Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Tapestry of Pentecost: Our Temple Body

weaving a tapestry. Image credit: freeimages.com

We wrapped up last week’s post talking about the Greek word naos (G3485), translated “temple” and referring to the inner part of the temple. In the physical temple, the right to enter this sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, belonged to the High Priest alone. So reading 1 Corinthians 6, we see that our bodies are the temple for God’s Holy Spirit.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

How highly must God think of your body as a vessel for His spirit, if He calls us each naos, the same word used to refer to Jesus Christ’s physical body. We are a holy place for Him, purchased by and belonging to Him. And we are infinitely more valuable to Him than the gold in a physical temple. We are His dwelling place.

God’s Temple

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:4-13)

We are given gifts for the profit of the entire body. Each of us individually, in our own bodies, are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are also members individually of the body of Christ, which is greater than any physical temple.

“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:24-25)

This is what Paul says when speaking to people in Athens. It is much the same thing Stephen says in Acts 7:46-50. In both verses, Greek word for temple is naos. For me the lesson is clear. Human hands can build all the glorious temple complexes they want to build, but God is only interested in one thing – individual human beings who He can indwell through His holy spirit. Think of all the wealth of the ages that has been expended on huge temples, church buildings, and edifices, in human efforts to “glorify God” in material things, and all according to the thoughts and ways of man. We’ll put more gold in the temple (the pharisees loved the gold of the temple), maybe add a little more elbow grease to polish it up and make it nice and shiny for God, more sweet-smelling cedar wood, a higher offering, more money, crystal chandeliers, or in OT times maybe a fatter calf. But what does God really value? And what does He really want from us?

“Reverence My Sanctuary”

The answer to this question all begins with Jesus Christ, the One foundation.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. (1 Cor. 3:11-18)

We all need to be very careful how we regard the temple, or sanctuary, of God, both in ourselves, and in others who are part of His temple. We must all be responsible with the trust God has placed in us, and be on guard because we can come to regard ourselves as “wise,” and with the best of human intentions, bring harm to the rest of His church.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you[a] are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:16-18)

This is another caution against any type of defilement, or pollution, of His temple, the naos where He dwells in us. It reminds us of our individual responsibility to God, to Jesus the head of the body, and to our brethren. For me personally, this study has provided the greatest incentive to overcome, and reconcile with brethren that I’ve ever run across. In Leviticus 19:30 and 26:2, there is a command that reads, “You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the Lord.” I’ve always looked upon this command as it refers to the physical temple and church, but in light of what we’ve seen so far, can we also reverence (stand in awe and respect of) what God and Christ are doing in one another? Can we look upon our relationships with each other in this light? Each of us is a naos to God and Christ, a holy dwelling place for Them and a sanctuary for their spirit. The temple made up of our bodies is something He values so highly that He is willing to put His own DNA (the Holy Spirit) in us and re-write us from the old man into the new.

So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)

Here we are reminded of the command to “reverence my sanctuary” by the command “love one another.” We need to have love and respect for each other as vessels of the Holy Spirit of God. The indwelling of His Holy Spirit is what sets us apart as a holy, sanctified people. We are all sanctuaries for the indwelling of the holy spirit of God.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:5-14)

What is God Looking For?

We’re still looking to answer the question, What kind of “temples” does God want to indwell? Isaiah 66 begins to answer this quite nicely, and with wording that connects us back to the fact that God “does not dwell in temples made with hands” that we saw twice in the book of Acts.

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isa 66:1-2)

God is looking for a people to plant the Firstfruit into so that the harvest can continue. He wants us to walk humbly before His throne, and to respect His word which expresses a way of life that He expects us to live. God wants a people He can dwell in, and a people who will go to the effort to make themselves a habitable sanctuary for Him in the way they treat and think about themselves and the way they treat and think about their brethren. And even though we are not perfect, and we make many mistakes, the greatest mistake we could make is to give up. The churches of God are not in the greatest shape today. Everywhere we look there seems to be stagnation and gridlock. How hard is it for churches today to live in peace and walk in peace! They have to establish committees just to decide whether to recognize each other as churches or to organize an outreach program. But I don’t, and you don’t. Each of us is responsible for our own outreach program. You can extend the right hand of fellowship, make a call, send a card, pray for a brother or sister in the greater body of Christ, and you don’t have to wait for permission from a church group.

Conclusion

weaving a tapestry. Image credit: freeimages.com

In this series on the tapestry of Pentecost, we’ve seen a weaving together of different elements from the whole history of the plan of God.

  • The waving of the first sheaf of grain when Israel entered the promised land.
  • How that foreshadowed Jesus Christ as the real wavesheaf – the first fruit in a spiritual harvest.
  • How the waving of that sheaf before God started a 50 day countdown to Pentecost – the feast of the firstfruits of God – produced by him through Jesus Christ in the called out ones.
  • How the promised gift of the holy spirit (given through Him to the church) was made available to humanity by and through the first fruit.
  • Then we have the physical body of Christ as our example and forerunner – the original temple (naos) of the holy spirit.
  • Followed by the fact that each of our bodies is a temple of the holy spirit. Individual sanctuaries and vessels for the indwelling presence of the holy spirit of God and Christ.
  • And the promise that because it all worked for the First sheaf of the harvest – so it will work for all of the first fruits … Christ said, “because I live, you shall live!” and He meant it. That’s a promise to all of us.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (Jas. 1:17-18)

The feast of Pentecost is one of those great gifts of encouragement sent down from the Father of lights and Jesus Christ to each and every individual temple of Their Holy Spirit. I hope each of us considers our responsibility as temples of the Holy Spirit, vessels containing the great gift given to the church on the first Pentecost, and that we use it wisely in the hard times we’re living in the church today. May we all become better habitations for Their indwelling, and treat all of the individual sanctuaries with the reverence that God commands. Update: read the other posts in this series Part One: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Wave Sheaf and Firstfruit Part Two: The Tapestry of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit

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The Tapestry of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit

Last week, we ended with John 7:39, which reads, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Christ explains this idea further in John 14.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that it may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither sees it nor knows it; but you know it, for it dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)

These verses show that Christ and the Holy Spirit are so closely linked that the presence of the Holy Spirit in us is just like He Himself being right inside of us. A good friend of mine has spent a lot of time with a man named Dr. Ward, who has likened the Holy Spirit to God’s divine essence – His DNA if you will – and said that the conversion process is like DNA replacement therapy that results in our old man being made into a new man.

Reading on in verse 19 of John 14, Christ tells His disciples, “Because I live, you will live also.” What more inspiring and encouraging re-assurance could He have given them at this point? Then they went through the agonizing experience of seeing Him crucified, followed by the hope generated by His resurrection, and His appearance before their astonished eyes in Luke 24:49, where He repeated the promise of John 14.

The Second Thread

This brings us to Acts 2, and the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)

As the people heard the disciples speaking in different languages, some wondered “Whatever could this mean?” While others mocked and said, “They are full of new wine” (Acts 2:5-13). So Peter began to explain what the events of the day really meant. We’ll skip ahead to verse 29 to save space.

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:29-33)

Here we see that the Wavesheaf, the First of the first fruits, was given this great promise from the Father to pour out upon the called out ones who would become a part of the harvest of the firstfruits. And just as it was for the nation of Israel when they first entered the promise land, all of this bounty was given from the pure grace and generosity of God.

So we have element 2 in our Tapestry of Pentecost, the fulfillment of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. But there’s another thing given by God to each one of us that makes it possible for us to link with Him and His son in the most spiritually intimate way possible. And the prototype, as we might expect, was again shown to us in Jesus Christ Himself.

A Third Thread

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. (Matt 12:1-6)

The word for temple in this verse is the Greek hieron (G2411) which refers to the entire temple complex. Zodhiates defines it as, “often including not only the building, but the courts and all the sacred grounds or enclosure.” This is the word that is most often used when referring to the physical temple complex in its entirety.

John 2:19 clarifies that what He was referring to as “greater than the temple complex” was Himself. The word He uses here to call Himself a temple, though is naos (G3485), not hieron. Here, it refers not to a material temple, but simply an ordinary human body that the Father had given to Him as a means to an end.

The word naos comes from naio, which means “to dwell.” Zodhiates’ definition reads like this: “The temple itself is the heart and center of the whole sacred enclosure called hieron (2411). The naos was the Holy of Holies. The Lord never entered the naos during His ministry on earth, the right of such entry being reserved for the Jewish priests alone.” Another online concordance adds that naos refers to “the sanctuary, which contained the holy place, and the Holy of Holies.”

So the spiritual temple – naos – that was Christ’s body was said to be greater than the physical temple complex – hieron. As a reminder, this was the body of the Wavesheaf, the Forerunner, the Firstfruit, our example. A physical vessel, with a full measure of the Holy Spirit. That makes the third element in the tapestry of Pentecost the human body.

This aspect is such a large topic that I want to devote an entire post to exploring it. Check back next week for part 3 of “The Tapestry of Pentecost.”

Update: read the other posts in this series

Part One: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Wave Sheaf and Firstfruit

Part Three: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Our Temple Body

The Tapestry of Pentecost: Wave Sheaf and Firstfruit

Just last week, we celebrated God’s Feast of Pentecost, and I gave a sermon titled “The Tapestry of Pentecost.” I want to begin sharing the content from that sermon with you today. There are several different elements being woven together in the observance of Pentecost that are intertwined to paint a picture that, when we see them assembled properly, make it one of the most inspiring and encouraging of God’s holy days.

“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.’” (Lev. 23:10-22)

An Offering

The foundation of Pentecost is keyed to a yearly event that takes place during the Days of Unleavened Bread, which we read about in verses 10-11 of Leviticus 23. Verse 15 tells us that the wave sheaf offering begins a 50 day countdown, and so it is foundational to this day of Pentecost and all it’s meaning. The wave sheaf was so important that God forbade them to eat of any part of the harvest until it was offered. Without the first sheaf, there was to be no harvest at all … and let’s remember that this first harvest in the promised land was a total gift from God, planted by the previous inhabitants of the land. All Israel had to do was reap it. This harvest was freely given, from that first sheaf of grain, to the gleanings that were left in the field for the poor at the end of the harvest. It was all free.

In a few moments, we’ll be looking at several scriptures that identify Jesus Christ as the first of the firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest from the earth , so we could rightly call parts of John 3 a “parallel” scripture to what we just read in Leviticus 23. If we look at the context, there is an enlightening conversation going on here between Christ Himself and a pharisee, Nicodemus, who said he knew Christ was “a teacher sent from God.” Their whole conversation was about how to become born of the spirit, and about the Firstfruit lifted up as an offering to the Father.

“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:12-16)

Verse 16 deserves to be so much more than just a slogan on a sign at pro football games. Here again we see that the Firstfruit is a freely given gift to humanity from God in heaven to initiate and to be the foundation of a spiritual harvest from the earth.

The whole harvest is keyed to the ascension (lifting up) and glorification of the first of the firstfruits. If it hadn’t been for the triumph of the Firstfruit, there would have been no need to even raise up a church. The “One Sent” was the key to the whole plan, and His victory over sin, Satan, and death is what began the countdown to the next event in the plan of God.

Firstfruits

If we turn over to 1 Corinthians 15, we find pretty much the same sentiment expressed for us. Here again we see that the Firstfruit is the key to the whole plan, and the only thing that makes it possible for there to be a later harvest of firstfruits.

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming”. (1 Cor. 15:3-4, 12-23)

Each of us who has this hope really needs to voice our thanksgiving each day to God for sending the Firstfruit, and for imparting to our minds a bit of understanding of what His life should mean to us

Revelation 14:4 says the firstfruits “are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” They are the ones who make it their life’s work to know Him, and to know where He is leading them.

Germination

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:23-24)

Brethren, by the will of the mighty God, the Father of the whole family in heaven and on earth, the Firstfruit of all the earth was harvested after a physical death, and a spiritual glorification through which He would produce much fruit. In fact, every fruit that would follow depended on this one seed that fell to the earth and died (or, if it helps to paint a more vivid picture, what this seed did in “dying” was … it germinated).

“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” (Isa. 53:10)

We always read this at the Passover service. “See His seed” … “prolong His days” … sounds like His death was the beginning. It was like a seed germinating and entering a new phase. That new phase of the plan began with the glorification, the lifting up of the Firstfruit, to the Father (John 20:17). His lifting up, His glorification, made it possible to establish a solid spiritual link between He and His followers.

John 7:39, to my way of thinking is a key scripture to our understanding of the link between the wave-sheaf offering and Pentecost. It reads, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Once His glorification took place, the Holy Spirit could be given. The plan and the harvest could go on. This could not occur until Jesus Christ, the forerunner and the firstborn of many brethren had lived a perfect life in a human body, and the one seed planted in the earth had germinated.

So we have this 1st element in our tapestry, the Old Testament wavesheaf being fulfilled by Christ’s resurrection and ascension to the father, being glorified as the Firstfruit. Next week, we’ll talk about another element, focusing more on the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Update: read the other posts in this series

Part Two: The Tapestry of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit

Part Three: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Our Temple Body

I Am Among You As One Who Serves, part 4

It is interesting to me to observe the flow of the book of Hebrews. I’d like to spend most of my time here in this fourth and final part of the “I Am Among You As One Who Serves” series in an overview of the book of Hebrews with the focus on how Jesus, the Christ of God, is among us today as One who serves, primarily in the office of High Priest.

Words of Faith

Hebrews begins with a very basic, simple truth of a change in the way God has chosen to minister to mankind, and speak to mankind.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds (Heb. 1:1-2)

Jude 1:3 calls these words spoken “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” We can see evidence of this delivery in Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17. Here, He says that He gave His Father’s words to disciples (John 17:8), and taught them how to preserve it for all generations to follow (John 17:17-20). And they did that job, sharing Christ’s words in person with everyone they could, and recording the New Testament writings for generations to come.

Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Not long ago, we completed a series of posts entitled, “The Interactive Book.” The word of God is intended to be used as an interactive tool, and is written so that the meaning deepens with life experience, trials, maturity, and the exercise of living faith.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:12-16)

With Christ living inside of you, helping you, and serving your true needs, the whole Bible-package is interactive. He has power over all flesh, and lives in us, and we are linked together by common experience in the flesh, and by the daily advice that we glean from His Word.

High Priest

As we just read in Hebrews 4, Christ is intimately involved as One who serves among the called out ones … and most prominently here in Hebrews in the role of High Priest.

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Heb 3:1-6)

An apostle is one sent by God with a message, and we’ve already discussed Jesus Christ’s communication of the words of the Father to mankind. He is also called the High Priest of our confession. This great High Priest is the One who has been and continues to build His house, and we are that house, as it says here and in other places like Matthew 16:18 and 1 Peter 2:5. The house that He is building is His church, and His body, and the Father appointed Him over it as its Head and as One who serves (Eph. 1:22).

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”[a] But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Heb. 8:1-6)

It is important that we remember who’s house we are a part of – “the true tabernacle which the Lord erected” (pitched, set up, built, fixed) – one that is not built by man but by Christ, the High Priest, and the minister, as it calls Him here, of the sanctuary. The word sanctuary – in the Greek hagion (G39) – as used here refers to the immediate presence of God and His throne where Christ conducts His ministry on our behalf, as one who serves.

Building His Church

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” (Heb. 10:11-16)

See all that Christ is doing for us, ministering to our needs from “at the right hand of God,” in His Father’s presence for us? I said earlier that the word of God was an interactive tool for both He and us to use, and here in Hebrews 10 He says He will write His law in our hearts. Just a few verses later, it talks of Jesus consecrating “new and living way” for us “to enter the Holiest” (Heb. 10:19-20). As “the Mediator of the new covenant,” Jesus is among us as One who serves, and His words deserve our closest attention (Heb. 12:18-25).

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20-21)

What is this work He is doing in us that is so pleasing in His sight? What will be the end of it for the elect and for the rest of mankind?

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Pet. 2:4-10)

We are called living stones, being built up by Jesus Christ into “a spiritual house” founded upon Himself. Just a few verses later, we are described as chosen to be a royal priesthood (see also Rev. 1:6; 5:10). As a “holy priesthood” in training, what kind of spiritual sacrifices are we to be offering up?

"I Am Among You As One Who Serves" baptismforlife.wordpress.com

In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus says that serving “the least of these My brethren” is counted as service to Him. We are supposed to be among our brethren, and in the world as those who serve, emulating the example of Him that is among us as One who serves

I’d like to wrap up this blog series by quoting two sections of scripture from Isaiah 61. The first was used by Christ in Luke 4:17-21 to describe His 0wn ministry when He came among us as one who serves. The next set of verses describes, the people who have allowed Jesus Christ to build them into a ‘holy priesthood of the Lord’ – the ones who will be among the people in God’s kingdom as those who serve.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Is. 61:1-3)

But you shall be named the priests of the Lord, they shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs. “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, and will make with them an everlasting covenant. Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed.” (Is. 61:6-9)

 

 

I Am Among You As One Who Serves, part 3

Let’s start this post by looking at Joshua, an individual who was “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph 6:10), as he makes a life choice.

“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:14-15)

There was no group-think or corporate mentality within Joshua when he chose to follow the Lord – the member of the Godhead who had personal contact with His people, the same individual that we know today as Jesus. This Being, the Anointed of God, is the one sent by God to the church as a group and to each one as an individual as one who serves.

Dependence on Christ

At this point I’d like to insert a little disclaimer about what I am, and am not, saying in this series of blog posts about church groups. If you don’t make things crystal clear these days, some start making assumptions (and accusations) about what you really mean (like it’s some kind of conspiracy, or something). I am not advocating isolationism or independence! That is a hard road to follow, and we all need human warmth, support, and fellowship. What I am urging is a strong dependence on, and living, interactive faith in Jesus, the Christ of God. If you truly have that you are bullet-proof … no false minister can lead you astray.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:19-25)

Fellowship is important, and if it’s available to you it is wise to partake, so you can support and strengthen others and so they can do the same for you. We always need to keep in mind that we are a part of a body. It is a sin to separate yourself from your brethren in the body of Christ and to forsake fellowship with others who hold fast to most of the same truths that you do.

It is wise to seek counsel, and listen to preaching from others who evidence the fruits of Godly character, and aren’t trying to take over lordship of your life from Jesus, the Christ of God. However, if things get so bad that fellowship with other believers is not available to you – and many of us have been through times when it wasn’t – the Christ of God is sufficient all by Himself to shore you up, and He will – with or without the help of anyone else – and in time, He will bring about fellowship opportunities as well.

Who Do You Trust?

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6)

See what I mean? This kind of relationship with the One who is with us makes you bullet-proof! Indeed, what can man do to me with Him on my side? He is “Christ in you” as one who serves and is our “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
(Jer. 17:5-9).

Where we put our trust and who we trust in tells God a lot about us. Consider  all the New Testament warnings about false ministers – wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15), Satan’s ministers disguising themselves as servants of light (2 Cor. 11:13-14). Who do you want to put your faith in? what arm of flesh can you rely on today not to turn to the dark side?

I’ve gone through the experience now of seeing people that I regarded as the strongest pillars of the churches of God standing up and preaching God’s holy truth one week, and then suddenly one week I arrive at church to find them advocating the violation of God’s holy laws and commandments. It makes no sense to rely on the arm of flesh … I don’t even trust me! We can’t afford to trust ourselves, and we can’t afford to trust in other men(Prov. 3:5-6). So, where does all of this leave us???"I Am Among You As One Who Serves" baptismforlife.wordpress.com

In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This isn’t talking about faith in what we can do – the work of our hands or the work we do for God – or about men that we can put our faith in. Jesus asks in Luke 18:8, “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” and I ask, what kind of faith that He is looking for?

Reading the first nine verses of Ezekiel 34 gives us a picture of irresponsible shepherding, the kind that I’m sure most of us have been exposed to in the past. We should realize we need to pray for those who fell into that snare – we may have done the same were we in their shoes. An antidote to this kind of fallible, human shepherding is described in the next few verses.

‘For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord God. “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.” (Ezk. 34:11-16)

This Christ is the the kind of Shepherd we must be following, listening to, and placing all our trust in. He is the One among us as a servant, who truly cares for us and is worthy of all our faith. Trust in the One who serves is the kind of faith He will be looking for when He returns to the earth.