Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: service

Having our conscience cleared

Ever feel like God won’t accept you because you’re not being good enough?

Have you ever been afraid that if you do one more bad thing God will reject you?

The truth is…those feelings do not represent reality.  Why?  It’s all because of Jesus, and the effects of His significant sacrifice.  Check this out:

After establishing that Jesus the High Priest is greater than any high priest which served under the old covenant, the author moves on to another example – this time an illustration using the tabernacle:

Hebrews 9:1-7
Now the first covenant also had regulations for ministry and an earthly sanctuary.  For a tabernacle was set up…with these things prepared like this, the priests enter the first room repeatedly, performing their ministry.  But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never with out blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.

This is the way the old covenant worked.  One mediator, one messenger, the high priest (on one day per year), who had to offer sacrifices for both his sins and the peoples’ sins.  The author then points out that

Hebrews 9:8-10
The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the most holy place had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing.  This is a symbol for the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience.  They are physical regulations and only deal with food, drink, and various washings imposed until the time of the new order.

Just as Jesus’ priesthood is greater than previous high priests, so is his interaction with the original, Heavenly tabernacle:

Hebrews 9:11-14
But Christ has appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come.  In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 


For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?

And that is the point – the old covenant’s sacrifice was essentially skin-deep, its activities were done for the purification of the flesh and to maintain the relationship with God.  However, since Jesus gave his own, most-valuable blood, His sacrifice has a greater, deeper effect.  Christ’s sacrifice isn’t just skin-deep, it cleanses all the way down to the level of our consciences.

Because of Jesus, we can now live life free from the guilt of our dead works that were never good enough, because everything we did was always tainted with our selfishness.  Notice too, the author’s contrast to the dead works – instead of doing dead activities, we’re now free to work for and with the living God!

Complete service to and partnership with God was obstructed under the old covenant, due to its limitations.  The previous covenant was limited in that it couldn’t remove sin from humanity, it only covered the sin…until the Greater Messenger of the Greater Covenant came.  In case you missed the author’s point in verse 14, he reiterates:

Hebrews 9:15
Therefore, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Remember that the author has previously established in this letter that the promised eternal inheritance is the future partnership with Jesus in His kingdom.  And it is possible to aim for it only because our high priest has fully paid for and removed our sins. 

With our sins fully removed, we can have our consciences cleared from dead works…leaving us ready and available to do everything God created us to achieve.

What has Jesus freed you to do?  How will you serve the living God?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

An unexpected example

Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, we often find His disciples in an ego-driven discussion, debating which one of them was going to be “the greatest” in Jesus’ kingdom.  On His last night, Jesus gave them a powerful example of what a “great” leader does.

John 13:1, 4-5
Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father.  Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end…So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself.  Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.

I’m certain you could have heard a pin drop.  The normal hustle and bustle of conversation and movement as 13 guys reclined at a low table to eat the Passover meal would have come to a standstill when Jesus picked up the basin and the towel.

Does your state’s Governor handle coat check duty at the annual Governor’s ball?  Does your company’s CEO shine your shoes at the annual budgeting meeting?  Of course not.  So why would the Messiah – at the remembrance meal that foretold His coming – wash the filthy, sweaty, gnarled feet of twelve grown men, all of whom were subordinate to Him?

John 13:12-17
When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them,

“Do you know what I have done for you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord.  This is well said, for I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.”

“I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

The disciples had spent the last three years trying to learn everything they could from Jesus, in order that they might one day be just like Him.  The one who ended up most like Jesus, would be “the greatest” disciple, with all the authority and privilege that would come with that distinction. 

However, Jesus’ actions didn’t negate His title, position, or authority.  Since the disciples had accepted Jesus as their Teacher and Lord, how could they refuse to humble themselves and serve in the menial tasks, like what He had just performed?

As a mentor, we too need to provide a tangible example to our protégé.  Real life examples leave a mark like nothing else can.  Verbal instruction is the foundation for learning and developing others, but they will never forget the example of the time you stepped down and washed their feet.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Less than perfect

Many of us could be mentors, but we choose not to be.  Oftentimes, it’s because we convince ourselves that our personal history or poor choices would prevent us from “doing anybody any good.”

In our minds we don’t expect mentors to be completely perfect, just mostly so.  We think that only Christians who have their lives in order and are living “comfortably blessed” are in a position to really help others.  However, when we look throughout the Bible, we find the opposite to be true.  God has, in fact, used some seriously flawed individuals – even some who had significant problems due to self-inflicted wounds – to mentor and guide others.

For about 300 years after Joshua led God’s people into the Promised Land, the nation of Israel was governed by various judges.  This period was marked by political, moral, and spiritual anarchy and deterioration.  Although some God-focused revivals occurred, the nation was in a continual downward spiral.  The last verse of the book of Judges best described the culture at that time:

Judges 21:25
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.

By the end of this period, the corruption had also infested God’s appointed representatives – the priests.  A man named Eli was the High Priest at that time, with his two sons serving as priests under his supervision. 

1 Samuel 2:12-13, 17
Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord or for the priests’ share of the sacrifices from the people…they treated the Lord’s offering with contempt [because they took for themselves portions the Law had reserved as an offering to God].

1 Samuel 2:22-29
Now Eli was very old.  He heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they were sleeping with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.  He said to them, “Why are you doing these things?  I have heard about your evil actions from all these people.  No, my sons, the report I hear from the Lord’s people is not good.  If a man sins against another man, God can intercede for him, but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?”

But they would not listen to their father, since the Lord intended to kill them.  By contrast, the boy Samuel grew in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men.

A man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Didn’t I reveal Myself to your ancestral house when it was in Egypt and belonged to Pharaoh’s palace?  I selected your house from the tribes of Israel to be priests, to offer sacrifices on My alter, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in My presence.  I also gave your house all the Israelite fire offerings.  Why, then, do all of you despise My sacrifices and offerings that I require at the place of worship?  You have honored your sons more than Me, by making yourselves fat with the best part of all the offerings of My people of Israel.’

The problem is that Eli and his sons are supposed to represent the people to God and represent God to the people.  Eli had more than a passing knowledge of his sons’ long-running misdeeds and the disgrace they brought to God’s reputation.  God had given Moses direction on how to handle those in the community who blatantly disregard God’s laws:

Numbers 15:30-31
But the person who acts defiantly, whether native or foreign resident, blasphemes the Lord.  That person is to be cut off from his people.  He will certainly be cut off, because he has despised the Lord’s word and broken His command; his guilt remains on him.

These consequences were for the community at large, and Eli’s family held a much higher status.  Since he did not follow through with God’s prescribed consequence, Eli was showing preferential treatment of his own sons over God.  Because of this, God brings the prescribed punishment down on Eli, his sons, and the rest of their lineage:

1 Samuel 2:30-34
“Therefore, the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Although I said your family and your ancestral house would walk before Me forever, the Lord now says, “No longer!”  I will honor those who honor Me, but those who despise Me will be disgraced.

“ ‘Look, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your ancestral family, so that none in your family will reach old age.  You will see distress in the place of worship, in spite of all that is good in Israel, and no one in your family will ever again reach old age.  Any man from your family I do not cut off from My altar will bring grief and sadness to you.  All your descendants will die violently.  This will be the sign that will come to you concerning your two sons Hophni and Phinehas: both of them will die on the same day.’ ”

If God directly rebuked us like this, we would probably assume that we’re disqualified from any type of useful service toward God.  The consequences of self-inflicted wounds can become roadblocks to the ways we’ve previously served God, but that doesn’t mean we are completely useless to God the rest of our lives.

The punishments God told Eli eventually came true.  However, in the years between the sentencing and justice being served, Eli mentored another young man.  Samuel grew up to be one of the greatest prophets of Israel, and he shepherded the nation through some turbulent times.

Just because you’re down – it doesn’t mean you’re out.
Just because you have a “past”, or a “record”, or a “history” – it doesn’t mean you’re useless.
Just because God legitimately punishes us – it doesn’t mean we’re disqualified from mentoring others.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Called, by God's will

Colossians 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother:
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae.

Paul is an apostle…by God’s will.  He didn’t choose this for himself.  God appointed him to specific service.  An apostle is a delegate or messenger.  Someone who is an apostle has a specific function – that person is chosen by Christ to be His ambassador. 

Notice also that Paul doesn’t identify himself as a believer by God’s will.  Trusting Christ for eternal life is something that Paul chose to do; however, the work we do in God’s family is something that God chooses for us.

There are many examples of God choosing both groups of people and individuals for specific service to Him.  Moses told the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 7:6
For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God.  The Lord you God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.

Even then, from among the Israelites, God chose the Levites to serve as His priests.  God also chose individuals who would be the leaders, judges, prophets, and kings for the nation.  Some served faithfully (Joshua, David) but others struggled in their appointed positions (Samson, Jonah).  Even though none of them were perfect, each person God chose had a specific responsibility toward the people.  They were to aid the people in fulfilling God’s desired purpose for the nation of Israel:

Exodus 19:5-6
Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.

When the nation of Israel was in right relationship with God, they became a shining example to the rest of the world.  The groups and individuals which God chose for specific service were to help guide the nation toward this end.

Paul sees his apostleship in the same light.  He also sees that Jesus calls others in the church family to specific kinds of service:

Ephesians 4:11-12
And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son

We all have our roles, and Paul is doing his part.  As an apostle, he has specific insight from God to share with those in Colossae – which we can also benefit from as we read his letter.

Whether you find your calling in the list above, or you are one of the saints being trained in the work of ministry, God has work for us to do.  By God’s will, some of us work to build up the body and some of us work to minister to those outside of the body.  Either way, we have the opportunity to partner with the Creator of Everything in His most important mission.

Do you know what service you are called to?  If not, ask God to show you.  His answer might surprise you…but you can trust that He knows where you belong.

Keep Pressing,
Ken