The Cross through the Eyes of Paul

• Isa 50:4-9 | • Ps 40:1-10 | • 1 Cor 1:18-35 | • Luke 23:1-49

INTRODUCTION

Preaching on “The cross through the eyes of Paul” might call for an exposition of his big theological ideas, ransom, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, and so on.

But this isn’t how he ministers to the tangible disunity, immorality, social division, super spirituality and bad theology of the church in Corinth. Instead he emphasises the character of the cross of Jesus as the place where the true nature of the wisdom and power of God can be fully found (1 Cor 1:24).

Even though when he initially preached in Corinth Paul he came not “with lofty speech or wisdom…. lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power(1 Cor 2:1-2; 1:17), and even though his testimony was accompanied with a supernatural converting power, the Corinthians had quickly turned from a cross-centred spirituality to one dominated by the trendy know how of the day (cf. Gal 1:6).

As their father in the gospel (1 Cor 4:15) Paul knew the answer to the crises in any Church lay in the Church receiving revelation of the power of the cross to do for it what it had done for him; rest to the conscience, release and liberation from evil powers, and peace and reconciliation with God.

The centre of gravity of Paul’s theology was the death and resurrection of Jesus because the cross was a present power in his life!

A life as outlined in the Acts of the Apostles which is a profoundly intimate expression of the life of Jesus himself.

A CRUCIFORM AND EMPOWERED LIFE

Luke opens Acts by saying, “In the first book… I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach(1:1). Jesus didn’t stop doing and teaching things when he went back to heaven; he kept speaking and acting through his Spirit in the lives of the apostles including Paul.

This began dramatically with a light and voice from heaven overpowering the rabbi Saul (later Paul) on the road to Damascus.

When Saul inquired about the identity of the person speaking to him, “vs.5Who are you, Lord?”, he received a reply that would completely shape his future life and ministry “vs.5‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. vs.16 …I have appeared …to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me”” and spoke to Saul about great suffering for the sake of his name (Acts 9:5, 16; Acts 26:15-16).

As an expert in the Hebrew scriptures Saul knew his commission to be a servant-witness came from God’s call to Israel in Isaiah 43:10, and that the Christians he persecuted claimed that Jesus was the Messiah who had ultimately fulfilled this vocation through death and resurrection (Acts 8:32-33).

As he was bathed in the divine light and heard the heavenly voice God revealed that Jesus was his Son (cf. Gal 1:15-16) and he had been called to share Messiah’s glorious mission in bringing the light of the good news of salvation to the nations (Isa 42:6; Acts 9:15; Acts -13:47).

The most stunning dimension of this revelation, one which stood in complete opposition to all human reason and his own religious tradition, was the testimony (1 Cor 2:1) that Messiah was a crucified man.

The messianic Son of God had humbled himself from the splendours of heaven to “even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

In identifying with a “cursed Messiah” (Gal 3:13 cf. Deut 21:23) the shape of Jesus’ life would be recapitulated through Paul’s own. 

This was the peculiar glory of what it meant for Paul to see the cross (e.g. Eph 3:13) and so the shape of Paul’s life radically conforms to that of Jesus (cf. Rom 8:29).

The preaching of the gospel through both men produced blindness and hardening in their hearers (Isa 6:9-10; John 12:40; Acts 28:26-27).

So as Jesus was rejected, especially by own countrymen, so was Paul (Acts 9:29; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:19; Acts 17:13; Acts 22:17-21). As Christ was opposed because he sought to win sinners (Matt 11:19), Paul was opposed because he sought to win Gentile-sinners (Acts 21:28).

As Jesus directed his journey to Jerusalem against the protests of his friends (Luke 9:51; Luke 13:22; Luke 18:31), so Paul was exhorted not to go there by fellow Christians (Luke 13:31; Acts 21:10-14).

In Jerusalem both Jesus and Paul were exposed to false witness, hounded by a mob, tried by the governor (Luke 23:1; Acts 25:1-2). Jesus went to death in Jerusalem and Paul was sent on to death in Rome.

Because in humility Christ came down from heaven he ministered with extraordinary power, when Paul’s life came down from mixing with the Jerusalem elite to mixing with the lowly (1 Cor 1:26ff.; Phil 3:5-8) he ministered with “signs and wonders and mighty works” (2 Cor 12:12; Phil 3:10).

This, to normal understanding, paradoxical mix of weakness and power is well summed up in a self-description from 2 Corinthians 4, vs.8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; vs.9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; vs.10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. vs.11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. vs.12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Cor 4:8-12).

Resurrection power was continuously operative in Paul’s life because he was always suffering in his union with Jesus (Col 1:24). As the cross defined the character of Jesus it defined the character of Paul.

His life motivation is crystal clear; vs.14For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; vs.15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor 5:14-15).

Captured by the love revealed in the cross (Rom 5:8) Paul embodies the message of reconciliation; “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us [lit: put within us] the message of reconciliation” (5:19).

In his whole hearted willingness to sacrifice everything for the salvation of others Paul imaged a wounded injured God actively seeking reconciliation with rebels. This was the secret of the power that worked through his life. What exactly did Paul see in the cross that grasped his heart?

ATONING SACRIFICE

As a pious Jew he was familiar with blood sacrifice where the life of a beast was offered up in the place of a sinner to turn away God’s judgement on guilt bringing forgiveness and reconciliation (Lev 1:3-4).

But when he had a revelation that God had sacrificed himself, for the sins of humanity (Acts 20:28) all his religious preconceptions were undone.

That a perfectly righteous man should sacrifice himself for the unrighteous (i.e. us) was an unthinkable reversal of the moral universe as he understood it (Rom 4:25; 5:6-8; cf. 1 Pet 3:18). No one expects victims to die for their victimisers!

This is the power of the cross that turns every common sense way of thinking about life on its head. Moved by this great revelation he exclaims, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.(Gal 6:14).

The unconquerable suffering love of God in Jesus has annihilated the power of sin and evil over humanity in its selfish possessiveness.

In Paul’s eyes the cross was transformed from the most shameful of deaths to a place where the evil powers which originate shame are defeated (Gal 3:13).

So he exults in testifying; God “disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.(Col 2:15).

We need to grasp with Paul that the death of Jesus is not a spectacle to admire or a fine sentiment to imitate but something we are called to share in (Gal 2:20).

Christ died in our place so we could share in the wisdom and power of his death. This is what being a Christian is all about; vs.1Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? vs.2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? vs.3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? vs.4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.(Rom 6:1-4)

It is at this point that it becomes horribly plain that most of the contemporary Western Church, sharing as it does all the problems of the church in Corinth, doesn’t see what Paul sees about the cross. Which is to say we don’t understand the power of the gospel (Rom 1:16).

THE CHURCH OF OUR DAY

The Church in Australia is abounds in the false gospels of legalism, rationalism, social activism, success, prosperity and influence (Gal 1:6-7 cf. 1 Cor 1:18-25; 2 Cor 12:1-10; Gal 6:12-15).

Outwardly these look so different to each another but inwardly they are all manifestations of a radically self-centred ego that has not been crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20).

Paul’s remedy for alternative gospels is blunt and embarrassing; “3.vs.1 It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified…. 6.vs.17 I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.(Gal 3:1; 6:17).

As a servant and witness sharing the sufferings of Jesus (Phil 3:10) those exposed to Paul’s ministry saw in him something of Christ’s own agonies for their salvation.

This is central to what it means to be a Christian, e.g. “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12; cf. Rom 8:17-18; Phil 1:29; 1 Thes 2:14-15).

But with the affliction of the cross comes a powerful rescue; beaten, stoned, imprisoned, cold, hungry, thirsty, shipwrecked… but delivered by the power of God (2 Cor 11:23-28) at the end of his life the apostle testifies, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom(2 Tim 4:18).

We urgently, desperately need to recover Paul’s great cross-formed desire; “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.(Phil 1:20).

His presence could never be dismissed, but our Christianity is reckoned as impotent and irrelevant. Not because Western culture understands wisdom and influence in a fundamentally different way from the paganism of Paul’s time, but because his greatest fear for the Church has become true amongst us; the cross has been “emptied of its power” (1 Cor 1:17).

CONCLUSION

“The cross puts everything to the test.”

Luther said,

The Christ of the cross tests the character of your life every day. Someone who has never been broken, misunderstood, rejected and despised in making Christ known has likely never known the power of the cross.

If you have never been thought to be slightly on the crazy side (2 Cor 5:13) for making sacrifices of time, money, energy and emotions for others, in Jesus’ name, then you have never seen the cross through the eyes of Paul.

The way of the cross always looks weak from the outside but if we are living its message its power transforms our own lives and through us the lives of others, forever.

Serving the crucified Christ marked Paul out as Christ’s apostle; does your relationship with the cross identify you as a Christian? 

If you ignore the cross you will in the end die alone, and that’s that, the end. Identify with Jesus in his death, and you will share in the power of his glorious resurrection from the dead (Rom 6:5; Easter).

We are at the end of our series: “The cross through the eyes of Isaiah, Jesus, Hebrews, Peter, John, Paul.”

How about “The cross through the eyes of (own name)?”

Others can really see something of the Jesus through you if you are willing to suffer with him as a servant and a witness?

Just as surely as the crucified Lord called Paul to this commitment on the road to Damascus he is calling us to make this same commitment now. Let us pray

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 25th March, 2018 | St Mark’s

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 25th March, 2018 |       |


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A Culture of Confession

INTRODUCTION

It is a very strange thing when people “long for” revival but seem uncommitted to corporate confession, which is the first evidence of a spiritual awakening.

The sort of spontaneous confession I’m referring to is described in this quote from Paul Tournier; “Then suddenly there dawns upon us the vast, entire endowment of God’s free love and forgiveness, and of the reconciliation he offers us in Jesus Christ. It is this which bowls us over, frees us from the burden of guilt, transforms us, provokes repentance. It is this discovery which periodically in history gives rise to an outburst of infectious faith, mass conversions and irrepressible joy.

As a Christian psychotherapist Tournier praised highly the power of confession to bring healing to the whole person.  If King David and the returning prodigal son found the freedom to confess, “I have sinned”, why do we in the gospel age find confession so difficult (2 Sam 24:17 ESV; Luke 15:21 ESV)? How has our spirituality slipped so low?

A SOCIETY WITHOUT SIN

A renowned American theologian criticised the social gospel of his day; “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” (H. R. Niebuhr).

We are no longer faced with the gospel of do-goodism characteristic of the 1930’s, but we are faced with a church dominated by a gospel of relevance. Pragmatism1)Truth is defined practically in terms of “what works”, what increases church membership. controls the culture of most of the numerically growing churches of Australia.

And in a secular culture that revolves around the dynamic of self-acceptance and positive self-esteem little space is left for speaking of something as “negative” as personal sin. “Mistake/error/darkness” may be OK terms but “sin” is a dangerous word that might re-victimise the traumatised.

It seems unthinkable in an age of advances in genetics, neuroscience and psychology that our understanding of human nature is going backwards. Such a mindset is necessarily alien to secular experts on human behaviour but their optimism seems shared by many church authorities.

In the wake of popular culture much Christian preaching and ministry has become so therapeutic in character that it operates almost exclusively at a psychological level.

Such methods often improve how people feel and act, but they cannot impart anything of the new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV).

Transformation at this level of being only comes through death to self and resurrection in Christ (Gal 2:20 ESV). We need to listen carefully to past Christian heroes whose experience of life was richer than ours.

SHALLOW

John Wesley initiated small groups (“bands”) designed to help believers confess to one another, and as a result be healed. He insisted members were “to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise, and without reserve?” These gatherings were of crucial important in maintaining the purity and longevity of the eighteenth century Evangelical Revival.  

Closer to our time Dietrich Bonhoeffer (martyred 1945), memorably remarked; “The most experienced psychologist…knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian… The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ…. The greatest psychological insight…cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.

Bonhoeffer’s position is true because he understands the power of the gospel.

The early church, with none of our medical or psychological knowledge, had power before the ravages of depression, anxiety and PTSD through the gospel (Rom 1:16 ESV). The unashamed prominence of open confession in the Bible has always been a key to the health of the people of God.

CONFESSION IN SCRIPTURE

Every faithful Israelite knew what it was like to confess his/her sins before a sacrificing priest as an essential part of a God ordained rite to liberate from the wages of sin (Lev 5:5 ESV). And the nation knew corporate confession was the way to be healed from divine retribution (Ezra 9:6-7 ESV; Neh 9:3 ESV; cf. Lev 26:4 ESV 0ff; 2 Chron 7:14 ESV).

At a personal level the impact of confession could be dramatic; vs.1Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven… vs.2 … in whose spirit there is no deceit. vs.3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. vs.4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me… vs.5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.(Ps 31:1-5 ESV).

Whoever seeks to cover their sin carries a heavy inner burden, but whoever’s sin is covered by the Lord is set free. “Is anyone among you sick…. confess your sins to one another…that you may be healed.(James 5:14, 16 ESV).  I remember a dramatic “baptism in the Holy Spirit” that transformed a very sick lady into a bundle of radiating joy once she confessed she had often wanted her husband dead.

REVIVING A WAY OF LIFE

Without the humility embedded in confession God will continue to resist healing the Australian Church as we are resisting him (James 4:6 ESV).  Rather than hankering after works of power as the key to a mighty move of God we would be better prepared for a genuine revival through learning how to practice concrete mutual confession of sin.

The Light of Christ cannot flood our hearts until our darkness has been cleansed; the darkness of secret ambition, jealousy, unbelief, fear, pride etc. (Ps 24:3-4 ESV).

As the impactful East African revival (1930’s+) majored on Christians being open to one another about their sins, “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7 ESV), when we seek each other out to ask forgiveness it will be plain that the edge of revival is on us.

Is this even imaginable?

“Yes!”

Not because of anything we see in Church life but because of the undiminished power of Christ’s gospel (Eph 3:20 ESV).

CONCLUSION

Cultivating a Spirit-led culture of confession is a priority for pastors and church leaders. Behind the doors of the dammed up hearts of multitudes of wounded, grieving believers there is a torrent of hurt, confusion, anger, disappointment and despair.  

Confession opens the flood gates, and as the innermost being is washed with the blood of Christ and the pure water of the Spirit cleansing from guilt, shame, depression, anxiety and a host of physical illnesses will flow (John 7:37-39 ESV; 1 Cor 6:11 ESV; Tit 3:5 ESV; 1 John 1:7 ESV).

This is a wonderful vision.

A habitually confessing church is a refreshed church empowered and alive to do the works of God in the world (Acts 3:19-20 ESV).

The first step in humble wise praying for revival is to ask the Lord to send us the grace to confess. May the Lord grant us this wisdom.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 21st March, 2018 |

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 21st March, 2018 |       |


Related Link: Nil

References   [ + ]

1. Truth is defined practically in terms of “what works”, what increases church membership.

Blood and Light

INTRODUCTION

The New Testament presents becoming a Christian as an incredibly radical transition. In commissioning Paul to preach to the Gentiles Jesus said, “I am sending you…to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins…(Acts 26:18). Converts became lighthouses; so the Philippian Christians are exhorted, “Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. (Phil 2:15-16).

This was nothing less than what Jesus expected of all his disciples, “vs.14You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. vs.15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. vs.16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.(Mat 5:14-16).

The New Testament knows no shadow land between the world and the Church. Yet in the light of the scandals to so with child abuse many Australians would see the Church as a habitation of darkness.

I am often worn down by painful stories of conspiracies, adulteries, false gospels, prayerlessness, selfish ambition and a seemingly endless list of sins amongst the people of God. If sin is not being seen as sin amongst the people of God what hope is there for the world (1 Pet 4:18)?

There are many signs of our spiritual nearsightedness (2 Pet 1:9; Rev 3:17).

Many congregations are comfortable with the first part of James’ instruction in praying for the sick, but few follow the rest of his counsel. vs.14Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. vs.15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. vs.16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…(James 5:14-16). 1 John 1:9 is a much loved verse; “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

But I’ve never met a congregation that has embraced the implications of the fact that the word translated “confess” here is never used of a private act in the New Testament (1 John 2:23; 4:2, 3, 15 cf. Matt 3:6; John 1:20; 9:22; 12:42; Rom 10:9; Rev 3:5 etc.).

The spiritual power of corporate personal confession has disappeared from our churches because we have lost confidence in the power of the gospel (Mark 1:14-15).

To illustrate this I want to use an example Fred and I were talking about recently. In 1979 American singer-evangelist Keith Green preached at Oral Roberts University on holiness and  the Spirit of God moved powerfully; “kids came up to the microphone to confess their sins”. The confession became more intense until one young man came to the front and confessed his homosexuality. Straight after this one of the university faculty took the microphone and said personal sins should not be shared in the open. Immediately the whole atmosphere of the meeting changed and the move of God abruptly ended.

How different it was in the days of the early church.

When Paul lists, “the sexually immoralidolatersadulterershomosexualitythievesgreedydrunkardsslanderersswindlers … And such were some of you. But you were washedsanctifiedjustified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.(1 Cor 6:9-11), the members of the little house church in Corinth knew exactly which of their brothers and sisters he was talking about.

The paralysing shame of sin had been washed away so the fellowship of love and acceptance was amazing. Few today believe the gospel is that powerful.

Given deviant sexual practices were common across the Roman Empire there must have been many converts from paganism with a history of perversion in local congregations. I believe the church needs to repent of past wrongdoers in covering up abuse, and the law exists to punish wrongdoers (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:14); but if the gospel is powerful to forgive and transform the worst of sinners (1 Tim 1:15), there should surely be across our churches men and women who can stand up and give confident testimony, “I was a child abuser but Jesus has healed me.”  Why are we not experiencing the true measure of power of the gospel?

Dealing recently with a professing believer deeply enmeshed in a history of sexual sin gave me fresh insight into 1 John 1:5-7; vs.5God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. vs.6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. vs.7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Sin can only be seen to be sin in the light of God and no one can face the light shining on their sin without a revelation of the all forgiving blood of the cross. Sin’s power of guilt and shame has been totally defeated in the cross, but no one ever comes to the cross without first being convinced that without Jesus they are totally blinded to spiritual truths.

BLIND AND DARKENED

Jesus never held back in describing the blackened inner state of lost people; vs.22Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. vs.23 But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep is that darkness! (Matt 6:22-24). He openly declared that those who thought they could see would be blinded by his teaching (John 9:39, 41; Matt 13:14). Even more tragically Christ talks about the aggressive response to his coming; “vs.19this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. vs.20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.(John 3:19-21). The light which sinners hated in Jesus was a hatred directed at the light of his Father shining through all he said and did (John 15:23-25).

Humans hate the exposing of their dark works because it brings a judgement on their guilt. The fallen religious conscience might believe that some imagined idea of God can overlook fault, but it is humanly impossible to believe that the real God can forgive sin apart from a revelation of the gospel (cf. Rom 8:7; 1 Cor 2:14). In Paul’s language about the dreadful state of lost humanity, “they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…(Rom 1:21; Eph 4:17-18). No ordinary religious sacrifice, even those given under of the old covenant, can cover the depth of human shame (Gen 3:21; Lev 1 etc.), but function as a reminder of lost glory (Heb 10:1-3). The cleansing away of the darkness over the spiritual eyes of lost people can only come when God sheds his own blood (Acts 20:28). The whole life of Jesus moved towards his sacrifice (Luke 2:34-35).

JESUS

45% of the Australian population under the cloud of darkness over.

As, “The true light, which gives light to everyone(John 1:9) Jesus unashamedly declared,  ““I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(John 8:12). Christ alone could destroy our darkness because only his own life was without the darkness of guilt, shame, deceit or insincerity. The Bible describes Christ’s coming like this, “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”(Isa 42:7; Matt 4:16). Our nation desperately needs to see the great light of Christ.

The world’s most common cause of disability is a darkness which will strike about 45% of the Australian population some time in their lives…. depression.

Depression is a key factor in suicide and surely such sadness explains the 400% increase in the last 5 years of self harm in children under 17, and it’s happening in children as young as 6 (The West Australian 13/3/18 p.12.These are only hospital figures!)

A great darkness has descended upon our land and as our culture moves further away from Jesus and grows in its hatred of his light e.g. reading yesterday how an inner city council advertising a Christmas event made sure to mention there’d be no Christian carols, this darkness will intensify in the souls of old and young.

We will have more little children cutting themselves and more older people wanting to be euthanised. Only Christ’s life can dispel the thick darkness that is blanketing our land; “our Saviour Christ Jesus… abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel(2 Tim 1:10).

Conscious of what lay ahead of him Jesus testified at the moment of his arrest, “this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”(Luke 22:53). The cross is the place where the dominion of darkness meets the full Light of God (Col 1:12-13). vs.33And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. vs.34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:33-34).

The cloud of darkness over the land and the terrible cry of abandonment means Christ takes every element of evil, depravity, despair and depression into his own soul (2 Cor 5:21).  He pleads so desperately with the Lord because for the first time he cannot see God as he is (Isa 42:19).

What do you see when you see Jesus pleading to know the presence of God as his Father; is the Father absent, distant, neglectful, wrathful? Or is it that even on the cross the Son is absolutely transparent with the Light of God so “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” remains true (John 1:4; 14:9).

The blood of the cross bears witness against our unbelief and confusion about God’s fathering that he is merciful beyond measure and totally committed to cleanse away guilt and sin (2 Cor 1:3).

Salvation and not condemnation is in his heart (John 3:16-17).

As soon as we see the crucified Christ once again saying, ““Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”” (Luke 23:46) we know the triumph of the blood sacrifice of the cross is complete.

We know Jesus is once again he is seeing heavenly things (John 3:12). Yet the full light of the saving power of the death of Christ could only be manifested for us in resurrection.

Hebrews 13:20 states this clearly “God has raised from death our Lord Jesus… as the result of his blood” (GNB).

The power of the resurrection of Jesus is unique because his death is in it.

The worthiness of his obedient sacrifice gave infinite value to his blood (cf. Lev 17:11) and bestowed on him immortality.

The blood of Christ opened his grave and “by means of his own blood” Jesus gained entry into the holy places in heaven to cleanse away all impurity (Heb 9:12, 23-26).

Andrew Murray pictures the cleansing of the heavenly world by the blood of Christ in a way which well fits the theme of this sermon, Blood and Light; “As the blood was brought in, every vestige of a thought of sin was removed out of God’s presence; the heavens are now clear and bright, and the love of God can shine out in noonday glory.

The Light of a God revealed in the risen Christ who shed his blood to forgive us is what the Jewish terrorist Saul saw on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:6; 26:13). This was the moment God “shone in his heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ(2 Cor 4:6).

Instantly he knew that all the darkness of our sins had been taken away.  He was liberated from all need to practice religious works in an effort to scrub away his guilt and uncleanness (Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:4ff.). In the light of Christ everything was transparent and enlightened (cf. Ps 36:9).

The power of the blood in the resurrection to undo unbelief about God’s character is at the pinnacle of the New Testament. After being taken to heaven and shown the glories of the throne room of God (Rev 5) John must see something far grander. Made to wait and wail in desperation to behold the identity of the one worthy to enact God’s eternal plan of salvation he sees “a Lamb standing (raised) as slaughtered (killed)” (5:4, 6). The bloody sacrifice of the cross and the glory of the resurrection are indissolubly one. This is the Light of God revealed in Christ. If this is how the New Testament writers and the early Church saw Jesus, what are we seeing, and not seeing?

WALKING IN THE LIGHT

If you broods over your past failures a darkness will come over your soul, but darkness isn’t  part of your new identity in Christ. It’s time to stop thinking of yourself from “a worldly point of view” and to believe you are a new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:16-17; Gal 6:15).

The biblical testimony is unanimous; “at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light(Eph 5:8). “For you are all sons of light, sons of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.(1 Thess 5:5 cf. John 12:36). The root sin of the Church underlying all its contemporary works of darkness is unbelief over the power of the blood of Christ released through his resurrection from the dead (Eph 5:11).

In a day of “easy-believism” when we have forgotten we are not saved in our sins but from our sins it’s time to reckon again with the great reality that the indwelling power of sin has been broken by Christ’s obedience (Rom 7:21-25).

This outworks itself in ways that may surprise us.

A Church which knows the power of the blood of Christ to cleanse from sin and is walking in the light of the Lord (Eph 5:8; 1 John 1:7; Rev 21:24; cf. Isa 60:3; Zech 14:16) is a Church of the most intense worship. The New Testament consistently expresses this by describing believers as priests and kings.

John says, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father…(Rev 1:5-6).

Peter agrees, “you were ransomed from… futile ways… with the precious blood of Christ…. a royal priesthood that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.(1 Pet 1:18-19; 2:9).

The heart worship of the Church flows from its inner experience of cleansing from the darkness of sin (Heb 10:22). But heart worship doesn’t correspond to everything that claims to be worship.

Jesus said of the devout but hypocritical temple worshippers of his day, ““This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me..”(Matt 15:7-8).

Since no one really believes that the congregations of the famous “worship churches” of our country are living holier lives than other Christians we should simply confess that a great deception, a great darkness, has overcome the life of the Australian Church.

True spiritual worship proceeds from a blood cleansed heart that sees God in the light of his all forgiving love and so is not afraid to confess sin.

Let me illustrate.

Revivalist Geoffrey Bingham recounts what happened after the close of a Sunday night meeting in Pakistan.

“Suddenly…the whole congregation broke out in spontaneous singing…beauty and sweetness beyond description…Joy was flooding the whole congregation…” Then he explains why. “Because the pockets of darkness were cleansed from our hearts only pure light shone – Christ himself.”

This story resonates with me because I once had an experience of the most intense WHITE light, a sense of the pure light of God’s holy being (1 Tim 6:16; Rev 22:5) which overwhelmingly moved me to praise and worship the Lord.

This was a very small insight into the “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6) which will move us to worship forever. When the blood of the cross cleanses out the darkness of the human heart allowing the light of God to shine in there are always great outpourings in song and service.

Let’s sum up.

CONCLUSION

Christ’s Church is called to enlighten those who are in darkness, and the apostolic Church did this brilliantly.

When Peter preached on Day of Pentecost the hearers, “were cut to the heart, and said…,Brothers, what shall we do?”” (Acts 2:37).

The people saw their sin in the light of the full forgiveness made available through the shed blood of the cross and the power of the resurrection.

Seeing that God’s judgement had been taken away and eternal life was freely offered (John 5:24) they were quick to confess and repent (Acts 2:28ff.). The tremendous unity and sacrifice that flowed into the life of the first Church was the fruit of a community filled with spiritual confidence (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-34 etc.). The confidence of hearts having been cleansed from guilt approached the throne of God free from a fear of impending judgement.

In contrast to the radiating light of the earliest church our Church of Perth is a lampstand (Rev 1:20) which, as Jesus puts it, hidden “under a basket” failing to “give light to all in the house” (Matt 5:14-15).

Many have wanted “the power of the resurrection” as if it could be separated from “the fellowship of his sufferings(Phil 3:10).

In our ignorance we have dismembered Jesus.

This is a very serious sin, but our all compassionate Lord will quickly forgive us (Ex 34:6; James 5:11). He understands we are living in a time when “lawlessness is increasing and the love of many is growing cold(Matt 24:12). In the language of Revelation we are in the midst of “great tribulation” (Acts 14:22; Rev 1:9; 7:14).

The one way out of this time of severe trial is to “wash our robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14).

The blood of Christ alone gives us access to the courts of God in heaven and to the power of the glorified life of Christ to live as lights in this dark world.

Where the all cleansing power of the blood of the cross is not proclaimed of course the people of God will hide from his light because it speaks to them of a terrifying judgement.

But the light which shines through the blood of the cross is immensely appealing, desirable and beautiful to every cleansed conscience (Heb 9:14).

Whoever sees these things will be grasped by the desirability of divine illumination and will pray for more light, then seeing he things of God more clearly will seek for more light and so on… forever.

In Christ through the gospel there is no longer any reason to live with the darkness of shame guilt fear deception condemnation…

We are light in the Lord (Eph 5:8), let’s believe this and start to live it to the full. Hallelujah, 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 18th March, 2018 |

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: n/a |       |


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Repentance Leads to Life

INTRODUCTION:

Against the strong prophetic background of God’s calling sinful Israel to turn away from evil and come back to him (Jer 26:3; Ezek 14:6; Isa 55:6-7 etc.) Christ’s proclamation of repentance at the start of his ministry was charged with meaning.  “Jesus came … proclaiming the gospel … vs.15 … “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”” (Mark 1:15). And just before he ascended to heaven  he confirmed to the disciples the indispensability of repenting for salvation; “vs.46Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, vs.47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, (Luke 24:46-47 ESV).

Calls to repent continue throughout the New Testament; in Acts these are strongly linked with receiving forgiveness (Acts 2:38 ESV; Acts 3:19 ESV; Acts 5:31 ESV; Acts 8:22 ESV; Acts 26:18, 20 ESV) and are often accompanied by a deep sense of regret for past sins (Matt 21:29 ESV; 2 Cor 7:8-10 ESV cf. Ex 13:17 ESV; Prov 5:11 ESV etc.).

In scripture repentance is a sign of faith in God’s promises (Mark 1:15 ESV; Acts 20:21 ESV). To accept the urgent need of repentance we must first accept the depths of human wickedness.

WHY IS REPENTANCE NEEDED?

In Jeremiah 17:9 ESV the Lord personally describes our dreadful fallen state, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Given that “heart” in scripture stands for the central make up of a person (Prov 4:23 ESV) people need renewal from the core of their being.

Only God’s Word can touch the depths of the human heart and bring about a complete turning to himself.

Acts 20:21 ESV; Heb 4:12-13 ESV

This is what was happening when Peter preached the gospel on the Day of Pentecost, “when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said…Brothers, what shall we do?””

To which he replied,
““Repent and be baptized… for the forgiveness of your sins””
(Acts 2:37 ESV cf. Acts 16:14 ESV).

Since only God’s Word can convey repentance the source of true repentance is wholly supernatural.

THE GIFT OF PENITENT GRIEF

This is why it’s vital to distinguish repentance from ordinary sorrow. Paul speaks of two types of remorse, one holy the other useless; vs.9…I rejoice…because you were grieved into repenting…. vs.10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.(2 Cor 7:9-10 ESV).

There are clear biblical examples of remorse without repentance; King Saul repeatedly felt very bad about his disobedience but his heart never turned back to God (1 Sam 15:24 ESV).

Judas’ felt dreadful about betraying Jesus, but he didn’t rejoin the apostles (Matt 27:4-5 ESV). Remorse is a self-centred feeling bad about oneself, but true repentance centres on God. Anyone can feel guilty, but God alone can reveal sin and stir up a grief leading to repentance and eternal life. The pain of true repentance always flows into joy and thankfulness (Ps 51:8, 12 ESV). It has been wisely said, “Repentance is the secret of a joy filled life.” (B. Schlink).

Since repentance is the restoration of God-centred living it is a pure gift of God.  Peter preaches, ““God exalted him (Jesus)…to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins…. to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”” (Acts 5:31 ESV; Acts 11:18 ESV cf. 2 Tim 2:25 ESV). Much contemporary preaching however denies the power of repentance because our understanding of repentance has been completely detached from the work of Christ.

THE VICARIOUS REPENTANCE OF CHRIST    

A consistent Christ-centred approach to salvation will insist that our mourning over sin-as-sin and turning back to God is a share in the life of Christ. Jesus sorrowed over sin in Gethsemane (Mark 14:34 ESV) and cried out on the cross for the presence of his Father (Ps 22:1 ESV b= Mark 15:34 ESV) not because he had any personal sin to repent of but because he had entered into our fallen human condition (Isa 53:12 ESV). In bearing our sins he grieves for our rebellion and turns to God on our behalf (John 17:19 ESV; 2 Cor 5:21 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV).

Only Jesus who has never been God’s enemy can offer himself to the Father on behalf of his enemies (Rom 5:10 ESV).

Since only a sinless human being can sense the true extent of the horror of sin, see how it wounds the heart of God and grasp its hellish consequences, Jesus alone can truly turn from all sin means and offer himself to God.  “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.(Rom 6:10 ESV). That repentance is a fruit of the gospel has often been misunderstood.

HOW DOES REPENTANCE HAPPEN?

Confused ideas of repentance reflect confused ideas about God. I clearly remember preachers listing sins, telling their hearers they’re guilty of breaking God’s Law, pronouncing that the wages of sin is death (Rom 3:23 ESV; Rom 6:23 ESV), then finally offering them forgiveness through Christ.

This teaching presents forgiveness as a possible human experience and creates the impression that our repentance causes God to forgive us.

This legalism appeals to our selfish urge for survival but it cannot induce real repentance toward God (Acts 20:21 ESV). The scriptures present a totally different framework for repentance.

The Old Testament contains repeated prophetic promises of Israel turning to the Lord in fear and trembling because he has first blessed and restored them (Isa 44:22 ESV; Ezek 36:26-31 ESV; Jer 32:36-41 ESV; 33:6-9 ESV; Zech 1:14-17 ESV).

When convicted over his adultery and murder David didn’t selfishly seek survival he sought God, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.(Ps 51:11 ESV cf. Ps 130:3-4 ESV).

A gospel centred approach to repentance says, “God has provided forgiveness for you in Christ, therefore turn back to him and receive it.” This is the power of the gospel preached by the apostles; vs.38through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, vs.39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.(Acts 13:38-39 ESV); “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them(2 Cor 5:19 ESV).

Through the proclamation of forgiveness in Christ people’s hearts are moved to renounce sin and to throw themselves on the mercy of God.  As Paul says in Romans 2, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance(Rom 2:4 ESV); and after another nine chapters of expounding the grace of God (justification, sanctification, election) exhorts his readers, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice(Rom 12:1-2 ESV).

The gospel discloses what sin means to God and his unhateful response which reveals to us the true loving character of God as a Father provoking a deep heart turning back to the Lord. This was drawing out of repentance was happening even as Jesus was being crucified.

When the penitent thief on the cross next to Christ heard him pray, ““Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”” (Luke 23:34 ESV) he had a revelation of the perfect righteousness of God for sinners satisfied in Christ and seeing his rebellion against God was totally misplaced he was irresistibly moved to say; ““Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.””? (Luke 23:42 ESV).

When the Word of Christ (1 Cor 1:23 ESV) penetrates the “thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12 ESV) the Spirit communicates something of Jesus own attitude to sin and we lose the will to resist the grace offered us in the gospel.

THE REPENTANT CHRISTIAN

When you came to Christ your past, present and future sins were all forgiven in him (Acts 4:12 ESV). The blood of the cross has forever taken away the power of sin to separate us from God (Rom 8:31-39 ESV).

Repentance and confession remain a part of the Christian life not to keep us in God’s family but to keep on cleansing us from sin’s presence so we stay intimate with Jesus (1 John 1:7-9 ESV).

Where the fullness of the grace of the gospel is not proclaimed poorly taught believers will feel that when they sin they move out of God’s grace and when they repent they move back into grace. This instability of conscience is a crucial factor explaining the immaturity of the contemporary Christianity.

CONCLUSION

It’s wonderful but embarrassing when the Spirit highlights a sin through your own sermon preparation. I have become aware, perhaps more than ever before, how I share with the mass of Christians in our infantile childish churches (Eph 4:14 ESV) a heartfelt fear of deep repentance.

I sense a fear, more than the pain of confession of sin before others, which is scary enough. I sense there are parts of our hearts which before God are scared that we really are guilty people who deserve to be punished (cf. 1 John 4:17-18 ESV).

The divided heart and double mindedness of the usual state of Australian Christians (Ps 86:11 ESV; James 1:8 ESV; James 4:8 ESV) points to a profound unbelief about the grace of God whereby we think he has a divided heart about forgiving us.

But the word of the cross proclaims that our Father possesses a single-hearted desire to drench us in his mercy and baptise us in his Spirit (Isa 32:15 ESV cf. Tit 3:4-7 ESV). Let me illustrate something of what I’m trying to say here with an Australian story about an outbreak of repentance; a mini revival if you like.

In 1962 CMS missionary Geoff Bingham (who I knew personally) who had experienced revival in Pakistan was on furlough in Sydney.

In a prayer meeting he said, ‘I think that the Lord wants to bring home to us now what the Lord thinks of us.’ He read from Psalm 24, ‘Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.’ Then he suggested that those present should come to the Lord and ask him to reveal himself.

They all knelt down in a circle, and then someone began to weep, and a great conviction came over everyone. Some tried to pray, but dissolved in sobs. One man later testified that he had an incredible sense of his own depravity in the sight of God.

It was as if he were standing outside himself, looking at himself. And he wanted to flee from himself as fast and as far as he could because of the horrific sight he had of his own sin.

He was crushed and broke down and sobbed convulsively, and the others around him were prostrate on the floor, broken-hearted. Then a gentle quietness came over the whole group, and then a wonderful sense of God’s total forgiveness.

Then they sang and sang until they were hoarse. The singing and intercession just went on and on, until someone said, ‘It’s half past four in the morning’. Everyone was staggered that so much time had elapsed.

Let’s not focus on the intense emotions so characteristic of the first wave of a revival but stay Christ-centred.

The Spirit was sharing with these believers something of Christ’s grief over sin and something of his glorious joyful resurrection victory (2 Cor 3:18 ESV; Phil 3:10 ESV).

The challenge for us tonight is whether we want to see our sin as Jesus’ sees it and be moved beyond this into a new power to serve him.

Will we be controlled by our fears or “for Christ’s sake” (2 Cor 12:10 ESV) will we be willing to allow him to show us what he thinks of us? 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 11th March, 2018 |  Alive@5 St Mark’s

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 11th March, 2018 |       |


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The Cross in Hebrews

• Isa 55:1-9 ESV  

• Ps 37:23-26 ESV  

• Heb 9:23-28 ESV  

• Mark 10:35-45 ESV

INTRODUCTION 

The booming popularity of the gay pride parades testifies that we are living in the midst of an unprecedented cultural revolution; but it takes the sort of discernment given to us by the book of Hebrews to recognise that the ultimate goal of this revolution is not political, social or moral but to take our eyes off Jesus as the only one who can deal with guilt and shame (Heb 12:2 ESV etc.).

Only those who consciences have been cleansed by the sacrificial blood of Christ to enjoy intimacy with God can truly distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:14 ESV; Heb 9:14 ESV).

The author of Hebrews establishes this bold claim by contrasting the new covenant (Heb 8:8,13,15 ESV; Heb 9:15 ESV; Heb 10:24 ESV) with the old sacrificial system that “made nothing perfect(Heb 7:29 ESV).

The repeated sacrifice (Heb 7:11,18-19,23 ESV; Heb 10:1,4 ESV) of bulls and goats could never “take away sin(Heb 10:4 ESV) but constantly reminded the convicted conscience (Heb 9:9 ESV) that sin was still blocking fellowship with a holy God (Heb 12:14 ESV). And where there is guilt there is always a fear of death and judgement (Heb 2:14-15 ESV; Heb 10:27 ESV).

The old covenant worshippers were left with what Hebrews calls in one place the “consciousness of sin” and in another a “guilty/evil conscience(Heb 10:2,22 ESV). Hebrews speaks to the struggling inner world of human beings suffering from guilt and shame about the power of Christ’s blood to liberate us from bondage.

Real guilt is about past sins; and “sin” is much more than a “mistake” or “bad choice”. Sin brings a sense of a seemingly unbridgeable distance from God.

Guilt is “entire impotence with God” (P.T. Forsyth). 

Guilt is a negative power that disconnects the human spirit from the Spirit of God, destroys intimacy with the heavenly Father and leaves a sense of impending judgement.

True guilt possesses such depths that no earth bound religion can bring intimacy with “the majesty on high” (Heb 1:3 ESV).

To know peace with God sinners must have access to heaven (Heb 13:20 ESV).

Hebrews teaches us that Jesus gives us this access; “we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places…(Heb 8:1-2 ESV). Jesus is the priest who has provided his people with unlimited access to God in heaven.

WHO IS THE SACRIFICE

One of the reasons Hebrews is such a great book is that it shows a profound understanding of the connection between who Jesus is and what he does, between Incarnation and Atonement.

The power of the sacrifice of Christ hinges on the status of Jesus as the one through whom all things were made, the one worshipped by angels and the enthroned God who rules the universe forever(Heb 1:1-12 ESV)

This exalted understanding of the person of Christ under-girds how he is able to save frail humanity by becoming one of us e.g. “Jesus for a little while was made lower than the angels. Since the children (of God) have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil –”(Heb 2:9,14 ESV)

Jesus enters into our wretched state so we might share in his exalted state; “because he himself has suffered when tempted…. yet without sinning…. he is able to help those who are being tempted….” .(Heb 2:18 ESV; Heb 4:15 ESV)

To deliver us from “lifelong slavery” to “fear of death” (Heb 2:15 ESV)

Jesus entered into our “fleshoffered up prayers and pleadings to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard…” (Heb 5:7 ESV). Having been delivered from the authority of death through resurrection Jesus can liberate us from the terrors of dying.

What we might call the shape of the gospel is extraordinarily clear in Hebrews.

Jesus became as we are that we might become as he is.

The Son of God took on weak mortal humanity to perfect it; “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that Godshould make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.(Heb 2:10 ESV cf. Heb 5:9 ESV).

This language of perfection is repeated throughout Hebrews, even about us; “by one sacrifice he (Jesus) has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy(Heb 10:14 ESV cf. Heb 10:1 ESV; Heb 12:23 ESV).

The word “perfect” will trigger off unhelpful thoughts in the mind of anyone whose conscience is not clear; I struggled for years to understand how a perfect God could relate to my weaknesses and confusions.

Every time I thought of God’s perfection he seemed a long way away.

Thankfully “perfection” in Hebrews isn’t about ethical blamelessness but about authority to approach God.

The word Hebrews uses “perfect” comes via the Greek Old Testament where it refers to the consecration of priests and their right to draw near to God’s holy presence to present an acceptable sacrifice (Ex 28:41 ESV; Lev 8:33 ESV; Num 3:3 ESV etc.)

As Jesus is the consecrated High Priest to God in heaven (Heb 2:17 ESV; Heb 3:1 ESV etc.) so believers are set apart to share in his uninhibited priestly access to God (Heb 3:1 ESV).

This is our “perfection”.

The key to our entry into this glorious state is the blood sacrifice of the cross.

Hebrews pronounced emphasis on “blood” (20x) has nothing to do with an outdated primitive way of understanding the world but an unrivalled insight into the workings of the guilty conscience.

BLOOD SACRIFICE

The sacrifices of the Old Testament involved a threefold movement. Firstly the animal needed to be killed to obtain its blood, then the priest took the blood into a holy place, finally the blood is sprinkled on the altar/mercy seat (Day of Atonement)/congregation before God to purify the people of sin and seal the covenant (Lev 5:9-10; 16 cf. Ex 24).

So Jesus, who is uniquely priest and victim in one, having been crucified “offered himself(Heb 7:27 ESV; Heb 9:14,26 ESV)by means of his own blood” in the “holy placesin the presence of God on our behalf(Heb 9:12, 24 ESV).

Hebrews uniquely testifies that beyond the realm of earthly religion (Heb 9:22 ESV)heavenly things” have been purified “once for all(Heb 7:27 ESV; Heb 9:25-26 ESV) by the blood of Jesus.

The contrast between the old sacrificial system and the new couldn’t be stronger. Through “the eternal Spirit(Heb 9:14 ESV) an offering has been presented in heaven, not earth, God’s own Son was offered, not a dumb beast.

The perfectly willing obedient Son who placed himself in solidarity with us (Heb 2:10-11,17-18 ESV; Heb 4:15 ESV) was “offered once to bear the sins of many(Heb 9:28 ESV; from Isa 53:12 LXX). Since the heavens have been cleansed we can spiritually join Jesus there in the worship of his Father (Heb 8:1-2 ESV; Heb 13:15 ESV).

It’s easy to understand why earthly things need cleansing, the world’s always a mess, but why do heavenly things need purification?

The reason isn’t completely clear.

Perhaps the blood of Christ needed to purge away the traces of the angelic rebellion which started in heaven (Rev 12)?

Perhaps “purify” means something like “dedicate” the heavenly sanctuary so that it is made accessible to previously unclean sinners (cf. Ex 29:36 ESV; Lev 8:15 ESV; Rev 21:27 ESV).

Whatever the exact explanation these words ring true;

“As the blood was brought in every vestige of a thought of sin was removed out of God’s presence; the heavens are now clear and bright, and the love of God can shine out in noonday glory.”

A. Murray

This means something wonderful.

If you have asked Jesus to forgive you whenever the heavenly Father looks at your life he is not the least bit focussed on your sin.

To put this another way; the conscience of God has been satisfied/put at peace by the blood of the cross (Heb 13:20 ESV).

NO WORRIES

Unlike the Old Testament faithful (e.g. Heb 11:13,39-40 ESV) the great privilege of the Christian is  the ability to “draw near to God(Heb 4:16 ESV; Heb 7:19,25 ESV; Heb 10:22 ESV; Heb 11:6 ESV) freed from “the consciousness of sin(Heb 10:2 ESV).

Because of the blood of the cross guilt is no longer a real problem.

As by faith we follow Jesus who passed through the heavens (Heb 4:14 ESV; Heb 7:26 ESV) into “heaven itself” (Heb 9:24 ESV) we have “come to”, as Hebrews 12 tells us, countless angels, a joyful assembly, and a place without fear because of “the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.  

The blood of the murdered Abel cried out from the ground for vengeance (Gen 4:10 ESV), but the blood of the cross speaks to our consciences from heaven about full forgiveness (Heb 10:22 ESV).

The blood of Christ cleanses away troubled memories in the presence of God.

What God has promised to forget we must not remember (Heb 8:12 ESV; Heb 10:16-18 ESV).

If guilt means spiritual impotence the cleansing blood of Christ imparts spiritual boldness.

Through our ascended priestly mediator (Heb 8:6 ESV; Heb 9:15 ESV) heaven is accessible; “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…. with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need….” (Heb 4:16 ESV; Heb 10:19 ESV).

Satan’s incapacitating accusations about past sins have been rendered powerless by the blood of Christ

(Heb 2:14-15 ESV).

We can say to the Lord, “I love you.” And unselfconsciously pray, prophesy and testify about Jesus in the presence of others (cf. Heb 11).  In a day when people are crazily obsessed with being proud of themselves, e.g. the social media phenomenon, we are called to declare that only Christ crucified is worthy of our Pride.

CONCLUSION

If Hebrews’ portrayal of the sacrificial work of Christ heralds an unprecedented religious revolution why is there so much spiritual paralysis and passivity in our churches?

Our core problem cannot be, to quote Hebrews 5:2 ESV, that we are “weak, wayward and ignorant” (Heb 5:2 ESV) because these are the very frailties for which Jesus our heavenly High Priest is interceding (Heb 7:25 ESV; Heb 9:24 ESV).

Neither is our root problem that we are an ethically unholy people.

If moral blamelessness was a prerequisite for the presence of God then many churches in the New Testament would have never experienced the miraculous e.g. Corinth (1 Cor 12:1-14:40 ESV); Galatia (Gal 3:1-6 ESV).  

Any believer who understands that in Jesus we have been set apart from impurity to purity to fellowship with God will move in spiritual authority (Heb 1:3 ESV; Heb 2:11 ESV; Heb 3:1,14 ESV; Heb 6:4,12 ESV; Heb 9:14 ESV; Heb 10:14 ESV; Heb 13:12 ESV).

Our ‘Core’ ‘Root’ Problem

Let me tell you what I think our root problem is.

Feeling they are not good enough to get close to God masses of sincere Christians are suffering from a sort of “spiritual performance anxiety”.

This is just another way of saying guilt is holding back the release of God’s presence in the churches. And underneath guilt lies the deadliest sin of all, unbelief (Heb 4:2 ESV).

You cannot cleanse away unbelief by any human action– by serving the church, praying more, reading the Bible more, giving more, trying harder….the remedy for guilt is to believe in what God has already done for us in Christ (Heb 11:6 ESV).

By faith we draw near to God and enjoy the benefits of the cross (Heb 10:22 ESV).

But, you might be asking, how does faith grow?

As a young Christian this is a question that just about drove me nuts. Thankfully Hebrews has an answer to this question; vs.1let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, vs.2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2 ESV).

Having believed for us, been tempted for us, suffered for us, shed his blood for us and gone into heaven on our behalf Jesus has once for all dealt with shame and guilt!

If guilt and shame are alive in you – stop looking at yourself, stop trawling over your past, stop comparing yourself to others….come confidently to Christ to find grace, mercy and full forgiveness in time of need. (Heb 4:16 ESV)

He will never fail you(Heb 10:23 ESV) 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 4th March, 2018 | @ St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 4th March. 2018 |       |


Related Link: messageofthecrossau.com