By The Blood

Leviticus 8:30
“Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he consecrated Aaron, his garments, his sons, and the garments of his sons with him.”

The priests wore garments designed by God and put together by the finest craftsmen in the land. These garments included a tunic, sash, robe, ephod, breastplate and even a turban. When the priest was fully dressed, all eyes would be upon his attire. That is why this verse is so striking. Once clothed, the priest would approach the altar, sacrifice a ram and sprinkle its blood upon his clothing. Instead of seeing the glory of the garments, all eyes would be fixed upon the stain left by the blood.

Too often we are fixated upon our own works. When we are doing well, we allow our accomplishments to make us feel as though we are better than those who are not serving as much or in the same ministries. When we are failing, we think God is disappointed with us, and sometimes this will push us farther and farther away from the Lord. I think it is time we realize that our eyes are not to be fixed upon the garments of our actions, but upon the blood that makes us right with God. Just as the ram was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the priest, so Christ shed His blood to wash us from all sin and set us apart to God.

Revelation 12:11 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

When facing great temptation, trial, or difficulty, we will always find success when our eyes are fixed upon the work Christ accomplished for us on the cross. It was not, is not and never will be, our great accomplishments that make us right with God. It is the shed blood of Jesus alone that we look to as the means of making us and keeping us righteous.

Pastor Jim

 

First Love 

Revelation 2:4-5
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”

In a very poetic fashion, Jesus describes Himself walking through and observing the goings on, in the church of Ephesus. It is both encouraging and frightening to know that Jesus is so involved with His church. He knows, and intimately describes, the affairs of the church, both good and bad. While He has much that is positive to share, the indictment He brings overshadows their successes. He declares they have left their first love.

“First love” may refer to what some have called the love of espousal. That love, where nothing else matters but the desire to be with and please another. Certainly, we could all afford a greater degree of that kind of love, but I suggest, “first love” is a reference to something more. John explained that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), which makes our love for Him is a reflection. If my love for Him is waning, then I must focus upon the love God has for me. Taking time to consider the cross, where the love of God was poured out, will always stir us to a greater degree of love for Him. That is the great value of the communion table. Reflecting upon the broken body and the shed blood of Christ, is an extremely helpful way to return to your first love.

Take some time to reflect upon the cross, and thank the Lord for His great love for you.

Pastor Jim

 

Work In Progress 

James 2:14  “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”

James 2:17 “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James asks a very important question, “What is the profit of faith without works?” He then adds, “Can that faith save?” To help lead us to the right answer, he uses an illustration which reminds us that talk of food will not always satisfy the appetite of a hungry man. In the same way, a dead faith cannot produce life. Right away James recognizes there will be objections to his teaching; some will say, “You have faith, I have works.” This seems to be the objection of those who think there is more than one way to God. They might say, “I am glad you have found something that works for you, but I don’t need that. I am a good person, and when I die, I will go to heaven because of the good things I have done.” James is in no way saying our good deeds will get us into heaven, but that true faith is always accompanied with good works. The person who truly believes, will have actions that support his claims.

Throughout history, James has gotten a whole lot of grief for writing this passage. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that this book does not belong in the Bible. I think it is important that we see James is not presenting a different doctrine than the rest of Scripture, but is in fact, explaining more clearly, the doctrine of justification by faith. James is not alone in teaching that faith without works is dead.

JEREMIAH TAUGHT IT

Jeremiah 7:8 “Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit.”

JOHN THE BAPTIST TAUGHT IT

Matthew 3:7-8 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance”

PAUL TAUGHT IT

Galatians 5:6 “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

Titus 1:16 “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”

PETER TAUGHT IT

2 Peter 1:5 “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; . . .”

JOHN TAUGHT IT

1 John 2:4 “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

JESUS TAUGHT IT

Luke 13:3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Matthew 7:19-20 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

Matthew 7:21-23,26,27 “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

James goes on to explain his teaching by stating, faith cannot be seen without action, “I will show you my faith by my works.” He then uses one of the most powerful sermon illustrations ever given. He declares the demons, who believe in God, show by their actions, they are not followers of God. In contrast to the demons, James reminds us of the father of faith. Who showed the reality of his faith with His obedience to the word of God. His action of placing his son on the altar, showed in a striking way, that God was his chief love (Genesis 22:1-12).

Jesus declared, the first commandment is to love God with ALL. This is evidenced in our lives, not simply by words, but by actions. With one final illustration, James brings up Rahab the harlot. Her past life was marked with open sin, although no details are given as to what led her down that path. All we know is when presented with the opportunity, she chose to depart from her old way of life, and determined to join with the believers and follow God. What about us? What are the works that show an account of our faith? In Matthew 7, Jesus stated, we must do the will of the Father. The first work to add to our faith is simple obedience.

Read your Bible and do what it says. When you come to a text that convicts you, make some changes in your living. It is not the change that saves you, but the saved will certainly change.

Pastor Jim

 

All He Began To Do

Acts 1:1
The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, . . .”

The book of Acts is a sequel to the Gospel account, written by Luke. He declares, in this opening verse, the purpose for writing the Gospel account and the book of Acts. He states that the Gospel records what Jesus began to do; and the book of Acts, what He continues to do. Since Jesus is alive from the dead, the story of the Bible is a continuing one. John closed his Gospel account declaring that all the books in the world could not hold all that Jesus did for humanity. As amazing as it may seem, Jesus is not finished. The resurrection is not the end of the story. It is the transition point where the work of Jesus transfers from being accomplished outwardly through His life on earth, to the inward working of His Spirit in the life of all who believe.

Another thing that strikes me about Luke’s statement, is that he personally had so much to say. He is looking back to what Jesus has done, and looking forward to what Jesus will do. I think that is a great way to live. It would be wise for each of us to chronicle the things Jesus has done for us. Perhaps taking the time to make a list of all the things that have been accomplished as a result of your positive response to the Gospel message. In Ephesians, Chapter 1, Paul records that Jesus chose us, predestined us, adopted us, accepted us, redeemed us, forgave us, is coming back for us, and has filled us with His Spirit to guarantee that we belong to Him. Paul also recognized that “He who had begun a good work in Him would complete it” (Philippians 1:6).

Take some time to reflect on all that Jesus has done for you, and look forward with expectation to the things He still desires to accomplish. It may be that He will turn another fisherman into the world’s greatest fisher of men.

Pastor Jim

 

Better Off 

John 16:7
“It is to your advantage that I go away; . . .”

Much of what Jesus said was shocking to the ears of the disciples. He spoke with a wisdom that was otherworldly. They may have become used to the fact that Jesus was going to say things that surprised them, but I do not think anything could prepare them for the statement Jesus made here. Earlier, He had been speaking about His betrayal and death, He now declares they will be better off without Him. For over three years, these men have been with Jesus. They have watched as He transformed lives, and listened as He declared truths about the Kingdom of God. Now He is speaking about leaving, and declaring they will be more effective with Him out of the way. I know Peter is the one who is known for objecting to Jesus, but I find myself objecting on His behalf. I cannot think of a single scenario where it would not be better to have Jesus around. If I were fishing, boating, preaching, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry or facing the Pharisees, I think it would always be better to have Jesus there, than to be by myself. How could Jesus say such things? What conditions could make it better to have Jesus absent, rather than present?

First off, things are better because of the way Jesus will depart. No one could take His life, He would instead, lay it down as a sacrifice to provide the cure for man’s sin problem. His death makes it possible for each of us to have eternal life, and gives us a message to declare to the world. The message that, they too, can have their sins forgiven, and receive eternal life in Christ. Beyond that, Jesus goes on to explain why things are better for us if He departs to the Father.

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” 

When Jesus departed to the Father, He sent forth the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third “Person” of the Godhead, He is described as the Helper, the Comforter, and the One who empowers the Christian. Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit came, He would convince the world of its need for a Savior, by convicting it of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Ministry is impossible. We are natural beings with natural abilities. We are sent forth to impact people spiritually. We can tell moving stories that effect people’s emotions, but only the Spirit of God can penetrate the heart of man, and convince Him of His need for Christ. Praise the Lord, Jesus did not leave us alone, but sent forth the Holy Spirit who will enable each of us to be involved in furthering the work of God in the World.

Father, baptize us afresh with Your Holy Spirit today!

Pastor Jim

 

Man-made Religion

Luke 18:9
 “He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others . . .”

The chief trait of this Pharisee was the idea that he did not need God. A modern equivalent would be the person who, with his imagination and personal experience, has fabricated both a god and a religious system by which he is acceptable to his god. The Pharisees did just that. They picked out certain verses from Scripture to form what they thought God was like, then based upon that, they established behaviors they believed He would accept. The result was a group of self-righteous men who looked down upon others and rejected Christ. In contrast, we find a man who has lived a compromising life. While externally he seems to be the one whom God would reject, he is accepted because he came to God, not on his own terms, but on God’s.

The lesson is very clear. It will be those who humble themselves, confess their sin, and come to God through Christ, who will be accepted by Him.

Don’t be like the Pharisees who rejected Him because they thought they were good enough.

Pastor Jim


Babel

Genesis 10:10
“And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel…”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2015/01/img_1297.jpgGenesis is the book of beginnings. In it, we are introduced to many things which play a prominent role as the rest of Scripture unfolds. Here, in Chapter 10, we are introduced to the city of Babylon, which becomes a major player in the Biblical narrative.  It is mentioned 257 times in the Bible. We learn Babylon was built by a man named Nimrod (whose name means rebellion); he built Babylon in defiance of God. His purpose in building the city is recorded in Genesis 11:4

Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Babylon is important because of its symbolic representation of man’s false religious systems. The focus of the city of Babylon was a tower to the heavens. It was not an attempt to build a stairway to heaven, but a tower that depicts man making his own way to God.

Today, the word Babel means nonsense, and the ancient Hebrew word, Babel, means confusion. However, the word Nimrod chose  means gateway of God. What Nimrod called the way to God, Scripture calls confusion. They were confused because they based their system on works, thinking they were good enough, and if they tried hard enough, they would get to God. – God calls that confusion.

Fortunately, there is a gateway to God. It has been build, not on the achievements of men, but on the sacrificial work of Christ. Jesus said, I am the way (John 14:6) and I am the door (John 10:9), and on the cross He became for us the true gateway to  God. Instead of trying to earn our way to heaven, we can simply receive it by placing faith in Christ.

Pastor Jim