God cannot and will not force you to believe the gospel. He cannot and will not force you to receive forgiveness. You either believe and receive or you don’t.
If you believe and receive God’s testimony about His Son, you’re part of His family forever!
So when Jesus looks around the room and claims that those around Him are His mother and brothers (see Mark 3:31-35), it isn’t a rejection of His birth mother or His blood-born relatives. It’s an acknowledgement of the amazing grace that would accept whosoever would believe and receive into the family of God.
Do you believe this? Do you receive this? Then you are a brother or sister of Jesus and have become a son or daughter of your Heavenly Father!
Do you reject this? Do you refuse this? Heed the warning Jesus gives—there is only a finite number of times that the Holy Spirit will endure being called a liar before He will simply stop giving you His testimony. This sin of blasphemy is unforgivable. Repent today, return today, and receive today what God wants to give you!
During His ministry on earth, Jesus had the habit of retreating to be with His Heavenly Father. He made the time to get away and enjoy fellowship with God the Father to receive instruction, encouragement, and strength for the battles that would come His way.
If Jesus needed regular times of retreat, how much more do we? For most of us, making this time for fellowship with God is difficult—but why?
Maybe pride prevents you from retreating with the Lord. You want to do great things for Him, so you don’t have the time just to be with Him. Or maybe you don’t think that God would want to be with you. You might feel like you’re bothering Him with your ordinary and unimportant problems.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
God wants to be with you more than anything! God wants you—that’s what this is all about. It’s never primarily about the fight and battle. It’s always primarily about the fellowship He wants to enjoy with you. It’s not just about what God can do through you, it’s mainly about what He’s doing in you.
First, foremost, and forever—He wants to be with you…He wants you!
tHurting people hurt people.
This is an important truth to remember as a servant of Jesus. Jesus loves people—that includes people who are bound by sin, struggling with sin, or weary or heavily burdened. And since Jesus wants to heal hurting people, He sends His followers to hurting people to minister to them.
So when you are helping a hurting person, they just might criticize you, oppose you, or fight against you. When this happens, remember it’s not really about you—so don’t take things personally.
Instead, follow Jesus’ example. Gently lead them to Him—the Healer for their hurt. Show and tell them what His word has to say about the real root issue they are dealing with. And love them as He has loved you.
If you are hurting, there is hope and healing in Jesus. Come to Him—not as His adversary, but with humility and He will lift you up (James 4:10). Ask a brother or sister in Jesus for help and be ready and willing to talk about the real root issue that is causing you pain so He can heal you.
“I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Did Jesus come to call you?
Depending on your understanding of your own sinfulness or self-righteousness, this verse either comforts you or disturbs you.
You see, everyone needs to realize that everyone has sinned and every single one of us has fallen short of God’s glorious standard…which means all have been called by Him to be saved!
But something has to happen in your heart first. You need to realize that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. And then realize (and be greatly comforted by this fact) that Jesus came for you—to help you and forgive you; to heal you and to make you whole.
Yes, Jesus is calling YOU into His service as one of His followers.
Have you answered His call? Has something happened in your heart so that you realize your condition and your need for Him? Self-righteousness can’t save you. Despite how good you try to be, it will never be good enough. But God, in His love has made a way for you to be reconciled with Him through His son, Jesus.
Turn away from self-righteousness and let it go. Ask Jesus to forgive you and receive what He has been longing to give you—His righteousness!
One day, God told Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. With knife raised over his son, God stopped Abraham because He saw that Abraham did not withhold his only son from Him.
In the book of Hebrews, we read why Abraham was willing and ready to obey the Lord: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” (Hebrews 11:17-19)
Abraham (the father) had faith God would raise Isaac (the son) from the dead. 2,000 years later, there was another Father and another Son. The two of them went together to the same hill. But this time, no one stopped the knife. Jesus, the Son, was crucified. This had to happen this—there was no other way to accomplish the purposes of God:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)
God (the Father) gave His son (Jesus) so that you could enjoy life with Him—forever! Have you received this free gift He offers you? You can, right now. Ask God to forgive you & fill you with His Spirit. He is willing and wanting to save you!
"God will provide," the Patriarch said,
And faith gives every doubt away;
Fearless he climbs Moriah's mound,
And sees afar Christ Jesus' day:
Yes! God provides, and God accepts
His sacrifice, and his alone:
No blood of beasts, not Abraham's son,
Nor ought, save Christ, can ever atone.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem on the day we now call Palm Sunday, He wept over the city. The Prince of Peace saw the city of peace and was overwhelmed with sorrow. Why? Because they did not have peace with God.
They did not recognize the specific day that God had come to them to give them peace. And sadly because of their rejection, destruction came when the Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem.
Have you recognized Jesus coming to you to seek and to save that which was lost? One day, we will all have to stand before God alone. He will inspect your heart to see if you have peace with God. Do you know the things that make for your peace?
If you don’t know and haven’t received Jesus, the coming destruction will be eternal—eternal separation from God. But it doesn’t have to be that way! This is why Jesus came—to save you from destruction.
You can ask Jesus today—right now—to forgive you of your sins, to fill you with His Spirit, and to make you a brand new creation in Christ. Cry out to Him and He will save you! Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
Reconcile—it’s a big word with a beautiful meaning. In the Greek language Paul used to write this letter, it means to change—not just a minor change, but a thorough change. A complete change.
Because of sin, every one of us is estranged from God. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s best. Sin has left us at odds with God—there needs to be a change in our relationship to Him and our relationship with Him.
It is only in and through Christ that your relationship to God is reconciled, changed, restored. There can now be friendship with God in Jesus rather than hostility with God in sin.
Jesus made that possible on the cross when He became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Are you reconciled to God? Or are you still at odds with Him because of your sin? We implore you on Christ’s behalf—be reconciled to God! Ask Him for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” —Mark 1:40
Leprosy made this man unclean—physically and spiritually unacceptable and unaccepted in society. Unclean was what he shouted to warn others of his condition. It’s no surprise that he desired more than physical healing—he wanted to be made clean.
So he went to Jesus and fell at His feet—sick, forgotten, and forsaken—full of leprosy…and full of faith.
Jesus knew all about this man—his struggle with the disease that alienated him from his community. This man knew about Jesus—how He was able to heal, yet he wondered whether or not Jesus was willing.
Like this man, you may be frightened of the disgusting effects of the spiritual leprosy of sin in your life. You may be afraid of Jesus getting too close and finding out just how rotten you are. You may question if Jesus is really willing to make you clean.
Oh, He is! He is not only able to heal you of the sickness of sin, He is willing to put His hand upon your your very soul and speak a word of power to cast out sin and it’s ugly hold over your life!
And when the power of sin is broken, you are not only healed spiritually—you are clean—completely and eternally.
Have you enjoyed this healing and cleansing from sin? Just ask Jesus! He is able and willing to cleanse you today!
When you know that you are loved by Jesus, you start asking Him for anything—big things, little things, impossible things—everything! As you start a life of asking, you’ll begin to notice that He is responding.
Often, His response is asking something of you. And when you obey Him, you realize just how awesome His is and notice what He is up to in the world.
That prompts you to love Him even more—and you realize how much He loves you, which prompts you to ask Him more, which prompts Him to ask of you more—and the cycle continues.
This rhythm is the life Jesus intends for His followers to live—a life of asking, obedience, and love.
The beginning to this life is easy—just ask!
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to hear Jesus teach and preach? Have you ever imagined what it would have been like to be in the same small synagogue with Him or on the Judaean hillsides while He would teach and proclaim God’s word with authenticity, authority, and simplicity?
Loud or soft; fast or slow—while we don’t know the volume or the tempo with which Jesus spoke, we do know the content and the style. Thankfully, we have many of Jesus’ sermons recorded in the Gospels—and His message was clear.
He would often teach about the kingdom. He would emphasize the need for a new start—a new birth—as the only way to enter into this kingdom. He would talk about holy living as the evidence that one had been born again and was a genuine citizen of this kingdom. And He would illustrate all of this in the simplest of ways using everyday life and everyday things like seeds and soil and farmers and flowers.
Most importantly, His message was always rooted in Scripture—not in someone’s opinion or oral tradition. His sermons were full of direct quotations from the Old Testament. He really believed what He was saying—and said it with awe and childlike wonder concerning His Father.
We would do well to follow in His footsteps. Remember—all believers are ambassadors are representatives of His kingdom. Like Jesus, you can proclaim God’s word with simplicity, rooted and grounded in the word, and saying it with awe and childlike wonder.
He has given you a message—proclaim it!
Imagine that Jesus walked into your place of employment and simply said, “Follow Me.” What would you do? Would you follow Jesus physically? Would you leave your job? Would you leave your family? Would you leave your city instantly after only hearing two words from Jesus?
This is the scene that we studied this past Sunday, and is seemed as though that’s exactly what happened to Andrew, Simon, James, and John. But when you put the puzzle pieces together from the other Gospel accounts, there was much more going on here that what we could see on the surface.
Mark 1:16-20 was only one of the times that Jesus said, “Follow Me” to these men. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last time. Time after time, these men stutter-stepped and struggled in physically following Jesus—returning to their earthly identity again and again instead of walking fully in their kingdom calling.
Is that something that you struggle with—setting aside your earthly identity in order to walk fully in your kingdom calling? You may not be following Jesus physically on the dusty trails of Galilee, but the experience is just as real and the stakes are just as high.
Jesus is calling you. Jesus really does love you. Jesus really does want to be with you. And before you mutter all those reasons why your life doesn’t matter, Jesus is fully aware—and yet He still loves you and wants to be with you forever!
Starting right now, you could simply say, “Jesus, I’m tired of the stutter-step. I’m tired of the struggle. Please forgive me. Please help me. Please save me. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit. I want to follow You. I want to be with You forever! Thank you for hearing my prayer and receiving me into your family. In Jesus name, Amen.”
At His baptism, Jesus’ call to ministry came with the heavens parting, the Spirit descending on Him like a dove, and God’s voice from heaven declaring His favor.
And immediately after that glorious moment…the Sprit sends Jesus into the wilderness. Life is like that—even for the Son of God. There’s an initial romance in the call to ministry followed by a time of severe testing.
While in the wilderness for 40 days, Jesus was tempted by Satan. The Gospel of Luke records three specific temptations (Luke 4:1-13), but there were most likely many more. This would have been a severe time of testing and suffering for Jesus—but it would prepare Him for the rest of His ministry.
Although Jesus emerged from this time of testing and temptation unstained by sin, He was changed by the human experience. Jesus was made perfect though suffering (Hebrews 2:10) and is our compassionate High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).
At His most vulnerable and physically weakest, Jesus felt what we feel. He could sympathize with our times of testing. He could understand the temptations we face. His time of testing produced an empathy and compassion for the people He was to serve in His earthly ministry.
And God also leads us through seasons where our faith is tested. These trials refine and purify us so that God’s heart and character is ever more gloriously reflected in our lives.
As You with Satan did contend
And did the vict'ry win,
O give us strength in You to fight,
In You to conquer sin.
John the Baptist had a very unique call on his life. In order to fulfill that call, he needed to live the very unique life of a Nazirite. From the time he was born, he was to abstain from the fruit of the vine, to never cut his hair, and to never come near a dead body. Sound extreme? It was. The vow of the Nazirite was to express one's special desire to draw close to God and to separate one's self from the comforts and pleasures of this world.
This was done in obedience to God. John’s life was in preparation to be the preparation for Jesus. And if he was going to be effective in that preparation—in preparing the way and preaching repentance—he would need to be pure. So more than any man had ever done before, John pursued purity and God in the desert, living on wild honey and locusts.
Then one day, God told him it was time—the Messiah was here! John’s message was clear—are you ready? Is your heart ready? The King is coming!
That message if for you today as well: Is your heart ready for the King who will come again? Are you holding on to sin? Repent and let it go. Prepare your heart to receive what Jesus has to give!
On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh.
Awake and harken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings!
Then cleansed be every life from sin:
make straight the way for God within,
and let us all our hearts prepare
for Christ to come and enter there.
Mark and Peter had failed, yet God called them and used their failure to form their future. He didn’t cause their failure or co-sign their failure, but He certainly used their failure for His glory—and our benefit!
He who has been forgiven much, loves much. Mark and Peter were increasingly aware of the forgiveness of Jesus—and so they increasingly learned to love Jesus with their lives. They learned to let their love for Jesus overrule and override their fear of man. And they grew in the grace of Jesus! Failure? Yes. Sinner? Yes. Called by Jesus? YES! AND equipped by Him along the way.
Jesus is calling all failures and sinners, foolish and forgotten, into His service to tell the world the good news of His kingdom. He became one of us, served us and loved us. He promised to never leave us or forsake us—no matter what the world has to throw at us.
Do you want to tell the world about Jesus? Do you want to be in the service of THE good news? God is calling you!
We hail you as our Savior, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward.
Without your grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.
Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,
and make us rise to fall no more.
O let your face upon us shine
and fill the world with love divine.
Earthly kings expect to be waited on hand and foot. Overlords take all that they can for themselves. But Jesus is different. This King of kings didn’t come to be served, but to serve. This Lord of lords didn’t come to take, but to give.
Service and sacrifice—that is what we see of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus gives His life in service (chapters 1-10) and in sacrifice (chapters 11-16). Why? Because the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.
God has a radical adventure before you—full of heartache and pain; difficulty and wonder; glory and fellowship—with Him as you desire to be His servant. So as we study the Gospel of Mark, we pray that He would transform us with His word and by the Spirit so that we may see every second of our lives as a ministry opportunity. But most importantly—that we would see opportunities to fellowship with Him in service and sacrifice.
We thought You'd come with a crown of gold
A string of pearls and a cashmere robe
We thought You'd clinch an iron fist
And rain like fire on the politics.
But without a sword, no armored guard
But common born in mother's arms
The government now rests upon
The shoulders of this Baby Son.
–“Baby Son” by John Mark McMillan
In the book of Acts, John (also called Mark) joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. As time went on, things got difficult and Mark left Barnabas and Paul for home. For their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to bring Mark, but Paul objected. Mark went with Barnabas, but Paul and Barnabas never served together again.
It probably took a while for Mark to get over his failure. He needed more than encouragement—he needed to be strengthened by the grace of Jesus—and God had just the man in mind.
Peter was familiar with failure—specifically the failure of running away in the face of fear. He was reminded of it every time the rooster crowed. Peter needed to know how to receive the grace of Jesus, how to live out the grace of Jesus, and how to be strengthened by the grace of Jesus.
The grace of Jesus changed Peter. So much so that Peter was able to share it with Mark, who was struggling with his own failure. He told Mark all about the grace of Jesus and showed Mark what it looks like to live in light of this amazing grace.
It’s a blessing to have to know people like Barnabas and Peter—fellow believers who encourage and teach you not only what it means to be strengthened by God’s amazing grace, but how to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and serve Jesus because of that grace.
Thankfully, through the ministry of Barnabas and Peter, Mark learned this. He learned how the grace of Jesus not only sustains us, but also gives us the ability to serve others—even and especially when we don’t feel like it. It prompted him to pick up his pen and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, write a book about the amazing grace of Jesus—a book we call the Gospel according to Mark.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The Bible says it this way: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
There’s another verse in the Bible that talks about love. Jesus said it’s the distinctive feature of those who follow Him—“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). It’s not by having impressive Bible knowledge, or big budgets, or bigger building. It’s love. People will know we follow Jesus by our love. When people start to realize that we are truly following Jesus, they are drawn to a real relationship with Jesus as well.
Love is the key to God’s vision for His church. Simply loving the Lord with all that we have and all that we are. And loving our neighbor as ourselves. If our neighbor is a follower of Jesus, then we love them by helping them to follow Jesus. If our neighbor doesn’t follow Jesus, then we love them by introducing them to Jesus.
That’s it—simplicity of heart in love for the Lord and love for each other.
Let us love our God supremely,
Let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners,
Till our God makes all things new.
Rules and regulations lack any value and strength in restraining sensual indulgence. In order to overcome those temptations, we need a strong heart—a heart strengthened by grace, a heart established by grace.
But what does this look like? What does it mean to strengthen someone by grace? What does it look like to have a heart established by grace? It’s often found in emphasizing what God has done for us—not in what we should be doing for God. When we focus on what we don’t have or can’t do, sin easily entangles us. But when we focus on all we have, especially all the riches we have in Jesus that can never be taken away, the unmerited favor of God teaches us to say no to sin. What Jesus offers us far outweighs and outlasts the fleeting pleasures of sin. And since His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23), we will never reach the end of the riches of His grace.
Hebrews 13:9 has been used by the Lord to form much of our ministry here in Central Minnesota. When the fellowship was first planted in St. Cloud, a good friend of the ministry called it “the great grace experiment.” After 17 years of unpacking and unfolding the depth of the riches of that verse, the experiment continues—and it’s a joy and a blessing to continue this great grace experiment together with you!
How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
God is a consuming fire. He longs for us to offer ourselves completely as a living sacrifice.
Consumed by Him. Refined by Him. Trained by Him. Discipled by Him.
This happens as we trust and obey Him and believe that He is able to work all things for the good of those who love Him—for the good of those who are called according to His purpose.
Therefore…we boldly approach His throne of grace.
Therefore…we receive His invitation.
Therefore…we run the race marked out for us.
Therefore…we do not refuse Him who speaks.
Not to the terrors of the Lord, the tempest, fire, and smoke:
Not to the thunder of that word which God on Sinai spoke:
But we are come to Zion's hill, the city of our God;
Where milder words declare His will, and spread His love abroad.
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
The problem we have in understanding this passage is our difficulty in dissociating discipline from punishment. God’s discipline is never punitive—it’s never intended as punishment. It’s corrective and instructive—like the role of a coach.
God is not our persecutor. He is our personal trainer, the coach for our souls. That’s why the consistent context of an athletic endeavor helps us understand God’s heart toward us. God does not persecute or punish us. He is our loving Heavenly Father who personally trains—that is, disciples and disciplines—His children.
If you maintain this perspective, you will be able to persevere through pain and endure discipline without despising it or becoming discouraged by it. You will come to see discipline as personal training, painful though it may be. Anything that He allows to come your way is filtered through His love and will be used for a redemptive purpose. It will bring about a “peaceful harvest of right living” (Hebrews 12:11). He will walk with you through all of it, whispering with quiet intensity words of truth, encouragement, and exhortation—He will never leave you.
I bless thee, Lord for sorrows sent
To break my dream of human power;
For now, my shallow cisterns spent,
I find thy founts, and thirst no more.
The Lord has set a race before you. Maybe you feel as though it might not be worth it—outward circumstances and inward fears are tempting you to slow down, draw back, or even quit what God has called you to do. He knew this—which is why He calls us to run with endurance.
Endurance is a great word. It means “the power to continue in an unpleasant or difficult situation without giving way.” One foot in front of the other, again, and again, and again. And that adds up to one mile…and then one more…and then one more. As mile adds to mile, you outlast the pain because what is at the end is worth it.
Part of our training for this race is to focus our mind on something other than the unpleasant and difficult situations we find ourselves in. That’s why the second verse in Hebrews comes after the first—“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Nothing averts your eyes from Jesus. Not the pain, not the exhaustion, not the outward pressures, not the inward fears.
Fix your eyes on Jesus. Just Jesus.
For not only is He the Author of your faith, He is the Finisher of your faith. He is not only the initiator of your faith, He is the source—the continual giver—of the gift of faith. The very thing that we need to live (Hebrews 10:38: “The just shall live by faith…”). In looking to Jesus, we not only see the hope that will help us to endure the difficult parts of our race, but we see the example of how to endure all difficulties:
“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
Jesus endured for the joy that was set before Him. He persevered because of His great love for you. When we consider Jesus, when we are compelled by His love, when we lay aside the weight of sin and distractions that are slowing our progress, we too can run our race with endurance. We’re almost to the finish line, dear friends.
Run the straight race through God's good grace,
lift up thine eyes, and seek his face;
life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.
Abel, Enoch, and Noah. Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. And even a harlot named Rahab.
By faith, the writer of Hebrews tells us that each one of these witnesses offered, obeyed, built, received, blessed…and in doing so, gave us an example of what it looks like to live by faith.
In fact, we find that phrase—“by faith”—18 times in this chapter. They demonstrated the determination that faith provides in looking past what seems impossible to the God who makes all things possible. They showed us that living by faith means trusting in God’s word—and His word alone. They modeled what it looks like to move forward in faith, even if the fulfillment of His word would not be seen in their lifetime.
In the very next chapter, the writer of Hebrews will remind us of this great cloud of witnesses, these men and women who lived by faith, as he encourages us to run the race that is set before us. So run the race that’s set before you—by faith, with your eyes on Jesus.
In a couple of chapters, the writer of Hebrews will encourage us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). It’s a concept that we can consider sooner in light of the warning we read in Hebrews 10:26-31.
The race we are running with Christ is far more important than anything else that we could possibly compare it to. What is ahead of us is the most glorious, wonderful, amazing, and eternal. What is behind us is the most horrendous, awful, torturous, and also eternal. So be encouraged and exhorted to keep running the race with Christ—no matter what! If not for the glory of what’s ahead, then for the terror and holy fear of what is behind.
Here’s the hard truth in the warning of Hebrews 10—you can’t quit the race and return to ritual based religion. The Old Covenant sacrificial system is over. There are no more sacrifices for sin now that the lamb of God has come. There is nothing left to return to. So it’s not just quitting—it’s not just turning around and returning to the selfishness of sin or the sleepiness of a ritual based religion. It’s much worse—it’s trampling the Son of God underfoot and counting the blood of the covenant a common thing (Hebrews 10:29).
If at some point you feel like quitting and slow down or even stop and start to turn around, there is Someone there saying, “Over my dead body!” Why? Because of His great love for you! So in order to turn your back on Heaven and walk the other way, you have to trample the Son of God underfoot as He tries to do all that He can do to stop you.
Brothers and sister, we are almost home! Keep running the race! If nothing else, you have Jesus and we have each other—we will run this race together, pressing on for the prize.
O happy band of pilgrims,
If onward you will tread
With Jesus as your fellow
To Jesus as your Head!
O happy band of pilgrims,
Look upward to the skies,
Where such a light affliction
Shall win you such a prize!
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”
The blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin. The best that the sacrifices in the Old Covenant could ever do is cover sin. And yet, those sacrifices were a constant reminder of the existence of sin (Hebrews 10:3)! Remember—the purpose of the Old Covenant was to point us to the fulfillment of the reality in the New Covenant. Only The Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Millions of sacrifices in and under the Old Covenant could never cleanse the conscience—only cover sin until Christ came.
So why would we retreat back to religion when a relationship with God has been made possible through Jesus? Why would we settle for rules and rituals that can only remind us that our sin still remains? Now that Christ has come and offered one sacrifice once for all time, the ceremony of the rules and rituals of religion have lost significance.
God never wanted just ceremony without significance. God never wants just your obedience or your compliance. God always wanted you—just you! He wants a relationship with you. That was what all the significant ceremonies and meaningful models were to lead you to—a relationship with Him! And once you are in a relationship with Him, all the significant ceremonies and all the meaningful models need to go. He doesn’t want you to cling to the things that remind you of Him—He wants you to cling to Him.
In Him and through Him, your sins are removed, not just covered: “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) And because of that, you have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…” So be bold, brothers and sisters, to enter into an intimate relationship with God—not by anything you have done or could do but simply by the blood of Jesus.
Nearer, still nearer, while life shall last,
Till safe in glory my anchor is cast;
Through endless ages, ever to be
Nearer, my Savior, still nearer to thee.
For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
In Hebrews, we see how the Old Covenant is obsolete. It was a meaningful model, but it was not the real deal. Jesus is the real deal! He is everything the meaningful model was pointing to. He is the all-sufficient substitutionary sacrifice once for all. That is why the New Covenant tabernacle is superior to the Old.
What’s more—the New Covenant tabernacle is in the will of God for you. Hebrews 9:16-17 says “Where a will exists, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in effect while the one who made it is living.” God gave the meaningful model while still living. But God died to give you the real deal—because the real deal was in His will for you!
The only way He could give it to you was to give His life for you—to save you from your sin. Jesus died to give you the real deal—an all sufficient substitutionary sacrifice once for all time. A sacrifice that completely cleanses the conscience. A sacrifice that provides eternal security with full access to God the Father.
And because of what He accomplished, and because it is finished, and because in Him you have forgiveness from your sin, you can now boldly and eternally enter into the Holy of Holies—full and complete access to God and full and complete fellowship with God…forever!
Not all the blood of beasts
on Jewish altars slain,
could give the guilty conscience peace,
or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
takes all our sins away,
a sacrifice of nobler name
and richer blood than they.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends