Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


“Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before. Hence, is that summary description of the whole work and effect of this law of sin, Genesis 6:5, ‘every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually;’” – John Owen, The Nature and Power…of…Indwelling Sin…, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 169-170.

Review: "Faith and Other Flat Tires"


I was offered a free review copy of Faith and Other Flat Tires by Andrea Palpant Dilley published Zondervan. I thank Handlebar Marketing for the book and the opportunity to read and review this book.  [I am posting this review on my blog and Amazon.com.]

            Dilley’s memoir is a funny, painful, thought-provoking, and faith seeking literary accomplishment. The overall format takes the reader through a Bunyanesque Pilgrim's Progress of the daughter of Quaker missionaries to Kenya.

            She begins her story as a young child, acquainting the reader with the simplicity and the faith-affirming youth that she enjoyed as her parents’ daughter. After returning to the United States, she began to experience and question things that were off-limits in Kenya: rock music, secular literature, and whether everything that she had been taught about Christianity was actually true. This memoir is an honest look at a Christian upbringing and whether it makes sense in the world today.

            In high school and college, she continued to question and eventually considered herself to have left or lost her faith. She says she wondered what Jesus had to do with literature and film, she wondered why she received more joy in music than in listening to a sermon, and she wondered why God gave us senses but no sensory proof that He exists (107).

            She wandered through sex, drugs, and alcohol, and the complexities of literature, trying to find hope and help and meaning for the reality of the world around her. Eventually, her search brought her back to church: she writes, “Yes, I'll always have my demons. But I might as well take my demons to church” (231).  She brought what she believed was true and good and right along with all of her questions, sat them down in a pew, finally meeting a man that found God big enough to allow for questions, big enough to reach out and care for other people, big enough to look at the problem of evil and find love.

            The memoir does not end with a rigorous theological statement of belief, but rather with a peace in finding good and worth in the world – and in God and Christianity. She is still seeking to understand, but she is doing it in a positive and hopeful way.

            I found her book is very readable, very enjoyable, and above all, truthful. There many people who struggle with the things that they see around them and desire to ask questions, but in the church – as well as other places – they find themselves shut down and shut out and shut up. That should not be: if a person has questions and concerns and needs to understand what reality is, who God is, and what life is, the very place that they should be finding guidance – and even answers – is in the church, and from Christian people. Too often, out of fear or ignorance, Christians chase people away rather than interacting with them, trying to understand them, and walking with them. I hope this book will encourage people with questions, as well as those who think they have the answers, to be compassionate and not give up, but to search for the God who is there.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


“The law of sin ‘dwelleth’ in us; – that is, it is years as a depraved principle, unto our minds in darkness and vanity, unto our affections in sensuality, unto our wills in a loathing of an aversion from that which is good; and by some, more, or all of these, is continually putting itself upon us, in inclinations, motions, or suggestions to evil, when we would be most gladly quit of it.”– John Owen, The Nature and Power…of…Indwelling Sin…, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 167.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

"As a High Priest" Sermon: Hebrews 5:7-10


“As a High Priest”

[Hebrews 5:7-10]

July 29, 2012 Second Reformed Church

This morning, we look for a third time at the High Priesthood of Jesus. We first saw that we have a High Priest Who is God, the Savior, so we ought to hold fast to our confession – we ought to always be ready to tell someone the Gospel, because it is our hope for all of eternity. In the Gospel – in Jesus is offering up Himself as the Sacrifice to make us right with God – we find a human being Who is at the same time God Who can sympathize with our weaknesses – Who can understand everything we go through – every temptation we face. And so we can come to this God boldly knowing that we will receive mercy and grace that He has for us in time of need.

            Last week we looked at the fact that Jesus was called to be a high priest – that He did not make Himself High Priest, but God made Him High Priest – from all of eternity God Who had begotten His Son also declared Him to be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

            And now we look at Jesus as High Priest: what did Jesus do as High Priest? Oh, we know that Jesus offered up Himself as a sacrifice for our sin. We know that Jesus lived a holy life that we might be credited with that holy life. But was there anything more? Was there anything more in understanding what it is to be human? Is there anything more for us to understand about what it meant that God became human?

            “In the days of his flesh,”

            The author of Hebrews emphasizes that the High Priestly Role of Jesus does not merely mean what He did on the cross – though that is the pivotal act of salvation – or what He does now in Heaven. We need to also consider what Jesus did on earth – what Jesus did in the time that He lived on earth in the human body which could sin.  (Of course we know Jesus never sinned.)

            Paul wrote,Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7, ESV).

            Consider the Holy Trinity: before the creation, They were in perfect harmony, union, and love, as the One Holy God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit always were, before the beginning, and lived without need in perfection. But God saw that it would bring glory to Himself if the Son incarnated and became human for the sake of the salvation of the people that God chose for Himself.

So God created everything that is, and the coming of the Son of God in human flesh was promised to Adam and Eve after the Fall. And when the time was right, God the Son left His throne and came to Earth through the Virgin Mary – a baby boy.

            We can barely even glimpse what this means. The Holy God who lived in light and truth condescended to reveal Himself to all those who would believe and stepped off His throne and became one with the baby in the darkness of Mary's womb. For nine months God resided in the womb of a human being, and when the time was right, He came forth into the world like every other baby: small, fragile, and helpless – the Almighty God.

            Jesus is a real human being, Who experienced all the realities of human life – have we ever thought about what that means, other than to say the Jesus did not sin?

            Can we imagine the Baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, feeling His stomach rumble, desiring to be fed? Can we even begin to imagine the experience of God as He fed from His mother, Mary? And, sometime later, no doubt, as He lay in her arms – or, as He lay in the manger – as He soiled Himself and could do nothing about it – the Almighty God

            Think of young Jesus, blushing as a girl paid attention to Him. Think of Jesus, apprenticing in His father's workshop – and the first time that He missed and hit His Hand with a hammer. Think about the first time that Jesus had a fever, or an intestinal virus, or an outbreak of acne – the Almighty God.

            Think about the friends that He made and the friends that He lost – even as a young person – not merely as the Rabbi Jesus. Jesus understands human friendship, loss, and betrayal – as every young person learns about them – the Almighty God.

            Jesus experienced everything humans experience – except for sin. “Everything” means that He experienced every type of thing. He experienced being a baby. He experienced the pain and mystery of growing up and His body changing. He experienced education. He experienced work. He experienced all kinds of things that you and I experience – except for sin. This is the Almighty God who put aside His Glory and for a little while became a servant that in the end He would save a people for Himself and He would be glorified. He voluntarily made it as difficult as possible to see His Glory – He concealed His Glory under the weakness of His flesh that He might be completely abased and brought low, so there would be nothing attractive about Him – so those who came to Him would only come for the sake of the Word of His Gospel.

            “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”

            Scripture tells us that Jesus understood from childhood that God was His Father – and it was God's Work that He must be about – and so we see this pattern of Jesus going to pray to the Father – seeking the Father's Will – using the means that God has given humans to align our wills with His – in conformity with His Will.

            We see this most strikingly and most passionately in the last week of Jesus's life and especially in the Garden after the Last Supper:

            Matthew tells us:  Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’ And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again” (Matthew 26:36-44, ESV).

            Luke adds some additional details:And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation’” (Luke 22:39-46, ESV).

            “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”

            The betrayer had run into the night. Jesus had celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples. Jesus knew what awaited Him – He had told his disciples over and over during the past week that the Son of Man must die – the Savior had to die – Jesus had to die. So Jesus did what was natural and right for Him and went to pray to His Father, because He knew His Father could save Him from death. He knew His Father could save Him from being put to death – and He knew that if He was put to death, His Father could save Him and raise Him from the dead.

            And Jesus prayed to His Father – not wanting to endure hell on the cross – yet willing to be obedient to His Father:  My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  Three times He went to His Father in prayer that night, and with loud cries and tears, He asked His Father if there was any other way.

            Jesus prayed “with loud cries and tears” – Jesus did not merely pray these words to the Father, but He prayed them in anguish, not wanting to suffer this death in the flesh. The psalmist writes, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1, ESV).  These words we remember Jesus quoting on the cross – and we need to understand that the word, “groaning,” can also be translated as, “roaring” – “why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my roaring?” Jesus did not merely speak these words, but He roared them out in pain – in anguish – if there was any other way, He wanted to escape this death. He prayed with such intensity and such stress that even the ministrations of the angel did not stop Him from bleeding through His skin in terror of what was waiting for Him. Yet, He joyfully submitted to the Will of His Father – as the author of Hebrews writes later in his letter, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our 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” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV).

            Jesus didn't want to suffer – His Joy was not found in suffering, but in following the Will of His Father. Jesus endured such suffering and terror – even being forsaken by God – that He roared out in prayer to God and He bled from emotional distress – and His prayer was heard by His Father, but His Father said, “no,” and Jesus endured an unimaginable hell, and His Father raised Him because He was obedient – as Peter preached, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:29-31, ESV).

            Do we see that Jesus truly understands everything we could ever experience – everything we could ever endure? Is there anything you can think of that you could say to Him, “you just don't understand how it is”?

As High Priest, Jesus experienced every type of thing that we experience. He offered up prayers and aligned His Mind with the Father’s, receiving and accepting His Will. He suffered throughout His life, like every human suffers – and especially the last week of His Life – in roaring and in pain and in suffering and even in being forsaken by God Himself – He continued to turn to God and trust Him.

And so we have every reason to trust Him – we have every reason to go to Him and receive such grace and mercy is awaiting all those who believe – at His throne – we have every reason to be thanking Him again and again no matter what our circumstances – because we have far more than we could ever deserve. Why are we such a thankless people?

In our pain, in our suffering, in our temptation, after having sinned, is it not right that we turn to the Father and cry out and pray and struggle and roar, but trust that our Father is a good and loving God who has grace and mercy for all of His sons and daughters – even when He knows it is best for us to endure what we would prefer to escape?

Paul had some sort of affliction, some sort of temptation, some sort of problem – we don't know exactly what – but he begged and pleaded that God would take it away from him, and God heard him, but said, “no” –  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).

Then, the author of Hebrews writes, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”  What does this mean? If Jesus is the Son of God, then how did He learn obedience?

Again, we have to remember that Jesus is One Person with two natures – He is God and He is human. Jesus, in His humanity, learned to be obedient in all things – just as any human being learns to be obedient. It was necessary that Jesus learn the Law of God and be obedient to all of it, or we could not be saved.

Paul wrote, “And being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8, ESV).  The Almighty God incarnate humbled Himself by learning obedience as a human learns – and Jesus was obedient even to the point of going to the cross to die because His Father said it was the right and only way to save His people.

God loves His Son, Jesus, and He sent Him to die on the cross. Can we not believe that the lives that we are living are the lives that the God Who loves us has given us? Can we not look at the life and the obedience of Jesus through suffering and consider our own lives and recognize that what we endure is not a reason to doubt that God loves us, but suffering is a reason to press on in faith to obedience?

 “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.”

As we hear the last portion of our text read again, we first find ourselves asking how Jesus could be made perfect. Wasn't Jesus perfect throughout His Life? How was He made perfect? And we need to understand that the use of the word “perfect” here is not indicating that Jesus was not perfect and then He became perfect, but that Jesus' Work was perfected – that is that Jesus completed His work. The author of Hebrews is not telling us that Jesus was imperfect and then He became perfect, but that He came to earth with work to do and He completed His Work.

Because Jesus did complete His Work, “he became the source of eternal salvation to all who will obey him.”  Notice, Jesus is the Source of “eternal salvation.”  I had a professor at Drew who said, “I gain and lose my salvation all the time” – what nonsense! God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, lived perfectly under God's Law, died for the sins of everyone who would ever believe, physically rose from the dead, and ascended back to His throne. Jesus completed His Work – He cannot fail – if Jesus has saved you, you are saved eternally, and there is nothing you can do to change that – because Jesus is not a mere man; He is God.

And, we might wonder why the text says that salvation is given to those who “obey” Him – aren't we told that salvation is by faith alone?Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me’” (John 14:23-24, ESV).

What does Jesus say? If you love Him, you will obey Him – which is obeying the Father. Yes, we are saved by faith alone, but it is not a faith that is alone. What does that mean? It means if we don't bear fruit, if we don't live differently, if we don't strive to obey God and love God's Commands and all of His Word, then we probably don't really believe – we probably aren't Christians.

            And then we note again that Jesus “was designated by God high priest after the order of Melchizedek.”  Let us remember what we saw last week: the Only Begotten Son of God is eternally a high priest of the order of Melchizedek – it is in Jesus' Divinity that He is eternally a high priest of the order of Melchizedek. Lord willing, will consider more of what that means in the future.

            Let us conclude for today by remembering these things:

            As High Priest, while Jesus was on earth before the Resurrection, He lived a real human life experiencing every type of human experience, and He trusted and submitted to His Father's Will, because He knew that the Father would hear Him, and the Father could deliver Him from death – before, or even after, He died. So we know we can trust Jesus and the Father because God sympathizes with us and understands us and all that we experience – except sin. And, likewise, the Father has promised to raise us from the dead whether we are delivered in this life or at last in the Restoration.

            As High Priest, Jesus learned obedience – like any other human – by submitting to the Father, no matter what the Father's Will was. Let us follow this example in hope and trust, submitting to the Father, no matter what His Will for us is. Let us show our love of Jesus and the Father through obedience.

            As High Priest, Jesus has totally, completely, eternally saved His people. Let us rest assured in His Completed Work that we are saved and not doubt that He is able and has saved all those who believe in Him Alone for salvation.

            Let us pray:
            Almighty God and Father, we thank You that we have a high priest in Jesus, Who as High Priest has lived as we live – Who has suffered as we suffer – and more than we can imagine, Who has shown us what it is to live a life of trust and obedience, and Who has secured for us eternal salvation. Help us to be Your people and to make Your Gospel known throughout the world. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


 “Awake, therefore, all of you in whose hearts is anything of the ways of God! Your enemy is not only upon you, as on Sampson of old, but he is in you also. He is at work, but always of force and craft, as we shall see. Would you not dishonour God and his Gospel; would you not scandalize the saints and ways of God; would you not wound your consciences and endanger your souls; would you not grieve the good and Holy Spirit of God, the author of all your comforts; would you keep your garments undefiled, and escape the woeful temptations and pollutions of the days wherein we live; would you be preserved from the number of apostates in  these latter days; – awake to the consideration of this accursed enemy, which is the spring of all these, and innumerable other evils, as also of the ruin of all the souls the parish in this world!” – John Owen, The Nature and Power…of…Indwelling Sin…, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 162.

Prayer Meeting

D.V., we will meet today for prayer at the church at 3 PM.  Please join us!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


On Hebrews 2:11-13 – “He sanctifieth them, and then dedicates them unto God, so that they shall never more need any initiation into his favour and service” – John Owen, Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 3, 413.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


 “He that, having a do acquaintance with the gospel in its excellencies, as to him. A word of mercy, holiness, liberty, and consolation, values it, in all its concernments, as his choicest and only treasure, – makes it his business and the work of his life to give himself up onto it in universal obedience, then especially when opposition and apostasy but the patients of Christ to the utmost, – he shall be preserved from the hour of temptation.” – John Owen, Of Temptation, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 141.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


 “There is nothing more unworthy of the gospel then a mind in bondage to persons or things, prostituting itself to the lusts of men or affrightments of the world.” – John Owen, Of Temptation, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 140.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


“ Wouldst thou think that Peter, who had walked on the sea with Christ, confessed him to be the son of God, then with him in the mount, when he heard the voice from the excellent glory, should, at the word of a servant-girl, when there was no legal inquisition after him, no process against him nor anyone in his condition, instantly fall a-cursing and swearing that he knew him not?” – John Owen, Of Temptation, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 131.

The Holy Spirit

Join us as we continue our look at the Person of the Holy Spirit this evening at 7 PM!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


“ If we do not abide in prayer, we shall abide in cursed temptations.” – John Owen, Of Temptation, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 126.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Called to Be a High Priest": Sermon: Hebrews 5:1-6


“Called to Be a High Priest”

[Hebrews 5:1-6]

July 22, 2012 Second Reformed Church

            When we last looked at the book of Hebrews, we saw that Jesus is our High Priest.  Jesus is not merely the Sacrifice for our sin – He is not merely the Substitute that stands in our place before God for judgment, but He is our High Priest – He is the fulfillment of the office of the High Priest.  And the Hebrew Christians would have responded – wait a minute, how can that be?  How could Jesus – Who was neither of the line of Aaron nor the line of Levi, be a priest?  And when was He ever called to be a priest?

            We remember that Jesus in the Incarnation of the One God – He is God taking on the real human person of Jesus – so, Jesus is 100% God and 100% human at the same time in One Person.  We saw that since He is a human, He could choose to take our place before God in the Judgment – only a human can take the place of a human.  We also said that Jesus lived under God’s Law and though He had the ability to choose to sin, He never did, so He was able to be the Perfect and Final Sacrifice – He was punished for our sin, but He never did anything wrong; He never sinned.  And since He is also God, He survived the punishment for sin by rising from the dead and ascending back to His Throne.

            Since this Jesus now stands between us and God – as our Substitute and Mediator – God now understands what it is to live as a human and to be tempted as a human, and He invites us – as One Who sympathizes with our weaknesses -- to come to Him boldly for the Grace to be able to live the life He calls us to and to be the people He has called us to be.  We have confidence and assurance, because God understands what it is to be a human, and through Jesus, He gives all those who believe in Him Alone for salvation, the ability to live for Him and forgiveness when we come to Him to confess our sin.  In Jesus, we have received forgiveness for every sin we ever commit, because our sin was imputed – credited – to Jesus, and He paid the debt for it, and we received credit for a perfect keeping of the Law, by Jesus imputing – crediting – His perfect keeping of the Law to us.

            Jesus is also our High Priest because He freely chose to offer up Himself on our behalf – for our salvation.  Jesus was not forced or coerced to offer Himself up for our sins, but feely chose to give Himself as the Sacrifice for all those who would ever believe.  And we saw that His Sacrifice of Himself was effective, because the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn open in the moment of Jesus’ death – exposing the Very Presence of God, so we now can come before God, through Jesus, and live.

            Jesus now invites us to come to Him for help – to throw off the heavy chains of slavery to sin – Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV).

            But how did Jesus become High Priest?  What was involved in becoming the High Priest?

  “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”

            The first requirement of a high priest was that he be chosen from among male human beings.  The high priest had to be able to identify with those for whom he was interceding before God – the high priest had to be able to sympathize with the temptations and weaknesses of the human person.  It was not possible for an angel to be high priest, because angels do not understand what it is to be human.  It was not possible for God – as a Spirit – to be high priest, because God, outside of the Incarnation, does not know what it is to be a human and He cannot sympathize with we who are humans.  It is not possible for any creature in heaven or on earth or under the earth to be a high priest for humans except another human.  No matter how human your pet may seem to you, only humans know what it is to be a human, so the high priest had to be a human.

            Second, we see that the high priest is a human being who is chosen and appointed.  Being high priest is not something that someone just chooses to be one day.  The high priest has to be chosen from among a group of human beings, and he has to be appointed – anointed – for the office.

            Third, the high priest is someone who is willing and able to serve as the mediator between God and believing humans – he comes before God and offers up sacrifices on behalf of the people in addition to their repentance, so that they would be made right with God again.

            And fourth, “He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.”  The high priest is someone who can sympathize with humans in their weakness and proneness to sin.  The high priest has to be able to participate with and understand the sacrifice for the sin of the people.

            But, the text says the high priest “is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people,” and Jesus never sinned.  How can Jesus fulfill offering up a sacrifice for His own sin?

            The answer is He didn’t have to offer up a sacrifice for His own sin.  Although every other high priest had to offer up a sacrifice for his sin, Jesus did not, because He never sinned.  The confusion is in thinking that being a sinner is part of what it means to be human – it is not.  Adam and Eve existed without sin – for a time – and they were human; Jesus never sinned, and He is human.  So, offering up a sacrifice for sin was necessary for high priests who sinned, but it was not necessary for the High Priest, Jesus, Who never sinned.

Then the author of Hebrews gives the example:  “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.”

            God told Moses:  “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron's garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen” (Exodus 28:1-5, ESV).

            Aaron – with his sons – was chosen from among the people to serve as the first high priest.  Aaron was a real human being who knew his people and could sympathize with them and stand before God on their behalf to minister for them to God.  God set him apart – and all of his sons from then on – to be high priest.

            So we see that Aaron and his line was chosen to be high priest from among the people – and they were willing to serve as the people’s representatives before God – as those who would come into the presence of God and make atonement – offer up sacrifices that they would be right with God again.

            We may remember there was a second line of priests – the Levites:

             “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.

            “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the LORD’” (Numbers 3:5-13, ESV).

            So, there were two lines of the priesthood:  Aaron and his sons, and the tribe of Levi.

            And so, we find the author of Hebrews answering how Jesus could be a high priest:  If Jesus is God, how could He be High Priest?  Where do we see Jesus being chosen to be High Priest?  When did Jesus accept His role as High Priest?  And if Jesus is sinless, how could He be High Priest?

            The author of Hebrews answers all of these questions with two quotes from the Psalms:

            “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’”

            He has already argued that Jesus is a real human being and has to be in order to take the place of real human beings in God’s Judgment.  He has already also argued that even though Jesus is God, He is also 100% human.  Jesus was born without original sin, but He did have the ability to choose to sin.  But He did not choose to sin, because the Holy Spirit indwelt Him, and He was committed to accomplishing the work that His Father sent Him to do.  “So Jesus said to them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me’” (John 8:28, ESV).

            Last week, we saw that Jesus accepted the role of High Priest as He prepared to offer up Himself as the Perfect and Final Sacrifice:  “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:14-18, ESV).

            We also have in these words the implication that Jesus was called not just to be our Sacrificial Substitute, but our High Priest, in the fact that he both lays down and takes up the Sacrifice of Himself. 

            Hear again the concluding passage: “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’”

            The author of Hebrews tells us that Christ – and it is significant that he calls Jesus by His title, “Christ,” here, because “Christ” means “anointed” – Jesus the Christ did not make Himself or choose to be High Priest, but was appointed to the position and office of High Priest – He was anointed to be High Priest – by God the Father.

            But what line is Jesus of – Aaron or Levi?  The answer is neither – Jesus was not a direct descendant of Aaron, nor was He of the tribe of Levi – He was of the tribe of Judah.

            The author of Hebrews argues for the legitimacy of Jesus’ High Priesthood by saying that Jesus is the (only) begotten Son of God, and an eternal priest of the order of Melchizedek.

            Lord willing, we will look at the order of Melchizedek – a third priestly line – in the future.  But let us notice, that the way the author of Hebrews has presented Jesus’ participation in the priestly line of Melchizedek, is not through His humanity, since Jesus was born in His humanity, but through His Divinity – Jesus is of the order of Melchizedek as an eternal priest begotten of God.

            So, is Jesus a legitimate His Priest?  Does He hold the title of High Priest and fulfill it as part of His Ministry?

            Yes:

            First, although Jesus is God Incarnate, He is also a real human being.

            Second, although Jesus is God, He is completely human, and He had the ability to choose to sin, though He did not.

            Third, Jesus received His charge – His call – to be High Priest and Sacrifice from His Father.

            Fourth, although Jesus did not sin, He was a real human being – like Adam and Eve were created.  Sinning is not part of what it means to be human, but what it means that we are fallen – in need of a Savior – of a way to be made right with God.

Fifth, Jesus is of the eternal and divine priestly line of Melchizedek.

Understanding that Jesus is legitimately our High Priest, we ought to continue to hold fast to the confession of the Gospel – knowing that God sent His Son, Who willingly chose to come – to Incarnate as Jesus, the God-Man.  He lived a sinless life under the Law of God and gave Himself up to be the propitiation – the sacrifice – that would make us right with God.  And He did not merely leave it up to anyone to offer up His Sacrifice, but as the Perfect High Priest, called by His Father, from before Creation to be High Priest, He offered up Himself, as the Only Way a human can be right with God.

We broke the covenant that God made with us, and God, in His Mercy and for His Glory, came to earth, lived as one of us, and offered up Himself as the Only Sacrifice that could make us right with Him.  Salvation is all God’s Work – you and I do nothing – isn’t this good news?

God took everything upon Himself so we wouldn’t – and we can’t – ruin this Glorious Gift:  “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time”  (1 Timothy 2:5-6, ESV).

Let us pray:
Almighty God, as we explore Your Work of Salvation, we put our hands over our mouths.  How can we respond, but to thank You for saving a people who don’t deserve saving?  What can we do, but hold fast to our confession and let others know that Gospel of our High Priest and His Sacrifice for all those who will believe – Jesus?  Give us grace to live lives of bold humility that everyone would know Your Gospel.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


On Hebrews 2:10 – “And if it be just with God in respect of his essential justice to punish sin, it would be unjust not to do it; for to condemn the innocent and to acquit the guilty are equally unjust.” – John Owen, Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 3, 406.

Prayer Meeting

Prayer meeting resumes today at the church at 3 PM.  Join us!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


“Let no man, then, pretend to fear sin that doth not fear temptation to it. They are too nearly allied to be separated. Satan hath put them so together that it is very hard for any man to put them asunder. He hates not the fruit who delights in the root” – John Owen, Of Temptation, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 123.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reformed Wisdom

"When the Lord returns, will He find a thought in the church?"  -- The White Horse Inn, July 3, 2011.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


On Hebrews 2:10 – “Sin hath a double design in its enmity against us; – first, to reign in us; secondly, to condemn us. If it be disappointed in these designs it is absolutely conquered; and that it is by the grace of Christ.” – John Owen, Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 3, 393.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"The Holy Spirit"

D.V., we will continue our study of the Holy Spirit this evening at 7 PM.  Please join us.

Puritan Wisdom


On Hebrews 2:5-9 – “[God] hath not made the world, and then turned it off his hand, to stand on its own bottom in shift for itself; but there is continually, every moment, and emanation of power from God unto every creature, the greatest, the least, the meanest, to preserve them in there being an order; which if it were suspended but for one moment, they would all lose their station and being, and by confusion be reduced into nothing. ‘In him we live, and move, and have our being,’ Acts 17:28; and ‘he give us to all life, and breath, and all things,’ verse 25.”  – John Owen, Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 3, 348.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


On Hebrews 2:5-9 – “[God’s] blessedness is absolute, because it is from himself and him himself, in his being every way self-sufficient. This it is to be absolutely blessed. Hence, God made not these things because he had need of them, for if he had need of any of them he could not have made them; or that they should add anything unto him, for that is not infinite unto which anything can be added; or that he might settle that rest and satisfaction in them which he had not in himself before, for that alone, which is infinite, must necessarily and unavoidably give eternal satisfaction unto that which is infinite: but only by most free act of his will, he chose by the creation of all things to express somewhat of his power, wisdom, and goodness and something without himself.”  – John Owen, Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 3, 347.

Guest Preacher

Join us this morning as Rev. Dr. Solomon Tivade delivers the Word of God.  Worship begins at 10:30 AM.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


On Hebrews 2:5-9 – “[God’s] infinite self-sufficiency doth manifest itself in his works; for all these things are the absolute product of his power, and wisdom, and goodness. From the infinite stores and treasures of them did he bring them all forth. They had no previous matter whereof they were made; no reason, cause, or and was there why they should be made, but only what was in himself and from himself, Romans 9:36, Revelation 4:11.” – John Owen, Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 3, 346.

Prayer Meeting

Since the pastor is away, there will not be a prayer meeting at the church today.  Please gather together elsewhere to pray.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


“There is such a suitableness between the new nature that is wrought and created in believers, and the duties of the worship of God, that they will not be parted nor kept asunder, unless it be by the interposition of some disturbing distemper. The new creature feeds upon them, is strengthened and increased by them, finds sweetness in them, yea, meets in them with its God and Father; so that it cannot but of itself, unless made sick by some temptation, delight in them, and desire to be in the exercise of them.” – John Owen, Of Temptation, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 122.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: "Suicide: Understanding and Intervening"


My question was: how do you counsel a person who can biblically and rationally say that suicide is a sin, and ought not to be committed, yet at times becomes so emotionally despondent that he considers it an option?

One resource that was recommended to me was Suicide: Understanding and Intervening by Jeffrey S. Black.

The author begins by explaining how difficult it is to understand the suicide of a Christian: how can the Christian commits suicide when a Christian has the hope of the Gospel?  His answer is that for a Christian to commit suicide, he or she must take his or her eyes off the light and truth of the Gospel (2).

He explains that the reasons a person commits suicide are legion, but the descriptions are largely the same: “psychological pain, interpersonal alienation, and hopelessness” (3).  Ultimately, he says that suicide is the choice to sin. If we are focused on Jesus, suicide is not possible, he argues (3-4).

He looks at Paul is an example of someone who endured great suffering and yet did not commit suicide. He says Paul did not commit suicide because (1) he saw purpose in his suffering, (2) he was future oriented, and (3) his life was daily renewed by the Holy Spirit (6).

He argues that telling someone who is suicidal that suicide is a sin is rarely helpful.  However, discussing suicide to reveal a person's worldview may be a way to reach into him or her (7). In examining the Christian worldview, one discovers that all people are creatures created and belonging to God, all people are created in the image of God, and therefore it is sin to commit suicide (10).

He defined suicide in this way:  “suicide is the product of a continuous transaction between the person's heart, his symptoms of depression, the levels and types of stressors in his environment, and the strategies he uses to cope with his depression and life circumstances” (13). The person believes that the pain he or she is feeling is too great to keep living. This pain is associated with some sort of “felt need,” and he or she believes there is no way to change his or her circumstance (14ff).

He argues there are five ways in which one can help someone who is suicidal: first, acknowledge that his or her pain is real. Second, help him or her discern that the pain being felt is due to the lack of a “felt need.”  Third, challenge his or her beliefs that are leading to suicidal thoughts. Fourth, help him or her discern that there is hope. Fifth, help him or her to understand that some “felt needs” are sinful or are caused by sin (18-23).

He then discusses how to assess the risk of suicide. In assessing the risk, the question is about being observant: what do you see the person doing, is he or she isolating him or herself, is he or she abusing drugs or alcohol, is the person talking about suicide, as the person attempted suicide in the past, and so forth (24-31).

I appreciate this work for its argument that it is biblically and rationally sinful to commit suicide. I also appreciate the end of this little book in which the author talks about our need to really know and care for those around us – to be observant and to be ready to help in times of need.

This is not a book I would give to someone who is suicidal: I have a feeling that this book is more likely to anger or upset someone considering suicide – of course, this book is written for those trying to help those who are considering suicide.

As useful as this book is, I'm not sure my question has been answered: perhaps the answer is “to love one's neighbor” – to be extremely intentionally involved with people around us, such that when a person is so emotionally distraught that he or she will receive our being there and listening, even if we don't know what else to offer.

Puritan Wisdom


On Hebrews 2:5-9 – “Thoughts of God's omnipresence are of singular used to the soul in every condition. And who can sufficiently admire this excellency of the nature of God? How astonishable is this his greatness!  How are all the nations of the world as the ‘drop of a bucket,’as the ‘balance,’ as ‘vanity,’ as ‘nothing’ before him!  What is a little dust to an immensity of being? To that whose greatness we cannot measure, whose nature we cannot comprehend, whose glory we can only stand afar off and adore? What is a poor worm unto him who is everywhere, and who is everywhere filled with his own excellencies and blessedness?” – John Owen, Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 3, 345-346.

Review: "Partial Seizure Disorders"


Partial Seizure Disorders: Help for Patients and Families by Mitzi Waltz is now the second book I've read about seizures since having another seizure last month. This book is an excellent complement to the first book I read on living well with epilepsy.

While this book does not have some of the details that the previous book I read has, this book has more information overall which is why I found them to be complementary.

The author begins by distinguishing between the different types of seizures, explaining the parts of the brain, and explaining how seizures work. She ends the first chapter by talking about what to do when you have a seizure or when you see someone having a seizure. This information was very enlightening to me because I didn't know that seizures are rarely harmful. If a person is kept away from anything harmful, and people around them, make sure that they do not suffocate on food or anything else in the mouth, unless a seizure goes on for a prolonged period of time, the best thing to do is be with the person and try to help them relax (15-16).

In the second chapter, she explains how to diagnose the type of seizure – if it is a seizure – that one has experienced. She incorporates first-hand accounts to flesh out the doctors and procedures that are used. She also discusses things which may look like seizures which are not.

The third chapter deals with how to live with having a seizure disorder, and she discusses ADA, discrimination, rates, and limitations that one will have to accept. She discusses how important it is to have support from professionals and family and/or friends.

The fourth chapter deals with seizures in children and has a wealth of information about how to deal with the school system and help that is available to children in schools. She not only talks about schools in the United States, but what help is available in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

The fifth chapter deals with medical intervention. She discusses antiepileptic drugs and has a detailed description of the most used ones, their side effects, and tips about them – which is immensely helpful when you're first trying out drugs. Whether it be this book or the PDR or some other drug handbook, it is important for the patient to do his or her own research and be able to discuss with the doctor what different drugs do and do not do. Some doctors will not like to be questioned, but it is the patient's right to understand what's going on and what might happen. The chapter continues looking at blood tests, EKGs, as well as other tests, surgery, and ongoing research.

In the sixth chapter she looks at dietary treatment, environmental triggers, vitamins and supplements, herbs, and general care of the whole person.

In the final chapter. She deals with issues of health insurance – and again she looks primarily at the United States but also looks at benefits and Canada, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. She also looks at alternatives to insurance. These issues become very important, especially when treating chronic condition – and because most health insurance policies have very limited mental health options.

The book ends with an appendix of resources – where one can find information about epilepsy, seizures, the ADA, support and advocacy, medical references, drug company assist programs, and on and on. This appendix alone would be worth the price of the book.

Second appendix includes an example of a seizure diary which can be helpful in keeping records as one diagnoses and treats seizure disorders.

Finally, there is an extensive glossary of terms, which will be very helpful for reading this book, talking to one’s doctor, and reading other books on this topic.

This is an excellent resource, and I have found it helpful as I am learning about what is going on in my brain and how to cope with it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


“There is such a suitableness between the new nature that is wrought and created in believers, and the duties of the worship of God, that they will not be parted nor kept asunder, unless it be by the interposition of some disturbing distemper. The new creature feeds upon them, is strengthened and increased by them, finds sweetness in them, yea, meets in them with its God and Father; so that it cannot but of itself, unless made sick by some temptation, delight in them, and desire to be in the exercise of them.” – John Owen, Of Temptation, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 122.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


On Hebrews 2:2-4 – “Foolish men have always had tumultuating thoughts about the judgments of God.  Some have disputed with him about the equity and equality of his ways in judgment temporal, Ezekiel 18, and some about those that shall be eternal. Hence was the vain imagination of them of old who dreamed that an end should be put, after some season unto the punishment of devils and wicked men; so turning hell into a kind of purgatory. Others have disputed, in our days, that there shall be no hell at all, but a mere annihilation of ungodly men at the last day. These things being so expressly contrary to the Scripture, can have no other rise but the corrupt minds and affections of men, not conceiving the reasons of God's judgments, nor acquiescing in his sovereignty” – John Owen, Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 3, 237-238.

"The Holy Spirit"

There will be no study this evening; we will plan to resume our study next week, D.V.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Puritan Wisdom


 “Let men look for it that are exposed unto temptations, as who is not? They will have a season wherein their solicitations will be more urgent, their reasonings more plausible, pretences more glorious, hopes of recovery more appearing, opportunities more broad and open, the doors of evil made more beautiful than ever they have been. Blessed is he who is prepared for such a season; without which there is no escaping.” – John Owen, Of Temptation, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6:  Temptation and Sin, 98-99.

The Pastor

The pastor will be unavailable today through July 16th.  If you are in need, please contact a member of the Consistory or the church office.  Thank you.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

"We Have a High Priest" Sermon: Hebrews 4:14-16


“We Have A High Priest”

[Hebrews 4:14-16]

July 8, 2012 Second Reformed Church

            We ended last week in our text looking at the Word of God – Jesus – Who is the Giver of Life:  Jesus gives spiritual life to all those who believe in Him Alone for salvation, and He also promises physical life – that our bodies – after they have died – will be raised in holy perfection to live eternally in the Kingdom of God.

            We also saw that Jesus is Omniscient – He knows everything – He sees into the deepest depths of our selves and knows everything that we have done and thought, and everyone will have to stand before Him to give an account when He returns; Jesus is Judge of the Creation.

            And we might come away from this trembling:  what hope do we have if the Almighty God knows everything we have done and all we have thought?  What hope do we have if the measure is perfection – holiness – and God will stand for nothing less? 

            The author of Hebrews tells his readers – including us – that we have reason to hope and believe the Gospel because Jesus is our Great High Priest Who Ascended:        

            “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”

            We have reason to hold fast to our confession – to believe the Gospel – to live it out – and to hope in it.  Of all people on earth, we have hope because we know and believe that God came to earth in the Human Person of Jesus, lived a holy life under God’s Law, died for the sins of all those who believe, and  physically rose from the dead, ascending back to His Throne.

            Despite our sin – and the fact that God knows very well what sins we have committed – we have hope – a sure hope – that we will be received into the Kingdom of God if we hold fast to our confession – if we continue to confess the Gospel – if we do not apostatize – if we believe in Who Jesus is and what He has done.

            Why?

            Because Jesus is God the Son.  We have hope because Jesus is the God-Man – He is wholly human and and wholly God – He is 100% human and 100% God at the same time.  Jesus is a real human being, so He can really live under God’s Law and really be our Substitute before God in the Judgment, and He is really God, so He can live a perfect and holy life and credit that perfect keeping of the Law to all those who believe in Him Alone for Salvation and so He can survive taking on Himself the Wrath of God for our sins.

            This is how we understand Jesus as our Substitute – as the acceptable sacrifice that God received on our behalf that we might be made right with God and brought into His Kingdom – into that ultimate Sabbath Rest that we were talking about.

            He also “passed through the heavens” – as Paul wrote, “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above the heavens, that he might fulfill all things” (Ephesians 4:10, ESV).  And Luke reminds us, “And when [Jesus] had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11, ESV).

            So we see that Jesus is God Who came to earth in the Person of Jesus and ascended back to His Throne and will return in the same way – descending though the clouds, with all eyes seeing Him, when He returns at the end of the age.

            But we have even more reason to believe – and be assured – that we will be received into the Kingdom – and that is due to the fact that Jesus is also our High Priest. And not just any high priest, but our Great High Priest.

            Do we remember what the main job of the high priest was?  It was to speak to God for the people and to offer sacrifices to God on behalf of the people.

            We do well to listen to God’s instruction and hear:

            “The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD and died, and the LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering.

            ‘Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

            ‘Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

            ‘Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. No one may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel. Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. And he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.

            ‘And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

            ‘Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. And the fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar. And he who lets the goat go to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire. And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp’” (Leviticus 16:1-28, ESV).

            As the first high priest, Aaron was given instruction by God on how to perform the rites of the Day of Atonement:  Yom Kippur.  This was the day each year that the whole nation would come before God to confess their sins and receive forgiveness through the shedding of blood.

            We will remember that there was a place in the Temple called the Holy of Holies – this was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept – that ornate box which contained – among other things – the Ten Commandments.  The Holy of Holies was the place in the Temple where the Glory of God descended – and no one was allowed into the Holy of Holies – except the high priest on the Day of Atonement.  This was the holiest of places, and anyone who came unbidden into the Holy of Holies would die.

            The high priest was to bath and dress himself in white robes – symbolizing purity and holiness.  But since the high priest was a sinner like everyone else in Israel, he was told by God to take a bull and offer it up as a sacrifice for his sins and his family’s sins, before he came before God on behalf of the people – because that’s what the job of the priest was – to come before God on behalf of the people.

            Then he was to take two male goats.  And he was to cast lots – to throw dice – to determine which one was for God and which one was – effectively – given over to the devil.

            Then, he was to poke his hand into the Holy of Holies, with incense, and with blood from the bull, and waft the smoke of the incense in – which was symbolic of the prayers of the people – and flick the blood of the bull on the mercy seat – on the top of the Ark of the Covenant – symbolizing the sacrifice made for the atonement of the high priest’s sins.  Because God said,

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22, ESV).

            Then, he would kill the goat and take its blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle it as he had the blood of the bull:  the goat was killed to make atonement for God’s people – to pay the debt for the sins of God’s people.

Then the priest would come out of the Holy of Holies and take the rest of the blood of the bull and the rest of the blood of the goat and spread it all over the altar.  Then he would take the second goat and put his hands on it and confess the sins of the nation, symbolically transferring them to the goat, and then the goat would be sent out into the wilderness to die.

            In the performing of his duties, the high priest would have become covered with blood.  So the last thing he would do was to bath and put on new white robes, symbolizing that God had forgiven His people.  And so the people would be forgiven.

            Jesus also functioned as the High Priest – not merely as the Sacrifice, which we understand in His dying for the sake of the sins of everyone who would ever believe – Jesus freely offered up Himself – Jesus came before the Father in the Holy of Holies to offer up Himself – as both High Priest and Sacrifice.

            Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:14-18, ESV).

            So, Jesus was not merely the Sacrifice offered up for the sins of His people, but He was the High Priest Who came before God on behalf of the people to offer up the Sacrifice.  So, the Offerer and the Offering of the Sacrifice were holy and acceptable in God’s Sight for the first time.  Before Jesus’ Work, the sacrifices continued day after day, but with Jesus, the Perfect and Final Sacrifice was perfectly offered by the Holy and Great High Priest, so no more sacrifices are needed.

            But, then, there is an unspoken objection that the author of Hebrews answers:  “How can Jesus be the High Priest when He is God?  The high priest had to offer up a sacrifice for his own sins first, because he was one of us – he understood us – he could sympathize.  Being God, how can Jesus sympathize?”

            Here we have a question concerning the Jesus’ humanity raised again – was Jesus really human – as well as really God?

            The author of Hebrews answers, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

            “Yes, the High Priest has to understand what it is to be tempted – to truly face human temptation – in order for him to mourn for his people and offer up the sacrifice on their behalf – as with one heart with them.  And Jesus does that!  Jesus is 100% human and 100% God.  Jesus was tempted – in every way humanly possible – so He is able to sympathize with us – He is able to understand the pressure and the strength of temptation and the accusations and misleading of the devil that we face every moment.  Yet, Jesus being God and filled with God the Holy Spirits, born sinless like Adam – He did not sin.”

            Putting what the author of Hebrews says in the positive:  We have a High Priest Who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses – He has experienced the weakness of being in human flesh, He has been tempted in every way imaginable, so He understands how you are tempted and how I am tempted, and He can sympathize – He can understand what we go through.   He understands our weakness – He understands every kind of temptation we face – He joins us in grief for our sin, He is concerned for us, and works for our relief – but He never sinned. 

            And that should give us hope and confidence:

We have hope in knowing that both our High Priest and His Sacrifice are holy, so they have been accepted by God.  All those who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation have been saved through Jesus’s holy offering Himself up as the Final Sacrifice for His people.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Matthew tells us, “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51a, ESV).

When Jesus declared, “It is finished,” the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn open from the top down – the Holy of Holies was exposed before the people – which meant death – except through Jesus.

We are bidden to come boldly – with confidence and not fear – before the Almighty God one His Throne.  How?  Because Jesus is our Great High Priest – God and Man in One Person Who, as High Priest, offered up Himself, as the Perfect, Holy, and Final Sacrifice – that we would be forgiven for all of our sins and made right with God so we can now come before Him as our Father, not in fear of His Holy Wrath – Jesus has borne that for us – but in awe, respect, humility, and love.

Jesus calls us to come before His Father – our Father – and ask Him for mercy and grace – when we are confronted with temptation and need help to not sin, but to turn away and follow God – when we are in physical or mental or spiritual distresses and don’t know what to do or where to turn – when we feel as though God has abandoned us – when we are being afflicted or persecuted – when we are unsure of what is expected of us – when change is spinning around us – when death is looming at our door.

“Come, beloved!  Come before your Father in confession, in worship – you are restored through Jesus, the Great High Priest, the Lamb Who was sacrificed.  The Father will give you mercy and grace to help in your time of need!”

How shall we respond to this great news?

Let us give thanks that we have a Great High Priest, Jesus, the God-Man, Who intercedes for us before the Father – Who even offered Himself up as the Only Perfect and Holy Sacrifice that we would be forever forgiven and received as sons and daughters of God.

Let us hold fast to our confession of the Gospel.  Let us know what the Gospel is and not be afraid to tell it to others, because it is the Only Hope for everyone who will ever believe.

Let us give thanks that God came to earth in the human person of Jesus so we now have a God Who knows exactly what it is to be human – to live and suffer – as a human – the One God Who can sympathize with us as we live our lives.

And let us run to the Throne of God the Father when we are tempted or in distress or confused or hurting or lonely or discouraged – whatever is happening, let us go to our Father Who loves us and bids us to come to Him so He may give us the mercy and grace we need to live as the men and women of God He has called to be.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father, we come this morning having sinned against You, and we are bold to come before Your Throne, truly repentant and sorry for our sins, asking that You would forgive us for the Sake of Jesus.  We come having various temptations, struggles, sorrows, and concerns, and we ask that You would give us the confidence to come boldly before You to receive the grace and mercy that Jesus secured.  For it is in His Name, we pray, Amen.