Second Reformed Church

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Three Witnesses" Sermon: Hebrews 10:11-18


“Three Witnesses”

[Hebrews 10:11-18]

May 26, 2013 Second Reformed Church

            The author of Hebrews now comes to the end of the argument he has been making – that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament High Priesthood and Sacrifices.  And in these verses, he presents three unimpeachable witnesses to his argument.

            “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”

            As we have seen repeatedly, the Old Testament Sacrificial Law required that sinners offer up animal sacrifices for their sins – Yom Kippur being the high holy day when all of Israel would gather to offer up animal sacrifices for their sins, and the high priest would lay the sins of the people on a goat and send it into the wilderness, and take a second goat and slaughter it, bringing that blood into the holy of holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and the presence of God descended, because, as we keep saying:  “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).

            Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.  Period.  That is God’s Law.  And we saw that God did mercifully receive the sacrifices of animals and did forgive the sins confessed.  However, as the author of Hebrews notes, the priest stood in his office and daily offered the same sacrifice repeatedly, but it did not take away sin – all of a person’s sins – and, particularly, the slavery to sin that all humans are born with due to the sin of our first parents.

            So, we saw there are three problems with trying to see the Sacrificial Law as a way to salvation – which was never what the Law was intended to be – as we have seen:

            First, animals are not an acceptable substitute for a human.  Only a human can take the place of a human to pay the debt of another human’s sin.  But no mere human is eligible to pay the debt of another human’s sin, because no mere human is holy.

Second, no mere human could survive paying the debt of another human’s sin, so the curse of slavery to sin would remain.

            And third, multiplying the number of times a person sacrifices animals does not help the problem, because animals are still not humans – and multiple animals do not merit a human.

            “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,”

            The first witness to Jesus fulfilling the High Priesthood and the Sacrificial System is Jesus Himself.  We have seen in the author of Hebrews argument – not to mention the Gospels – that Jesus offered Himself in the role of High Priest and freely gave Himself as the Sacrifice for the sins of His people – all those who would ever believe.

            Although Jesus was not of the line of Aaron or Levi, but of Judah, Jesus was a better high priest than either line – Jesus was a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.  Jesus was one of a select few to be chosen directly by God to serve as His High Priest.  Jesus did not inherit His High Priesthood from Joseph, but was given it by God Himself.  And the high priestly order of Melchizedek was also not one in which the priest lay down his office when he died, but it was the only one in which the priest held his office forever.  Jesus was appointed by God to be a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek forever.

            Jesus was the One human able to offer Himself as a sacrifice – not only for one person – but for everyone who ever believed in Him, because Jesus is a real human being – just like all of us, but He never sinned – He lived a holy life under God’s Law – so He was eligible to take on Himself the Wrath of God for the sins of those who believed in Him.  But, He is also God – incarnated in the Person of Jesus – so, although He died under the Wrath of God, He was able to rise from the dead.  By rising from the dead, He not only paid the debt for the sins of His people, but He freed us from our slavery to sin, and imputed to us – credited to us – His Righteous Life – so we are now seen as righteous in the eyes of God the Father.

            Since Jesus is Holy human and Holy God, it was only necessary that He offer Himself up once as a sacrifice for the sins of His people.  There is never any need for a sacrifice to be offered again, because the God-Man paid the debt and raised us to new life.

            And when He had finished His Work as High Priest and Sacrifice, He ascended back to the throne of the Son in the real Holy of Holies – that is Heaven – the dwelling place of God – and He sat down on the throne at the right Hand of God, symbolizing that He had completed His Work and was exercising His Power as Sovereign Ruler of Creation.

            Jesus is an unimpeachable witness to His fulfilling the high priesthood and the Sacrificial System, by rising from the dead, ascending back to the throne of the Son, and sitting down, resuming the reign of God over Creation.  He finished His work, and all was completed.

            “waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.”

            The second witness to Jesus fulfilling the High Priesthood and the Sacrificial System is God, the Father:

            God the Father witnesses to Jesus’ fulfillment of these by receiving the God-Man, God in the Flesh, as being able – authorized – appropriate – as the One to fill the seat on the throne of the Son.  The fact that the Son enters enfleshed the holy of holies, which is Heaven, was not a disgrace – it did not make Him any less than God – He was fully God and His physical body – glorified – was received by the Father to sit next to Him as the Sovereign over all Creation.  There was no repulsion of the Trinity by bringing a flesh and blood human being, resurrected and glorified, into their midst, but He was received as the Incarnate God, forever enfleshed from that moment in the Virgin’s womb forward.  The Father honored the Son by receiving Him Incarnate back to His throne.

            As King of kings, the Son sits on His throne waiting to receive the promise made to Him that all of His enemies and all of our enemies, should be made as a footstool for His feet.  The imagery comes from the practice of ancient kings of wearing the feet of the kings they conquered around their necks.  But the enemies that Christ Jesus has conquered and is bringing under His feet are the fleshly sins, the worldly sins, hell, death, the devil, and all those who refuse to believe in Jesus Alone for salvation. 

            Although Jesus reigns sovereignly over all things now, He will show His Victory as the Incarnate God on the last day by stopping these temptations from walking amongst us that entice us to sin, He will stop the devil from walking among us, death will not be allowed to claim another person, and all those who refuse to believe will be taken away and then thrown into the outer darkness to receive the Wrath of God for their sin.  Antichrist(s), heresies, hypocrites, sin, death, the grave, and Hell, will all be under Jesus’ feet.

            As we see in I Corinthians:  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” 

(1 Corinthians 15:25-28, ESV).

            In “the Parable of the Ten Minas,” Jesus describes bringing all His enemies under His feet like this:  “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (Luke 19:27, ESV).

            Christ’s enemies are our enemies.  And Jesus has put Himself between His enemies and us to save us.  And the Father has blessed the Work of the Son and kept His Promise and is now putting all of Christ’s enemies under His feet as a footstool.

            The author of Hebrews continues:  “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

            And this is good news for us because Jesus has perfected all of His people through His Work.  By His One offering – His One Sacrifice of Himself, functioning as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, Jesus has perfected all those who believe in Him forever – all we who are being sanctified.  That is, the One Sacrifice that Jesus offered to the Father was so perfect, that, as He has made us His people, we are seen as perfect in Him, and through the Work of God the Holy Spirit in us, we are being made holy – into the Image of Jesus – day by day.

            The fact that we are told that this perfection is for all time is good news for us, as well – it means that the Church – that is, all those who believe in Jesus Alone for Salvation – will be brought into the Kingdom, perfected, holy, and glorified.

The third witness to Jesus fulfilling the High Priesthood and the Sacrificial System is God the Holy Spirit: 

            “And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord:  I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,’ then he adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’”

            With the witness of the Holy Spirit, the author of Hebrews argument comes full circle as he quotes the same passage he quoted back in chapter eight.  Here, though, the author of Hebrews emphasizes that the witness of the Holy Spirit to the Work of Jesus is for our sake.  The Holy Spirit wants us to know that He is doing these things as a comfort to us and as an assurance of our salvation in the completed and victorious Work of Jesus.

            The Holy Spirit describes a new covenant, the Second Covenant – the Gospel, which is unlike the First Covenant.  This Covenant, which God makes with us unilaterally – God does all the work – there is nothing for us to do under the Covenant – for us to receive salvation.  As Paul reminds us:  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10, ESV).

            Since Christ successfully officiated in His Office of High Priest and offered up Himself as the One Final Sacrifice, the Second Covenant was cut – God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under God’s Law, took upon Himself all of the sin and all of God’s Wrath for our sin, died, and physically rose from the dead, ascending back to His throne – as we have seen.

So the Holy Spirit takes the Covenant and puts it on our heart and writes it on our mind.  The Holy Spirit causes the Word of the Gospel to penetrate our hearts that we would believe and remains with us that we would understand the Gospel with our minds.  As Jesus promised:   “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15, ESV).

And so we understand that the witness of the Holy Spirit is seen in we who believe, because only those who have been changed and enlightened by the Holy Spirit can believe the Gospel. 

And, the Holy Spirit adds, if we have believed the Gospel, then God will not remember our sins any more.  And David wrote, “The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.  He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.  The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.  For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:6-14, ESV).

            The conclusion of all these things – of his argument – of the witness of the Holy Trinity is:

            “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”

            If Jesus has offered Himself Once as the Perfect and Final Sacrifice as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek – if the Gospel is true – there is no need to offer animal sacrifices, there is no need to re-present or re-offer the Sacrifice of Jesus, there is no need to offer God any kind of bargain for forgiveness – none of it works – none of it is effective, except for Jesus Alone.

            The author of Hebrews ends this section on Jesus being the Perfect High Priest and Final Sacrifice by giving the testimony of three unimpeachable witnesses:

            Christ Jesus tells us that since He is both Perfect Human and Holy God at the same time in One Person, He is able to merit righteousness for His people and bear the sins and the Wrath of God for His people.  And since He has physically ascended back to the throne of the Son and is seated at the Right Hand of God, He signifies that His Work is complete and He is sovereignly reigning over all of Creation.

            So, we ought to understand that believing the Gospel is our only hope for salvation.  And let us also recognize that our bodies and the material world are good and will be restored at the end of the age.

            God the Father tells us that since He received Christ Jesus in His physical body to sit at His Right Hand that Christ’s Work is done and acceptable to the Father.  And God is keeping His Promise to crush all of Jesus’ enemies and put them under His feet, as well as to cause all we who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation to be perfected and made holy.

            So, we ought to pray for the end of Jesus’ enemies and ours – for the antichrist(s), heretics, heresies, hypocrites, sin, death, the grave – all these things we ought to pray would come to an end to the Glory of God.  And we ought to strive to keep from sin, ourselves, and pursue the holiness that we are called to.

            God the Holy Spirit tells us that salvation – putting the Gospel on our hearts and writing it on our mind – is wholly the work of God; we cannot cause ourselves to believe the Gospel – the Second Covenant.  And God the Holy Spirit indwells us that He would instruct us and help us to remember what we have read and heard in the Scripture and of the Gospel.  And God has forgiven all of the sins of everyone who will ever believe and freed us from our slavery to sin.

            So, let us be humble and full of thanksgiving to God for our salvation.  Let us put aside any idea that we did anything to earn our salvation, and receive the incredible gift that God has given.  Let us read and study our Bibles, and flee from sin.

            And, finally, let us understand what the author of Hebrews wants us to understand from this section of his letter:  Sin cannot be forgiven without the shedding of blood.  Animal sacrifices, though instituted by God, we never meant to be a means of salvation – they couldn’t be – for reasons we have gone over several times.  Only God Incarnate, the God-Man, the Savior that God promised to send, could live, shed His blood and die, and physically rise that our sin would be forgiven – and we would live eternally with our God and Savior.

            So, let us pray:

            Almighty God, we thank You for the promise and the fulfillment of the promise of salvation through the Savior You sent.  We thank You for giving us the Scripture to explain why we could not be saved through the blood of animals or our good works.  Help us to believe that salvation is all of Jesus, only Jesus, and Jesus Alone.  And help us to humbly see that salvation is about Jesus, not us, that we would live for You, and not ourselves.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reformed Wisdom

John Calvin on Hebrews 10:18 --

Now, since we have come to the close of the discussion respecting the priesthood of Christ, readers must be brief reminded, that the sacrifices of the Law are not more effectually proved here to have been abolished, than the sacrifice of the mass practiced by the Papists is proved to be a vain fiction.
    
They maintain that their mass is a sacrifice for expiating the sins of the living and of the dead; but the Apostle denies that there is now any place for a sacrifice, even since the time in which the prophecy of Jeremiah has been fulfilled.
    
They try to make an evasion by saying, that it is not a new sacrifice, or different from that of Christ, but the same; on the contrary, the Apostle contends that the same sacrifice ought not to be repeated, and declares that Christ’s sacrifice is only one, and that it was offered for all; and, further, he often claims for Christ alone the honor of being a priest, so that no one was fit to offer him but himself alone.

The Papists have another evasion, and call their sacrifice bloodless; but the Apostle affirms it as a truth without exception, that death is necessary in order to make a sacrifice.
 
The Papists attempt to evade again by saying, that the mass is the application of the one sacrifice which Christ has made; but the Apostle teaches us on the contrary, that the sacrifices of the Law were abolished by Christ’s death for this reason, because in them a remembrance of sins was made; it hence appears evident, that this kind of application which they have devised has ceased.
 
In short, let the Papists twist themselves into any forms they please, they can never escape from the plain arguments of the Apostle, by which it appears clear that their mass abounds in impieties; for first, according to the Apostle’s testimony, Christ alone was fit to offer himself; in the mass he is offered by other hands; — secondly, the Apostle asserts that Christ’s sacrifice was not only one, but was also once offered, so that it is impious to repeat it; but in the mass, however they may prate about the sacrifice, yet it is evidently made every day, and they themselves confess it; — thirdly, the Apostle acknowledges no sacrifice without blood and death; they then chatter in vain, that the sacrifice they offer is bloodless; — fourthly, the Apostle in speaking of obtaining pardon for sins, bids us to flee to that one sacrifice which Christ offered on the cross, and makes this distinction between us and the fathers, that the rite of continually sacrificing was done away by the coming of Christ; but the Papists, in order to make the death of Christ efficacious, require daily applications by means of a sacrifice; so that they calling themselves Christians, differ nothing from the Jews except in the external symbol.

"Community Lunch"

Please join us tomorrow (Saturday the 25th) for our free "Community Lunch" from 12 to 1 PM -- we would love to see you and share a meal with you!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: "Freefall to Fly"


Freefall to Fly:  a Breathtaking Journey Towards a Life of Meaning by Rebekah Lyons is a series of meditations on her life and how to cope with the “freefalls” of life.
She begins by telling the story of moving with her family from Virginia, where she was comfortable, to New York City – moving with her husband and their young son, who has Down syndrome.

She questions the move and whether it is right, why God had given her son his illness and how they would cope with it.  She struggles with missing what was comfortable and known, developing an anxiety disorder in the process.  She pleads with her husband to go back home – to leave this place or gates and locks, where her son throws a tantrum and lays down on Park Ave.

But she eventually comes to the conclusion that these “freefalls” – these times of lack of control, were for her to learn to use her wings.  A baby bird that drops out of the nest into freefall does not just crash, but moves its wings until it flies.  That is what the author learns and encourages her readers to do:  if you are freefalling, flap your wings until you fly – whatever that may mean in any given situation.
Lyons’ book is an encouraging piece for those times when we are trying to face life when it seems out of control.

[This review appears on my blog and at Amazon.com.  I received a copy of this book free from Handlebar Publishing for review.]

"Hell On Trial"

We continue our study of Hell tonight, D.V., at 7 PM, considering the witness of the New Testament writers.  Please join us!

"To Do Your Will" Sermon: Hebrews 10:1-10


“To Do Your Will”

[Hebrews 10:1-10]

May 19, 2013 Second Reformed Church

            Last week we began by reviewing verse twenty-two of chapter nine, and it may prove helpful to review it once again: “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).

            We noted that this verse tells us two things:  first, it tells us that under the Sacrificial Law, most things were purified through shedding blood, but there were other methods of purification, including offering up other, non-bloody, items for sacrifice, and through baptism.

Second, it tells us that the only way sin can be forgiven is through the shedding of blood.  It is absolutely impossible for sin to be forgiven unless there is the shedding of blood.  If there is no shedding of blood, God will not and cannot forgive sin.

We went on to see that Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Sacrificial System, especially in that, as the God-Man, He could live a perfect life under the Law, choose to be our Substitute in the reception of God’s Wrath for our sin, and physically rise from the dead.  To this end:  our sins are forgiven – past, present, and future, we are free from slavery to sin, we have had Christ’s Righteousness imputed to us, so that we are now seen as righteous, and through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, we are striving towards holiness.

And so, we turn to our text for this morning:

            “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.”

            The author of Hebrews again tells us that the repeated offering of sacrifices are not enough to make us perfect – to pay the debt for sin and free us from slavery to sin – for reasons we have already discussed:  if the offerings had to be repeated, they were not effective to pay the debt for sin and free us from slavery to sin, and, the offerings were of goats and bulls, which could not be adequate substitutes for humans – even if you were to catch a unicorn or a leviathan – it would not be enough, only a human can take the place of a human in paying the debt owed to God.

            But the author of Hebrews gives us another reason why the offering up of animals would not be enough to pay our debt and free us from slavery:  “the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities.”

            Here, the author of Hebrews uses language from the art world:  the “shadow” is like the sketch an artist makes before commencing to paint his picture, whereas the “true form” is the painting in living color.  If any of us have taken art classes in school or tried our hand at art on our own, we know that the sketch we being with is not what we want to end up with – it looks forward to what we want to end up with – one can look at it and imagine what the final product will look like, but it is not the final product.  It is only when the artwork is fully painted, fully colored and “living” that it is finished – it has fulfilled the artist’s intentions.

            The same thing is true here:  the Old Testament Law – and especially the Sacrificial Law, is a “shadow” – a sketch of the painting that was to be painted, whereas the “true form” is the fullness of that good thing which was to come.  And this is the point that the author of Hebrews is making:  Christ Jesus is the true form of the shadows of the Old Testament Sacrifices – Christ Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Sacrifices through the good things which were to come – His Incarnation, Life, Death, Resurrection, and bodily Ascension.

“Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

            If the animal sacrifices had been enough – if it were possible for a person to offer up enough animal sacrifices that he would be cleansed – that he would no longer have guilt for his sin – that his conscience would be appeased – that all of his sin past, present, and future were forgiven and paid for, then people would stop making animal sacrifices – and, eventually, there would be no more animal sacrifices.  But – at the time of the author of Hebrews’ writing, the sacrifices had not ended – people were still falsely looking for forgiveness and freedom in the offering up of sacrifices – in the shadows and sketches – rather than in the true form – Christ Jesus. (This, as we have noted, proves that the book of Hebrews was written before 70 A.D. when the Temple was destroyed, and animal sacrifices came to an end.)

            Moses records what happened under the First Covenant:  “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” (Leviticus 16:21, ESV).

            Animal sacrifices continued year after year, and the guilt of the offerers was not removed – the consciences of the offerers were not appeased.  Anyone who was putting their hopes in animal sacrifices was under the Wrath of God.  Only those who looked forward and believed in the Savior Who was to come – and Him when He did come – found freedom from guilt and an appeased conscience.  Only through Jesus and His Sacrifice and believing in His Work, do we find ourselves at peace with God and with hope for the future.

            And some of you might be saying, “Well, this has nothing to do with us – we have never offered sacrifices of animals, so what’s the point of this all?”

            It’s true that most of us have never offered up animal sacrifices – certainly not in the Temple in Jerusalem, but have we ever clung to other shadows and sketches and thought them “good enough” – that Jesus Alone was not necessary?  Perhaps, though, we have heard people say they are “good enough” to be received into the Kingdom, no matter what they believe.  Perhaps we have heard people say they are “better than most,” that the give to this and that, or volunteer for this and that.  Is there really that much difference between offering up animals as sacrifices and our works – or goodness – as sacrifices – at least in the sense that they will never be enough?  Not to mention, they lack the blood necessary for forgiveness.

            And again, some of you may be thinking, “But, if I am forgiven, why do I need to confess my sin?  Why do I feel guilty for sin?  Why am I disturbed when I sin?  -- if the debt for it is paid and have been freed from the guilt of sin, as you have said?”

            The guilt of a non-believer for sin is a damning guilt; the guilt of a believer for sin is the Holy Spirit working within us.   If we sin – shall I say “when” we sin – we ought to find ourselves moved towards confession, because that will keep us from being prideful – we will be humble – and not say anything as foolish as, “I am good enough.”  Confession also helps us to look out for temptation – to recognize it and avoid sin in the future, to glorify God for what He has done in us through Christ Jesus, to thank Him for His Mercy and Grace, and to freshly apply to ourselves those good things which were to come and which have now come in the Sacrifice of Jesus.

            So, we understand that the Sacrificial Law with its repeated sacrificing of animals could never utterly forgive us of sin and free us from slavery to sin.  The Sacrificial Law was never and could never be a way to be right with God, but pointed to the Only Way in which a person may be right with God – through the Salvation provided through Jesus Alone as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Sacrificial Law.

            The author of Hebrews continues:  “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,          but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.  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.’”

            The first question that ought to strike our minds upon reading the author of Hebrews here – saying that Christ said these words after the Incarnation – is, “When?”  When did Jesus say these words?  And the answer is that there is no record of Jesus ever saying these words.  Now, before we get concerned about that – we ought to get concerned when something doesn’t seem right in the Scripture – there are two possible answers: 

First, Jesus said it but it is not recorded.  That is possible – most of the Gospels is the record of the last week of Jesus’ Life – and even that is only highlights.

But a second possibility is that Jesus said these words from Psalm 40 through His Life – through His Actions – through what He did.

In either case, we have no reason to doubt that Jesus, the Incarnate God, said these words, so let us consider what they mean:

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,”

Why would Christ say that God does not desire animal sacrifices and offerings when the whole First Covenant is based around sacrifices and offerings?  The answer is in what the author of Hebrews has been addressing:  people had wrongly understood the First Covenant to be a way of salvation, when that was never the purpose of the First Covenant.  As we have seen, one of the purposes of the First Covenant was to point to the coming of the Christ and to show that salvation is only possible through Him Alone.  So, we can understand Jesus to be saying that God never desired sacrifices and offerings to be the way of reconciling people to Himself – we have sinned against the One Holy God and He desires faith and belief in the Savior He was, and now has, sent, not sacrifices and offerings.  God never meant – nor desired – animal sacrifices and offerings to be a way for people to be right with Him.

No, rather, Jesus says, “but a body have you prepared for me;” – we talked about this recently:  when did God prepare a body for the Christ?

We read in the response to Mary’s question:  “And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35, ESV).

God created a body for the Christ when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and caused the body of Jesus to form in her womb without male participation.  God caused Mary to be with child apart from the normal means of procreation – this was God’s creation of the body of the Christ Who incarnated into Mary’s womb.  God created a body in Mary – without a man’s participation – so the God-Man would be born from her.

Why is the virgin conception and birth mentioned here after Jesus says that it is not through the sacrifice and offering of animals that a person may be forgiven for his sins?  This implication is that the sacrifice and offering that can deliver a person from his sins is the body of the God-Man, Christ Jesus, Whom God created in the womb of Mary.  It is only through the blood sacrifice of Jesus that a person can be right with God, forgiven for sin, and delivered from slavery to sin.

And, in case we are not sure that this is what the sacrifice and offering of animals refers to, Jesus is more explicit, saying, “in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.”

People recognized that they were sinners – do you? – they understood that they were at odds with God – that His Wrath was against them unless something or someone put them right with God again – if their sins could be covered – forgiven.  So the people looked at the Law which required animals to be offer when they sinned.  And they brought their sheep, and their bulls, and they offered them up, understanding that sin is only forgive through the shedding of blood, but they missed the point that the blood of animals, though mercifully received by God for their sin, forgave them in the moment – it didn’t forgive all of the sins past, present, and future, and it did not free them from slavery to sin.  As we said earlier – not even a unicorn or a leviathan would be enough, because an animal is not a human.

What hope is there for humans?  Jesus tells us:  “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”

            What is Jesus referring to?  What is the Will of God that the Christ came to do which is written of Him in the scroll of the book – that is, the Scripture?

            The Gospel!  Do you remember the short form of the Gospel we learned a little over a year ago?  Do you remember that sentence we are telling our friends who ask what we believe?  God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under God’s Law, died for the sins of everyone who would ever believe, and physically rose from the dead and ascended back to His throne.

            The first time we hear the Gospel is in God’s handing out punishment after the sin of our first parents:  God told the serpent:  “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, ESV).

            Christ Jesus came to do the Will of the Father – that which was written about Him in the Scripture.  The Son incarnated to be the offspring of Eve – to allow Himself to be put to death – as the author of Hebrews wrote:  “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,” (Hebrews 2:14, ESV).

            When the time came, Jesus, knowing the horrors that awaited Him, prayed:  “Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done’” (Matthew 26:42, ESV).

            This is why Jesus quotes Psalm 40 – to show what they should have understood through the Sacrifices:  there is no salvation through the blood of animals.  There is only salvation through Jesus Alone – the Incarnate Son of God Who came to fulfill His Father’s Will and save a people for Himself through the Sacrifice of Himself.

            The author of Hebrews adds some commentary:  “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), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He does away with the first in order to establish the second.”           

            Jesus, in bringing the Second Covenant – the Gospel – has done away with the First Covenant – in its Sacrificial Laws.  As we saw last week – since Christ is the God-Man, He only needed to be sacrificed once to pay the debt for all of the sins of all of those who would ever believe, free them from slavery to sin, and impute to them – credit them – with His Righteousness.

            Just like the artist we talked about to begin with who makes a sketch and then paints his painting over it, Jesus has done away with the Old Testament Sacrificial Law by fulfilling it in Himself and by Himself.  No sacrifice is ever needed again because Christ obeyed the Will of the Father.

            We do not have to offer up the blood of animals, or try to be good enough, or anything else – Christ has done everything necessary in obeying His Father to save all those who will ever believe in Him.  Christ has paid the debt to God for our sins, credited us with His Righteousness, and freed us from slavery to sin.

            As John Owen puts it:  “In this state of things, when the fullness of time was come, the glorious counsels of God, namely, of the Father, Son, and Spirit, brake forth with light, like the sun in its strength from under a cloud, in the tender made of himself by Jesus Christ unto the Father, ‘Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.’  This, this is the way, the only way, whereby the will of God might be accomplished.  Herein we have the riches of divine wisdom displayed, all the treasured of grace laid open, all shadows and clouds dispelled, and the open door of salvation evidenced unto all” (Owen, Hebrews, vol. 6, 471).  

            “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

            Because Christ has obeyed the Will of the Father, by which He has done away with the Sacrificial System and the shadows which pointed to the coming of Christ, we who believe in Him have been sanctified.  We who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation are holy.

            How can that be?

            “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,” (Hebrews 2:10-11, ESV).

            All those who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation are in Him – we are counted with Him – righteous, holy, glorified – right now – in Him.  Yet, what the reality will be has not fully come.  It will come when Jesus returns.  We have the hope and the promise that that is how we are seen, yet, at the same time, it is not yet how we are.

            On this Pentecost Sunday, we remember that – just as Jesus promised – those first believers were indwelled by God the Holy Spirit – and every Christian since then has been indwelled by God the Holy Spirit.  And Jesus promised:  “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15, ESV).

            The Holy Spirit will lead us into becoming what we are not yet.  The Holy Spirit will lead us and empower us to do the Will of the Father – which, if you open your Bibles, you will find.  The first and foremost being that we proclaim the Gospel.

            As we take comfort in knowing that Jesus Alone saves us without any help from us and that we are indwelled by God the Holy Spirit Who is making us into the Image of Jesus, Who did the Will of the Father, let us not think that we can lay back and let God work.

            No, Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV).

            We have hard work before us – we who believe in the Gospel – work that will keep us busy and fill us with joy for a lifetime.  Hold fast to the Work and Obedience of Jesus.  Hold fast to the promise and the guidance of God the Holy Spirit.  And in the light of that truth, seek to do the Will of our Heavenly Father.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament Sacrificial System.  We thank You for making clear the shadows and showing us the true form of joy in salvation through Jesus Alone.  We thank You that Jesus was obedient to Your Will.  We thank You for the gift of the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.  We thank You that You are working in us, making us into the Image of Your Son.  And we ask that You would train our eyes on You – that we would seek to do Your Will with everything that we are, that You would be glorified.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Community Lunch

Due to the graduations, the Community Lunch is postponed to Saturday, May 25th from 12 to 1 PM.  We hope to see you then!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: "Tangled Ashes"


Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix is a very enjoyable novel that joins two timelines in Lamorlaye, France:  the 1940’s Nazi project at the castle to breed the Aryan race and the modern owner of the castle’s desire to renovate it as a gift for his wife.

The owner of the castle calls on an American architectural company to renovate the castle to its original state.  The alcoholic, though more equipped, co-senior partner of the company reluctantly goes to oversee and take part in the project.  While he is there, he learns lessons about love from the staff and comes to confront his alcoholism.

In flashbacks, we hear about the breeding program that actually took place in the castle historically and one young one who loved the Nazi who fathered her child, so much so, that he allows her to escape delivering the child to the Nazis.

Along the way, the lines come together, because history moves forward:  secrets are revealed, and the end of the Nazi project is acknowledged in one family’s life as they are reconciled with each other.

The novel kept my attention, and I was interested to learn that such breeding programs actually did occur.  The characters are basically believable and three-dimensional, though the conclusion of the novel is somewhat expected, though not in all of its details.

I would recommend this book for and interesting, enjoyable, light read – one that makes one consider what love truly is and how to express it.

[This review appears on my blog and at Amazon.com.  I received a copy of this book free from Handlebar Publishing for review.]

"Once" Sermon: Hebrews 9:23-28


“Once”

[Hebrews 9:23-28]

May 12, 2013 Second Reformed Church

            We consider the end of the ninth chapter of Hebrews this morning, and we ought to ask ourselves:  considering what we know about what Jesus did – as High Priest and Sacrifice – did Jesus do enough?  Was His One Sacrifice enough?  Is there a need to repeat or re-present Christ’s Sacrifice to the Father for it to be effective?  Or did Jesus accomplish His Work on behalf of all those He came to save by dying once on the cross?

            “Thus”

            We ended last week looking at verse twenty-two, which reads:  “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).

            We noted that this verse tells us two things:  first, it tells us that under the Sacrificial Law, most things were purified through shedding blood, but there were other methods of purification, including offering up other, non-bloody, items for sacrifice, and through baptism.

Second, it tells us that the only way sin can be forgiven is through the shedding of blood.  It is absolutely impossible for sin to be forgiven unless there is the shedding of blood.  If there is no shedding of blood, God will not and cannot forgive sin.

OK?  Do we get that?  If we do:  

            “Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”

            If we understand that most things were purified by blood under the Mosaic Law, and sin is forgiven only through the shedding of blood, then it would make sense to us that the copies, the shadows, the types, the patterns of the heavenly things – the Tabernacle and all its parts and the sins of the people – would be purified with blood and the sins of the people would be forgiven through the shedding of – animal – blood.

            But the Tabernacle and all its parts and, especially, the forgiveness of the sins of the people through the shedding of animal blood were only foreshadowings of the real things – of the heavenly things – which would require better sacrifices.

            Specifically, we have been looking at the forgiveness of human sin through the bloody sacrificing of animals – and we noted that though the forgiveness was real that was received through the bloody sacrifices, it was momentary – temporary – the forgiveness was not complete, eternal, or whole.

            In order for the sacrifice to merit heavenly standards, a human would have to shed his blood for a human – and, like the animal that was sacrificed, it would have to be a human that was without spot or blemish – it would have to be a perfect, holy, sinless human.  But that would only cover all the sins of a person’s past – if you could find a perfect human who would be willing to stand in for you to be sacrificed, your past sins would be forgiven through the blood of the sacrifice, but as soon as you sinned again, you would be under the Wrath of God again.  So, not only would you need to find a real human being who was sinless, but that human being would also have to be God so He could survive the Wrath of God for all of your sin – past, present, and future.

            And, if you have heard the Gospel before, you know that there is one and only one Person Who has ever fulfilled those conditions:  Christ Jesus, the Incarnate God.  John Owen writes, “The sacrifice of Christ is the one, only, everlasting fountain and spring of all sanctification and sacred dedication; whereby the whole new creation is purified and dedicated unto God” (Owen, Hebrews, vol. 6, 378).

            Through the shedding of the blood of animals, there was a temporary forgiveness which looked forward to the Savior Who would come to merit forgiveness for all those He came to save.  And, as Owen notes, this Work of Christ, while first for the salvation of His people, is also for the restoration of the entire Creation.  As Paul writes, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21, ESV).

            How did Christ obtain this for us?

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”

Christ did not enter into the holy place in the Tabernacle, or even into the Holy of Holies, itself – which were only shadows of the heavenly reality, rather, He entered Heaven, itself – the dwelling place of God, and resumed His Place on His throne at the Right Hand of God.

            Today is Ascension Sunday, and we may remember what happened on the day of Ascension:  “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).

            Jesus spoke to the disciples and then physically ascended up through the air, through the clouds, and out of sight – and the disciples stood there stunned.  But God sent angels to tell them to be about the work that Jesus had given them to do, and Jesus will return from Heaven in the same way they saw Him ascend into Heaven.  And since the Ascension is not as popular as the doctrines of Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny, we may forget why this matters:

            First, Jesus is advocating for us before the Father.  Paul writes, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34, ESV).

            Second, since Jesus physically ascended, we are assured that our physical bodies will be raised to eternal life in the Kingdom.  Paul writes, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7, ESV).

            And third, Jesus has sent us God the Holy Spirit to indwell us as a guarantee of our salvation.  Paul writes, “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, ESV).

            Now, we get to the main question for this morning:  is Jesus’ One Sacrifice enough for all those He intends to save?  Yes!

“Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,”

We remember that the priests of the first Covenant had to continually offer blood sacrifices – and the especial blood sacrifice on the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur.  Why did the priests have to offer blood sacrifices over and over and over?

“The repetition of the annual sacrifices under the law was mainly from hence, because they were not able to perfectly to effect that which they did signify;” (Owen, 387).   The bloody animal sacrifices had to be repeated because they were never enough to pay the debt for all the sins a person would ever commit, much less free a person from slavery to sin.

Someone might offer up a cow to be slaughtered, and God, in His Mercy, would count that in the person’s repentance and forgive him for the sin for which he gave the cow.  But if he stubbed his toe on the way out of the Tabernacle and used the Lord’s Name in vain, he would be under the Wrath of God again.  (Not even considering that he would still be under the Wrath of God simply because he was not freed from slavery to sin.)

Probably few, if any of us, have slaughtered an animal in the hopes of receiving forgiveness for sin from God.  But, if we did, we would understand it would not be enough, we would have to continually offer up animals, because we continue to sin, and we would continue to sin as slaves to sin, so we would never break out of the cycle, and, eventually, we would die, and not be forgiven, but would remain under the Wrath of God.  Does that make sense?

If God said, in His Mercy, He would forgive our sin – as He did in the first Covenant, if we offered up blood sacrifices for our sin, and we never stop sinning, we would never be able to stop sinning, right?  And if we died a sinner, which we all certainly would do, we would still be lost, damned, and under the Wrath of God, right?

But, as the author of Hebrews tells us, Christ did not offer Himself up repeatedly.  Why?  Because Christ perfectly accomplished what He intended to do through His One Sacrifice.  As a real, sinless human being and as God Himself, Jesus offered Himself up as the blood sacrifice – as the Substitute for all those He came to save – and He could receive in His Body all of the Wrath of God for all of the sins of all those people He came to save, and He could rise from the dead, victoriously, freeing us from our slavery to sin and crediting us with His Righteousness.

Through Jesus’ one life, one death, one resurrection, and one ascension, He was able to pay our debt, make us righteous, and secure our place in the Kingdom of God.  Nothing more need to be done to save us, because the God-Man did it all.

And this is one problem we have with the Roman Catholic Church and all the varieties of Eastern Orthodox churches in understanding the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper:  both the Roman Catholic Church and the variety of Eastern Orthodox churches say that the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is a re-presenting of the sacrifice of Jesus, but a bloodless sacrifice.

Do you hear two problems in that in the light of our Scripture?

First, they say that the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is a bloodless sacrifice.  We started out this morning as we ended last week, looking at verse twenty-two of this chapter, in which we are told, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”  If there is no blood, there is no forgiveness.  A bloodless sacrifice is a useless as a screen door on a submarine. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

Second, they say the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is a re-presenting of the Christ’s Sacrifice to God the Father.  They argue that since we continue to sin, the Sacrifice must continue to be presented to the Father.  If the Sacrifice has to be re-presented, that indicates it was not effectual – it did not do enough.  Do we believe that Jesus’ One Sacrifice paid the debt for all of the sins of all of the people who would ever believe in Him?  Or do we believe that His One Sacrifice was not enough and has to be re-presented every time we gather that the Father might forgive our sins?

The author of Hebrews tells us there is no re-presenting of the Sacrifice:  “for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

The author of Hebrews argues that if Jesus’ Sacrifice has to be re-presented every time we gather, then He must suffer every time we gather, but that is not what the Scripture teaches:  Christ appeared once for all those He came to save at the end of the age. 

We see the idea – again – that the author of Hebrews brought up at the beginning of his letter:  just as God sent prophets and preachers first, and then His Son at the end of the age, God sent priests to offer animal sacrifices for sin, and then sent His Son at the end of the age. 

The one offering of Christ for sin, puts away all sin by Himself and through Himself – as both High Priest and Sacrifice.  If you believed in Jesus Christ Alone for salvation, then Christ died to pay the debt for your sins, to free you from slavery to sin, enabling you to seek after holiness, and He has credited you with His Righteousness, so you are seen by God as righteous, even though, in this life, we continue to sin as we strive towards sanctification.

Paul writes:  “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:17-23, ESV).

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,”

With a scant few exceptions in history, unless Jesus returns first, everyone will experience physical death and experience that death only once.  Because of the sin of our first parents, everyone (excepting a few) is appointed to experience a physical death.  “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:21, ESV).

Yet, whether we die or Christ returns first, all humans will be resurrected in their bodies to face the judgment.  This should not disturb we who are Christians, because we have been saved by Christ’s One Sacrifice.  However, even Christians will go through the judgment, but to a different end.

Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27, ESV).  This is what the angels, on the Day of the Ascension, told the disciples would happen.

Lest we be confused, let us understand that we are not saved by our works – we are saved by Christ’s Works.  Our judgment is not to salvation – as Paul explains:

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, ESV).

Our works in response to the Gospel – and our believing it – will be judged, and we will receive some sort of reward based on the net purity of those works.  But all those who believe in Christ Alone for salvation will be received into the Kingdom – even if all their works burn up and they are saved, “but only as through fire.”

Such will not be the case for the non-believer.  All those non-believers who go through the fire of judgment will have their works burned up and they will not have the foundation of Christ and His Work to be saved by.  They will endure the Wrath of God for their sin.

            So, let us be confident and diligent in following after Jesus and doing all the good works that God has put before us.  The work that we do for the Kingdom is a joyful work, because Christ has been sacrificed once, and His Sacrifice accomplished everything it was intended to do.  There is nothing more to do to merit salvation – Jesus has done it all.  So, we can work for the Kingdom, not worrying about success or failure, because success is assured in Christ, no matter what happens on earth.  Christ is victorious, so we are victorious.

 “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

And we – above all people – have hope. 

Christ has paid the debt for all of the sins of all of the people He came to save.  As Isaiah prophesied:  “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,           and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12, ESV).  He has born our sin and freed us from slavery to sin, so when He returns and receives us into the Kingdom in all its fullness, we will not have sin to deal with – the debt has been paid by the One Sacrifice of Christ Jesus.  Instead, on that day when Jesus returns, just as He ascended, this time coming down through the clouds in His physical body, He will save all those He died for, welcoming us into the fullness of salvation and the place He went to prepare for us.

Christ offered Himself as a Sacrifice for all those who will believe in Him and ascended to the Right Hand of the Father where He intercedes for us and assures us of our salvation and our future hope.

Christ’s One Sacrifice was enough to pay all of the debt for all of the sins of everyone who would ever believe and to free them from their slavery to sin; Christ only needed to shed His Blood once for our salvation.

Due to our first parents’ sin, we are all liable to die once, and when Christ returns, all people will go through the judgment of their works.  Those who have been saved through Christ’s Sacrifice will be received into the Kingdom, after eagerly awaiting the return of their Savior.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son and for His Work on our behalf being mighty.  We thank You that we do not need to be confused or worried, but we can be confident knowing that Christ’s One Sacrifice was enough to pay our debt and free us from slavery.  Help us to follow after You and do the good works that You have set before us, and keep us eagerly awaiting Your Return, until that day when we rejoice to see the clouds part and Christ descend to the earth.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.