Archive for November, 2007
There is no better governor for the heart than vision. Vision constrains us, directs us, disciplines us, and motivates us like few other catalysts can or do. For once vision is caught, faith follows, and then self-discipline will grow in time, as the vision begins to connect heart and mind. No external government or accountability can match the internal fire that moves the heart of one who has a vision.
November 30th, 2007
I kinda, sorta forgot that there were so many articles, handouts, and mp3 files available on my website here. I was slightly surprised. I’m also motivated to throw way more resources here and elsewhere out there for the hungry and the curious.
Elsewhere? Well, my plan is to aggressively compete for the eyes of a generation in prayer and proclamation in the days to come, calling teenagers to turn their eyes from worthless things and set them fully on the beauty of the Lord. One of the many initiatives I want to launch in 2008 is a fairly aggressive addition to the ihop.org website, that being a section dedicated to equipping High School students and Youth Pastors with as many materials and tools as we can possibly cram into their hands to do prayer meetings, bible studies, and end-times discussion groups.
The IHOP-KC website already has a fairly ridiculous amount of material and handouts, in my opinion. I have this crazy ambition to double the output and really get more of the message of a movement out there for youth and young adults who are responding to the invitation of the Lord to a life of unusual dedication and passionate pursuit. What can I say? I like free resources.
More and more information to come as the days grow shorter…
November 29th, 2007
There’s a little prayer Marci Sorge, our Ministry Director at IHOP-KC, prays every morning to start the day. She simply asks the Lord to frustrate the plans of men so that His plans can be established in our midst. Therefore, when I find myself “stuck” on something and unable to move forward, I will often look up to the heavens, growl menacingly, and mutter to myself, “Marci….!”
It’s quite comforting, however, in the midst of my frustrations, to have some sense of the source of my inability to move forward. My temptation is to, in my stubbornness, simply plow forward and keep slamming into the same wall over and over again. To know, however, that there is a sovereign, invisible hand pressed against my dullness changes the “rules of the game” a bit. After years of this kind of pattern mixed in with a little “God-awareness” I can actually rest when resisted in my plans rather than stew and sweat.
I can not even begin to list how many times over the past five years I have been frustrated at the slowness of something that I want to see develop quickly, only to be stunned by the “suddenly” of God. Bang! Seemingly overnight, the things that I have been praying and thinking about land in a way that was better than I originally conceived. How many times have I said afterwards, “Wow! God, you did that so quickly!” Of course, I always somehow in the drama of the moment forget about the months of wrestling (sometimes years) and pain in the waiting. It always feels “speedy” and timely when God moves, regardless of the delay.
I find that there is an inherent trust and confidence that develops and deepens in me towards any ministry that would ask God for things night and day for eight years. My confidence comes from the wisdom of continual prayer, not from any wisdom inherent to the ministry itself. What happens when a people present themselves to God daily and ask Him for things from the Bible? The prayers of Paul related to wisdom, holiness, authority, the gifts of the Spirit, love, discernment, understanding of the scriptures, patience and perseverance…what would happen if a group of people gathered twenty-four hours a day and prayed these prayers to God?
Of course, the answer to this lies in your view of God’s sovereignty. How sovereign is He? How big is God? Can He answer the biblical prayers of weak people offered up to Him twenty-four hours a day? Is He worthy of such an expression of devotion and faith? Does God answer prayer - and whose prayers does He answer? I would not say that God favors continual prayer over the infrequent one in the sense of which prayer He will answer - but Luke 18 is an apologetic for “prayer without ceasing”, or the continual prayers of the “elect” ones who are confident of God’s answer, regardless of the timing.
Therefore, if I were to look to build a life of prayer from a biblical framework, I would pray the prayers of the Bible (asking what the Holy Spirit wants us to ask for) and I would do it as continually as possible. In other words, I would recruit other “elect” ones with confidence in their identity to pray the same biblical prayers at other times in the day. Then I would set the prayer meetings to music, mostly because it makes it easier to pray for long periods of time enjoyably - helping to manage the rigor of continual prayer (it’s what King David did according to the Lord’s command).
Then I would recruit a godly, humble, and wise woman to pray a little prayer every morning related to the plans of men being frustrated. With all those “ingredients” in place, I would wait eagerly for God’s answer (1 Cor. 1:7).
November 28th, 2007
Hey! It’s thanksgiving! I’m not posting today - I’m full! Plus, my wife is wondering why I am typing anything on a clear family night. Since I did so much of the cooking and cleaning today while pretty much avoiding all forms of football, I’ve bought myself a few seconds here before the scrutiny shifts my way.
So, here are the quick hit highlights:
1. Grilled a turkey. Wanted to deep fry, but couldn’t justify the initial expense nor the physical dangers to my wife. As I was getting the bird ready for the grill, Allison and Samuel (and their cute little dudes) came over for a bit and told me that they could only ever eat turkeys deep-fried, because of the sheer superiority of that method of turkey preparation. My cold, dead eyes expressed my joy at their past experience with deep-fried turkey.
2. The Candler family joined us for dinner, which was great because it gave me an excuse to grill a turkey. If they hadn’t come over, it would have been chinese food for the Sliker clan for sure. Plus, we love the Candlers and their unbelievably cute kids as well. A good time was had by all, as we mostly marveled at Mary Anderson’s general awesomeness at anything involving “doing stuff”.
(Sample conversation: Matt - “Whoa! Did you do all of this landscaping?” Me - “Mary.” Matt - “Whoa! You guys own a mixer?” Me - “Mary.” Matt - “Wow! You guys have a french drain in the front of your house?” etc. This went on for quite some time until neither of us felt very confident in our masculinity anymore.)
3. The grilled turkey was unbelievable, though it could have been a bit juicier. The secret is to leave the turkey in a big vat of brine (a type of salty marinade) all night before grilling, but I tried the “flavor injector” route which worked well; the continual basting in melted butter was helpful as well. The flavor I “injected” was a concoction I made that included chicken broth, fresh garlic, chopped onion, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and crushed bay leaves. The real secret to my success, though? Applewood chips for a light, sweet smoke flavor all through the meat. Yum.
Side note: You have to love a relatively populated prayer room all throughout the day on Thanksgiving. I still remember the days when this place would be a ghost town on holidays, a novelty of sorts for the curious few who wandered in while the lone guy on the guitar played until the next guy could show up with a few friends or family to carry the next few hours.
Fast forward eight years, and we find two prayer rooms running simultaneously on Thanksgiving day! The Justice Prayer Room had full worship teams all day, in fact - which I find unbelievable. So, to sum up: national holiday, cultural day of relaxation, football, and food; IHOP-KC meanwhile has 42 hours of live worship (24 and 18 in two prayer rooms) carried by roughly 200 musicians, singers, and worship leaders. Or, 100 and Justin Rizzo - but you get the idea.
November 22nd, 2007
Great apologies to those who checked back later in the day to see if I had continued my series on the law and the New Testament believer. There is a story behind why I wasn’t able to get back to the keyboard yesterday, but I will tell that one another time. I will return to the subject of the law and the false perceptions and ideas that surround passages Paul considered valuable and useful for the New Testament believer (to repeat: 2 Tim. 3:16 was not about the New (Testament). Before I do, I want to talk about a little passage from Luke.
Why? Because the subject of the kingdom is the subject of the law of God. To understand one is to grasp the other. The nature of the kingdom today and the nature of the kingdom to come gives us great clarity to the nature and place of the law in seasons of time, meaning this age and the age to come. The verse that is on my mind, of course, is Luke 11:17.
Prayer, Persistence, and Prevailing Faith
I love Luke 11. As a total side note, I appreciate the question: “teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples”. In other words, the disciples of John prayed like John. The context is the distinctive language John’s disciples used to signify who they followed and spent time with; but I am sure there was a bit of distinctive vocal inflections as well that immediately identified them as those who had been with John. I say that to ease the confusion of those who are troubled by the same when confronted with “those who have been with Lou” or “those who have been with Mike”, if you have ever visited our prayer room. What is true today also happened to be true 2000 years ago. I’m sure a few of the Corinthians preached like Apollos and Peter in their day.
In the first part of the passage, Luke knits the concept of prayer and the kingdom values that should infuse our language and conversation with God with persistence and pursuit to continue without losing heart. It’s a theme that Luke clearly enjoys (see Luke 18). Our persistence and pursuit of Jesus related to contending in prayer to establish His will and kingdom on earth should be knit to a confidence that 1.) He hears us and 2.) He will answer.
If we follow the template that Luke gives us from Jesus related to the will of the Father, and that forms much of our primary prayer language before the Lord, than we can be confident that the Father will give the Holy Spirit (!) as His answer to our cry. The Holy Spirit’s coming in answer to prayer and the coming of a heavenly kingdom in answer to prayer are, in the teaching of Jesus, the same subject. I get the sense that Luke was a prayer guy because Paul was a prayer guy. Thus, while many focus on Luke’s emphasis on Gentiles (another feature of his relationship with Paul), I appreciate his emphasis on prayer.
It is important to note two complimentary ideas: first, that Luke understood that the coming of Jesus signified the realization of the kingdom of God in their midst; the presence of the Holy Spirit (as we shall see) was a powerful indicator testifying to the coming of the kingdom to the earth. Yet the prayer itself, and Luke’s focus on persistence and pursuit of the things of God, both serve to reveal the eschatological hope of the believer. Having tasted the things of the kingdom, one cannot help but long and pray for “more”, unto the fullness of all that God desires to establish on the earth.
The dramatic moment
Interestingly enough, Luke follows his the prayer account with an immediate application: the deliverance of a demon from a mute man and the subsequent accusation that followed the manifestation of the Spirit and expression of the kingdom of God. In other words, Luke gives us a vivid picture of what it looks like for the kingdom to come (and His will being established) on earth as it is in heaven: demons flee and mute men speak. Of course, something else happens when His kingdom invades the earth - men are greatly disrupted (or, “shaken”).
Thus the accusation comes: Jesus, according to some, was able to cast out demons by the authority of Beelzebub, the ruler of demons. Now, how the multitudes were aware that the condition of the mute man was related to demonic activity and that his subsequent ability to speak was knit to the driving out of those same demons is quite beyond my ability to imagine. What happened that day that gave such a disruptive, violent picture of the invasion of the kingdom of heaven into the life of a mute man? Was it so dramatic and violent a deliverance that some in the multitudes called the act itself demonic in nature? It seems to have been a terrifying moment for some related to the incredible display of power they had witnessed.
The Pharisee’s Dilemma
Jesus, having discerned their accusation by hearing their thoughts (!), immediately instructs them in the way that life works. Luke will follow this with an even more chilling and powerful exhortation related to agreement with Jesus and the values of the kingdom in verses 24-26; but He first will address the false thinking of those who were murmuring against His demonstration of the power of the kingdom (whom Matthew identified as Pharisees). The illustration is an interesting one for this reason: Satan’s kingdom is divided against itself, will be brought to desolation, and will not stand.
Yet Jesus exposes the foolishness of their thinking related to what each kingdom will produce - not the impossibility of Satan’s kingdom being divided. For there are a few issues at stake in the point that Jesus is making: firstly, the kingdom that is divided will fall. It cannot stand. Secondly, if Jesus is doing the same thing that they themselves have done (their “sons”, or disciples cast out demons as well), by what authority are they able to cast out demons? The fruit of the lives of their “sons” would reveal the truth of the source of that authority. They would literally be the “judges” of the authenticity of the Pharisees. Finally, Jesus makes the key point - that if the “finger of God” is at work related to the deliverance of the mute man, then they could be assured that the kingdom of God has come upon them.
The Pharisees had a choice. They could denounce the work of deliverance as demonic, thereby opening up the door for their own ministries to be judged similarly, or they could attribute the work of Jesus to the “finger of God” - thus acknowledging that the kingdom had come, due to the far more dramatic ministry of Jesus that had astonished the multitudes. The “kingdom” that Jesus proclaimed had both an authority and a values system that were strikingly different than the spiritual culture, or kingdom, that the Sanhedrin had built for themselves and propagated throughout the Palestinian region.
Jesus exhorted them directly: “Are you with Me or against Me?”
Proof of the Kingdom of God - Victory
The choice was risky, because the “results” or the proof had not been established yet, even with the coming of the kingdom. A “strong man” was fully armed, guarding his own palace, with all of his possessions (goods) in peace, or undisturbed. The kingdom of Satan (Beelzebub) was established, guarded, and his “possessions” undisturbed. But a stronger man would come. This one, stronger than he (Satan), would come upon him (Satan), overcome him, and take from him all the defenses (armor) in which he trusted, and divide the spoils of victory.
I want to be clear: Jesus was not describing individual deliverance, or even the deliverance of a city. He was describing, in keeping with Luke’s theme of the fullness of God, the ultimate victory of Jesus the “stronger man” and His total defeat, tearing down, and capturing of all that in Satan’s possession. The ultimate end is the scattering of His enemies, the desolation of Satan’s kingdom, and the failure of his “house”. The deliverance of the individual is a foreshadowing of the deliverance of the whole of creation itself (Rom. 8:20-21). Jesus had demonstrated before their eyes, if they had faith to believe it, that He was the “stronger man”. What He had done with one man He would to for the whole earth.
The kingdom that had come upon them would come upon the whole earth.
Thus Jesus declares: “He who is not with Me is against Me.” If they were with Him, believing that the “finger of God” rather than Beelzebub was at work, than they wold gather to Him. If they would not gather to Him, they would find out soon enough how their “sons” were able to cast out demons. Once that judgment became clear to all, they would be scattered (11:23). Luke, who was more focused on the events of 70 A.D. and the Roman desolation of Jerusalem than the other gospel writers, understood the fate of their “kingdom” which, divided against itself 40 years later, would fall. Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, whether it be Satan’s or Israel’s.
(Tomorrow: why and how is Satan’s kingdom divided against itself?)
November 20th, 2007
I’ll try to post more about the law later today, but I thought I would direct the curious into a glimpse of my foreign policy, if I were ever elected into public office. Of course, making my foreign policy public insures that I will never be elected into public office. The same ould be said about my comments on Islam. And Humanism. And the Second Coming. And demons. Add the fact that I believe that God actually speaks to His people, heals, delivers, and gives the gift of tongues and I’m not even electable amongst Christians!
Side note: I finally watched “Amazing Grace” last night with my wife. I want what burned in the heart of that man to consume me related to abortion. Plus, for those that have seen the movie (and you all should - and I never recommend movies), you know I would love a shot at making quick retorts and wisecracks at stuffy Englishmen from the House of Lords in Parliament. Who knew? If I saw that movie as a teenager, I would surely be a politician right now.
But then, because of my unelectability and complete disdain for saying it less than straight (as well as my zealous, dogged idealism and apocalyptic notions of the end of the world) would find myself out of a job in two seconds.
If you’re curious about my foreign policy, read the comments section here.
November 19th, 2007
If you chewed on the articles below, then you are probably aware of my conviction that the law gets a bad rap in traditional evangelical theology. Let me be clear that I fully believe the following:
1. The law is necessary to bring conviction to the sinful man and prove to him that he is in great need. As such, the law, which was added “because of trangressions” (Gal. 3:19) and thus was “our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24). Of course, faith comes by grace alone, through Christ alone. There is no other means to lay hold of faith by which we are justified before God. We can have great confidence in the means God provided in kindness to show us mercy and cleanse us from sin and its fruit in our lives. We need grace (to bring us to faith / truth related to our condition, need, and hope) to be cleansed from sin through faith (confidence and trust in God’s ways above our own), and we need grace to have ongoing victory over sin (power from God to be transformed in our desires and actions that we might be cleansed and fit for service).
2. …after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Gal. 3:25) Thus, through the new and living way of Christ’s blood shed on our behalf, we have been delivered from the curse that comes upon the disobedient (Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26). These are the same curses that Moses defined in detail related to the breaking of the law. Through the atonement we have been delivered from the curse and translated into the kingdom of light, life, and truth. We have been set free from death and are now under a new “tutor”, the Holy Spirit, who will lead us into all truth and tell us of things to come (Jn. 16:13).
The problem is this: the scriptures are clear that the law has a place and a role in the life of the believer and the kingdom of God. While we are no longer under the tutor, as the penalty of our lawbreaking (and subsequent curse) has been dealt with through the atonement, Paul does not say that we have no further need of the tutor. As I said earlier, Jesus was clear - the law would not pass away until heaven and earth passed away. Thus, the law is still alive and well. We know this because lawbreakers and lawlessness is increasing in our day. We can define lawlessness and lawbreaking because of the divine standard given to us from God through Moses.
For the Christian, the law cannot condemn us. We are not appointed for wrath, rather we are appointed to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:9). But the law can still be (and should be) a delight to us, as it was written in the Psalms:
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
The law, among other things, serves as the standard for the believer and as a key revelation of God and His value system. What does God care about? Why does He care about it? If God were going to govern a people, what standard of laws, statutes, and commandments would He institute to order society? As such, the law becomes a revelation of God’s divine order in the manner in which the individual’s life and the corporate life should and will flow in a manner that reflects His will on earth as it is expressed in heaven.
The law is critical! Are the very words of King David in Psalm 19 obsolete because of the cross? The glory of our freedom from curse of lawbreaking is that we can, with a joyful heart, study the law devotionally and learn about an otherworldly value system that gives us great insight into the heart of God. We can learn divine order, which ignited the heart of King David in worship and fueled a Davidic order of worship that, in his thinking, reflected what God revealed about the heavenly worship order.
The law, in part, is an answer to a key question: what does God want to establish on the earth that is reflective of what He has established in heaven?
It seems like we have a few more things to explore related to this subject. As we move forward, however, it is critical that we begin to pursue the heart of David related to the law, understanding that it exposes the true evil - man himself. The flesh must be crucified in the manner in which it longs to be independent from the law and from the ways of God; we have not sought to crucify the flesh and put off the old man because the law itself is bad. In fact, the values and desires of God that the law reveals give us an ongoing “road map” as a believer for continual repentance and growth in the things of God and a way forward for internal transformation. If the law was rescinded, how would one define holiness?
King David gives us an interesting hint related to our growth in the fear of the Lord: it’s related to His law, His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments. The “plumb line” of God helps us grow in our awareness of our distance from Him, how much our lives do not reflect His value system, and our increasing awareness of our need for grace, which will spur us to ask for grace. For the believer, the law combined with the revelation of the Holy Spirit is thus an incredible tool to ignite true prayer and worship in our hearts and lives.
November 16th, 2007
This week I was featured on the new Onething Video Podcast, which you can watch here or here if you are so inclined. If you like watching me awkwardly and stiffly interact wearing an unflattering, obnoxiously-striped hoodie with bad facial hair (Note: I forgot that I was scheduled to record the interview, so I was in post-ministry trip hyper-casual “pray comfortable” mode) while squeezed tightly between Dwayne and Jennifer Roberts, this may be your lucky day!
I gave the two of them the tip-off before recording that the subject that was prominent in my thinking that day was “ending well” and running the race to win. So we had a fun time talking about practical, biblical ways one can run the race to win the prize, versus the common mindset that has us signing up for the race and automatically winning through the blood of Christ. So much passivity in the body of Christ can be knit to wrong ideas about grace, holiness, and the righteousness of God imputed to us through the atonement. So, these are the kinds of things we talked about - how do we take that which has been imputed (though I did not use that terminology) and that which has been given to us freely and grow in God from there?
Imputed righteousness must lead to imparted righteousness; the “new and living way” made for us through the sacrifice of Jesus positions us to receive the grace of God to pursue righteousness and holiness, but we still are accountable to do our part before the Lord. It’s why there are so many more “active” verbs (i.e. “violent take it by force”-type verbs) in the epistles than “passive” verbs (i.e. “receive and let it be given / done unto you”-type verbs).
The blood of Christ enables us to join the race, but we still must run - and run to win. This running of the race involves diligence - that you might be“diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) Thus, the keys to running the race for the prize that cannot fade include “enduring hardship” (2 Tim. 2:3); separation from “the affairs of this life” (v. 4); competing “according to the rules” (v.5); sowing and nurturing diligently as a farmer (v.6); and then a personal one that applied to Timothy as a spiritual father: “enduring all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (v.10)
Paul goes on to further define the pursuit of righteousness and holiness in 2 Tim. 2:14-26, with a wealth of practical wisdom related to our sanctification; it begins with the confidence of the seal of the Holy Spirit, understanding that we belong to Him covenantally. Thus, with great confidence in His ability to wash us, cleanse us, and forgive us we can arise and give ourselves to Him with deep loyalty and affection we name the name of Christ and depart from iniquity (v. 19). We must cleanse ourselves from the things that can defile and disqualify us for service (v.21); or, as it will be said about us in the day to come, “His wife has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). Thus we flee youthful lusts to pursue (actively) righteousness, faith. love, and peace with those who call upon the name of the Lord with a pure heart (I appreciate the qualifier related to peace).
While we are to pursue peace with some, we are to avoid quarrel with others, being gentle to all, able to teach, having patience, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may come to know the truth. (v. 23-24) The problem I find with many of the self-appointed guardians and watchdogs of the body of Christ out and about is that they are so busy looking to protect and correct that they often forget this critical point - that the manner in which correction is brought is critical to Jesus related to His passion, tenderness, and mercy to those who are in error. He does not simply desire to protect, but call to repentance those who are outside of the truth.
Thus humility and gentleness in correction is a critical component of how we guard our own hearts in the race - if we find ourselves fighting to keep others in the race, we accidentally equip our hearts to grow in the very areas we need to stay tender, unoffended, responsive, and vibrant internally as we seek to walk with God all the days of our lives. Walking with God is hard work - that we get to walk closely with Him is glorious, but we do have to labor to stay near to Him…and to draw nearer still.
Enjoy the podcast!
Tomorrow I plan on giving a postscript to our conversation about the law and its implications today for all of us. Since we are not bound to it, why seek to honor it? Isn’t the law death to those who try to keep it? Aren’t we exempted from the regulations of it, which is why James gave us a set of rules tailor-made for Gentiles that almost no one takes seriously? Why did he give them to us? If something more than the sacrificial system (in other words, the whole of the law) faded away or was rendered obsolete, why did Jesus say that the law would not pass away? Why do Old Testament prophetic promises specifically reference the establishing of and observance of the law in the coming millennial reign of Jesus on the earth?
Obviously, we have lots to talk about. It’s good to be writing regularly again.
November 15th, 2007
(Note: please be sure to read part one first, below - DS)
Once for All Time for Our Sins
If this assertion is true, how then did Paul with a clear conscience participate in the sacrificial system (related to his Nazirite vow: Num. 6:18-19; Acts 18:18; 21:20-24)? How did James, brother of Jesus, obtain such a sterling reputation amongst the Jews in Jerusalem for his strict Hebrew observances? The answer, of course, lies within the opening statements from the writer of Hebrews on the subject: “Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” What is he speaking of? We now know - “the services” in which the priests would enter “the first part of the tabernacle” - and specifically the once a year service in which the High Priest would enter into the “second part”, the Holiest (Heb. 9:6-10).
So we know that, first, the inferior way had not become obsolete yet - nor had it vanished away completely. Stunningly, the cross was not the point in time in which the inferior was rescinded and done away with! What then was, in the words of Jesus, “finished” at the cross? Our atonement for sin. When the scapegoat died, Hebrew tradition held that the scarlet chord that was tied to it turned miraculously white in the spirit of Isa. 1:18. Interestingly, Hebrew tradition records this ceasing to occur sometime around 30 A.D. With the atonement for sins complete through Christ, how could the old services rendered by the Temple priests continue? How could Paul and James participate?
Simply put, the sacrifices still served a purpose - one in which Paul and James could participate in enthusiastically: they testified to the perfect sacrifice that had come, that had been missed by many. In essence, the continuation of the sacrifices for 40 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus served as a merciful invitation to first century Jewish pilgrims to respond to the preaching of the apostles, who were proclaiming the good news daily on Solomon’s Porch as the people passed by to enter Herod’s Temple. The sacrifices, placed in their proper context, could still serve as a memorial to the perfect sacrifice of the slain Lamb. They could no longer, however, be viewed as a means to find atonement for sin. To see them in that manner was a willful denial of the “confession of hope” found in the superior sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.
What about the law?
Thus we come to the conclusion - the law itself was not the issue, but our lawbreaking. As we violate the law, we sin and thus need to have our “hearts sprinkled and our bodies washed” by the blood of Jesus. This is the means of our justification before God and the way forward to be sanctified. The process of sanctification is completed at the point of our salvation - at the Second Coming (Heb. 9:28).
We believe and will not draw back, unto the “saving of our soul” that happens fully on the day that He returns. The writer of Hebrews is clear - He came the first time to be offered once to bear the sins of many; we eagerly wait for Him to appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation, or deliverance from the enemies of God into a glorious kingdom that He will establish in full. This is how Hebrews had always understood the concept of salvation, not as an act related to atonement but a final deliverance into the fullness of the promises of God:
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb. 10:36-39)
For Jesus Himself made it abundantly clear for any who wonder about the law and its place in our lives today:
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:17-18)
When will the law be fulfilled? It was not at the cross - the blood of Jesus provided a new and living way forward for the establishing of His will and the sanctification of the Bride (Eph. 5:27). The full measure of the law is in effect until “all” is fulfilled, the all being the promises and covenants spoken of by the writer of Hebrews and Paul in Romans 9:3. The time frame is very specific - at the time when heaven and earth pass away, after the 1000 year reign of Jesus!
This matters to us for a few reasons, chiefly because if the law is still a reality on the earth than there must be lawbreakers that need the blood of Jesus sprinkled onto their hearts. That once for all time atonement removes the penalty of lawbreaking from us - death and separation from God. As the law is written on our hearts, He gives us power through the Holy Spirit to walk in His ways, or grace. The idea of the law being written on a purified heart speaks of desire: the process of sanctification involves the transformation of our desires by grace to want to keep the law rather than despise it. We are not bound to the law’s penalties, for the law is “un-keepable” and to try to keep all of it’s ordinances is death.
Yet there is wisdom in the law that would be good for us to understand and find life in. The “good things” that the law foreshadows are knit to the very character and nature of God, specifically His value system and what He cares about. To have the law written on our hearts is to begin to care about what He cares about, rather than seeing the law itself as an outdated, foolish, and archaic thing. King David treasured it, it was a lamp to the Psalmist, and it matters for us today. It reveals God in a particular and unique way that the church has often too easily overlooked.
The Continuity of the Testaments
This matters for another reason - if the cross and the blood of Jesus removed the necessity of the sacrifices related to sin and our atonement, then the Old Testament and the words, promises, prophecies, and covenants recorded there still matter to us today. This is what Paul was hinting at in Romans 9:4-5:
4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
The law, the covenants, the promises - even the “services” still had value, and do in our day as well. For they point us to a present desire and future fullness found in the will of God. The will of God is not limited to the New Testament gospels and epistles - it had been progressively revealed for thousands of years to Israel and was now available to any Gentile who wanted to seek it out. These “old” words were inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17) - still good for “instruction in righteousness” and necessary for the man of God to be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work. Paul was speaking, of course, about the Old Testament.
Two streams of the modern church unintentionally downgrade, if not render irrelevant, these inspired words. Once the law and the prophets are placed into their proper context and value, we can begin to give ourselves to long and loving meditation on them once again, just as King David did so long ago.
November 14th, 2007
rescind: tr.v. To make void; repeal or annul. (American Heritage Dictionary)
Let’s consider a question today, which may or may not have an obvious solution (depending on the stream of church culture you hail from). When was the law nullified?
The idea that the law is nullified is drawn primarily from the book of Hebrews, specifically in chapters 8-10. Most pointedly, in coming to “the main point of things” (Heb. 8:1) and beginning to talk about the inferiority of the “first covenant” (Heb. 8:7). To the point, the writer begins to establish a framework for the superiority of the new covenant: “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Heb. 8:13) What is vanishing away, and when did it happen?
The immediate answer for most would be, of course, at the cross. The once-for-all-time sacrifice of Jesus - the shedding of guiltless blood from a Spotless Lamb, justified us before God and provided for the atonement of all of our sins. Our hearts have been sprinkled from an evil conscience - our damaged consciences have been renewed, in other words. This act of God’s mercy makes us miserable sinners whenever we violate that restored conscience. Also, our bodies have been washed with pure water - we have been purified by the blood of Christ. The writer of Hebrews, in chapter 10, is using Temple imagery to help the first century Messianic reader grasp the awesomeness of the superior sacrifice of the God-Man.
The Day of Atonement
In other words, our outward and inward man has been cleansed and a new and living way has been consecrated for us by which we can now do what only one man could do one time a year: enter into the “Holiest” - the Holy of Holies. To prepare to enter this most sacred and fearsome of inner chambers, Israel’s High Priest would wash his body five times that morning! He would then wash his hands and feet in preparation for the morning sacrifices. Later in the day, he would wash his hands and feet again, change clothes (from golden to white garments, take another bath, and then put on the white garments (Lev. 16:4). If you are counting, we’re up to six full washings and two extra hand / feet washings.
The High Priest would then offer a bull to the Lord for himself and his household before proceeding; then he would cast lots and choose from between two goats; one to sacrifice and one to bear the sins of the people (the scapegoat). He would now kill the young bull he had offered up to the Lord, then walk up to the ramp to the altar and fill a gold censer with coals and a gold ladle with incense (Lev. 16:12; Rev. 8:1-5) before walking into the Most Holy Place. He would hang the censer before the ark and throw the incense into it, creating a cloud of sweet, fragrant smoke before the ark (representing the throne of God).
Once the incense was found acceptable to the Lord (in other words, the High Priest did not die), the High Priest would then come out from behind the veil and take the blood of the slain bull (which someone had to stir repeatedly up to this point so that it would not coagulate). Returning to the Holiest, he would sprinkle the blood with his finger once upward towards the mercy seat before sprinkling blood seven times downward. Then the goat would be slain. Taking its blood in a basin into the Holiest, the High Priest would again sprinkle the blood eight times. Taking both basins of blood (from the bull and the goat), he would then sprinkle blood outside of the chamber (to purify it), which would mean sixteen more sprinklings; he would then mix the two basins together and sprinkle blood onto the horns of the altar before sprinkling blood seven more times on the altar of incense.
The rest of the ceremony involved sending out (and pushing off of a cliff) the scapegoat and the gutting and burning (outside of the city) of the bull and first goat. The High Priest would wash his hands and feet, change clothes, then wash his hands and feet again. It was time for the afternoon sin offering. The evening sacrifice (and one more bath and two more hand and feet washings) would come later. In other words, the day of atonement of the sins of a nation was not sufficient to last even a few minutes and a few hours before more sacrifices were required. This is what the writer of Hebrews was reminding the compromising Jews who should have known better when he wrote: “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:11)
Once for All Time to Draw Near
With “one offering”, Jesus perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14). As one watches Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, it is shocking how much blood is shed, particularly during the beating and scourging of Jesus. It is almost unbearable to watch. Yet the amount of blood sprinkled throughout the ceremony by the High Priest was a foreshadowing of what Jesus would endure for the sins of the world. These sacrifices, being the “shadow of good things to come”, can never make those who approach the Lord perfect - “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” (Heb. 10:4) This impossibility, again, was personified by the two daily, regular sin offerings that had to follow the special day of atonement for the nation.
So, the point is driven home by the writer of Hebrews - the insufficient sacrifices were taken away. He says definitively:
8 Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:8-10)
What was taken away, once for all time? Was it the whole of the law, “having a shadow of good things to come”? No! The shadow that is within the law is the sacrificial system - specifically in this passage, the Day of Atonement. That day is the singular focus of this passage, but the writer is clear that all sacrifices and offerings are taken away so that the will of God could be established to sanctify and purify the Jew - and all the peoples of the nations - to draw near to the Holiest through faith. This confession of hope is one that the Jewish believers of that day were exhorted to “hold fast” to unwaveringly. They had been “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” and returning to the Temple sacrifices publicly as a means of staving off great social and familial pressure to conform again to Temple Judaism as the means to their atonement. This, according to the writer of Hebrews, was willful sin (Heb. 10:26).
Part two to follow…
November 14th, 2007