Guilty or Not

“So the LORD said,
“I will wipe mankind, whom I have created,
 from the face of the earth “
(Genesis 6:7)

Lent 7

Reflection:
One of the greatest mistakes that we can make is to imagine God as a bland, ever- smiling type of Father Christmas who never gets upset. Any reading of scripture should dispel that image immediately.

God Almighty – the Creator of heaven and earth and all that is in them – is a majestic and awesomely holy God. No one who sins can live in His presence and no one who has sinned can ever cleanse themselves of that sin in a way that is acceptable to God. Sin put us outside of the presence of God forever.

God is known as a God of love, and so He is. But that does not mean that He ignores sin and laughs it off. If He did He would not be a God of love. Love cannot look on the pain and suffering – the violence and exploitation – the murder and rape – the genocides and slavery – the abuse of women and children – the homeless and starving – without being angry. That anger is not only at the fact of such suffering but is an anger directed at the people, systems and contexts that have contributed towards it and those who have been directly involved in it. Not one will be forgotten or overlooked. Behind it all is the sin of the rejection of the God who created us and called us into a way of relationship with Him and with others – a way of life and living – that is good and a blessing to all.

Scripture tells us of the judgement to come and paints a horrifying picture of it. It warns us-  

“For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30-31)

And then, in the Revelation, we hear the terrifying words concerning Jesus,

“He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15)

From the very beginning there was no avoiding the searching eyes of God, nowhere to hide, no excuse to give. Judgement will happen and God’s decision will be both final and eternal.

Without God there would be no hope and no future. However, God in His great love has provided a way out. It is not by His ignoring or dismissing our sin and sins – but by taking them so seriously that He took His own terrifying and holy judgement upon Himself with all its ghastly and deathly consequences. That is where Lent is leading us – those who will go there and look to the God who is both Judge and Saviour for our salvation.

Prayer:

Lord God You are Holy – and I am a sinner. You are justified in Your judgement. I come to You because even now You are calling me. Take my hand Lord and never let me go. Amen.

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Hold on to God

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith … Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful …. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”
(Hebrews 10:22-24)

 

Reflection:
In the Temple worship access into the Holy of Holies was ‘forbidden except for one person (the high priest) on one occasion (the Day of Atonement) on one condition (that he took with him the blood of a sacrifice)’ (John Stott). Jesus Christ fulfilled all the requirements of the Law and accordingly through Him access into the presence of God Almighty is now open to all believers all of the time.

As a result the writer of this letter urges his readers to respond in three ways.

“Let us draw near to God.” There is no barrier and we are called to enter into and remain in God’s presence through our faith in Jesus Christ and all that He has achieved for us.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess.” Notwithstanding the fact that many have fallen away and the world has turned away we hold onto our sure expectation that the Lord will come again in all His glory – and that we will be with Him. He has promised it and He is faithful.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on.” Encouragement and example are great attractions. As we remain faithful in worship and ministry, and invite others to join in or stay with us it may keep them from falling away or bring them back. Relationships are a greater attraction than legalisms!

Response:
Be a witness through faith, hope and love in all the stages of life.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus help me please to remain faithful and true to You at all times and to encourage others in the same way. Amen.

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Jesus Waiting

“But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time
 he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool”
(Hebrews 10:12-13)

Reflection:
Jesus resting – from His labours; Jesus reigning – in majesty and power; and now Jesus waiting.

This understanding was first stated in Psalm 110 and Jesus referred it to Himself. It contains all the elements of resting, reigning and waiting.

  • “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Psalm 110:1)

Whilst He rests and reigns He also waits in the confidant assurance that all His enemies will be subdued and His kingdom will come in all its fullness. It is also clear that this waiting is not a blind and careless assumption that evil will eventually wear itself out. On the contrary the Godhead continues to act.

  • “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit …. until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Psalm 110:1)

So God continues to work in and through and around our lives and situations to answer the prayer that He taught us.

  • “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)

The Revelation given by the Father to the Son, by the Son to John, and by John to the Church, leaves us in no doubt whatsoever.

Prayer:

Lord establish Your Kingdom rule and authority in my life so that I may be a part of the answer to Your prayer. Amen.

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Jesus sat down

“But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins,
he sat down at the right hand of God”
(Hebrews 10:12)

Reflection:
When Jesus had ascended into heaven – after His death and resurrection –  He sat down at the right hand of God.

The first insight we get from this is that He – like God on the seventh day of creation – was now resting. He had done what He had set out to do and, as He had said from the cross, it was now finished.

 “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3)

The priests of Israel continued their ministry every day of the year and, as no chairs were provided in the temple, they stood at all times. Jesus, our great high priest, having offered the one, perfect and sufficient sacrifice of Himself, was not required to do anything further in this regard– and so He sat down.

What God had taught us through the prophet Isaiah was shown to be true of the Living Word, Jesus Christ.

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11)

Prayer:

Thank You Father that no further action is required on Your part to provide for the forgiveness of our sins and to open the way for us to come into Your presence. It has been done. Amen.

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Jesus our Priest

“Now there have been many of those priests,
since death prevented them from continuing in office;
but because Jesus lives for ever,
he has a permanent priesthood”
(Hebrews 7:23-24)

Reflection:
High Priest is one of Jesus many titles and descriptions of His ministry.

The Levitical priests of Israel were appointed in terms of the Law. Their appointment was temporary as they would in due course die. One would be selected as the high priest. He would enter the Most Holy Place once a year on the Day of Atonement to place the blood of the sacrifice on the Ark of the Covenant as God had prescribed.

In addition, and because of the sinful character of both priests and people, there were a number of sacrifices prescribed by the Law.  Some of these had to be repeated daily. They were temporary expedients because of the ongoing sin. But they were also a continual reminder that only the sacrifice of blood could deal with sin, and this would involve more than just the death of an animal.

“But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3-4)

Jesus was appointed apart from the Law. He lives forever and so His appointment is permanent and eternal.

Like the Levitical priests He was ordained to offer a sacrifice to God – to satisfy the provisions of the Law. However, where their sacrifices had to be repeated daily because of their own ongoing sinfulness, His sacrifice of Himself for our sins was a one, perfect and sufficient sacrifice. It gained eternal redemption and salvation for those who put their faith and trust in Him.

“He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need-one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:25-26)

Jesus is the fulfilment of the priesthood in every way. His life was sinless, His sacrificial death complete and His intercession on our behalf eternal. He is forever in the Holy Presence of God Himself.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for being both our sacrifice and our high priest – holding us before the Lord God Almighty and enabling us to come into His presence. Amen.

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Jesus Suffering

“In bringing many sons to glory,
 it was fitting that God,
 for whom and through whom everything exists,
should make the author of their salvation
perfect through suffering”
(Hebrews 2:10)

Reflection:
Jesus entered into our humanity, entered into our temptations, and entered into our suffering as well.  He is revealed as the complete or perfect human – all that He ought to be. He avoided nothing of what it is to be human but embraced it all – even our suffering. In truth He endured a suffering more intense than anything endured by any other human being.

He suffered the accumulated weight of the sin and guilt of all humankind – past, present and future. He took into Himself all the pain and suffering of the world, and to such an extent that He could say,

  • ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40)
  • “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45)

 The prophet Isaiah said of Him,

  • “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3)
  • “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4)
  • “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5)

The truth is that the man Jesus Christ was more truly human than any of us.

Response:
The birth that we are about to celebrate is the entry into the world of ‘the Suffering Servant’

Prayer:

Lord Jesus help me to know that my pain is Your pain – that You are with me in and through it all – and that Your resurrection is mine as well. Amen.

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Jesus Tempted

“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted,
he is able to help those who are being tempted”
(Hebrews 2:18)

Reflection:
Scripture is quite clear that God cannot be tempted.

  • “God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1:13)

However the Bible account specifically refers to Jesus temptations in the desert and in the Garden of Gethsemane.

  • “for forty days he was tempted by the devil” ( Luke 4:2)
    • “The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3)
    • “if you worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:7)
    • If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here” (Luke 4:9)
  • “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39)

The writer to the Hebrews goes on to say that,

  • “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18)
  • “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15)

Clearly, in becoming man, Jesus had walked away from His immunity to temptation and made Himself vulnerable to it, just as we all are. This was not God brushing the temptations aside like irrelevant irritations. This was man facing the reality of real and relevant temptations and refusing to succumb to them. He was born perfect man and died perfect man for not once did He sin!

Response:
Whenever we are tempted let us remember that the Man Jesus said no to it.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus thank You for meeting temptation head on and showing me that it can be overcome. Help me please to walk with You and to recognise it and resist it whenever it crosses my path. Amen.

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Jesus as Human

“Since the children have flesh and blood,
He too shared in their humanity”
( Hebrews 2:14)

Reflection:
Hebrews 1 emphasizes that Jesus Christ is one with the Father and shares His being. Now Hebrews 2 emphasizes that He became one with us so that He could share our being.
He who is fully God entered into our humanity and became fully human. This chapter gives us four main truths about His humanity.

Firstly He experienced the frailty and vulnerability of a human being. His very real human body needed food and drink and sleep. He displayed very real human emotions such as joy, sorrow, compassion and anger. He wept outside the tomb of Lazarus and when He was whipped and nailed to the cross blood flowed from His wounds. His body died.

During His ministry He prayed to the Father for direction and submitted Himself completely to the Father’s will.

  • For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:49-50)
  • “The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31)

Luke also makes it clear that He needed the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit who He received at His baptism by John.

  • “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert” (Luke 4:1)
  • “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside” (Luke 4:14)

Jesus was not merely God in disguise. He made Himself fully human to enter fully into our humanity so that He could fully represent us and fully absorb our sin and guilt, our pain and our suffering.

Response:
The Creator became a part of the fallen creation for my sake.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for entering into our fallen humanity so that You could find me, set me free and lead me safely home. Amen.

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(Acknowledgements to John Stott)

 

 

 

Jesus and Angels

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
(Hebrews 1:6)

Reflection:
Angels appear in Scripture as important and powerful beings. However they bear no comparison to Jesus Christ. Although He was ‘made a little lower than the angels’ we see Him become the object of their worship. God says ‘let all God’s angels worship Him’ and at the news of His birth

  • “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:13-14)

The writer to the Hebrews stresses this point on a number of occasions.

  • “For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? (Hebrews 1:5)
  • “To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? (Hebrews 1:13)

About Jesus Christ God said,

  • “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the sceptre of your kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8)
  • “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (Hebrews 1:10-12)

The writer finishes by saying that all angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. By comparison Jesus Christ is our salvation, our Lord, our King and our God. If all the angels worship Him how much more should we!

Response:
Acknowledge the Lord Jesus as your Lord, your King and your God – and your eternal salvation.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus I bow before You and Your Name above all names. You are my great and wonderful Saviour and my glorious Lord, and I kneel in humble awe and gratitude at Your feet. Amen.

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Saviour of Sinners

“After he had provided purification for sins,
He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”
(Hebrews 1:3)

Reflection:
We have looked at Jesus Christ as the pinnacle of God’s revelation, as the Lord of Creation and as the Son of the Father. Now we move on to see this Divine Son as the Saviour of sinners as well.

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners from the wrath of God and from everlasting separation.

  • “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
  • ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15)
  • “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)

Jesus was not an angel who had volunteered or one of the heavenly host forced to sacrifice himself, nor was He an arbitrary human selected by God because of some nearly perfect characteristic. He was and is God the Son.

  • “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7)

And now, having achieved the purpose for which He was sent, He sits in glory, majesty and power at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. And in this position He has not abandoned us but continues to pray for us.

  • “He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25)

Jesus Christ is totally committed to us and to our salvation. We see it in His coming amongst us in human likeness, in his death upon the cross on our behalf, in His ongoing dedication of Himself to prayer and in His presence within us through the Holy Spirit.  This same Lord Jesus is coming again.

Response:
Jesus is God my Saviour and my Lord

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I owe You both my present and my future life. Thank You for Your total commitment to me through yesterday, today and tomorrow, and for being both my beginning and my destination. Amen.

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