The Most Boring Sermon Ever – Jesus and the Burnt Offering

You haven’t read the Book of Leviticus lately … have you? Don’t be shy; I understand! This is a confusing and mysterious book to many Christians, but it doesn’t have to be. The book is about the moral, ceremonial and civil laws that God’s people had to follow under the Old Covenant. It’s full of lots of details, and lots and lots of blood.

Lots of blood.

It may not be a spell-binding page-turner of a book, but it’s one of best resources God gave us for understanding who His Son is. When we compare the elaborate sacrificial rituals from the Book of Leviticus to what Christ did for sinners once for all, we see a beautiful object lesson. That’s what the sacrificial system is; God’s object lesson to prepare His people to understand and accept the need for a final, perfect atonement for sin and rebellion.

That’s what I preached about this past Sunday morning; how “Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,” (1 Pet 3:18).

Here’s the sermon (below):

For reference, here’s the graphic I referenced throughout the sermon, which depicts the Old Covenant tabernacle, as described in the Book of Exodus:

tabernacle

Sermon – The Coming King (Zechariah 9)

Zech 9The sermon audio is below. Actually, this is a Sunday School lesson. But, the title has been published, so I can’t change it now!

The Book of Zechariah is a neglected book. At 14 chapters, it’s the longest of the so-called Minor Prophets. It’s an obscure book, tucked away in an even more obscure part of the Christian Bible – that wasteland after the Book of Daniel, before the New Testament.

And yet …

This book has perhaps more direct prophesies per column inch about the coming Messiah than any other book in the Bible. It promises a glorious future for the distressed Israelites, a new and better leader who’ll rule over the world in peace and righteousness, promises a new and better covenant, a new and better High Priest, and vows that Israel will be ashamed for betraying and rejecting her Savior. It’s a thrilling book, and a close reading (with a good commentary even closer at hand) will encourage even the most cynical Christian.

This is also the book which prophesies how the Messiah will reveal Himself to the world as King. That prophesy is found in Zechariah 9:9-11 (and following), and it’s what I taught about this morning. It’s a prophesy which bookmarks the start of God’s fulfillment of everything He’s promised to His people, ever since the Garden of Eden.

Every Man Who Believes is Justified

I’ll be preaching from Acts 13:13-43 next Sunday. This is perhaps the longest of Paul’s sermons that God preserved and recorded for us. It is a summary of God’s grace and mercy toward the nation of Israel, Jesus’ advent, ministry, rejection, execution and resurrection.

It concludes with a stirring call for everybody (Jew or Gentile) to repent and believe in the Gospel. Paul promised that any person who does believe will be justified by God, set free from slavery to sin, adopted into God’s family and declared righteous in His eyes.

Here is my own translation of Paul’s conclusion:

acts-1338

If you are still rejecting the Gospel, please read and learn about it here.

Gospel or Good News?

dictionaryIs the Word “Gospel” Gospel?

The English word “Gospel” has a tortured and convoluted history. I don’t know this because I’m a genius. I know this because I looked at the Oxford English Dictionary. Behold where it comes from:

  • It started out as the Greek εὐαγγέλιον
  • Then it morphed into the Latin evangelium
  • Then Old English translated this as “godspel”
  • We now have it as “gospel”

Why should you care? Well, it matters when you read Jesus saying something like this:

Mark 1:15 He said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!”

The word almost all English translation translate as “gospel” here is the Greek τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ, or “the gospel.” What does this word mean?

Hopefully, you can see the rendering “Gospel” really doesn’t tell you anything at all. The word is useless, in and of itself. It descended from the Old English rendering of the Latin, which in turn was descended from the Greek. The only place in this chain where we really have primary contact with the true definition is in the Greek – because the Old English, Latin and Modern English renderings are just derivatives from the Greek, not the actual definition itself.

So, what on earth did Jesus mean when he commanded everybody to believe in τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ? He meant they must believe the “good news.”

Who Cares?

If we translate terms consistently throughout the Bible, you can see connections easier. I stumbled across a perfect example this evening during my Bible reading:

Isaiah 52:7-10 How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains the feet of a messenger who announces peace, a messenger who brings good news, who announces deliverance, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen, your watchmen shout; in unison they shout for joy, for they see with their very own eyes the LORD’s return to Zion. In unison give a joyful shout, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the LORD consoles his people; he protects Jerusalem. The LORD reveals his royal power in the sight of all the nations; the entire earth sees our God deliver.

The Israelites will go into exile because of their sin. Life will be terrible. It will be hard. They’ll be punished for their sins. But, all hope is not lost. God will deliver them. Enemies will be vanquished and trampled in the mud. The tables will be turned. Because of the new and better covenant, peace, justice, holiness and righteousness will reign in all God’s people and on all the earth. The Israelites will be rescued from their exile, and led back to their own Promised Land by Yahweh Himself.

In our passage, Isaiah gives us a picture of a special messenger from God. The messenger races over the mountains toward them. He has news! He has a message! What is he bringing?

He is bringing good news.

We just saw that phrase somewhere before, didn’t we!? Interesting. How do you suppose the Greek translation of the Old Testament which Jesus and the apostles used translated this word for “good news?”

I’ll bet you can’t guess it! They translated it as εὐαγγελιζόμενος, which is the exact same Greek word (in different form) which Jesus used in Mark 1:15, when He commanded Israelites to believe in the “good news.”

Connecting the Dots

Jesus is called elsewhere the “messenger of the covenant” (Mal 3:1). He is the messenger who will bring word about God’s new and better covenant. In Isa 52:7, He is also the “messenger” who will race across mountains to the Israelites bearing the message of peace (compare the angel’s Christmas message to the shepherds). He comes preaching “good news.”

Coincidence? I think not. Now do you see why “good news” might be a better translation than “gospel?”

A Word from the Apostle John

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

Then the twenty-four elders who are seated on their thrones before God threw themselves down with their faces to the ground and worshiped God with these words:

“We give you thanks, Lord God, the All-Powerful, the one who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations were enraged, but your wrath has come, and the time has come for the dead to be judged, and the time has come to give to your servants, the prophets, their reward, as well as to the saints and to those who revere your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

Revelation 11:15-18 (NET)

Repent and believe the Gospel.

Seeing God in Creation

hubble1
Carina Nebula (Courtesy of NASA)

We live in a created world. You can look at this world and see that it was planned, designed, created and is being sustained by an intelligent being. That Being has revealed Himself to us in the pages of the Old and New Testaments. He spoke to us by the prophets of old, like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, David and Noah. In these last days, He has spoken to us through His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1).

That phrase, “Jesus Christ,” is both a name and a title. “Jesus” is the Greek rendering for the the Hebrew name translated as “Joshua,” which means “God is salvation.” That is His name – Jesus, Joshua, God is salvation. What a fitting name for the Son of God! The word “Christ” is a title, not a last name. It means “Messiah” or “Anointed One.” It means Jesus is the promised descendant from Eve who will crush Satan once and for all (Gen 3:15). He is the Suffering Servant whom Isaiah prophesied about (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). He is the true and great High Priest, clothed in fine garments (Zechariah 3). He is the Israelite prophet like Moses, whom all people are obligated to listen to (Deuteronomy 18:15ff). He is the One who King David prophesied about, whom the Lord will never allow to remain in the grave and see corruption (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27-31, 13:35-38). He is the one who is righteous and just, who came on the scene in a meek and lowly manner bearing the glorious message of salvation, reconciliation, forgiveness and adoption for all those who repent and believe His Good News (Zechariah 9:9).

This is who Jesus Christ is; the Anointed and Chosen One sent by God, who is God, who is salvation, who bears the message of salvation, who offers the refreshing and life-giving waters of eternal life (John 4:14) to sinners who are dead in their own trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). He is the One who is co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father, who voluntarily and willingly left the Father’s throne room in heaven and came here to live a perfect and sinless life, and to die a sacrificial and substitutionary death for men, women, boys and girls from every tribe, language, people and nation on earth (cf. Revelation 5:9).

If you’re a Christian, it is He “who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” (Colossians 1:12b-14). If you’re not a Christian, then you have no cloak or pathetic pretense (cf. John 15:22ff) for your continued rebellion and insurgency against Him. The Apostle Peter said,

He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. About him all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:42-43).

Peter also warned,

But the things God foretold long ago through all the prophets – that his Christ would suffer – he has fulfilled in this way. Therefore repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and so that he may send the Messiah appointed for you – that is, Jesus. This one heaven must receive until the time all things are restored, which God declared from times long ago through his holy prophets.

Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must obey him in everything he tells you. Every person who does not obey that prophet will be destroyed and thus removed from the people.’

And all the prophets, from Samuel and those who followed him, have spoken about and announced these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.’ God raised up his servant and sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each one of you from your iniquities (Acts 3:18-26).

You’re reading these words from a device which was deliberately engineered and designed by professionals to work just like it’s working right now. It is the same with this world we’re living in. The obvious intelligent design of the world around us tells us that God exists.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness. There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard. Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth; its words carry to the distant horizon. In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun. Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber; like a strong man it enjoys running its course. It emerges from the distant horizon, and goes from one end of the sky to the other; nothing can escape its heat (Psalm 19:1-6)

Yet, all too often, we ignore the plain evidence of God in creation. We pass by the world around us without a second glance.

Bright, however, as is the manifestation which God gives both of himself and his immortal kingdom in the mirror of his works, so great is our stupidity, so dull are we in regard to these bright manifestations, that we derive no benefit from them. For in regard to the fabric and admirable arrangement of the universe, how few of us are there who, in lifting our eyes to the heavens, or looking abroad on the various regions of the earth, ever think of the Creator? Do we not rather overlook Him, and sluggishly content ourselves with a view of his works? And then in regard to supernatural events, though these are occurring every day, how few are there who ascribe them to the ruling providence of God—how many who imagine that they are casual results produced by the blind evolutions of the wheel of chance? Even when, under the guidance and direction of these events, we are in a manner forced to the contemplation of God, (a circumstance which all must occasionally experience,) and are thus led to form some impressions of Deity, we immediately fly off to carnal dreams and depraved fictions, and so by our vanity corrupt heavenly truth (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge [reprint; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008], 1.5.12).

This knowledge is meant to drive us to know more about God, and it is His dear Son, Jesus Christ, who reveals the Father to us, tells us who we are, where we stand with God, and what we must do to be reconciled, redeemed, forgiven, adopted into God’s family. It drives us to the Messiah, to the Christ, who in turn drives us to the Gospel.

Redeemed!

redeemedPaul and the Christians in Colossae have something in common; they have each been redeemed from Satan’s kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. The “we” includes everybody who has, is and will ever be a Christian. For the saints under the Old Covenant, Christ’s perfect and finished work has been retroactively applied (cf. Hebrews 9:15).

Giving thanks to the Father, who made you acceptable to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light, who rescued us from the kingdom of the darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we now have the redemption; that is, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:12-14).

Think about what the word “redemption” actually means. It gives the sense of being freed from an oppressive and harmful situation. It has overtones of being purchased and ransomed from the clutches of an evil taskmaster. It means to be released and absolved from bonds or a particularly terrible debt. It means to make good on an obligation, to set things right between yourself and an offended party. It’s really only a nuance or two away from the proper meaning of the all-important concept of “propitiation,” (1 John 2:2). This is who you are, who I am, who every single person in this world is – worthless sinners, criminal terrorists in God’s universe, rogue insurgents who live to rail against the Lord and against His anointed. Jesus Christ said, “He that hateth me hateth my Father also,” (John 15:23). Well, the truth is that we’re each born hating Him and His father, we’re each born “by nature the children of wrath,” (Ephesians 2:2), and we’re each born as people who need to be redeemed.

Paul does not say that everybody has been redeemed, or even will be redeemed. Only those who repent of their sins and believe in the Good News which our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ died to bring will be redeemed. You are not born belonging to the family of God. You are a stranger and alien to righteousness; all of us are. We come into this world as members of Satan’s kingdom; we’re born under his jurisdiction, his power, his authority, his dominion and his control. We’re slaves of sin, “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day,” (Jude 1:6). But, for those who have obeyed Jesus’ cry, “[t]he time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel,” then this is nothing but a terrible memory, a nightmare on a dark and stormy night, a horrifying time before God shined in your heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Indeed, as the Apostle Paul wrote,

“For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 6:20-23).

What does it mean to be “redeemed?” What is this redemption that Christians now have? Paul tells us that it is “the forgiveness of sins.” Your sins prove you’re a criminal. You live in this world God created, you breathe the air Christ provides, you live your life according to natural laws which Christ upholds and sustains, and you enjoy the blessings which the Lord showers on the just and the unjust alike.

If you are an unbeliever, you do belong to Satan’s kingdom, but make no mistake – everything in heaven and earth is ultimately under God Almighty’s power and control. Satan’s jurisdiction is like that of a metropolitan city within a state; its sovereignty is subject to the laws and regulations of the state it’s located in. You are under God’s jurisdiction, you are a proven criminal who has violated God’s holy laws, and you must be punished. It’s really as simple as that.

Because God is so holy, so perfect, so mighty, so awesome and so powerful, you deserve the greatest possible punishment. The Bible tells us that punishment is eternity “[i]n flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power,” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

You need to be forgiven. In order to be forgiven, certain criteria must be met. When a person commits a heinous crime in civilized society, people instinctively know that two things simply must happen when the perpetrator is caught: (1) the crime must be paid for, and (2) once that crime is paid for, things will be “set right.” This is what the word “propitiation” means. Your sins need to be paid for, wiped clean, atoned for. God’s righteous anger must be appeased, and things must be set right. You can either pay for your own sins yourself, as you surely deserve to, or you can confess and forsake your sins, and believe the life-giving and life-saving Good News which Jesus Christ preached and taught. You only have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

For Moses truly said unto the fathers, ‘A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.’ Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.

Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, ‘And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.’ Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities (Acts 3:19-26).