If you’ve ever watched NCIS or crime scene investigation shows like it, you know that what the investigators do is try to gather all the evidence they can for making an effective case as to what happened at the crime scene. Since they weren’t there when the crime took place, they try to reconstruct the scene and course of events from the evidence they have in the present, usually involving key witnesses.
The same thought process can be carried out in the debate about our origins and the history of the universe. The present evidence is going to give us clues about what happened in the past. The past determines the present and not the present, the past. And because God was actually there at the His creation of the world, we can trust His witness in the Bible to give us an accurate record of what took place. This is one of the reasons that evolutionary scientists are always changing their minds about the past and God’s account stays the same. He was there and He knows. Evolutionists were not and thus are guessing and making ever-changing assertions.
I guess after going out to Kentucky recently and visiting The Ark Encounter that the Answers in Genesis ministry has marvelously and miraculously put together (you should check it out sometime! It’s worth it!), it has me all fired up to get back to get back to Genesis because Genesis explains the present reality! It explains this universe and all areas of life. It explains who we are, why we are the way that we are, why this world is the way that it is, and how we should live in it. In Genesis, we find the foundations of all Christian doctrine. As one man, Del Tackett, said,
“Nothing in the world makes sense except in light of Genesis.”
Think about these big questions: Where did this world come from? Did we evolve or were we created? Why did Christ die? Who are we? Why do wear clothes? Why is abortion wrong? Why is lying wrong? Is it okay to eat meat? Why are there so many languages? Why do we have human government? Why do we get married? Where did this Jewish nation of Israel come from? Is there an answer to racism? All of these, and more, can be answered by understanding the Genesis record!
This is important because our belief about the past is going to determine how we live today and we should want to know why we do what we do. We should also want to be able to give reasonable and logical answers to those who have questions about the Christian worldview. We should want to be able to answer our kids with foundational reasons as to why we are raising them the way we are. Many kids have rebelled against God as their Creator and Redeemer because they simply weren’t given reasons as to why they should believe in the first place.
As one girl, Lisa Baker at age 20 said,
“All I want is reality. Show me God. Tell me what He is really like. Help me to understand why life is the way it is and how I can experience it more fully and with greater joy. I don’t want empty promises.
You see, for young people like Lisa, we need to not just be able to tell her what to believe, but why she should believe it.
More than one teenage daughter has been told to change her clothes and put on something a little more modest before going out of the house. The typical response from the teenager is, “Ugh… why?! What’s wrong with my clothing?” And the typical response is something along the lines of, “Because that’s just what we do as Christians.” Responses like these are an unreasonable response. Quite often, because we don’t really know why, we’ll even get defensive and threatening. A better response would be to have them change, and tell them you will sit down with them later and explain from Genesis why we even wear clothes in the first place. With the path that our LGBTQ+ culture is on, we’re going to have to defend to the “plus” people in LGBTQ category why clothes are necessary someday, believe it or not! I hope this is not prophetic but in a morally relativistic society, anything goes!
Over the next several weeks or off and on throughout this year, I plan on taking us back to our foundations in Genesis for why we believe what we believe. We’ll get to the clothes-wearing issue later, but since we’ve talked a lot about relationships and how important it is for us to be building bridges to share the gospel through them with our neighbors, I want to go back to Genesis and explain why it is foundationally critical to build relationships with our neighbors. Have you ever thought about why we are relational beings and sense the need for relationships in our lives? Have you noticed how depressing and dark life has been since the mask wearing and isolation mandates? We just weren’t made for isolation and loneliness. Genesis explains why.
In Genesis 1:26-28, God said,
“Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God bless them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
One of the things that stands out to pretty much anyone who reads this passage is the significance of the plurals and singulars. For the first time in the Bible, God is talking about Himself as plural and singular. This is because God is a Trinitarian God. We know that from the Old Testament and New Testament He is One God in 3 Persons – not 3 modes or 3 forms – but really, 3 different Persons. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God – but the Father is not the Son and the Son not the Spirit and vice versa. All 3 Persons are also eternal. They’ve always existed. There is a plurality and oneness to God and these 3 have been in perfect harmony and unity in community throughout all of eternity. God is a relational being by nature and always has been – even before man or angels were created.
This is the answer to our question:
We are relational beings by nature because God is by His very nature,
Some theologians call what we’re talking about here “The Dance of God”. One theologian writes this,
“The persons within God exalt each other, commune with each other, and defer to one another. . . . Each divine person harbors the others at the center of his being. In constant movement of overture and acceptance, each person envelops and encircles the others….God’s interior life [therefore] overflows with regard for others.… The Trinity is utterly different. Instead of self-centeredness, the Father, the Son, and…the Spirit are characterized in their very essence by mutually self-giving love. No person in the Trinity insists that the others revolve around him; rather each of them voluntarily circles and orbits around the others.
Life-shaping and glorious implications it is! It’s foundational in Genesis too! Notice that right after God says that He’s going to make man in His image, He creates both Adam and Eve. First Adam and then Eve, because it is not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). Adam and Eve on their own were created with a personality that is able to communicate with God and also with each other. We were made as relational beings as He is relational. Marriage is designed to be the most perfect and intimate picture of God’s plurality and oneness, where Genesis 2 explains that Adam and Eve became one flesh from one flesh. Eve was taken from Adam and for Adam. They are different persons and yet from the same person. Remind you of something? God is 3 in one! It’s a very powerful reality and picture of God’s nature.
Only the Trinity explains relational beings.
No other singularly monotheistic god like Allah or Jehovah’s witnesses idea of God or the Mormon’s distortion of God can really explain at a foundation level why we are relational. Neither can a mindless cause of evolutionary forces and natural selection explain it, and how we’re built, male and female, for relationships. The reality is that it’s because we have a Trinitarian God who even before time, space, matter, people, or angels, has been and always will be a relational being.
With many not recognizing this creative reality of human design today, it has led many into times of great spiritual and social darkness and loneliness. Maybe because of hurts in our past, we’re afraid to get too close to someone again, but listen closely – we were made for relationships. This is why in the long term, it is more loving to break the barriers of isolation and reach out to our lonely neighbors. People need to see your smile. They need to spend time with others. Our governments who have prescribed isolation and social distance out of “love” for too long really don’t understand man (biblical anthropology). God Himself said in Genesis 2:18...
“It is not good for man to be alone”
...because we were made like Him for love, communication and fellowship.
So here’s my challenge to you that goes along with the sermon: Pray for opportunities to love your neighbor (and be ready for them!). If you have to, get out of the house and knock on your neighbors door and invite them over for a barbeque. Intentionally run into them while they’re outside.
We weren’t made for isolation so love your neighbor in ways that they are comfortable with at this point. By doing this, you’ll also fulfill the law of Christ and the greatest commandments (Mark 12:28-34; Galatians 5:14, 6:2; James 2:8). Show them the love of Christ that He showed you.
The first series of sermons I ever preached at Chadron Berean was a series on the life of Noah. The reason or origin for the series all started when I was a senior at Frontier School of the Bible, where one of my assignments was to do a biographical sermon and I chose to study the life of Noah. That study changed my life – no joke. Since studying the life of Noah and his story, I find myself constantly rehashing the principles in my life that I learned even to this day. I consider it my favorite study that after going on the trip to the Ark Encounter, hope to turn into a short book to pass on to others. Please pray about that and thank you for doing so. Up to this point in my life, I find this series to be one of the greatest compound messages God has ever given me to share with others.
Biographical sermons have become one of my favorites in general because they’re sermons that concentrates on the study of the life of a person from Scripture, studying how they lived and how they walked with God and how God worked in their lives and responded to the things they did in life. So, by studying their life and their walk with God we learn to relate to God in our own lives with some of the situations we face in life. The ever-relevant Bible has a way of bringing us to where we come to sympathize with them and relate with them in an intimate way even though they lived 2,000+ years ago and on the other side of the world in a different culture. I love that about God’s Word!
In light of my voyage to Kentucky this week, I want to take us back to one of those amazing marks of “A Man of the Flood”. You know, when we think of Noah we typically think of him as a man of God, but I want you to think of him as a man of the flood. Noah was the man of the flood. He lived in light of an impending judgment – a coming judgment. But you know what? So do we. You and I both know that there is a flood of judgment coming upon those who have not placed their faith in Christ. And so Noah is going to be our example today as to how we should live in light of a coming judgment as men and women of the flood.
Mark #1 in the story of Noah is that “A Man of the Flood Walks with God.” You see this in Genesis 6:5-12.
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. So the Lord was sorry that He had made mankind on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then the Lord said, “I will wipe out mankind whom I have created from the face of the land; mankind, and animals as well, and crawling things, and the birds of the sky. For I am sorry that I have made them.”
The Bible says all flesh on earth was corrupt in the sight of God. It was filled with violence, its wickedness was great, and every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually – the reason for the flood itself. Every intent of man’s heart was only evil continually. The book of Jude adds to this by saying that during Enoch’s time (who would’ve been Noah’s great grandpa), the people were ungodly grumblers, fault finders, and lust followers who spoke arrogantly, trying to flatter people only for the sake of gaining advantage (Jude 1:16). So from Enoch to his great grandson Noah, nothing had changed and at this time in history it was accompanied by zero moral restraints and zero social restraints. It reminds me of the days of the Judges, when everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). Sin just went unchecked in this limitless and lawless world of corruption.
One of the sinful cities of that time, mentioned in Genesis 4:17, was the industrious and innovative City of Enoch. Ancient man was not as clueless as he is usually portrayed to be, walking around with clubs and dragging his knuckles. He was smart, built musical instruments and forged implements out of bronze and iron (4:21-22). This city of Enoch was built by Cain, murderer of Abel, when he went out from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. It was named after his son, Enoch (not to be confused with the godly son bore to Jared and called Enoch also) and was the birthing center of a God-rejecting, self-sufficient society. According to Charles Ryrie the city had its, “sense of guilt eased by cultural development and geographical expansion,” and Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe also says, “In the city of Enoch, they had everything but God.” Satan desired to use Cain’s line to destroy the godly line of Seth, through whom Christ would come, which is a key reason for God to flood the world as well.
But thank God for Noah! Because while the rest of the world was walking according to their own way, following their own lusts that come from their wicked hearts, here he is – standing out as a flower among thorns in the eyes of God. In fact, the word used for favor, when it says Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord, is the same word for grace in the OT and it’s the first mention of grace found in the Bible. Even in the most wicked moments in history, you still find God’s grace, just like man’s greatest wickedness and God’s greatest grace both met on the cross. Noah found God’s grace.
The Bible says Noah was righteous man and a blameless man. That doesn’t mean he was perfect, as we’ll see, but that he hungered and thirsted for righteousness and took our holy God seriously. He wasn’t mindlessly falling in line with the ways of the world and the pattern of this world. He wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing because it was the cool thing to do or because it was the normal thing to do. He actually thought about what God would think of his life’s choices. He didn’t chase what was the latest and greatest devices or fads to come out the City Enoch. He used his mind. He actually thought about what God would think of his choices and made decisions based on that, and not on some personal, temporal pleasure.
And that’s just it: to walk with God you have go against the grain of this world. You have to ask God that question, “God, what would you think if I did this or that?” To be a man of the flood means being more concerned about what God thinks of you than what people think of you. Noah’s decision to go against the grain and walk with God in a corrupt culture reminds me of a couple other biblical characters who did the same. One is Daniel, who instead of enjoying all the great luxuries of Babylon, made up his mind not to defile himself with the king’s requests (Dan. 1:8). The second is Moses, whom Hebrews 11:24-26 tells us,
“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.”
Moses had eternal perspective that saw through the chintzy and fleeting and misleading pleasures of the best Egypt could offer, (which, by the way, was the best in the world at the time!) and had a conviction to live for something greater. He wanted riches that would last forever.
When me and my wife spent some time in South America doing missionary work there, I noticed several billboard signs in the city that read, “Solo escucho mi corazon,” which means, “I only listen to my heart.” These signs usually had someone on them drinking hard alcohol and with a big smile, having what appeared to be a great time. Those signs really irritated me because I was an alcoholic for years, even being voted the biggest alcoholic in my graduating high school class, I can tell you that those signs are lies. They are not the long-term reality. The reality of alcohol is your friends rolling their car on a back road and dying prematurely. The reality is your uncle nicknamed ‘Whiskey’, lying on a hospital bed and turning a yellowish color from toxins as his liver fails to filter them out. The reality is broken homes and fatherless children because “I don’t have a drinking problem” suddenly becomes an addiction.
Following the lusts of the heart is the way that seems right, but leads to death (Proverbs 14:12) because and the heart is desperate for wickedness (Jeremiah 17:9). Following the heart is a sure-fire way to self-destruct and walk the path of God’s judgment. Noah and Moses decided against it and were preserved for it 1 John 2:17 illustrates the precept perfectly:
“The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
Do the will of God while you can in this world. One day it will pass away, but not with water. God said He would never flood the world again. Next time, the Bible says, it will be destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3) and those who’ve trusted Christ as their Savior can live with God on a New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21-22).
The question we must ask ourselves in light of all of this is, "Am I a man of the flood who is living in light of a coming judgment?" Those who are living like a man of the flood are those who are walking with God even when no one else will. Even when it’s not cool, not acceptable, and worthy of being canceled in our cancel culture. Even when it's hard and will cost us much personal sacrifice.
Men of the flood realize they have an unceasing daily responsibility to walk with God, to keep short accounts with Him when they sin by confessing it and repenting of it, while recognizing it is only His enabling Spirit who gives them the grace and power to walk with Him and to work with Him in building the ark that is Christ’s body, the Church. Unless you are shut in Christ as Noah was shut in the ark, you will not survive the coming judgments and that’s all the more reason to tell others about Him and live for Him.
Noah, my dear friends, is evidence that just because the world is corrupt that we live in, it cannot be used as an excuse for not walking with God. Noah made up his mind to walk with God in a corrupt culture and found God’s favor. Have you?
Folks, I’m just being real honest with you here. This world doesn’t need any more men and women who walk in the ways of the world and the flesh. It needs real men and women of the flood who walk with God, even when the rest of the world is walking the other way. Anyone can walk in the ways of the world and the lust of the flesh… but to walk with God? That takes a real man... A man of self-sacrificial love like Christ. I challenge you, for your sake and for the sake of your children and for the sake of others and for the sake of the glory of God – be a man of the flood.
Building the “Ark” with you today by His grace,
A couple of summers ago, we studied the doctrine of “Heaven” and as we talked about the future reality of receiving our resurrected bodies this Sunday, I want to revisit one of the questions we asked: “What will our resurrected bodies be like?” Our resurrected bodies are the last, ultimate, perfected glorious state of our bodies that Christ will grant us when He comes to get us and what we will be like from then on forever.
To sum up what our bodies will be like, we could say that our resurrected bodies will be like Christ’s resurrection body.
Philippians 3:21 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
1 John 3:2 says, “We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is."
And Romans 8:29-30 says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
These verses make it clear we will have a resurrection body like His. But what do we know about His body and what can we learn from it?
Physically speaking, there are some basic observations we can make from Luke 24. For one, we know that He was able to stand among people like the disciples on solid ground (v. 36). He urged them to examine Him with their eyes and by touch, even showing them His scarred hands and feet (vv. 39-40). He also asked from something to eat and ate on more than one occasion the same food that the disciples were eating (vv. 41-43; Jn. 21:10-15). In Luke 24:39 He even said, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
What this tells us is that we will not be just some out-of-body spirit floating around on clouds somewhere or drifting through some distant galaxy like many have imagined, but there will be a real and tangible reality where we will be able to walk the golden streets of the New Jerusalem, eat the fruit of the tree of life and bread in the kingdom of God, and drink from the water of life and heaven’s wine (Lk. 14:15; Rev. 19:9; 21:6, 21; 22:2, 14). I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t wait! Personally, I have a great distaste for the idea of an only spiritual, transparent existence like many have imagined so I’m excited to spend eternity on a New Earth doing real and adventurous things together with you! These new bodies will be able to serve the Lord with complete energy and ability (Rev. 22:3) in a place where the sun never sets (Rev. 22:5).
Spiritually speaking (we’re talking about the inner man here), we know that we will be absolutely perfectly pure like He is! No longer will we have to battle it out anymore with this fallen sin nature because the war between flesh and Spirit will come to an end! We will simply walk by the Spirit in perfect communion with God at all times! What a relief that will be! Christ will give us new, bright and clean white robes that signify that we have been washed pure and spotless in the blood of the Lamb and have glorified Him through righteous deeds (Rev. 19:8; 22:14). This corruptible will have put on the incorruptible (Rom. 7:24-25; 8:29-30; Rev. 21:4, 27; 1 Cor. 15:52). Sin will not even exist in the eternal Heaven (Rev. 21:8; 22:15).
These new bodies will be immortal, have new capabilities, be healthy, powerful, have emotional stability, be able to shine, and much, much more! For more on how great our resurrected bodies will be go to: www.chadronberean.org > Resources > Heaven Study > Download DoctrineOfHeaven.Notes.pdf > Page 32-36. Also, if you’re looking for a good read on what heaven will be like, be sure to check out Randy Alcorn’s book called Heaven.
In Christ, our risen Savior,
How did Hitler convince the generation that would become the Nazis to murder 6 million Jews? It's fairly simple really. He just convinced them through propaganda and control of the schools’ education programs teaching evolution, that Jews weren’t really humans – that they were really animals. In his book When a Nation Forgets God, Pastor Erwin Lutzer writes,
“Hitler believed that the Jews were subhuman – parasites that needed to be exterminated. In a 1923 speech in Munich, he said,
It’s not murder if they’re not a human legally, right? Sound familiar... The same thing is happening in our country with unborn babies. However, just because something is legal, doesn’t make it moral or lessen the evil of it. There is an unseen law of God that prevails over any made-made laws allowing something evil to be considered legal.
Like Hitler and the laws of our land, Satan loves to downplay how precious humanity is through the evolutionary lie that we’re just another beast that evolved from random matter and processes without a purpose. He loves the depressing, dark evolutionary lie that steals purpose, kills dignity, and destroys hope for so many today. In God’s Word, however, we find quite the opposite – and the answer to today’s cries of racism – because it reminds us that man is made in God’s image as the pinnacle of His creation!
After a great break in the creation narrative of chapter 1 of Genesis, there is a divine deliberation in the Godhead in Genesis 1:26,
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
The ‘Us’ and ‘Our’ in this verse are plural forms of majesty found even back in Genesis 1:1 that allow for and point to a plurality in the Godhead this early on in the Bible already. It reveals the doctrine of the Trinity in seed form. There are similar dialogues to this one in Genesis 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8, but the dialogue here is certainly new and surprising to the text. It tells us something big is happening that didn't happen with the rest of creation. Mankind's creation is special to the rest. The plural references to God remind us that God is a relational Being even within Himself. He is and always has been a God of relationships because He is three Persons in one, the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit.
The relationship essence of God is a great part of what it means to be made in God’s image. God is a relational being with a mind, emotion and will. So are we! We are not like the beast who primarily functions with other beasts through instinct, but are uniquely made and have been given authority over the beasts. We have a much more complex personality created with God’s communicable attributes – His nature and moral likenesses – able to express love, mercy and grace, and make decisions that are good and righteous. Unlike animals, we also have a spiritual nature that gives us the ability to have a relationship with God.
When he painted the creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel, Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo depicted God as outstretched with hand extended to a lounging and lackadaisical Adam who receives God touch of life. But from Genesis 2:7 we find a more thorough account of this act of creation where God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and very personally, almost awkwardly, breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. I'm not demeaning Michelangelo's work of art, but the creation account is quite the opposite in its personal touch of God. Genesis, in contrast to the Sistine Chapel, tells us God is very personal with man and that we were made by Him and for Him – awkwardly up close and personal.
If society really believed that mankind was made in the image of God, what problems would that solve? What are the consequences of believing what evolution teaches, that we were made in the image of lesser animals? You’re seeing it today. There is struggle for the dignity of man though there is nothing to base it on because without a belief in God, nothing is unconditionally wrong. As Christians who stand firmly and lovingly on the Word of Truth, we proclaim as the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence does,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We stand firmly and lovingly on the truth that no matter who it is – every man is made in the image of God and for a relationship with Him. Being made in His image is the basis for the protection of all lives. Actually, the first form of human government, capital punishment, was established on the fact that man is made in God's image and if anyone shed's blood, by man his blood shall be shed (See Genesis 9:6-7). God is serious about the sanctity of every human life.
Because of sin, our relationship with God has been fractured and the image of God in man has been marred, but not totally destroyed. And God Himself provided the remedy for man to have an up close and personal relationship with Him again by taking on flesh Himself through the virgin Mary in the person of Jesus Christ and by living a perfectly sinless life was able to offer Himself on the cross for our sins so that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life with God, starting now through a born again relationship by His Spirit. Have you placed your faith in Christ?
1 Erwin Lutzer, When a Nation Forgets God (Chicago: Moody Press, 2010).
In our latest sermon from the Gospel of Mark, I talked a little bit about the priesthood of every believer. For the devotional this week, I wanted to expand on this fun and interesting subject because it is transformative to the way we think about our identity as believers in Christ. It is also important in that it is one of the 7 major figures of Christ and the Church. This figure is that Christ is our High Priest and believers are a “kingdom of priests” (Heb. 5-8). Israel had a priesthood (Ex. 28:1) but the Church “is” a priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9).
At first, this can be a strange way to think of Christ and the Church because when we think of priests, many of our minds imagine a select few men in the more traditional churches today who walk around in fancy robes with tall hats and carry golden staffs in their hands. Or, we think of the Levitical priesthood in the Old Testament that offered animal sacrifices to God or maybe even the chief priests that Jesus seemed to always be arguing with. But when it comes to the New Testament Church, it teaches that each one of us ought to think of ourselves as spiritual priests who offer spiritual sacrifices.
In the Old Testament, the tribe of Levi (Levites) were responsible for the temple service and mediating on behalf of OT believers before God. But in the New Testament, because Jesus Christ is our High Priest who grants us direct access to God, we don’t need any more mediators as believers. Jesus is our only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). Believers don’t need any priests but the One High Priest. However, in a sense, we should think of ourselves as “priests” who offer spiritual sacrifices and mediate between God and the unbelieving world.
Levites became priests through physical birth but believers through spiritual birth. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer points out that in the Old Testament, a priest would be ceremonially cleansed through a once-for-all whole bathing (Exodus 29:4) and after that, he was required to be cleansed repeatedly by a partial bathing at the brazen laver to be prepared for daily priestly service.
In a similar way, when believers experience the new birth in Christ, they are also cleansed by the washing of the Holy Spirit and once-for-all forgiven (Titus 3:4-7). There is never again a need for “full baths” because we never lose salvation and never lose the Holy Spirt. However, like the priests, there is still need in our relationship with God to stay current with Him by confessing our sins and receiving cleansing (1 John 1:9). Jesus said "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” and “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean” (John 13:5-11).
Now let’s start looking at some of those spiritual sacrifices. 1 Peter 2:9 is a key text for this subject:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession; so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
So Peter, speaking to all believers here, says we are a “royal priesthood” called to proclaim the excellencies of God. This is the first sacrifice.
Sacrifice #1 – The sacrifice of proclaiming good news about God.
God called each one of us out of darkness and into His marvelous light through the gospel of Jesus Christ, the truth that He died for our sins and all who believe are saved. This gospel that was proclaimed to us and saved us is what we as priests are to proclaim to others! Like 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 tells us, since we’ve been reconciled to God, He has now entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation (vv. 18-19). As His "priests" we represent Him to the world (and we don’t have to wear fancy robes to do that).
A couple more sacrifices are found together in Hebrews 13:15-16:
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
So, like we saw in Mark this Sunday, some of the first-fruits of the vineyard that we offer as vine-growers and some of the sacrifices that we offer as priests is the fruit and sacrifice of worship!
Sacrifice #2 – The sacrifice and fruitful offering of praise & thanksgiving.
We could sum that up by saying we offer the service of worship! In a world where Christians are sometimes treated harshly as Peter is known for emphasizing, praise tells this world that we are not living for it. We have a hope and a new country (New Earth) and new city (the New Jerusalem) that we are living for and in this world we are strangers and exiles to it (Heb. 11:13-16; 13:14; Rev. 21:1-2).
We should be known for being thankful for all of God’s physical and spiritual provisions and for praising Him with the fruit of our lips. Giving thanks and praise pleases God and is an act that distinguishes us from the rest who don’t believe (Rom. 1:21).
Sacrifice #3 – The sacrifice of doing good and sharing.
Every “priest” should have the focus of serving God by serving others in love. These are the greatest commandments for every priest to live by. This comes by doing good through speaking the truth in love to bring spiritual restoration and sharing with those who truly need it, especially within the household of God (Gal. 6:10).
For a more complete look at how much this pleases God, it’s imperative to read Philippians 4:15-20 where Paul praises the church of Philippi for their support of his ministry. Paul was a man who worked hard to share the gospel with folks and faced hardship and imprisonment for it. Although he was content in any conditions, the church supported him anyway. Look how he describes their generous support:
“But I have received everything in full and have abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
How great is that? Their love offering is a well-pleasing sacrifice! A fragrant aroma that God would honor by continuing to provide for them.
Sacrifice #4 – The sacrifice of intercession.
In the tabernacle there was an altar of incense with four horns just like the sacrificial altar outside for animals but this one is for the sacrifice of prayer. Every priest was to be a man of prayer who interceded for the people and kept this incense burning. When you turn to the book of Revelation, one of the neat things we see is the heavenly version of that. The elders are seen holding golden bowls full of incense which are “the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8; 8:3). David prayed, “May my prayer be set before you like incense” (Psalm 141:2). As Zechariah the priest was offering incense in the temple in Luke 1:10, “all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.”
Because of our access to God through Christ, every believer-priest is to carry out the vital service of prayer on behalf of others (Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:1). Prayer is powerful and critical to the spiritual vitality and effectiveness of any church.
All of these sacrifices that we have looked at are only possible at a consistent level when we make the decision to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God.
Sacrifice #5 – The sacrifice of yielding our bodies as a living sacrifice.
The infamous verses of Romans 12:1-2 say,
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to the image of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Like our Savior who gave Himself as a sacrifice for us, we offer ourselves as a sacrifice to God for our spiritual worship. This is good and acceptable sacrifice before God – a perfect one – because we were created to be like our Perfect Savior who gave us His example of the Perfect Man-Type. In light of His mercy, we are to give our lives completely to God to be used of Him. Have you surrendered your life to God? And daily, since living sacrifice tend to crawl off the altar?
Lastly, we should look at how each sacrifice should be qualified because the priests were warned not to offer strange incense and fire to God.
Acceptable Sacrifices – Sacrifices offered according to God’s Word.
Exodus 30:9 says,
“You shall not offer any strange incense on this altar, or burnt offerings or meal offering; and you shall not pour out a drink offering on it.”
Just as the priests were required to do things according to God’s Word so that they didn’t offer strange fire, so it is important that we get to know His Word too so that we don’t do the same thing. When you know God’s Word, you get to know what sacrifices He is pleased with and those which He is not. Knowing God’s Word keeps the sacrifices of worship genuine and holy and pleasing. If you cross reference this with Leviticus 10:1, you find out as Nadab and Abihu did that God was serious about not offering strange incense before Him. They offered the wrong incense at the wrong time and paid for it. Another example is how God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s (Gen. 4:3-7).
When we think of strange fire today, maybe we can think of singing praises while dwelling on unholy things at the same time, repetitious prayers of those who think they’ll be heard for their many words (Mt. 6:7-13), emotional services that end with the same disobedient lives continuing (Isaiah 1:13-18; Amos 5:21-24), going through the motions of worship without a heart of worship (Matthew 15:18), false testimonies where faith is really in religious works and self-righteousness and not Christ alone (Luke 18:9-14), speaking in the strange and unedifying tongues of charismatic churches today, sacrificing monetarily for our own blessings, praying with wrong motives and for worldly desires (James 4:3-4), or maybe serving in church for self-adulation (Romans 12:3). Beware of the strange offerings by studying what a genuine offering is in the Word of God. Learn what is pleasing to God (Eph. 5:8-10).
If you’re a believer, consider thinking of yourself as a “priest” and yield your life to God who is your portion. OT priests had no share in the inheritance of fellow Israelites because the Lord was their inheritance, and He is our inheritance as well (Deut. 10:9; Lamentations 3:24). Live for Him as a wholly devoted "priest" today!
Cited: Nelson Miles, Theology 3: Ecclesiology, Frontier School of the Bible.
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