Sunday, July 29, 2012

Worship and a Troubled Conscience

Let us draw near with a true heart – Hebrews 10:22

What does it mean to draw near to God with a true heart?  After spending a couple of chapters explaining how the old covenant was unable to actually take away sin, and how Christ has offered Himself as the one true sacrifice for sin, the author of Hebrews exhorts us to draw near to God with a true heart.  This idea of truth in our worship is not something unique to the book of Hebrews.   We see it mentioned in other passages like John 4:24 where we are told, that “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship him in spirit and truth,” or Psalm 51:6 which says, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts.”

When we hear the word “truth” our minds naturally go to the idea of intellectual truth, or to put it another way, that which is the opposite of falsehood.  Now clearly that is part of what it means to worship in truth.  To worship the wrong God, or even the right God wrongly, not according to His prescribed regulations for worship, is to worship incorrectly.  God has revealed Himself to us through His Son in the scriptures.  We are called to know Him, and this certainly involves believing the correct things about Him, but to draw near to Him in truth involves another aspect also.

John Owen summed it up nicely when he said, “In the mind, truth opposes falsehood; in the affections, truth opposes hypocrisy.”  It is truth in the affections that is primarily at the heart of the command to draw near to God with a true heart, and this means to approach Him without hypocrisy.  As we gather to worship the Lord, His focus is not on our outward appearance or rituals; His focus is on our heart.

Think about the last time you spent time worshiping the Lord.  Where you really there?  Was your heart focused on him, or where you just going along with the flow of the Sunday service simply thinking about other things?  In other words, in your heart, were you drawing near to him as you worshiped or were you still at a great distance from Him?

If you are like me, questions like this will serve to remind you of how much you fall short even in your worship of our great Savior.  Thomas Watson once penned a sentence that virtually knocked the wind out of me regarding this topic, he said, “Jesus Christ went more willingly to the cross than we do to the throne of grace.” Even in our worship we can be great sinners.

The good news about the command to draw near with true hearts, is the context in which it is found.  As the author of Hebrews is telling us to draw near to God in truth, he is telling us to do so because there is forgiveness of sin in Christ.  In approaching God with true hearts, we do not merit our forgiveness.  It is by understanding our forgiveness that our hearts are moved to draw near to Him in worship.  This is why the verse continues by saying that we are to draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.

Let the knowledge of forgiveness in Christ’s blood stir your heart with joy.   May it pull your attention away from all the fleeting shadows of this world and draw you near to your Savior’s side today.   Even if your conscience has been troubled by your many shortcomings this week, do not let it keep you from approaching the throne of grace.  An evil conscience is not the reason to stay away from the Savior, it is the very reason we need to draw near to Him with a true heart.

In Christ,


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dark Knight Theater Shooting: A Christian Reflection

The thought of going into a theater with a loved one and having to leave them there as part of the crime scene, because they were killed by a gunman who opened fire on the crowd is almost too much to imagine.  Yet this is what happened to several people last night.  Events like the shooting in the Denver area at the opening of The Dark Knight Rises make you want to go home and sit with your family and friends, because you never know how long you will have them.  They are also a terrifying reminder of how quickly sin can take those we love away from us.

Why do I say “sin” instead of “death?”  First of all, it is because it was the sin of another person that took the lives of the 12 people in the theater and injured many more.  Sin takes people away from us all the time, whether it be in senseless killings, drunk driving accidents, or drug overdoses.  The sinful desires that reside in us all are constantly pulling us toward our own destruction or the destruction of others.  There are other ways sin strips the people we love from our lives too.  It can do it in the form of lust tearing families apart, abuse from those who should be our most trusted guardian, or simply someone’s ambition for power and wealth keeping them away from those who need them.  All of these stem from the same source, sinful desires, and we are all susceptible to them.
Second, I say “sin” instead of “death” because ultimately sin is the reason there is death in the world in the first place.  The reason any of us die is because of the curse of sin.  Even when decent people face a terminal illness like cancer, though we cannot point to any specific sin that caused it, it exists because the world is fallen and tainted with sin.  Events like this remind us that we will all lose people we love and we will all face death ourselves.
So why highlight such dark and disturbing thoughts on a Christian theology blog?  I do so because there is hope.   Though I certainly do not have all the answers as to why such a tragic event took place, or why one young man could be overtaken by such dark desires, what I do know is that all of this reminds us that things are not the way they should be.  Death is around the corner, our own sinful desires pull at us, and the guilt for all the times we have fallen short makes death terrifying; because deep down we know the justice of a Holy God awaits us.
Where do we turn when all these realities stare us in the face?  Modern technology cannot help us, entertainment is simply a band aid, drugs and alcohol only take us further down the path of destruction, and no amount of money and power can ward off sin, guilt and death.  There is only one place we can go in times like this, and that one place needs to be able to subdue our sinful nature, purify us from the guilt of sin, and must have defeated death.  This is exactly what Christ Jesus has done, and for those who trust in him, though we will still live in a fallen world, He has promised that He can change our hearts and make us new creations in Him.  Through His death, He takes our guilt and bears the wrath and just penalty that we know we deserve.  Finally, through His resurrection we find that He has defeated death, and no matter how our life will end here on this earth, we will live with him eternally where there will be no more sin, sorrow, guilt and death.
Don’t let the darkness of this event be swept to the side in an attempt to cope and hide from our own fears and failures.  Look at it full in the face, and then look to the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, who is the answer to all our deepest anxieties.  Draw near to him through faith and He will draw near to you.  For He was offered once to bear the sins of many, and because He defeated death through His resurrection, He lives forever to make intercession for us, and we can live with him forever
May we all find comfort in Christ,

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Death: A Gaping Hole in the Old Testament Priesthood

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. - Hebrews 7:23-24

There is a depth to these verses that is often missed. The basic truth is clear, in the Old Testament, though there was only one high priest at a time, there had to be many of them because they were prevented from continuing in the office by death, but think about this a little deeper.

The priesthood under the old covenant was a wonderful picture or shadow of the reality that Christ would fulfill. Some people, including the original readers of the book of Hebrews were tempted to go back to the old system for several reasons, but one of the benefits was that it was tangible. You could see the sacrificed animal, you could smell the incense burning, and hear the priest make intercession for you. This was undoubtedly a comfort, but in this picture of our true salvation in Christ there was a gaping hole. The priests kept dying.

The role of the priest was to mediate between God and man, and they would illustrate atonement from sin, but the wages of sin is death and even the priests continued to die. If you are in desperate need of salvation and you understand that death is part of what you need to be saved from, how much hope could you receive from priests who continue to die? You could only gain hope if you understood that it typified something greater that God was going to provide.

Every one of us, unless Christ returns, is going to face death. Some of us may already be feeling its effects. We are unable to do many of the things we used to do, and the older we get the more illnesses and health issues we have to deal with. When death becomes more of a reality for us, to whom are we going to turn and place our hope? To priest who still die? Your own goodness or heath regimens? Since none of these have defeated the enemy of death, there must be something greater in which we can place our trust.

V. 24 But he [Jesus] holds His priesthood permanently. He will never stop being our high priest because he continues forever. He has defeated death, even after tasting it on our behalf! So when your body starts to break down, when your work hours begin to outlast your physical strength, when you begin to see the doctors more frequently for things like dialysis or chemo, you will know you have the correct High Priest if he has defeated death and continues forever. No other priest will ever truly be able to mediate between God and man and make atonement for sin and its wages. Never shrink back from Christ, and never lean on any substitutes, for Christ is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For those who have faith, we have peace with God. He bore our wrath and His righteousness is accounted as ours so we can be co-heirs with Him, and since He lives forever, exalted with the Father, His work as our mediator is an ever present reality in the true tabernacle. In Christ, because of His priestly work, all of God’s actions toward you are grace, and none of it wrath. Even His chastening hand is moved by love.

Draw near to Christ today, approach the throne of grace with confidence, and if you are feeling the effects of a body tainted by sin, let it drive you to your Savior’s side, for all those who are in Christ will live with him forever. Though we are sown in weakness we will be raised in power, and though we are sown perishable we will be raise imperishable.

 God Bless,


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Hebrews: Persevering in the Faith MP3's

To those who may be interested, I am currently teaching a class through the book of Hebrews called "Persevering in the Faith".  All of the lessons are available to download or listen to at the Bethel Grace Baptist Church website.

Hebrews: Persevering in the Faith

God Bless,