Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Is God Just a Hobby? | Pastor Tim Mason

You know what? I have a hard time thinking that theology has been reduced to something more then what logical people do for a hobby. I mean theology is defined as the study of God. At what point did this become just a hobby?

Now I am in no way saying every Christian needs to be able to flesh out a doctoral dissertation on the Hypostatic Union. But why does it seem that the thirst for the knowledge of God has been replaced with the thirst of the Reader's Digest version of all things relating to God, Scripture, Christianity?

Paul charges the church at Rome to continue to transform themselves by the renewing of their mind (Romans 12:2). This comes at a point where Paul is clearly showing our humanly response to the doctrine, or Gospel, he has spent laying down in the previous 11 chapters.

I guess more then anything this is just me verbalizing my observations. I am not saying we all need to simply be seminary students, or that we all need to be the same in how we renew our minds. I guess I would just love to see the all-encompassing sufficiency of scripture become publicly elevated. I love my bible and I see God, throughout history move mightily when scripture is elevated to exalt Him.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Bloody Mess: How OT Sacrifices Pointed to Jesus | Pastor Jake Magee

We're presently working through the first part of the Old Testament as a church. The two things that are inescapable and challenging about the reading are the overwhelming details (e.g., genealogies, temple construction, laws, etc) and the death. By "death," I have in mind the meat grinder called the sacrificial system wherein you have an endless line bulls, rams, lambs, goats, and birds that are brought to the altar to be killed. The amount of blood shed required the civil engineers of that day to create plumbing (a canal of sorts) that directed this flow of blood away from the temple precinct. As people unfamiliar to Old Testament culture and religion, this is strange and no doubt disturbing. And yet as Christians, we regard the Old Covenant as purposely designed in its detail and death to point to Jesus and the gospel. As Augustine put it, "the New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New." Here are some of the ways the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed to Jesus:

As we view the shadows cast by the Old Testament (Heb. 8:5), one shade that made an indelible impression upon the minds of God’s people was that of sacrifice. For them, to call the Old Testament sacrificial system a shadow would be making light of the very tangible and often horrid realities that this system displayed. The bloodshed, death, and stench that permeated the temple and tabernacle complex were enough to forever sear into their minds the seriousness with which God dealt with the people. Instead of the temple being the ancient Disneyland at which devotees frolicked in ritual and religious experience, it was a place of fear and reverence as one came painfully aware of sin’s penalty and God’s ominous holiness. However, as believers on both sides of the cross, we glory in Christ’s great sacrifice to which all others merely foreshadowed; we glory in the cross as we find a refuge from sin’s dread sway and tyranny; we glory in God’s appointed resolution of mercy and justice: a substitutionary sacrifice. It is upon this basis that God can graciously govern and commune with His church.

The first five chapters of Leviticus give us five different offerings, which together help us to survey Christ’s sacrifice for us: the basis of his rule over the church. In our examination of these sacrifices, we can only briefly highlight some of the many shadows that find their substance in the New Covenant reality.

I. The Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1):

Every part of the burnt offering was consumed by fire, thereby marking a person’s complete dedication to God. This offering accentuates Christ’s complete dedication to the Father. Jesus stated "I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 5:30).

In tandem with the words of our Lord, the author of Hebrews makes this enlightening statement:

“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, "SACRIFICE AND OFFERING THOU HAST NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY THOU HAST PREPARED FOR ME; 6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN THOU HAST TAKEN NO PLEASURE. 7 ¶ "THEN I SAID, 'BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE ROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO THY WILL, O GOD.'" (Heb 10:4-7).

In contrast to the burnt offerings in Leviticus which could not remove sin, Christ removes sin by being that whole and perfect ‘burnt offering’ to God. He exercises complete dedication to God as the incarnate Son doing God’s will completely in the work of atonement.

II. The Grain Offering (Leviticus 2)

“Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights” (James 1:17). In recognition of this, the grain offering was the acknowledgment by God’s people of his gift of sustenance. In his providential love, Yahweh provides the bread we partake of, as well as that which quenches our thirst. In reference to Christ’s sacrifice, this offering highlights the truth that Jesus is “the corn of wheat (John 12:24) which went through the crushing mill of Gethsemane and the fierce oven of Calvary to become the Bread of Life” (Slemming 35). Manna from heaven has fallen upon the sons of men, providing the salvation they so desperately need.

III. The Peace Offering (Leviticus 3)

“Peace signifies...reconciliation, concord, and communion. And so these were called peace-offerings, because in them God and his people did, as it were, feast together, in token of friendship” (Henry I.357).

It is the grand proposition of the New Testament that Christ has appeased the enmity of God towards us by becoming the sacrifice that changes hatred into friendship. In the words of Paul, “He Himself is our Peace” (Eph 2:14). In Colossians 1:20, the apostle expounds this truth when he states that, “through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Just as Christ calmed the tempestuous tides that raged against his disquieted disciple’s, so he has calmed the bellows of God’s anger that raged against our sin plagued hearts. Since Christ is our Peace offering, perfect peace surrounds our souls as the breeze of God’s good pleasure fills our sail with the view of bringing us to that heavenly shore.

IV. The Sin Offering (Leviticus 4)

Although some details are repeated in the three offerings already dealt with, I have not mentioned them because of their crucial role in these next two offerings. The sin offering was considered the most important, for it deals specifically with the very thing that causes such a massive rift between us and God. Whereas the last three offering were voluntary, the last two are compulsory, for they are essential for communion with a holy God.

In the sin offering, the idea of substitution and identification is presented. The sinner lays his hands upon a bull, goat, or lamb without blemish, which signifies the transference of guilt from the transgressor to the innocent. The animal’s life is then taken; its blood being sprinkled before the LORD. The offending party is now ‘forgiven’ and ‘freed’ because the punishment was bore by another.

What a clear and vivid foreshadowing of our Lord’s substitutionary atonement! Jesus, the spotless lamb, bears the sins of his people. Christ, free from any taint of sin, endures the punishment due to us so that we might go free. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Cor 5:21).

V. The Trespass Offering (Leviticus 5)

Though similar, the sin and trespass offering exhibit some differences. The sin offering seems to deal with sins of omission, whereas the trespass offering deals with sins of commission. Some have suggested that the sin offering deals with the nature of sin, whereas the trespass offering deals the actions that follow. In any case, anyone contemplating the word “trespass” will be reminded of posted signs that state, “Do not trespass.” Anyone crossing such boundaries could be in danger of death. In a similar vein, God has ‘posted’ signs on certain activities. Failure to comply means death and banishment from New Jerusalem. Not only have we crossed such boundaries, but we have done so with impunity. We have reveled in crossing this line like a football player dancing in the in-zone after crossing that touch down mark.

Just as with the sin offering, Christ bears this death on the tree for us. Colossians 2:13&14 clearly testify to God’s gracious work in removing our trespasses. “¶ And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

These five offerings, taken together, give us a radiant portrait of that one great sacrifice of God’s Son. He rules his redeemed upon the foundation of his sacrifice. He governs his church with the wooden scepter of the cross; our King holds his church in the palms of his scared hands. The crown that distinguishes Him as the ruler of the church bears thorns and briers.

“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” - Hebrews 10:1-4

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Good Church | By Pastor Steve Mason

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I believe every Christian has been created by God with a purpose that will not only make life exciting and worth living, but a purpose that will help build God’s kingdom. He has called you, He has equipped you and He wants to use you. A local church is just one of the instruments God has chosen to help you fulfill that purpose. Your involvement in ministry at your church is not just a coincidence, or simply a result of you volunteering to help, but rather it is part of a divine plan to help you experience one of life’s greatest adventures…to do the most important work in the world with people you grow to love. A good church will be committed to support you in every way possible. A good church will provide instruction, guidance and encouragement whenever and wherever it is needed. A good church will make you feel like you are an important part of a team, but more importantly, a good church will make you feel like you are a part of a family. If we commit our lives to Jesus, and if we commit ourselves to a good local church, then over time, God will do more than we ever imagined in us, with us and through us. So make your church a priority, and your time together with the people God put in that church with you will be one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.