair shares a breakdown of the Bible (from his Sunday school teacher back in Scotland) that I find extremely helpful in recognizing how we should approach the Scriptures.

  • The Old Testament – Jesus Predicted
  • The Gospels – Jesus Revealed
  • The Acts of the Apostles – Jesus Preached
  • The Epistles – Jesus Explained
  • The Revelation – Jesus Expected

Sermon Text

Hebrews 8:1-13 (ESV) | Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant

1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

May God bless you and keep you,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Worship or Entertainment?

Tickets to Worship for Entertainment?

Tickets to Worship or for Entertainment?

Looking back over our first year of blogging, it is clear that the most visited feature of this site is our Discernment in Music (DiM) where we take a Biblical look at the most popular songs being played on “Christian Radio” today. The concern is that we’ve allowed our minds and hearts to be filled with anything calling itself “Christian” without carefully examining what is being conveyed by these songs either directly or by inference. Many of these songs are working their way into Churches for “Praise and Worship”, so we really need to make sure what we preach (with or without musical accompaniment) is in keeping with sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Toward the end of the Fall, we here in the Georgia started getting a lot of concert events hosted by local Churches and Christian Radio stations. There are some Artists who draw large crowds these days all on their own: Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and Toby Mac. In some of the more remote/rural areas, it’s hard to get one of the big names to do a concert so what event planners will do is set up Music Festivals to bring several artists together. Local stations will often promote these events heavily, offering free tickets as incentives for community engagement, but for the most part tickets to the event are purchased for anywhere from $15 to $35 per adult. Touring, ticket sales, and Album/iTunes sales are the basis for the careers of these musicians and their production team. This is their job. This is what they do to earn their salaries. Yet, within the Christian Community, we also include all of this as their Ministry. Is that true in every case?

***Edit: Some artists do the concert events for free so that ticket sales can go toward a local Charity or fund raiser. These should still not be sold as “worship”, but I wanted to make it clear that the money isn’t always going to the artists***

At the close of one such musical event last fall (2014), there was a comment made that seemed to stop everything in its tracks… like in the movies where someone makes an awkward comment in a huge house party and everyone freezes and you hear the Vinyl Record come to a screeching halt.

“…So come on out and join us on [Day] starting at [Time] for a night of worship and celebration…”

Are we paying for the opportunity to worship God, or are we paying for a night of musical entertainment? I can understand if you just rolled your eyes, or let out a sigh of exasperation… but while you are still here and reading, think about the question one more time. What are we paying for to attend one of these concert events? What is the advertisement on Christian radio actually selling? Are they selling a chance to experience skillful music and dazzling lights or are they selling “worship”? Let’s pause that thought for the moment, to consider its implications.

Entertainment

I’m not implying that there is anything inherently wrong with entertainment. I attended a Tim Hawkins comedy show at a local church on a Friday night. Nothing wrong with laughter, and Tim Hawkins is a professing Christian. His theology for the most part is sound, and he’s quite skilled as a musician and he understands comedy well. However, despite the fact that he plays the guitar, his event wasn’t advertised a worship event. The call to attend was to enjoy a night of comedy. Laughter isn’t a form of worship found in the Bible. Tim does try to present the Gospel during a set or between bits, but we aren’t buying tickets to a sermon, and they aren’t trying to sell sermon tickets. I can’t imagine anyone in attendance thinking to themselves, “wow, I’m really worshiping Jesus right now by enjoying these jokes”. It simply isn’t what we consider to be an act of worship, and rightly so. Can the Gospel be preached at such an event? Absolutely. Can something funny be shared in a sermon without drawing away from the Word of God? Yes. But we don’t confuse the two categories. One is entertainment, the other is Church, but everything can point to Christ (and we should endeavor to point to Christ in all that we do).

Worship

Let’s talk a little bit about Worship as it is described in the Bible. Searching (admittedly I’m not searching in the Hebrew) in the ESV for “worship”, the earliest mentions of the word are in conjunction with offering of sacrifices to God.

Genesis 22:1-5 (ESV) | The Sacrifice of Isaac
1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

There isn’t always a mention of a burnt offering. In place of a burnt offering, there is sometimes a prayer of thanksgiving or of praise clearly uttered to the Lord God, such as in the case of Jacob’s servant when tasked with finding a suitable wife for Isaac.

Genesis 24:12-28 (ESV) | A Wife for Isaac
12 And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. 16 The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. 17 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” 18 She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink.19 When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels. 21 The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.

22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, 23 and said, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” 24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25 She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.” 26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord 27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” 28 Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things.

Before the Law, and the Mosaic covenant, this is what the Lord God considered to be Worship. We know this, because this portion of the Law was dictated to Moses by God. But we also know that the Laws within the Mosaic Covenant defined right Worship, and that God made clear that Israel was NOT to worship God ways that they learned from the fallen world. Rather than pick through the Old Testament, let us jump to the book of Hebrews, to see this explained after the cross of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 9:1-14 (ESV) | The Earthly Holy Place
1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2 For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Let’s unpack this a bit. The Laws, the specific rituals of the priesthood and of the people (offerings, washings, consecration/fasting, etc.) and the blood of animals where all regulations of worship. This is what it was to Worship the Living God under the Old Covenant. All of these forms of worship pointed to Jesus Christ whose blood would finally succeed where previous forms of worship failed, in that it would purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. What are we to do now? We still offer sacrifices to God in our worship, but what sacrifices do we offer?

Hebrews 13 (ESV) | Sacrifices Pleasing to God
1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you.

Declaring the mighty works of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and bearing the reproach of the world are pleasing acts of worship. Music isn’t even mentioned here. Does that make music sinful? Nope. It doesn’t make music anything. We’ve over-cooked the role of music in our modern-day understanding of “Worship”. We’ve done it in our churches and we’ve done it on the Radio, and we’ve done it in our Entertainment.

Conclusion

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being entertained, especially not in a God-honoring format. That doesn’t mean that such entertainment also qualifies as “worship”. But how you conduct yourself in such environments matters. We were created to worship God, but our sinful nature is eager to worship anything other than God. Most often our sinful flesh urges us to worship ourselves and our desires. And we tend to do so much more flamboyantly than we do for God… and this was true even in the Old Testament (Exodus 32). Christians who attend concerts for entertainment simply need to guard their hearts from false teaching and false worship. Having a “praise band” in your church is fine, if what they are doing is indeed an act of worship to the Living God and not a form of entertainment for the congregation (that’s a very difficult “if” to evaluate by the way). The “praise band” does not worship God for the congregation, even when they are doing it well with the right heart. The call to worship is for everyone, not just the ones on the stage, and we dare not “sell” opportunities to Worship a Living God. Can ministry happen at such events? Yes. Can worship take place at such events? yes. Is that what we should be selling? No.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

OT | The Lord is My Banner (Exodus 17)

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

In our last Old Testament Study, we looked at how after God had provided the Children of Israel with mana in the wilderness (Jesus is the Bread from Heaven) He also provided them with water (Jesus called Himself the fountain of living water in the wilderness). Today’s post will be extra short so that (hopefully) you can take some time to review the OT studies leading up to Exodus 17.

Let’s jump into the text.

Exodus 17:8-16 (ESV)

Israel Defeats Amalek

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

Several interesting things here. The first thing I’d like to mention is that we shouldn’t read this portion as an isolated event, separated from all previous events. Such is the current, post-modern paradigm of viewing everything that happens as “new” and completely disconnected from everything that has happened before.

Who is Amalek?

They are descended of Esau (Genesis 36). Though himself a son of Isaac, God rejected him in favor of Jacob, whom he would rename Israel. Esau took wives from the daughters of Heth (Canaan) further separating himself from the Promise to Abraham. Now, after so many generations, Amalek is waging war with the People of God, the Children of Promise.

Whose Victory of Battle?

Moses sends Joshua to choose men for battle, but to whom is the victory attributed? The Lord. Moses goes up on a hill and holds, not his staff, but the Staff of God. While in some cases it might be referred to as Moses’s staff, in this case Moses is clear to Joshua what is going to take place. The very staff that God instructed Moses and Aaron to use for each the plagues against Pharaoh, the staff with which God parted the Red Sea and the same staff God commanded Moses to strike the rock with at Horeb. Moses wasn’t saying “I’ll make sure you win”, he was saying “the Lord God is your Banner in battle”.

Banner?

While researching this passage, there was an entry in the Reformation Study Bible I thought was very informative, demonstrating something that might be lost in translation for us.

17:15 The Lord is my banner. The Hebrew word translated “banner” underlies “staff” in v. 9 and is used for the “pole” on which the bronze serpent was later placed (Num. 21:8). Since “banner” suggests cloth to us, this connection is lost. A spear could serve as a standard in battle, with or without bits of cloth tied to it. Later, a staff might have a device on it to mark the rallying point for troops. In the ancient world, these were sometimes images or signs of the gods. Moses’ staff is the ensign to which Joshua’s army could look and that symbolized God’s saving power. Moses declares that God Himself is the Standard, the Ensign of His people.

Very cool. Once again, what we are seeing here is not the greatness of Joshua’s leadership, but the Mighty Hand of God at work, showing His favor upon Israel, Moses, and Joshua. Remember the Song of Moses as recorded in Exodus 15.

Exodus 15 (ESV)

The Song of Moses

15 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a man of war;
    the Lord is his name.

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
    and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
    they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
    you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
    the floods stood up in a heap;
    the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
    they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand;
    the earth swallowed them.

13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
    you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
14 The peoples have heard; they tremble;
    pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
    trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
    all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
16 Terror and dread fall upon them;
    because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O Lord, pass by,
    till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
    the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

In Hebrews 11, we are taught that all of the mighty deeds accomplished in Scripture were by faith. Faith in whom? In the Only Living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator of all things. The Lord is my Banner… while there was a physical symbol of the favor of the Lord, neither Joshua, Aaron, Moses, nor Hur were under any misgivings that there was something in the staff itself, nor in the efforts of Moses. This was God’s work and God’s victory over Amalek.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)

Benediction

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

May the Grace of God be with you today and forever,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge