The Hope of Christmas

The advent season is the time that we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a time when all believers join together in the hope that was born on that first Christmas day as well as the peace and joy He has brought into our lives. I feel led to spend the next few weeks reflecting on the hope, the peace, and the joy that has come into our world through the birth of Christ.
 
Hope came first. Hope was born in Genesis 3 when God promised to send a Savior to crush the serpent’s head. Hope persisted through the flood and delivered Noah and his family onto dry land. Abraham found hope in the call of God to leave his home and follow the Lord to the promise land. In twenty years, hope was renewed at the birth of Isaac, and then Jacob, and then Jacob’s 12 sons.
 
Hope seemed to be lost after the benevolent Pharaoh died and a new Pharaoh rose to power in Egypt. He enslaved the people of God and put them under a heavy burden. But, hope was revived in a prince named Moses who led them out of captivity in obedience to the Lord.
 
Hope persisted in fits and starts as a stiff-necked people could not decide if they trusted God to meet their needs. Nevertheless, hope endured through their sin. It shined brightly through King David who received the promise of an enduring kingdom with no end. Before long, though, God’s people lost their way and found themselves in captivity yet again.
 
In the midst of their captivity, hope came through the mouths and pens of the prophets. Jeremiah wrote to them:
 
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart… and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
 
Hope in God’s promise was realized in the days of Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah. God’s people returned to the promise land and God’s anger abated. Hope seemed to disappear again as the people again became disobedient. In their helplessness, they were conquered first by the Greeks and then by the Romans.
 
For 400 years, God was silent. There were no living prophets of God to give encouragement. What they had in the written word of God, they copied over and over again. They continued to hope even when all hope seemed to be lost. Then, without warning, a whole host of angels appeared in the sky over Bethlehem. That heavenly choir announced the Savior’s birth to the lowly shepherds keeping watch over their sheep.
 
Hope came to life that night in the person of a baby boy born in a manger. The world would come to learn that their living hope had a name, Jesus of Nazareth. His mother was a virgin maiden named Mary, and His father was the Great I Am.
 
Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise of Jeremiah, for He made His home with the hopeless. Many searched for Him and found Him. They called out to Him and He heard them. He died and was raised from the dead, and in this, He gathered men and women from every nation to Himself. He brought them out of their dark places of exile and transported them into His kingdom of light.
 

Hope lives even today. The tomb remains empty, and Jesus, the hope of the nations, remains on the throne. We continue to hope in Him in the same way that God’s people hoped in the promise of God in Jeremiah’s day. Even in these dark and difficult days when we are hard-pressed on every side with strivings within and fears without, we hope in Him. We hope even in the midst of our individual circumstances, knowing that He still has a plan. We hope, knowing that when we pray to Him, He hears us. We hope, knowing that if we seek Him with all our hearts, we shall find Him. We hope because hope is alive.


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Four things to remember in the wake of the Sutherland Springs church massacre

On Sunday afternoon, we began hearing reports of yet another mass shooting. This one was a little closer to home for me and many of the people I love. The evil attack took place at a First Baptist Church in a small town in South Texas. Note: I am the pastor of a First Baptist Church in a small town in South Mississippi. The pastor’s 14-year-old daughter was one of the victims. Note: I am the father of a 13-year-old daughter. 

 

Nearly everyone in the church that morning was either killed or injured. In a town with a population of only about 400, it is likely that nearly everyone knew one or some of the victims. It is not difficult for us to imagine what it must be like for Sutherland Springs. It is just as likely to happen to us here in Wiggins as it was to happen in Sutherland Springs. It is scary, but here are four things that I hope you will remember.

 

First, God is sovereign.

 There is no power greater than God. He created and sustains the entire universe. This terrible tragedy caught us by surprise, but it did not surprise God. He knew the shooter. He knew every victim. All were created in His image. 

 

Second, God is good.

 The obvious and fair question would be, “Well, Bro. Robby, why would a sovereign and all-powerful God allow something like this to happen.” I confess I do not understand. I do, however, know this one thing—God is good. All His ways are perfect. When I do not understand His ways, it is because I am not perfect. We are called to walk by faith in what we do not see.

 

Third, God is a refuge for those who seek Him.

 This world is evil and fallen. These events serve as a reminder of that fact. We cannot escape evil apart from seeking the Lord. There will always be devils who kill, steal, and destroy. These devils will possess people and lead them to kill, steal, and destroy. Even a cursory read through the Psalms yields the understanding that God is our only refuge and strength in these troubled times. 

 

Fourth, God is glorified through persecution.

 Make no mistake, that is what this attack was, a persecutory act. This evil man targeted these brothers and sisters because of the hope that was in them. Sunday’s attack in South Texas happens every single day all over the world, and it has been happening for 2,000 years. The reality is, though, that evil never wins. Persecution always serves to embolden the faithful and advance the Kingdom of God, thus persecution always works out for the glory of God. While we do not rejoice in persecution, we do rejoice in the outcome of persecution which is the glory of God.

 

I know over the next few days and weeks, we will learn more about the attacker and his victims. As more is learned, the media and the politicians will use the facts to advance their political and ideological agendas. Our prayer should be that God would use it to advance His own purpose and plan which is to bring reconciliation to the world.

 

Our prayer should be that the Christian community would show the world the hope we have in Christ. We should pray that when the family members of the victims are interviewed on the prime time video magazines, they would be strengthened to share the gospel by telling the stories of their loved ones who died believing the gospel. We should pray that God would, through this tragedy call out more followers and that they would respond with a resounding “Yes” to Jesus’ proposition to follow Him. 

 

It may just be that God would send a revival to our nation through this horrific attack. The people who died are my people. They are good people who love and worship the Lord. They were indwelt with the Spirit of the Living God who is greater than he who is in the world. I know that God must have used them to touch the hearts and lives of their survivors. As we hear their stories, I trust that we would hear the stories of how God saved them by His grace and that many more will be rescued as a result.


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What Does it Mean to Do the Will of God?

One of the most common questions that a pastor gets asked is some version of this, “What is God’s will for me?” In other forms, it is: Which job should I take? Should I quit my job? Where should I go to college? Are we ready to get married? Should we try to have a baby? Should we buy this house? Which medical option should we take?
 
I am grateful when these questions come through my office because it shows that the people who sit weekly under my preaching understand that every decision is a spiritual decision. When Jesus is your Lord, He is Lord of all of your life. To make a major life decision without Him is tantamount to making the same decision without your spouse.
 
Add to this that Jesus clearly tells us in the sermon on the mount that only “the one who does the will of my Father in heaven,” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21). Mere lip service to Him will not do. Even doing mighty works in His name is not enough to demonstrate one’s fitness for heaven, only doing His will.
 
In some matters, the discerning of God’s will is relatively easy because they come right out of scripture. God’s will is that you would have a relationship with Him and be saved. His will is that you would grow in your relationship with Him and as you grow, that you would lead others to come to know Him as their Lord. His desire is that you would serve Him in the ministry of the church, for that is why He has given you gifts of the Spirit. He wills that you would love Him and love others unconditionally always being ready to forgive and be forgiven.
 
In other matters, it is more difficult to discern God’s will. There is no Bible verse to tell you which college God wants you to attend. There is no Old Testament prophecy that tells you if any given opportunity with which you are presented is going to be a blessing or a curse. So how will you know what decision to make?
 
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” What this text teaches us is that discerning the will of God does not begin with us seeking to discern the will of God. It begins with us separating ourselves from the world, being transformed, and having a renewed mind. From there, we can test and know the will of God.
 
Here is the idea: resisting conformity to the world, accepting the transformation that comes from following Jesus, and daily seeking a fresh new mind will help to clear the fog of life. It will quiet the noise around you and then you will know the will of God. You will know what pleases Him, and you will be able to follow Him.
 
It is also important to understand that discerning and doing the will of God is not an exact science. Like a baby learning to walk, there is an element of trial and error. To prove this, you could study the life of any Bible character, and you would see that their walk with God was accomplished through a number of fits and starts. Expect that mistakes and poor decisions will be made. If you are in Christ, then those mistakes will only serve to further refine your mind and your faith.
 

The beauty of God’s providence is that you cannot go irreparably wrong. As long as you are seeking to know Him and make Him known in the world you will always find yourself where you need to be. This is the joy that you have in Christ. Nothing can separate you from His love. If God can use a liar to father a nation of priests, a murderer to lead His people, a traitorous disciple to lead thousands to faith at Pentecost, and a persecutor of the church to reach the nations for His glory, then He can use a feeble kneed Christian like you as well. Just trust Him. Follow Him. Seek Him and you will find Him.


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Keeping your eyes on Him

My son has a close friend whose father is severely visually impaired. I received his permission to tell this story, but I have this thing where I do not want all my friends to fear that I am just going to up and write about them and use their name. So I’ll just call him J. J is a great man. I love him dearly. He has a wonderful attitude about life, and one of the best senses of humor I have ever known. Technically speaking, he is partially sighted which means that he can tell if the lights are on in the room and can see some movement, but he still requires the use of a white stick to get around. Let me tell you though, his partial sightedness does not hinder him in the least from enjoying the life that he has been given by God.
 
Recently, we had a nerf war for my son’s birthday party at our Family Life Center. A whole gaggle of little boys and girls showed up, weapons in hand and pockets full of ammunition. The war was about to commence when in walks J.
 
I cannot say that I was surprised to see J, however, I was surprised to see what he was packing. In one hand he swiped the floor with his white stick to make his way through the door. In the other hand, he carried one of the fiercest looking nerf weapons I have ever seen. It was fully customized with an over and under double clip fully loaded with enough ammo to blast a nine-year-old into his next birthday.
 
I was wondering if I was actually seeing what I was seeing. Yep, sure enough, it was a partially sighted man with a gun. I decided that if nobody else was going to be “that guy,” I would. In the heat of the battle, I picked up a weapon of a fallen comrade and put about three foam rounds into J’s side. Without looking he swung his gun around and popped me three times in the belly. How was he able to shoot me!?!?! I quickly maneuvered to a different shooting position thinking it was a fluke. It wasn’t. He tracked me with every step and must have shot me close to a dozen more times. Finally, I called uncle.
 
I was genuinely impressed. Later after I recovered from my wounded pride, I asked him how he was able to shoot so accurately. He said something like “well I can’t see well, but I hear just fine.” Amazingly even in that crowd of squealing children, he was able to pinpoint my exact position just by listening for my feet on the gym floor.
 
This provoked me to think about Hebrews 11:1. It says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Read that last phrase again… “the conviction of things not seen.” A lot of people have a hard time with this verse, but it helps to consider my story of J.
 
As human beings we are limited. We are limited in knowledge. We are limited in strength. We are limited in sight. I think about what J said in this context. As Christians, while we might not always know for sure… while we might not always have the power to change our situation… while we might not be able to see the future… our faith works just fine.
 

Jesus said only those who do “the will of my Father in heaven,” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21). As Christians, we desperately want to hit the target of God’s will, but many times His will proves to be a moving target. In the same way that J relies on his ears to hit the mark, we must rely on our faith. We can confidently sense His will if we will just trust in Him. If we walk in Him, seek Him, and have a growing relationship with Him then we can track His movements and move with Him. This is the example that Abraham and all the patriarchs left with us. Indeed, it is the example that Jesus set for us as well. The bottom line is this: when you cannot trust your own sight, finite as it is, you can trust the author and perfector of our faith. Keep your feeble eyes on Him.


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What happens to children and infants who pass away?

About 1 in 4 recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. In the U.S.A, another 2,500 infants pass away before their first birthday. Ten thousand or so more die from accidental causes each year.
 

In my 11 years of ministry, thankfully, I have never been called upon to do the funeral of a young person. However, given the statistics, it is important to address a question that must be on the minds of many of you who have experienced the loss of a child, particularly infants and toddlers, whether through miscarriage or by some other cause.

First, I want to say this to those of you who have experienced this sort of loss… I am so sorry. I cannot imagine the grief that you have endured and the sorrow with which you must still wrestle. I pray that the Lord will bring you comfort through what I have to share.

Does an infant or toddler who dies go to heaven? I believe the answer is clear in scripture. I am quite certain that the little ones who are taken from us, are taken home by their Heavenly Father. They are, by the grace of God alone, saved by the finished work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. They are, by the mercy of God, spared not only from the fires of hell but also from a lifetime of suffering in this fallen world.

Why do I say, “by the grace of God alone?” Scripture is very clear that all human beings are born in iniquity and sin. Sin is not just something that human beings do. It is a condition, an inherited disease that can only be cured by the blood of Christ working through the grace and mercy of God (cf. Romans 5:12-20; Psalm 51:5-7). No one is innocent. We are all born under sin (cf. Romans 3:9-10).

 
How am I able then to say that toddlers and infants are saved by grace? Answer: because children are special to the Lord. The ones that He elects to bring home before they have a chance to experience all the woes of this world are the most special ones of all. Jesus own words plainly affirm this, “but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 19:14).
 
Mark reports that when the disciples attempted to hinder the children from being brought to Him, He was “indignant.” He adamantly stated that the Kingdom belonged to the little children “such as these.” He took them in his arms and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
 

There is another account of Jesus’ heart for little children in Matthew 18, “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me’” (Matthew 18:2-5).

 
It is important to remember that this child that Jesus put before them was not perfect or innocent. He was born under sin just like every other child. Like any toddler, he had lied, been disobedient to his parents, and broken the commandments of God. Even so, He was chosen by Christ as an example of the humility required to enter the presence of God.
 
I also call your attention to the last phrase in Matthew 18:5. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.’” Jesus’ heart for children is such that He links His identity with theirs. He is their defender. When a child is ministered to, so is Jesus.
 

The question remains if children are so special to the Lord, then why do so many die? Those kinds of why questions will never be answered on this side of eternity. We just know that God is good. He never does wrong. All His ways are perfect, and we must trust Him with childlike faith. I like to think, though, that when Jesus takes a toddler or infant home, He does so to teach us. Perhaps it is His way of setting them before us and saying… “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.’”


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What 20th Century Germany Teaches Us About 21st Century America

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote “The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one’s bread; on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing. People should at least understand and concede this if they call themselves Christian.” It was a timely observation for what the German church was facing in the 1930’s. It is no less timely for our day as well.
 
Germany, like the U.S.A., had a rich Christian history. Germany was the seat of the Protestant reformation, the motherland of the most influential protestant reformer in history, Martin Luther. The country was also a historically important seat of Catholicism. Germany was very much what one might call a Christian nation.
 
During the 1920’s and 30’s, German Christians were under great pressure to compromise their theology and religion in favor of the hope promised by the Nazi movement. Their country had been crippled by the reparation payments spelled out in the peace treaty that ended World War I. The country defaulted on their payments and the value of the German mark plummeted. The price of a loaf of bread soared to near 200 billion marks.
 
Well-meaning Christians would fall victim to the Nazi’s nationalistic propaganda machine. In very short order, church leaders would concede power to the Nazi party, rewrite the Bible jettisoning the Old Testament and all Jewish references in the New Testament, ban Jewish converts from the ministry, and burn thousands of books deemed anti-Arian.
 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a key figure in rescuing a remnant of the true church in Germany from Hitler’s synchronistic agenda. Bonhoeffer was deeply affected by the racism he saw in the American south on a visit to the U.S.A. in the late-1930’s. For him, nothing was more antichristian than racist hate. While others remained blind to the racism of the Nazis, Bonhoeffer bravely and defiantly called it out.
 
Most German Christians ignored Bonhoeffer’s warnings and bowed to Hitler and the Nazis not because they were ruthless anti-Semites (Jew haters). The truth is that they were fooled. Bonhoeffer observed that their lackadaisical approach to the faith had eroded their devotion to Christ. Christ was no longer their bread, but a mere dinner-mint after supper.
 
The church he served and loved was consumed by the frenzied mob mentality of the Nazi movement. While they might not have been willing to surrender the whole of their Christian heritage, they were at least willing to contort their theology at the suggestion of anyone who promised them a brighter future. That compromise by individual Christians and the church as a whole is what laid the foundation for the most atrocious event in human history.
 
It is so important for us to learn from the mistakes of others. We live in a time where hope is highly demanded and shortly supplied. There are dozens of different movements out there vying for the attention of well-meaning but weak-minded Christians. They all offer the bread of hope and justice, but we must see them for the cruel traps that they are.
 
For the Christian, Christ must be the bread… the supper… the full meal and not merely the dinner mint. We do not need a particular political party to give us hope. We do not need the promises of another politician. We do not need another movement. We need Jesus. He is our only hope and peace.
 
Any political platform that calls you to compromise your Christian values should be adamantly denounced. Any movement that questions the plain teaching of the Christian Scriptures is to be avoided like the plague. You should resist the urge to get caught up in the frenzied movements that characterize the American culture wars.
 

We are called to be the salt and the light of the world. If we learn anything from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his weak minded contemporaries in the German church it is this: you cannot be salt and light if you are following the crowds. If you want to truly make a difference, you will follow Jesus. If hope is what you are hungry for, it is found in Him. If joy is what you are thirsty for, it is abundantly available to those who serve him. Stand firm. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus comes to give you life and life abundantly (John 10:10 paraphrased).


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Joining the Father in the Workshop of Life

A few weeks ago I received the most special request from my son. He asked if, for his ninth birthday, I would build him a set of bunkbeds for his room. But that was only part of his request. He also asked if he could help me do the building. I was honored, and I happily obliged.
 
The first task, after finding the plans online and buying the wood, was to cut up the boards used to build the head and footboards. I taught him to use a tape measure to make a mark down to the sixteenth of an inch. Then I showed him how to lay the square on the board to mark a straight line for the cut. At last, I would cut the board and he would lay it in the correct stack. We repeated this process until all the boards were cut to the correct lengths.
 
The plans for this bunkbed set called for several hundred pocket holes. This requires the use of a special jig. I showed him how to use the jig. I would clamp the jig down on the board and drill a hole. Then, he would drill the second hole. He drilled about forty or fifty the pocket holes and thought he was really something.
 
Over the next weeks, we screwed everything together according to the plans and sanded, and sanded, and sanded some more. He would ask me several times a day what was left to do on the project. Each time I would run down the list of what still had to be finished.
 
Finally, last Friday after school, we were ready to start staining. I showed him how to handle the brush and apply the stain with the grain of the wood to make a smooth finish. After everything was stained then we set about applying the clear top coat of polyurethane. He glowed with excitement as the beauty of the work we had put in began to be revealed by the clear topcoat.
 
Saturday was the day. He got up early and cleaned his room. With the help of his older sister, we carried all the pieces in and assembled the bed while mom went to purchase the mattress for the bottom bunk. At the end of the day, the boy was on cloud nine and declared more than a few times that this was “the best birthday ever!”
 
I tell you this story because I think a lot of times we overstate that God is all-powerful and does not need our help. While this is true, if we are content to just let God work and never seek to pitch in with Him, we miss out on so much. No, he does not need our help, but there is so much that we have to learn from Him. Do not forget, it is His desire to be a Father to us and have a relationship with us. That is why He saved us in the first place.
 
I did not need my boy’s help. I had all the power and knowhow to complete the project on my own. After all, I am thirty-seven years old and have a wealth of experience building things. Likewise, our heavenly Father does not need our help to accomplish His will and plan. The truth is we probably get in the way more than we “help,” but He is a patient Father who loves for us to learn and work at His side.
 
It is true that “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8). There is no work that you could accomplish that is going to win you favor with God. This, however, does not negate the other side of that truth… “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). There is real work that He has for us to do. Work that He prepared beforehand.
 

Let me encourage you to join your Heavenly Father in the workshop of life. There is so much for you to learn. There is so much for you to do. You can make a real difference and find the joy that comes in living a life that is pleasing to Him.


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Living with Joy

It was the first day of the Seventh month of the year 445 B.C. The captives of Israel had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. In less than six months’ time, Nehemiah had led and completed the reconstruction of the city walls despite many trials and conflicts from without and within the Israelite community. He has now gathered the whole assembly together into the square facing the Water Gate.
 
A giant wooden platform had been erected in this square. Standing atop the platform was Ezra the priest along with a delegation of Levites. Ezra stood behind a podium upon which sat The Book of the Law. In this book were written the first five books of the Bible which outlined the community’s beginnings and the righteous requirements of the Almighty for His people.
 
Ezra opened the Book of the Law and began to read. He would pause periodically and one of the Levites would speak and give the sense of what had just been read. Ezra would pick up where he left off and begin reading again. The people sat in quiet attention as the severity and the kindness of God was read and explained in perfect detail.
 
By the end of the book, the people had come to realize, through Ezra’s reading and the Levites’ preaching, why they had been tossed out of the promise land in the first place. God had set before their ancestors a blessing and a curse. They had chosen the curse rather than the blessing by worshipping false gods and transgressing their covenant. Forty years later and the nation was still suffering for this error. They all understood clearly, were broken-hearted, and wept bitterly under the shadow of the great platform as the word was read and preached over them.
 
In the midst of their brokenness, Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites spoke again and commanded the people not to weep. One of them said, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Absolutely amazing. Here the people are convicted and broken over their sin having been moved by the preachers’ bold proclamation of the word. Now the preachers move from preaching the Law of God to preaching grace the grace of God.
 
The nation had erred. For future reference, the people needed to know just how serious was that error. They needed to be broken, however, it was not profitable for them to remain in that brokenness. It was just as important for them to know that God’s anger had abated, and His covenant was being restored. They needed their mourning to be turned to joy, for the joy of the Lord was their strength.
 
This is such an important lesson for us. Too often our view of God gets skewed by unbalanced preaching or lack of communion with God. If your pastor is always preaching the severity of God in His judgments and omitting the preaching of grace, or if you are not spending time with God in personal prayer and Bible study then you can start to see God as a ruthless tyrant that is just out to get you. The reality is that God is good. He is slow to anger. He is abounding in steadfast love and mercy. His desire is for you to find joy in the grace that he supplies.
 
Our strength is not in fear. Our strength comes from the joy that God supplies. His grace, that is greater than our sin, empowers us to live lives characterized by joy. We are among those who have been confronted with our sin, and who have come to know the One who saves us from sin. Our mourning has been turned to rejoicing. We have been crucified with Christ, and like Him, we have been raised from the dead by His perfect and unbounded love.
 

I encourage you to live in joy. Yes, you have sinned against God, but if you have repented and believed in Jesus as Savior then you have been set free from sin. You have died, and yet you live. So live! Live in the strength of His joy.


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The Peace Offering and The Lord’s Supper

I recently embarked upon the task of leading my congregation through the book of Leviticus on Wednesday nights. I have never before attempted to do this mostly because I have never felt ready. Leviticus is a tough book to study, but I have found that if you put the hard work in, it will yield delightfully rich fruit.
 

Take the peace offering introduced in Leviticus 3 for example. This was an offering that the Lord prescribed for those who wished to have fellowship with God. It could be an expression of thanks or praise to God. It could also be offered in petition for God’s help in times of hardship.

Here is what was so special about peace offerings. In it, only the fat (the premium choice cuts) of the animal and its blood were burned upon the altar. The rest was divided between the priest and the offeror(s). It was the only kind of sacrificial burnt offering where the individual bringing the offering was permitted to eat a portion of the sacrificed animal.

God gave his people the peace offering so that they could have communion with Him. Think about it, sitting down around a table in a home or at a restaurant is one of our favorite things to do with the people we love. We share meals together after weddings and funerals. A meal was involved in most lifelong sweethearts’ first dates. This is what the Lord afforded his people in the peace offering, a chance to share a meal with the God who loved them and whom they loved.

There are several notable instances in the Old Testaments where peace offerings were given. A peace offering was prescribed in Leviticus 23:19 as a part of the Feast of Weeks celebration (what the Greeks called Pentecost). A peace offering was sacrificed in Deuteronomy 27 just before Moses’ death. Another was given in 1 Samuel 11 after a great victory over the Philistines. My favorite reference to a peace offering is in 1 Kings 8:63, where King Solomon, to dedicate the newly built temple, sacrificed a peace offering so large that the whole nation was able to share in a communion feast with God!

I was wonderfully blessed by studying the peace offering in the Old Testament, but what really blew my mind was when I shifted to studying how the peace offering relates to the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is the tricky thing about Old Testament studies. We have a bad habit of leaving the Old Testament in the Old Testament instead of allowing it to point us to the Christ of the New Testament.

I began to ask the question, is there anything like a peace offering in the New Testament? Is there a place where the worshippers gather around to eat the flesh of a sacrifice? There is!

In John 6:47-57, Jesus told His Jewish inquisitors that unless they ate His flesh and drank his blood they would have “no life.” They thought He was senile, but if they had understood what He was saying and how it related to the peace offering, they would have had peace and fellowship with God. They would have been there at the last supper when Jesus said, “This bread is my body which was given for you… this cup is my blood which takes away sins and gives life.”

What has the Spirit revealed except that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a peace offering in reverse? It was God sacrificing His most precious possession. It was Him inviting us to a feast upon the Lamb that was slain by eating the bread which symbolizes the flesh of the sacrifice and drinking the cup which symbolizes His blood. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper we demonstrate to God that we accept His peace offering.

 
One other thing: In the Old Testament it was forbidden to eat the blood of any animal. All clean animals were given for food, but the blood belonged only to God because the blood was the animal’s life. With that in mind, ponder this: Jesus invites us, not only to eat His flesh but to drink His blood. My English will not allow me to describe how significant is this statement. In it, He invites us to feast on His life and take it into ourselves. His blood gives us life!

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What Does It Mean To Live A Christian Life?

Ask a dozen Christians this question and you will get a dozen different answers. Most of the answers will be some form of “live a good life, please the Lord, be like Jesus, and set the example.” These answers are not necessarily wrong. Good works that please the Lord and set the example for others are fruit of the Spirit, but there is a more biblical answer.
 
The best answer for what the Christian life is all about is summarized in Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
 
The first sentence says, “I have been crucified with Christ.” By this Paul means that he has died to any notion that he can live the life required to please God. He had already blown it. God had created him, given him life, and made it clear what were His righteous requirements. Paul had come up short. Add to this that God had sent His only son to Paul’s rescue, an offer he had initially rejected. Worse, he was a persecutor of the church. It was because of rebellious people like Paul that Jesus suffered condemnation and death.
 
When Paul came to the realization that he had blown it, the man that he once was died. He was nailed to the cross with Christ. He had experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit when he came face to face with Christ on the Road to Damascus. Sorrow over His sin led him to identify with and comprehend the suffering of Christ. He died of godly sorrow.
 
However, he did not remain dead. The next phrase reads, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” When Paul reached the realization that he had blown it… when he died to himself… the crucified and risen Christ came into Paul and took up residence in his heart. By this, Paul, who was once dead and crucified with Christ, was raised up and made to live. Before this occasion where Christ came into Paul, he had been unable to please God, but now, by the power of Christ living in him, he would be able to live for God’s glory. It would not be Paul who was pleasing the Lord, but the Christ who was living in him.
 
After his experience on the Damascus road where he died and was raised again, Paul would not be satisfied with just hanging out and waiting for Jesus to return or call him home. Paul would L-I-V-E. He planted churches all over the Roman world. He was instrumental in raising up new leaders of the Christian faith who would carry on the leadership of the Church after the apostles were martyred. He prayed. He studied. He gave generously. He was honest. He would author much of the New Testament under divine inspiration. All of this represented the life that Paul lived, “in the flesh.”
 
He tells us in Galatians 2:20 that that life he lived in the flesh, he “lived by faith in the Son of God” who loved and gave Himself up for Paul. This is to say that Paul lived not by trusting in his own accomplishments or goodness, but by trusting in Jesus, His life, death, burial, and resurrection. It was the good work that Christ had done for him that caused him to be able to live an abundant life, bringing honor and praise to God the Father.
 

So here is the most biblical answer to the question, “What is the Christian life all about?” First, it is about dying… everyday realizing that the penalty for your sin was suffered by Christ on the cross. Apart from Christ, there is no chance of you pleasing God. If you ever had an opportunity to honor God in your life, you blew it a long time ago. Second, it is about living. If you have died to yourself, then you have also been raised to a new life. So live! Jesus loved you and gave Himself up for you so that by faith in His sacrifice you could live, and with Him living in you, you could make an impact for His glory.


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