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Doing Even More

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

There are many things that I love about being a preacher, but one of my favorites is the encouragement I get from good people who are diligently seeking God.  For me these days, it seems like every Sunday night is a Paul-in-1-Thessalonians 3 moment.  Since the big pandemic shutdown late last year, it’s been a joy to watch our evening attendance slowly rebuild itself. 

The progress hasn’t been linear, but on the attendance charts, it’s plain to see.  More and more, the members here, people who had gotten out of the habit of worshiping on Sunday nights, are investing the effort to re-instill that habit.  I think that’s great, and it speaks volumes about who all the people who are here tonight want to be.

To the Sunday evening crowd, then, I can only repeat Paul’s commendation in 1 Thessalonians 4:1.  All you can say to the folks who are already working is encouraging them to do better!  Though obviously there are any number of ways that all of us can improve in our service to God, there are three that I want to focus on this evening, ways that every brother and sister here can do even more.

The first of these is to MAKE THE MOST OF THE TIME.  Consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:15-16.  I think his reasoning here is fascinating.  He says some familiar things:  pay attention, and make the most of your time.  However, his reasoning is not very familiar at all.  We should do these things because the days are evil.  In other words, we should take advantage of the opportunities we have right now because life is hard, the future is uncertain, and we may never get opportunities like this again.

If there is any lesson that we should have learned from the pandemic, surely this is it!  On January 1, 2020, none of us anticipated the way that the next 18 months were going to go.  We had no idea how greatly our lives were going to change.  For many of us, we had no idea that an illness from the other side of the globe was going to put those lives in danger.    

On January 1, 2020, all of us were rotten future-predictors.  On June 6th, 2021, are any of us any better future-predictors?  We have no idea what the future holds!  For all we know, on January 1, 2023, we might not even be here anymore!

This tells us, then, that the time for serving God in all those ways we’ve been thinking about is not 18 months from now, or at some indefinite point in the future.  That time is now. 

This could mean any number of things for us.  It could mean that we follow through on that good intention of being here every time the doors are open.  It could mean that we commit to spending more time on our kids and grandkids instead of work and hobbies.  It could mean that if we fell off the daily-Bible-reading wagon in February, we get back on it in June.  I don’t know what the answer is for all of you, but I think each of you knows what it is for yourself.

The future is uncertain.  We might not be able to act then, but all of us can act now.  Every day that God gives us is a priceless opportunity.  Let’s use each of them to glorify Him.

Second, let’s recognize the opportunity we have right now to LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR.  Jesus emphasizes the importance of love in Matthew 22:34-40.  This is a familiar passage to most of us, but I think there is a particular application that we need to consider.  Remember how back during the pandemic, we would check the CDC site every day to get the latest COVID numbers?  Right now, there’s a public-health crisis going on that may be even worse, but nobody is updating a website daily about it.  It’s a mental-health crisis.

Human beings are social creatures.  God designed us to enjoy and even need being around others.  This is why in prison, the worst thing that you can do to punish somebody who has been locked away for life is to put him in solitary confinement.  Well, brethren, for the past 18 months, COVID plus government intervention has put us all in solitary confinement, and the mental damage that has done is incalculable.

Worse still, the disease prevents the cure.  If you’ve got COVID bad, you’re going to go to the hospital, but if you’re badly depressed, you’re not going to want to go anywhere or do anything to get better.  None of us have the foggiest idea how many Americans are in this predicament, but I would guess that they number in the tens of millions.  Each one of those people is a silent tragedy.

If they can’t reach out to us, we need to reach out to them.  We need to be checking up on the people we know, both inside and outside the church, and engaging deeply enough with them to make sure that they’re OK.  This is particularly true for those whose behavior has changed significantly pre-pandemic to post-pandemic.  There may well be a problem there, and we need to love our neighbor enough to find the truth and act to help if needed.

Finally, let’s PRAY FOR DOORS.  Paul advises the Colossians to do so in Colossians 4:2-4.  It’s axiomatic that people start seeking the Lord in hard times.  We see this pattern occur repeatedly in the book of Judges, among many other places in Scripture.  We have undeniably been through a hard time, so what does that tell us that a lot of people have been thinking about?

Once again, though, these people aren’t necessarily going to be boldly coming to us.  If you don’t have God in your life, and COVID has got you thinking about the frailty and insecurity of human existence, that’s a pretty depressing line of thought!  Right now, the people who most see their need for God and would be most willing to accept Him may well also be those who are least able to do anything about it.  They’re really unlikely to show up on their own at a church building full of people they don’t know.

What do we do about it?  We pray about it, that’s what!  We ask that God through His providence will lead us to encounter people who will be receptive to the gospel.  Of course, if we are loving our neighbor as we should and checking up on people, we show God that we will walk through the door if He opens it, and we make it more likely that opportunities will arise.

When that door opens, you don’t have to be Jesus or the apostle Paul to take advantage, either.  I’m here to tell you:  converting somebody who isn’t ready for the gospel is impossible, but converting somebody who is, is easy.  Even if you’re not up for even a basic study, you’re up for inviting somebody to services.  Just do that, and keep praying, and good things will happen. 

The Path of the Righteous

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Back when Clay and I were organizing our preaching for the month of May, he texted me and asked what two light topics I wanted to preach on.  About 10 seconds later, I replied with Psalm 27 and the text I’m going to be preaching on this morning.  “Wow; that was quick!” Clay responded.

There’s a reason for that, and it’s because both Psalm 27 and this morning’s passage are passages that I love, passages that make me smile whenever I read them, passages that I try to carry around with me everywhere I go to make sense of life. 

Psalm 27 is great, but if I had to pick one of the two, after offering to give up a limb instead, I would pick this morning’s.  Look with me at Proverbs 4:18-19.  These are two short verses, but they encapsulate everything I love about the word of God.  They are simple, they are beautiful, and they are profound.  Indeed, they are so profound that I intend to spend all of my time in the pulpit this morning without citing another verse.  Let’s see, then, what we can learn from a close examination of the path of the righteous.

There are three key elements in this proverb that help us to understand it, and the first of the three is THE PATH.  Note first of all that Solomon says that there is both the path of the righteous and the way of the wicked.  In other words, everybody is on a spiritual path. 

This seems simple, but it’s quite meaningful.  Sometimes, you run into people who think they are spiritually neutral.  They’ll tell you that they leave all that God stuff to somebody else and mind their own business.  Well, they might think they’re neutral, but God doesn’t think they’re neutral, and the devil doesn’t think they’re neutral either.  Their feet are on a path, and they are headed to a destination.

Second, it’s worth noting too that everybody’s path starts out dark.  Yes, Solomon says that the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, but what’s it like before the light of dawn shows up?  It’s dark! 

In other words, both the righteous and the wicked start out without a spiritual clue.  When first we hit that age of accountability, none of us have any sense.  We may be blessed with godly parents or other mentors, who are sort of like a spiritual flashlight, but those without help are blundering around in the woods at midnight.  Max Dawson likes to say that if you haven’t wrecked your life by the time you turn 22, you probably won’t, but sadly, lots of people do wreck their lives before that.  Sometimes their bad decisions leave them with a criminal record or a drug habit; sometimes they cost them their lives and their souls.

Finally, as the above implies, everybody’s path is dangerous.  This isn’t like one of those “trails” in the national parks that are four feet wide, paved, and wheelchair-accessible.  Instead, it’s more like a deer path in the woods in the middle of nowhere.  That’s the way life is for all of us.  It’s filled with all kinds of trials and temptations and traps.  The devil hopes that we will come crashing into every one of them.

However, the difference between the path of the righteous and the path of the wicked is that the former is illuminated by THE LIGHT OF DAWN.  This we should understand not literally, but metaphorically, as referring to spiritual enlightenment.  The Bible speaks of many ways we can become enlightened.  We can study the word, which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.  We can benefit from the instruction of older, more mature Christians.  We can pray for wisdom.  We can observe the lives of others. 

Regardless, this is the key difference between the righteous and the wicked.  This is what determines the course of our lives and our eternal destinies.  The righteous seek enlightenment and benefit from it.  The wicked don’t.

Second, because the enlightenment of the righteous is like the dawn, this tells us that the process is gradual.  How many of you have ever been outside waiting throughout the time from pitch blackness to full day?  It’s not like God flips on a light switch, is it?  It’s sloooow!  At any given point in the process, the change that is occurring is imperceptible.

So it is with our spiritual enlightenment.  There are lots of people who want the wisdom without the Bible study and the meditation and the prayer.  Guess what?  It doesn’t work like that.  If we want God to illuminate our world for us, we have to seek Him day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, decade by decade.  There are no quick fixes.  If we want our path to get brighter, there is no substitute for time and effort.

However, as slow as it is, the light of dawn is transformative.  You start out in pitch blackness, then you start seeing dim outlines, then a black-and-white vision of reality.  Finally, everything fills in with color, and there’s no sign left that such a thing as night even existed.

This is how the illumination of spiritual wisdom is.  It changes everything.  We see life and the things of eternity in vastly different terms than the people of the world do.  The more enlightened we become, the greater the difference between us and everybody else becomes too.

This difference consists of KNOWING OR NOT.  The path of the righteous gets brighter and brighter until the course of their lives is fully illuminated.  This doesn’t mean that the path of the righteous is safe.  I have scrapes on my shins right now because I tripped over a branch in the woods in broad daylight.

So it is for us spiritually too.  No matter how wise and spiritually enlightened we become, the devil still trips all of us up occasionally.  However, we are able to avoid most of the sins that would entangle us, and even when we do get entangled, at least we know what happened and can learn from it.

It is not so for the wicked.  The wicked aren’t hiking through the woods in the daytime.  They’re still out there in the dark.  Again, this may not be something that we experience normally.  The streets of my neighborhood all have streetlights.  If I want to, I can go wandering around in reasonable safety. 

However, that wasn’t the experience of the ancient Israelites, and if we’re out in the boonies, even today, on an overcast night, it can get can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face kind of dark.  That’s what life is like for the wicked, but they’re trying to go down the path anyway, and, as you would expect, they end up tripping over all kinds of stuff.  The sins and troubles that the righteous see and avoid are the most prominent features of the lives of the wicked.  Spiritually speaking, their shins look like somebody’s been whaling on them with a golf club!

Worse still, the wicked don’t even know why they’re stumbling.  They don’t get it, they don’t learn, and they go on doing the same dumb stuff.  You ever known somebody like that?  It seems like their life is playing the disaster song on repeat.  Over and over and over again, it’s the same mistakes.  These are people who don’t learn because they refuse to learn.

It might seem hard to be righteous.  It might seem hard to make that effort to be here Sunday morning and Sunday evening and Wednesday evening.  It might seem hard to make time for that Bible reading every morning.  It might seem hard to remember to constantly seek wisdom from God in prayer.  You know what’s a lot harder?  Not doing any of those things.

Going Outside the Camp

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

As Clay noted in his evening sermon last week, the last segment of the book of Hebrews, like the last part of many New-Testament epistles, contains practical instructions and admonitions, the so-what of the doctrinal discussion earlier in the book.  However, even the last part of the book of Hebrews is still the book of Hebrews.  If we just glance through Hebrews 13, we’ll see quotations from the Old Testament and other allusions from the Old Testament that most people off the street wouldn’t understand.

It can be tempting to take a buffet approach to Bible contexts like this.  We go through and we pick out the parts about singing praises to God and not cheating on our spouses, and we ignore the parts that aren’t as accessible.  However, there are two problems with that approach.  First, it’s lazy, and Christians are called to press on, not to be lazy.  Second, it cheats us of the full measure of the encouragement that we’re supposed to gain from the word of God.  Hebrews may be harder to figure out, but once we do, it’s worth it!  With this in mind, then, let’s consider what the Hebrews writer means when he talks about going outside the camp.

The first section of this context that we’re going to be considering is about THE CHANGELESS CHRIST.  Look with me at Hebrews 13:8-9.  First, we see the writer observing that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  As He was, so He is.  As He is, so He will be. 

This has two significant implications for us.  First, it tells us that the help He offers will remain the same.  I often talk about how we should be encouraged by what the Bible tells us about the faithfulness of God.  This is why we should be encouraged.  God hasn’t changed and Jesus hasn’t changed, so we can expect the same blessings from them today. 

Christians in the first century faced all kinds of trials and troubles and persecutions, but the Lord got them through it.  If Jesus Christ is the same, that tells us all we need to know about what He offers us.  So too, through Jesus Christ, the disciples of the first century found forgiveness of their sins.  Saul of Tarsus, the self- described chief of sinners, was forgiven so completely that he became an apostle!  If that’s how completely Jesus forgave Saul, how completely will the same Jesus forgive us?

Second, if Jesus is the same, His expectations remain the same.  The things that pleased Him in the first century will please Him in the twenty-first century too.  On the other hand, the things that He did not authorize in the first century He does not authorize today either.  If we want to honor Him today, the Scriptures tell us all we need to know.

This is why the admonition of v. 9 is so important.  If Jesus’ blessings and expectations remain the same, above all else, we must not go astray.  We must hold to His word, and we must hold to Him.  If we do, it’s all on the table, even eternal life.  If we don’t, we stand to lose it all because we have forsaken Him.

The Hebrews writer justifies this claim by describing OUR EXCLUSIVE ALTAR.  Let’s keep reading in Hebrews 13:10-12.  Here, the Hebrews writer is playing off of his comments about food regulations in v. 9.  The Jews were trying to tell the Jewish Christians that they couldn’t eat certain foods.  By contrast, the Hebrews writer wants those Jewish Christians to understand that they have spiritual food that the unbelievers couldn’t eat. 

Here is where things start getting confusing unless we’re experts in Leviticus, which, since we haven’t taken Josh’s class next quarter yet, we might not be!  Though the writer doesn’t give us a Scripture citation, he’s referring to the rituals for the Mosaic Day of Atonement, which is described in Leviticus 16.  In particular, he’s talking about the regulation of Leviticus 16:27, which required that when the goat was sacrificed for that yearly sin offering, the Israelites weren’t supposed to eat it.  Instead, they had to take it outside the camp and burn it.

Going outside the camp, then, isn’t just about physical location.  It’s about spiritual separation.  Symbolically, by burning that goat, the sins of the people were removed from them and destroyed. 

However, the Hebrews writer wants us to understand that rather than just being a weird Old-Testament custom, the goat of the sin offering is a type of Christ.  Just like the goat was burned outside the camp, Jesus was taken outside the city walls of Jerusalem and crucified.  He too took the sins of the people out from their midst.

There are a couple of crucial differences, though.  Nobody ate the goat of the sin offering, but all of us have become partakers in Christ and His altar.  Under the Law of Moses, the blood was sprinkled on the ark of the covenant, but all of us who are baptized believers have been sprinkled with the blood of Christ ourselves.  Christ separates us from our sins, but He also unites us with His Father and Himself.

All of this leads irresistibly to the writer’s conclusion about GOING TO JESUS.  Let’s finish our reading this evening with Hebrews 13:13-14.  If we want to be united with Jesus, we have to go where He is—outside the camp.  This doesn’t mean that we have to literally walk the pilgrimage route to Golgotha.  Instead, it means that we have to spiritually separate ourselves from the world.

This sounds very duh, but it’s actually quite painful.  As Clay talked about last week, the Jewish Christians suffered a lot.  They were thrown in prison, they had their possessions looted, and if they kept on, they were going to have their blood shed.  The Hebrews writer basically says to them, “What did you expect?”  Jesus was mocked and humiliated as He left the camp; those who want to do the same should expect to bear His disgrace too.

This is true for us too.  When our family gives us a hard time because we’re Christians, when people online accuse us of being hateful because we stand for Jesus and His word, when our friends don’t want to be our friends anymore because we can’t go drinking with them, we are going outside the camp to join Jesus, bearing His disgrace.  There’s no way to pick the world and Jesus at the same time, and when we leave them, and they laugh at us for it, we’re picking Him.

The next verse explains why anyone would endure this kind of abuse.  We leave the city here because we’re seeking the city which is to come.  We leave behind the earthly Jerusalem so we can claim our place in the heavenly Jerusalem.  In the spiritual realm, there is no dual citizenship.  Either we are citizens of the world, which will be destroyed, or we are citizens of heaven, which won’t be. 

Sure, declaring ourselves to be citizens of heaven will bring suffering on our heads here, but it also is the only possible path to eternal blessing.  We can’t spend our time the way the world does.  We can’t spend our money the way the world does.  Instead, we have to go to Jesus now so that we can be with Him forever.

The Lord Is My Light

Thursday, May 20, 2021

As hopefully most of us have picked up on by now, our congregational theme for the year is “Be the Light”.  As a result, Clay and I are going to be spending the rest of the Sunday mornings in May preaching on various aspects of light.  We aren’t going to be following any particular theme, just looking at the abundant Biblical discussions of light.

This morning, though, I’d like to look at a passage that reminds us that we’re mirrors, not light bulbs.  The light that we shed isn’t our own light; instead, it is the light that we reflect from God.  Without His light, we would spend our lives in darkness.

This is important all the time, but it is especially important in difficult times.  Even when we feel like the night is closing in around us and there is no hope, God still gives us hope.  His power, compassion, and love constantly show us the way forward.  Without Him, we cannot succeed, but with Him, we cannot fail.  This is not a new insight; indeed, it is something that David understood very well 3000 years ago.  Let’s consider what it means, then, that the Lord is the light for each one of us.

Our text, of course, will be Psalm 27, and in it, David first identifies God as THE STRONGHOLD OF MY LIFE.  Look at Psalm 27:1-3.  David’s fearlessness really shines through in this reading, but the important point is that David’s confidence isn’t in himself, even though he was a gifted man.  His confidence is in God.

The same holds true for us.  God is the only reason we can have to be fearless.  Somebody who goes through life without God and is confident and unafraid isn’t courageous.  They’re a fool.  Sooner or later, something is going to happen in every one of our lives that we cannot handle.  However, there is nothing that can happen that God can’t handle, so fearlessness in Him is completely justified.

Second, notice how David looks to the past for confidence for the future.  God defeated his enemies for him before, so no future enemies can make him afraid.  This is a vital lesson for us.  Repeatedly, God has proven Himself to be faithful.  We see it in the lives of the people of the Bible, and if we’ve been Christians for any length of time, we’ve seen it in our own lives too.  On that basis, we can be sure that God will be faithful in the future too.  Whatever lies in front of us, He will get us through it!

In the next section of the psalm, David asks for ONE THING FROM THE LORD.  He explains in Psalm 27:4-6.  This is an interesting text.  David asks God to let him dwell in His house and His temple all the days of David’s life, but as far as we know, there wasn’t a temple in existence during David’s time at all.  We should understand this, then, as not being about any earthly building, but as being about God’s heavenly presence.

This is sort of like walking with God.  It doesn’t mean that we can look over and see Him trotting down the sidewalk next to us.  Instead, it means that we are abiding in Him. 

It’s vital for us to be with God because when we’re with Him, He’s with us.  As David observes, that’s when He protects us in times of trouble.  David describes Him as simultaneously hiding us in His tent and putting us on a rock.  Basically, the protection that God offers is the best that it can possibly be.

When God is faithful to us, though, we have a responsibility to be faithful to Him by doing what David describes—praising Him for His goodness.  Too often, we busily bang on God’s door when we’re in trouble and need help, but as soon as He helps us, we go our way without even a thank-you.  That’s not right.  Every time we experience God’s blessing in our lives, let’s make sure that we glorify Him as He deserves.

The third part of the psalm is about SEEKING GOD’S FACE.  Consider Psalm 27:7-10.  Once again, I think this is a passage about not taking God for granted.  My father-in-law likes to joke, “I told you I loved you once.  If that changes, I’ll let you know.”  That’s not how our relationship with God ought to be.  If we truly are intent on dwelling in His house, we need to be calling out to Him and seeking His face continually.

We do this in part because we recognize the all too ample reasons we give Him to turn away from us.  When David is worried about God turning him away in anger, he’s not just being paranoid.  He says this because he knows he’s an imperfect man seeking a perfect God.  When we get complacent about our sin, God will turn away from us in anger too.  Instead, we must seek Him in humility and repentance.

Notice, though, what the result of seeking God in this way will be.  He will be a better protector for us than our own parents would be.  For some Christians, sad to say, this is a low bar to meet, but in my case, I had amazing parents, and God is still a more faithful friend than they were!  How good it is to have a God we can trust so much!

Finally, the psalm discusses WAITING FOR THE LORD.  Let’s read here from Psalm 27:11-14.  One of the things that I love about the Psalms is the way they capture the divided thinking of humankind.  On the one hand, we see that David is concerned about a new batch of enemies that has risen up.  On the other, though, he expresses complete confidence in a positive outcome despite his fear.

Isn’t this so often the way that our own minds work?  I know who God is.  I know that I’ve seen His goodness in my life, over and over again.  And yet, every time I see some new challenge ahead of me, there’s that little voice inside my mind that says, “This time is different.  God won’t get you through this one.” 

When we hear that little voice, it doesn’t mean that we are unbelieving, any more than David was unbelieving.  It means that we’re human.  Always, our hearts will be divided between faith and fear.  God knows that, and He wants us to know that it has always been so with His people.

Look, though, at what the conclusion of David’s self-talk is.  He tells himself, “Wait for the Lord.”  This is where our self-talk should end too.  No matter what our problems are, waiting for the Lord is always the right answer.  Even if we do not see how it possibly could work out, God knows just what He will do.  He will be faithful to us as He always has been faithful to all of His people.

Why Is the Lamb Worthy?

Friday, April 30, 2021

Revelation 5:10-10 presents one of the most stirring scenes in all of Scripture.  John has spent the previous chapter painting us a picture of the eternal glorification of God that goes on around His throne.  However, in the first part of this chapter, a problem arises.  God holds a book with seven seals, a book that represents His purpose on earth.  However, no one can be found who is able to fulfill that plan.

No one, that is, besides the One described as the conquering lion of the tribe of Judah.  John’s angel guide assures him that this One will be worthy. However, His appearance is not that of a lion or a conqueror.  Instead, He looks like a lamb, the meekest of animals, and a lamb that has been brutally butchered at that!  Nonetheless, all the hosts of heaven begin bowing down before Him and acknowledging His worthiness.

In this lamb, of course, we recognize Jesus, the capital-L Lamb of God.  He is indeed the One who has been given the name above every name.  But why?  Why does Jesus deserve to be worshiped by all the inhabitants of heaven and indeed by us too?  Why is the Lamb worthy?

Helpfully, the text before us provides three reasons.  Jesus is worthy to carry forward the purpose of God because HE WAS SLAUGHTERED.  This shows up in the first part of Revelation 5:9.  At first glance, this doesn’t seem like much of a recommendation.  Usually, when we go looking for someone who can accomplish a mighty plan, we don’t pick someone who meekly allowed his enemies to kill him!  In fact, we might think that choosing such a champion would only lead to our defeat too.

However, the fact that Jesus was slaughtered shows His worthiness in several different ways.  First, it proves His humility.  The purposes of the flesh might be best advanced by an arrogant leader, someone who dominates others and exerts his will over them because he believes he is superior. 

Jesus, however, did not and does not regard Himself in that way.  Even though He is the only begotten Son of God and literally is worth more than we are, He did not count Himself as worth more than we are.  Instead, He humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on the cross. 

Second, Jesus’ willingness to be slaughtered shows His obedience.  He did not come to earth or die on His own initiative.  This was not Jesus’ idea.  It was God’s idea.  God asked Him to leave behind the eternal glories of heaven for death on a criminal’s cross, and Jesus did it, just as He did everything else His Father asked of Him. 

Finally, Jesus’ death shows His love.  In John 15, Jesus tells His disciples that no one has greater love than to give his life for his friends, and we are the friends of Jesus if we do what He commands us.  There’s a problem there, though.  None of Jesus’ apostles did what He commanded, and we don’t either.  Jesus didn’t only love us enough to die for us as His friends.  He loved us enough to die for us when we were His enemies.

Second, the text tells us that the Lamb is worthy because HE PURCHASED US.  This shows up in the second part of Revelation 5:9.  Once again, there’s a lot for us to unpack here.  First of all, it tells us why Jesus allowed Himself to be slaughtered.  It’s because He wanted to redeem us from hell, and the only currency that could accomplish the task was His own blood.  The whole earth and everything on it would not suffice to purchase even a single soul from the devil’s bondage, but the lifeblood of Jesus is enough to pay the ransom of billions.  There are spiritual concepts that are impossible for human minds to understand, and I think that one of them is just how precious the blood of Jesus truly is!

Also, notice that the text says that Jesus purchased us for God.  In other words, the blood of Jesus didn’t merely cleanse us of sin.  It also reconciled us to God. 

This was not easy.  God is perfectly holy, perfectly just.  On our own merits, none of us could expect to appear in His presence and live.  He would destroy us instantly because of our sin, and He would have every right to do so. 

However, through the blood of Jesus, His great wrath has been propitiated, and God welcomes us into fellowship because Jesus has suffered what we should have.  When the price has been paid, no debt remains.

Last, this text tells us that those who have been purchased for God have been brought out of every tribe and language and people and nation.  In reconciling us to God, Jesus also has reconciled us to one another.  We know how hard that is.  Every time we look at the news, we see evidence of the divisions that lead people to treat one another in horrible ways.  I see no reason to hope that in this fallen world, human division and hatred ever will come to an end.

However, this impossible task has been accomplished by Christ.  We were many before we came to Him, but now we are one, and in Him, those divisions are far less important than the love that we share and the blood that marks us as His brothers and sisters.

Finally, the Lamb is worthy because HE MADE US A KINGDOM.  Look at Revelation 5:10.  This is deeply significant.  Most of us have trouble appreciating it because we’ve spent our lives as citizens of the United States, the mightiest nation on earth—for now, at least.  However, imagine what it would be like to be a penniless refugee, someone who couldn’t rely on any country to take them in and protect them.  Before Jesus made us His kingdom, that’s where all of us were.  However, Jesus is our King now.  He watches over us, and His might makes the United States look positively inconsequential in comparison!

Second, we see here that Jesus made us priests to God.  Remember how just a moment ago we talked about how dangerous it is for the sinner to approach God?  Now, though, we are not merely God’s people.  We are God’s priesthood.  Every one of us has the right to approach Him now, and we need no other intercessor but Jesus. 

The world is full of all kinds of self-described spiritual experts and holy men.  They want us to believe that we need them to go to God for us.  That’s a lie.  Because of what Jesus did, every one of us can seek His throne not with fear, but with boldness.

Finally, we see the one item in the list of the Lamb’s attributes that is a promise instead of an accomplishment.  He is worthy because we will reign.  This is not necessarily obvious.  None of us look like kings right now.  In the first century, Christians commonly looked very much not like kings!  However, Jesus didn’t look like royalty when He was on the cross either, yet He was.  The day will come when every proud thing that exalts itself against Jesus will be brought low, and His humble people will be lifted up.  The final proof of the worthiness of the Lamb will be in what He does for us for eternity.

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