No one wanted this April, but here we are.
We wanted the virus to vacate, but here we are.
We wanted the economy to continue soaring, but here we are.
We wanted to see the cherry blossoms, but here we are.
We wanted to see family members with birthdays in April (1 – dad 72 / 23–sis is turning forty), but here we are.
We wanted baseball, but here we are.
We wanted church on Palm Sunday & Resurrection Sunday, but here we are.
We wanted to be together, but here we are.
We wanted the same, but God is orchestrating something different.
Like driving and looking in the rear-view mirror, the world as we know it, seems to be drifting away. It seems we are experiencing not just an episode, but an era.
Pandemic is spreading.
Pace of life is slowing.
Priorities are revising.
Perspectives are shifting.
Today’s message will provide us with tools and truth for our times.
EXAMINE Hebrews 10
Last week I stated that many people dismiss Jesus because of their ideas about Christianity and not their investigation of Him. Christianity is not only a good idea but is good news – historical news with eyewitness testimony and evidence inside and outside the Scriptures.
In effort to help you/us contrast cultural ideas vs accurate investigation of Jesus, I would like to share with you a few tools to help your faith witness.
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),
9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.
10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Jesus entered what we experience.
We cannot see wind, but we know it is there. We see its impact, we feel its presence, and we discern its power whether a gentle breeze or a weighty gust. Likewise, we cannot see God, but we can know He exists.
While God may be invisible, Jesus has made Him known. In the past, God spoke through prophets and dreams, but now He has spoken through His Son – the exact imprint of His nature (cf Heb 1:1-3). If we know the Son, then we know the Father (Jn 14:9).
In this moment of isolation, we need to be reminded over and over that God is with us and for us. Jesus has come into the world. You are not alone; the Lord’s ears are not closed; His arms not too short, and His hands are open wide. Jesus was not afraid to get His hands dirty; He runs to those who struggle and sinners because He loves you and wants to be with you.
- Last couple weeks I have been calling church members and each one expresses thanks for thinking and remembering them. The fact Jesus has entered our experience shows we not forgotten by God.
Some doubt that Jesus has come. But history tells us Jesus existed, whether you read the Bible or extra-biblical sources. How do we know we can trust the history about Jesus?
- The content is compelling. The Bible has prophecies about the Messiah hundreds of years before the life of Jesus. Prophecies about the person’s identity, location and events surrounding birth, features of life and death and even hints about resurrection. The statistics of one person fulfilling hundreds of prophecies are astronomical, yet we see them all in Jesus.
- The content is near the events. In other words, the book (Gospel & epistle) writers record their accounts between 20-60 years after the actual historical events (cf Luke 1:1-4; 1Cor 15:1-3). This is too short a time for the accounts to be mythical or legend. As for the Bible message being created or corrupted we will look at in a moment.
- The content is real. If you were to create a heroic story about a man and his followers, you would not include random details (grass is green – Mark 6:39; man ran away naked – Mark 14:52; 153 fish – John 21:11; etc.); not include repeated dysfunction (disciples afraid and lack faith – Matthew 8:26; disciples want to send away crowd but Jesus wants to keep, feed and care – Matthew 14:16/19:13-14; Peter and Disciples deny and fail Jesus often – Matthew 14:30, 20:24, 26:8, 26:40, 26:75, John 4:27; etc.); you would want to include dependable reporting yet the Gospels show female testimony to the resurrection which would have been discredited in that day – John 20.
- The content is costly. If you were to create a story that is knowingly false, then you would not suffer in depth persecution and ultimately martyrdom. Yet, that is exactly what each of the disciples did along with numerous others.
- The content is widespread. To say that the Bible was created or corrupted is just not honestly dealing with the facts. The Church recognized the canon (Bible books) but they did not create or corrupt it.
- We have over 14,000 ancient copies (large thanks to the Dead Sea Scroll discovery), with fragments no later than circa 125AD, being Papyri 52. This proves Scripture texts to be profoundly reliable and trustworthy in that over 99% of the Bible is faithful to the original manuscripts, with the other percentages varying due to spelling errors, word order or word additions/omissions; and none affecting any doctrinal issues. In contrast to secular texts we have fewer than 10 copies of writings of Plato, Sophocles, Homer or Caesar Augustus, and those copies were made at least 1000 years after the original manuscript (and yet secular academia offers little if any doubt to its manuscript accuracy).
- Furthermore, the early church by end of 1st Century had all of today’s 27 NT books written just not collected. By as early as 70-130AD all the books were noted as inspired Scripture (cf. 1Tim 5:18 with Lk 10:7 and 2Peter 3:15-16) and before 300AD, with Eusebius beginning lists and categorization (Received, Disputed and Spurious) of the books as recognized with few disputed (such as Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude and Revelation). By 367AD Athanasius had provided a full canon, confirmed further 382 Council of Rome, 393 Council of Hippo and 397 Council of Carthage. In contrast to Dan Brown’s The Davinci Code, there were no “lost Gospels” as the writings were familiar but unused by the churches and simply deemed spurious at best and heretical at worse. Scripture canonization (canon – rule, straight line, measuring standard; the “rule of faith”) was the process of the Church affirming and recognizing (not creating) certain books/letters over others. This was not a small, select few monks or religious types in a secret closed room picking and choosing for their own purposes. In fact, as stated previously, no Council actually voted on the collection of books but was simply recognized as which one’s were regarded as “Holy Scripture”. During the first three centuries after the resurrection of Christ, many gospels, acts, epistles (letters), and revelations flooded the landscape. Some were included in the Bible; but most were not.
- Like hand in glove, over 40 authors over 1500 years and multiple continents, write individual books telling one grand story. The NT fulfills the OT, and even Jesus viewed the OT as Scripture (see repeated quotes in Gospels); and so did Peter with Paul (2Peter 3:16) and Paul with Luke (1Timothy 5:18); as did Paul on all Scripture (2Timothy 3:15-17).
- Over a dozen extra-biblical references in non-Christian sources (Jewish, Greek, Roman) in the earliest centuries of the Christian era confirm the main outline of the Gospels: birth out of wedlock, ministry with John the Baptizer, existence of his brother James, his gathering of disciples, his conflicts with Jewish religious leaders, his working “wondrous feats” and being deemed a sorcerer; his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, and that his followers believed he was the Messiah and further believed he was resurrected that they were all martyred for it, and that his followers gathered to sing hymns to him as God, and fervently spread his message through great persecution. See Josephus, Thallus, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny, Mara ben Serapion, Lucian, and other Talmudic sources.
- The content is too transforming. The Bible has survived generations of persecution and challenges. Numerous occasions of those who sought to disprove the Bible become disciples. The Bible has changed not only the lives of the Apostles but mine and other Christians. The Bible is not just another book – it is the Word of God.
- Every other religion is humanity’s attempt to reach up to the divine. But Christianity is God reaching down and communicating with humanity. God entered the experience of human highs and lows through Jesus, so that we do not have to be without hope. Therefore, if the Bible is true and Jesus has entered out experience, then we must hold one priority – especially during this season of uncertainty. We must “bring out the book.” We must read and reflect upon the Bible for what it says about life, and what it says about death.
- This week we will be sharing some Holy Week reflections on our YouTube page. Viewing the videos will help you engage with Scripture but also reflect upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Weeks to come you may join a virtual Discovery Group with SOAPS template.
Jesus fulfills what we fail.
The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 40:6-8, implying God’s comprehensive plan from the beginning of the sacrificial system was to point to Jesus Christ. God is not pleased with mere religious ritual of sacrificial offerings. Animals are not an equal to humanity, so to atone for human sin a perfect human must be our substitute. God prepared a human body for His Son.
“Behold, I have come to do your will, O God.” Through the message of the Psalms, Jesus gives us His purpose statement for entering our earthly experience.
In biblical time, people had expectations for Jesus.
- They wanted Jesus to be the carpenter’s son.
- They wanted Jesus to be a curious school-boy.
- They wanted Jesus to be a great teacher.
- They wanted Jesus to be a unique miracle worker.
- They wanted Jesus to be a conqueror against Rome.
- But none wanted Jesus to be a suffering servant.
Our expectations of God can hurt or help us. One author says, “Expectations are resentments under construction.” If we expect God to operate on our agenda, then God will fail us. But God is never a failure. We must not lower our expectations for God to accomplish our will but raise them to God’s will. When we see what Jesus accomplishes in the gospel is far from failing but fulfilling the will of God to reconcile humanity and all things to God (cf Col 1:20).
- Jesus came to substitute our life. He lived the sinless life that is expected and required of us.
- Jesus came to substitute our death. He took the penalty for sin in dying the death we all deserve.
- Jesus came to substitute our hope. He offers us eternal life in heaven instead of hell,
- God has the power to redeem our past and rescue us from failure. There’s no dark cloud permanently hanging over your head; there’s no guilt from mistakes and wrongdoing that has to stay on your permanent earthly record; there’s no sin too great that the Savior’s grace is not greater. Whatever holds you back from bowing to Jesus, put it at the foot of the cross and let the gospel provide forgiveness and freedom to you today.
Jesus rescues from our religion.
The author of Hebrews writing to Jews who were so used to going to the priest with sacrifices and offerings for the forgiveness of sins. But now through Christ that has all ceased. “He does away with the first [covenant] in order to establish the second.” This commentary by the author of Hebrews indicates the OT sacrificial system is fulfilled; actually the word (ἀναιρεῖ) implies forceful termination or being abolished. In Christ, the sacrifice for sin was “once for all.” Like Chic-Fil-A is good news for cows, the gospel is good news for bulls and goats; but it is even better news for us.
One of the features Christianity gets accused of not being consistent with the OT and NT. Why do Christians not still follow the sacrificial system, or ritual cleansing of bodies/clothing/etc., or avoid eating certain food, follow national corporal punishment for wrong doings. The key is discerning OT Law, which could be categorized between laws Civil (national theocracy), Ceremonial (religion), and Moral. The NT reveals three purposes of OT Law was to 1) Reflect God’s standard of holiness, 2) Reveal human sin, as a mirror revealing stains or a tutor teaching us right/wrong and training us to need a Savior, and 3) Retraining us to follow the law by the power of the Holy Spirit. We abide by God’s law joyfully by grace through faith, trusting God is wise and loving.
Similarly, as our nation entered a new era after the world wars, or after civil rights, or after Columbine or 9/11, and now with Covid, so after Christ, the world entered a new era with the OT law. While the idea of religion for following set behaviors, and committed to ritual acts has meaning, it is empty without a relationship with God through Jesus and the Spirit of God putting wind in your sails each day. By faith, “we have been sanctified” and provided a new way to live beyond a compartmentalized religion to a faith that permeates one’s entire life with meaning and hope.
- Religion is not just about going to church. Religion is about what we worship. Our culture’s idols are fallen: safety, affluence, autonomy. Covid has put everyone on equal footing. And even now we are creating new idols: authority (govt national & local and politically), knowledge (information consumption), and control. But all of our idols are only bringing us down, deeper and deeper. Religion cannot lift you up, only Jesus can do that.
- The best response is to trust God, and we cannot trust in Jesus without turning away from sin and self. So, start the journey today… confessing with mouth and heart that Jesus is Lord, died and rose from grave and you will be saved (Rom 10:9-10).
- In summary:
Jesus enters what we experience. Jesus fulfills what we fail. Jesus rescues from our religion.
- We are humbled… to pray to God for help on earth and hope for eternity.
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