Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

Numbers 15:22-31

Offerings for Unintentional Sins

“But I didn’t mean to!” Famous last words of many a kid. That is the exclamation of a child who has been caught doing something they were not supposed to do. The invocation of the “I didn’t mean to” defense, in a child’s mind, is a valid defense in the parental courtroom of family law. Although it is offered up, it is rarely a defense that works. It is often followed by the sheepish eyed look, that Puss-N-Boots from the movie, Shrek, look and an “I’m sorry” response.

 

One of my dad’s oft-used sayings (and come to think of it, he had a bunch of sayings) was “Sorry don’t feed the bulldog!” What? Huh? That was a strange one. I have never heard it used by anyone other than my dad. I googled the phrase this morning, expecting to get a blank response from Google. Humorously, in my mind, I thought Google would come back with like, “What?!?!” or a WTF response. However, this phrase is documented outside my dad’s spouting of his many sayings. “Sorry don’t feed the bulldog” is a real saying not just something my dad made up. Come to find out it is often used in a business setting (though I have never heard it used in my 32-year business career). According to www.phrasefinder.com, in a business setting,

 

“to “feed the bulldog” is to generate sufficient revenue to meet expenses. I don’t know much about bulldogs, but I’m willing to bet they get aggressive and insistently unhappy when not fed on a regular schedule. Overhead costs tend to be like that, too. The rent must be paid. The payroll must be met. Productive actions, not mere words, will feed the bulldog”

 

Well, I’m just blown away. One of my dad’s catch phrases is a real thing! In my dad’s context within our family, it had a similar meaning. At our house, it meant that just saying that you are sorry doesn’t change the fact that you did something wrong. A crime against family law was committed regardless of whether you are sorry for having done it or not. Punishment was to follow regardless of whether you were repentant or not. Dad did not care for determining whether I or my brother were sorry we got caught or whether we were truly repentant for the error of our ways. Punishment happened because “sorry don’t feed the bulldog!”

 

It was that phrase that was so often used by my dad that came to mind when I read today’s passage, Numbers 15:22-31. Let’s read it together this morning:

 

22 “‘Now if you as a community unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the Lord gave Moses— 23 any of the Lord’s commands to you through him, from the day the Lord gave them and continuing through the generations to come— 24 and if this is done unintentionally without the community being aware of it, then the whole community is to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as an aroma pleasing to the Lord, along with its prescribed grain offering and drink offering, and a male goat for a sin offering.[a] 25 The priest is to make atonement for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven, for it was not intentional and they have presented to the Lord for their wrong a food offering and a sin offering. 26 The whole Israelite community and the foreigners residing among them will be forgiven, because all the people were involved in the unintentional wrong.

 

27 “‘But if just one person sins unintentionally, that person must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. 28 The priest is to make atonement before the Lord for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made, that person will be forgiven. 29 One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether a native-born Israelite or a foreigner residing among you.

 

30 “‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or foreigner, blasphemes the Lord and must be cut off from the people of Israel. 31 Because they have despised the Lord’s word and broken his commands, they must surely be cut off; their guilt remains on them.’”

 

According to my dad’s law of “sorry don’t feed the bulldog”, it would not have mattered if a violation of family law was intentional or unintentional, a crime was committed and you had to pay. It seems inconsistent with God’s character for there to be a differentiation between unintentional and intentional sin. Is it not true that Romans 3:23 tells us that we all have fallen short of the glory of God because we have sinned? And, the New Testament, overall, hammers home the point that just one sin no matter how egregious it is or not separates us from God. One sin regardless of its severity or intention separates us from God. Is this a contradiction between the Old and New Testaments and thus brings into the question the inerrancy of the whole Bible?

 

I do not think that God and His Word are being inconsistent here. What God is making a distinction between, here, is the punishment for sin, the consequences of sin. If a person or the whole nation of Israel violated God’s law without realizing they had done so at the time, the punishment was less severe than if a person brazenly and defiantly violates God’s law. The person who unintentionally sins when called out on it, repents of the sins, makes the offering and gets right with God whereas a person who does not care that they have violated the law and thumbs his nose up at God will receive a stiffer penalty. Each pays a price for their crime. There is justice handed out. Just as all murder is wrong, but a husband who murders a criminal is who in the midst of raping the husband’s wife may get a different sentence than a man who simply murders for the sport of it. God will forgive those who have repentant hearts for the sins. The difference between a repentant heart and a heart that is sorry they got caught is that the repentant heart is willing to make recompense for their crime or suffer the consequences of their crime anyway. Here, we see God telling the difference in our hearts. Are we repentant or are we just upset that we got caught with no intention of changing our behavior. God sees the heart and hands down punishment that is fitting. There is still punishment. There is still a price to be paid though. God would be inconsistent with Himself otherwise. We must pay for our crimes of sin. Simply a sorry does not feed the bulldog.

 

The offerings of the Old Testament foreshadowed the offering of Jesus Christ Himself as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Jesus is the sufficient substitute for forgiveness and eternal life. This is true regardless of intentional or unintentional sins, whether a person believes he has sinned a little or sinned a lot.

 

The emphasis in Scripture is that humanity was created good but is sinful now as a result of the Fall (Genesis 3). Regardless of the type or level of sins a person has committed, Jesus is sufficient to forgive and offer eternal life. Those who reject the gospel, regardless of how much or how little sin they have committed, will be separated from God for eternity and will experience everlasting punishment for their sins. God calls all people to come to Him, for there is no other name under heaven given to offer salvation (Acts 4:12).

 

So my dad was right. Sorry don’t feed the bulldog. Our sins whether intentional or not require a price to be paid. Our price for sin, even just one sin in a lifetime much less all the sins we commit (whether intentional or not) is eternal separation from God. The only way we can be reconciled is through the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. He is the only way that we can commute our sentence and be set free. We cannot feed the bulldog by doing good deeds to offset our sins. Our sins are crimes and crimes must be punished. It is only through Jesus Christ that we are released from our just and right prison cell for the crimes, the sins, we have committed.

 

Because sorry don’t feed the bulldog.

 

 

Amen and Amen.

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Numbers 3:40-51

Redeeming the Firstborn Sons

Yesterday was July 4, 2016. It was the 240th anniversary of our declaration of being an independent nation from England. Although the declaration was signed in July 1776, the war had begun with skirmishes in the previous year, 1775. The war lasted 8 long years. It was a long war. It was a tough war and many sacrifices were made by the firstborn sons of our new nation. A generation of young men and old sacrificed time away from their family for long stretches of time. A generation of men, some gave their lives in the cause they we felt was right – release from tyranny, rule without representation. There farms that were lost because of the sacrifice of many of these men. There were families displaced by the war. These were brave men who risked the lives of themselves but also of anyone who aided them including their families. For, as a British colony living under British rule, what they were doing was treasonous. We may speak out against our President and nothing happens to us really, but back then, to speak out against the crown much less fight against it was a death sentence if you were captured. And, the British, as most nations were in those days and prior, were none to kind to those captured and sentenced for treason. They were killed for sure but were tortured beforehand. In our cushy lifestyles in the 21st century, we forget the great risk at which this nation was born. We were a rag-tag, ill-equipped, ill-financed bunch of rebels against our mother nations, against the crown of the royal family of England. We were born at great risk because if we had lost the war, the British would have come down hard on these American colonies. There would have been no America as we know it. America might never have expanded beyond those colonial, east coast borders. There would have been no spirit of capitalism that made this the nation of the common who could make himself great.

 

The thing that makes me take the greatest pause though is this generation of men who risked life, liberty and limb to gain our nation’s independence from England. We owe a great deal to these men. We would not be the great nation that we are today without these rebellious band of men from Boston to Savannah. Without their sacrifice, we would not be a nation where the ideal is that anyone can be who they wanted to be. These men changed the world. The American Revolution led to the crumbling of the elitist world which existed at the time. Revolution of the common man spread through Europe and around the world after that. Even our mother country no longer is a country truly ruled by its monarchy. For all the attention we pay to the royal family in England, they are meaningless to British law today. They have no power anymore. Great sacrifices were made by this generation of Americans to change the world. These were the firstborn sons of freedom. These were the firstborn sons of the new American nation. To them, we owe a great deal of honor, respect and gratitude for the nation that they gave us, the world that they gave us. We were redeemed from tyranny, as we colonists saw it, by the sacrifice of these firstborn sons of freedom. We are the redeemed from the slavery of tyranny of a far-off king by the sacrifice of these, the firstborn sons of America.

 

It was that idea of redemption that played a role in my thoughts of our still-young nation yesterday as we celebrated with fireworks, good food, and good friends. It is that thought of redemption that continues this morning when I read through this passage, Numbers 3:40-51, that we will read together below:

 

40 The Lord said to Moses, “Count all the firstborn Israelite males who are a month old or more and make a list of their names. 41 Take the Levites for me in place of all the firstborn of the Israelites, and the livestock of the Levites in place of all the firstborn of the livestock of the Israelites. I am the Lord.”

 

42 So Moses counted all the firstborn of the Israelites, as the Lord commanded him. 43 The total number of firstborn males a month old or more, listed by name, was 22,273.

 

44 The Lord also said to Moses, 45 “Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock. The Levites are to be mine. I am the Lord. 46 To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, 47 collect five shekels[a] for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. 48 Give the money for the redemption of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons.”

 

49 So Moses collected the redemption money from those who exceeded the number redeemed by the Levites. 50 From the firstborn of the Israelites he collected silver weighing 1,365 shekels,[b] according to the sanctuary shekel. 51 Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord.

 

The Levite clan was set apart for special service to the Lord. They were to replace the service of the firstborn sons of each clan in service in the Tabernacle. God decided that, not that He was wrong previously, but rather that He wanted all clans to know the hard work of maintaining the Temple and then create a specialized group to handle that duty for the entire nation. The Levites were to be that special group. They were to be the substitutes for the firstborn sons of each family of each clan. They took the place of the firstborn sons. Even when there more firstborn sons in all the other clans that males in the Levite clan, there was a redemption price paid to cover the excess. The sons of Israel were redeemed in body and in price by the Levite males. This idea of sacrifice and redemption is a model is it not? When we think of the Revolutionary War, we think of men who redeemed our freedom with their very lives. They died so that we might live in a world where we could determine our own future. They died so that we might be free. Here, in this text, the Levite clan becomes the sacrificial substitute for the rest of the nation so that they could be about the work of the nation of Israel. The Levites sacrificed their rights and claims to any lands in the Promised Land to be in full time service to the Lord at the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). This sacrifice by the Levite clan and their substitutionary redemption and replacement of the firstborn sons of Israel is the very same thing that God did in the person and work of Jesus Christ, is it not?

 

We were redeemed at great price by Jesus Christ. He sacrificed His life so that we could be eternally free from the tyranny and death of sin. He redeemed us with the price He paid on the cross. Everything in the Old Testament is pointing toward Christ from the moment of the first sin in Adam & Eve. Everything was practice for the recognition of the Messiah when He came. As Christ followers, we understand the sacrifice here as pointing toward the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the substitutionary nature of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Just as the firstborn sons of America sacrificed much, even their lives, so that you and I can sit here on this side of eternity and celebrate a nation of great promise, so it is with the Levites here and so it is with Jesus. Jesus ensures our eternal freedom through His sacrifice on the cross. It is this sacrifice that redeems us from the depths of hell that we are sentenced to by our own sins. We are free on this side of eternity on the shoulders of the firstborn sons of freedom. We are free eternally through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 — We can go through the motions of many things in life without thinking. However, there is one thing that we cannot let become routine. What is it?

It is the central ritual of the church of Jesus Christ. It is the Lord’s Supper. But what does it mean when we participate in it? Jesus told us to do this in remembrance of Him. It is an important and symbolic gesture done to express appreciation, honor, and thanksgiving for what Jesus Christ has done for us and our renewed commitment to serve Him.

When we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we must remember that the first one occurred on Passover. The Passover celebration of the Jews was to celebrate their protection from the angel of death and their deliverance from Egypt. Jesus represents that same idea to us. When the Israelites sacrificed the young lamb and placed its blood over the door frame of their homes, the angel of death of the final plague on Egypt passed over them. They were spared. Jesus is the lamb whose blood was spilled and painted over the doorways of our lives. We deserve the death and separation from God, but we who believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior have been spared through the sacrifice of the life of Jesus Christ on the cross. The Old Testament sacrificial system was instituted by God to allow for the repentance of sin and restoration of a right relationship with Him. Jesus on the cross dying for our sins is the completion of the OT sacrificial system. The perfect sinless sacrifice for sin from the perfect man who was of the one and same essence with the perfect God. No longer were sacrifices necessary. It was complete on the cross. Let us not forget that coming together of Passover and the Lord’s Supper. It connects us to our past in the Israelites and it points us to the future in Jesus Christ. It is symbolic of Jesus being the the Passover Lamb for us. Through the joining of Passover to the Lord’s Supper we see the continuity of the Bible and the completion of the Old Testament in the New Testament. In the joining we see that by believing in Jesus Christ, we have become part of God’s chosen people.

The bread represents the body of Jesus Christ. Bread represents life. Bread represents nourishment that sustains life. Jesus said in John 6:35 that He is the bread of life. It is a reminder to us that we should be focused on Jesus Christ, the eternal one. We should not be wasting our time on vain pursuits that mean nothing in eternity. It is a reminder of how far Jesus went to give us new life. He sacrificed His body for us. When we eat the bread of communion, it is a sobering reminder of our service to Jesus Christ. It is a reminder that we should be willing to sacrifice it all to serve Him. We must be willing to lay it all on the line to follow Him. We must take up our cross daily and follow Him no matter the cost. He did no less for us. When we casually serve Jesus Christ when it is convenient for us, when we never dare to go outside our comfort zone to serve Him, the Lord’s Supper reminds us of just how far Jesus was willing to go for us. He could have stayed in heaven but, no, He set aside His glory and came to earth as a man and then died on the cross that we might be set free. When you think of your service to our Savior and when I think of my service to our Savior, it kind of pales in comparison. Jesus gave His body in sacrifice for us. Beaten and crucified. He took it to the limit for us. Let us examine what we do for Him!

The wine represents the blood of Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus Christ was spilled as the final sacrifice for sin. It began with the Passover lamb’s blood as the first sacrifice that saved and it is completed on the cross with the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood so that all can be saved. Why is Jesus’ blood and his death on the cross the sacrifice for sin and restores us to God? Because God said that is what it was for. God had established the system of sacrifices beginning in Egypt, formalized at Sinai, and completed in Jesus. Blood is important to life. Life force is in the blood. Without blood we all die. Blood is that which ensures our continued existence. Jesus spilled His blood and died so that we may have eternal life. So, the spilling of His blood that ended His earthly bodily life is the blood that gives us our eternal life. Jesus’ blood thus sustains us. It is life giving. Through Jesus’ blood, we live eternally. Without His sacrifice, without His blood, we die eternally. Just as the Passover Lamb’s blood protected the Israelites from certain death, we are protected from eternal separation from God which is death in hell by the spilled blood of Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s Supper is thus the most symbolic testament of our faith that there. The meal itself does not impart anything. It is a symbol. It is symbolic of what Jesus has done for us to make us right with God. It is to honor Jesus for what He has done. It is done in thanksgiving for what He has done. It is therefore not to be taken lightly. It’s not just something you do occasionally at church where you can get a quick snack and little something to drink during church. It is about honoring our Savior. Tomorrow, we will talk about how we should approach this meal.

Luke 24:32-43 — Jesus on the cross. Jesus dying on the cross. We understand from Scripture that this fact is significant. Scripture tells us that Jesus dying on the cross is what reconciles us to God. When I was a non-believer I could grasp that Jesus was a great man. I could grasp that His death on the cross was a travesty of human justice. I could grasp that He was a holy man of God that spoke great truths of the universe. I could grasp that He was so committed to the truth that He risked his life to call out that which claimed to be holy as unholy. I could grasp that He spoke of peace and love and not war and hate in a world built on war and hate. I could grasp that all of these factors, truth, candor, peace made Him a rebel in his day. To me when I was a non-believer, he was the original flower child much like the hippees of the 60’s. To me, I admired Him as an anti-establishment rebel that through his love not war attitude changed the world much like the counterculture of the late 60’s-early 70s changed our nation forever. Much like the racial equality movement of that same time changed the face of our nation forever as well. As a non-believer, I could see Jesus marching in anti-war protests of the 60’s, marching arm in arm with His black friends from Selma to Montgomery. That was the Jesus that I grasped. I grasped a rebel Jesus who was martyred for being different, for fighting for change, and through whose death the world was changed. That was the Jesus I grasped.

However, as a non-believer, I just could not grasp the Christian theology that Jesus’ death on the cross was for me. I just could not grasp that Him hanging on the cross was for the forgiveness of my sins. How does a man dying on the cross reconcile me to God, I asked myself? It all boils down to who do you think Jesus is. If Jesus was just a man…if Jesus was just a rebel fighting against injustice and the status quo who was killed for it…if Jesus was just another prophet who was killed…if Jesus was a cool dude that was super-perceptive about life…if Jesus was just…then it does not make sense. If Jesus was just these things, then this whole Christian thing built on Him dying on the cross does not make any sense at all. Jesus dying on the cross was just the end of a cool dude’s life and then the church fabricated the resurrection thing. It just doesn’t make any sense if Jesus was just…a man.

However, Jesus was not just a man. He was the Son of God. He was God in the flesh. He was part of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit that has existed since before creation. It was through Him that the universe was made. That’s the part that takes faith. And that faith is what makes sense of the cross. His death on the cross makes senses when you realize that Jesus was the Son of God and that He and the Father were one and were of the same essence. This makes the cross make sense.

Beginning in Egypt we see God pointing us toward the cross. Jesus is the Passover Lamb. During the final plague in Egypt, God commanded the Israelites to paint the blood of an innocent pure lamb on their doorway so that the death plague would passover their homes. This points to Jesus on the cross. His blood was spilled so that we might live. The Old Testament sacrificial system instituted at Mt. Sinai taught the Israelites and us about Jesus. Animals were sacrificed as atonement for sin. The animals spilled their blood for forgiveness of sin because that’s God said it was for. The animals took the punishment for sin that the sinner deserved. God was pointing us toward his ultimate act on the cross in Jesus.

We have all done things that are wrong and we have failed to live up to God’s laws – his expectations for holiness from us as He is holy. Sin, just one sin, separates us from God. It does not matter how we justify it or how much good we do, our sin, any sin, taints us and makes us imperfect. Imperfection cannot exist in the presence of God. Once we have sinned there is nothing we can do ourselves to make ourselves clean. It is like squirting flavor additives into clear water. Once you have squirted the colored additive into the water, you cannot make it clear again no matter what you do. Sin is that way for us. Thus, there is a permanent separation for us from God because of this sin imperfection from the first time we think of sinning. We need help. And it is only when we realize that we are helpless that we are ready to understand what Jesus did on the cross that is so important to us. That is so important that its news spread out from the cross around the globe and through the centuries.

Jesus was not only a man. He was also God in the flesh acting as the Son of the Father. OK. Why then still does his death on the cross mean? It all goes back God’s sacrificial system. Jesus is the culmination of that. The animals used in the passover and the sacrifices at the Tabernacle and later the Temple had to be pure and spotless to be used to atone for the sinner’s sin. Jesus was pure and spotless. He never sinned. Thus, this made Him the only sacrifice ever that was truly perfect, spotless, and sinless. Because He lived a sinless life and never disobeyed the Father in any way then his sacrifice of His life was the culminating atonement for sin. It did not have to be repeated anymore like the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. Jesus was the final sacrifice for sin. He is the Passover Lamb of all Passover Lambs. He is the Sin Sacrifice of Sin Sacrifices.

On the cross, He was thus sacrficed for sin. He became all sin of all time, past, present and future. He took on the full wrath of God against the imperfection of sin for all time. Jesus who had existed for eternity with the Holy Spirit and the Father was now separated from that one essence, that unity that He had known for all eternity. That is why when taking on the full wrath of sin for all time, he exclaims in all four gospels, Father why have you abandoned me. He, on the cross, was substituting Himself for man’s sins of all time and He was alone bearing that heavy burden. He was separated from the loving trinity that He had known since before what we know as time begin. It is through His death that the sacrificial system is completed. It is finished at the cross. Jesus bore the punishment for all sin for all time on the cross. Thus, it is finished. The job is complete at the cross. When we have the faith to believe this, that is where we can say that Jesus has already paid the price for our sin on the cross. He paid our debt and we are released from the impurity and imperfection of sin that condemns us to eternal separation from God in hell. We are redeemed from slavery through his payment made at the cross.

That is the only way that the cross makes sense. There is indeed a God who created the universe and created man. He gave man free will to choose to worship God not as robots but as knowledgeable humans making choices. With the risk of free will came the ability to listen to evil in the form of Satan. When the first sin in Adam occurred, it set mankind on a course of self-destruction from which we cannot extricate ourselves. Sin stains us and changed everything. With our sin nature passed down from Adam to us, we cannot help ourselves. We sin. We cannot help ourselves. With that first sin, we permanently taint ourselves and separate ourselves from God. With sin, it is a permanent stain. No matter how much good we try to do, it is like trying to get a wine stain out of white shag carpet. It will never be same. We become imperfect and ineligible for existing in the presence of our Creator with our first sin not to mention the mounds of sins we pile up in our lifetime due to our sin nature. We can’t clean it. We can’t fix it. We are truly screwed. We are up crap creek without a paddle. There is only one thing that can change that. It is Jesus who is the culmination of God’s sacrificial system instituted in the Old Testament. He is the permanent fix to our sin problem. Jesus lived the sinless life and sacrificed himself in our place on the cross. He bore the punishment that you and I deserve for our first and the rest of our sins. When we believe on this fact. We are freed from condemnation to hell that we deserve for our sins. Hell is where we are separated from God and live eternally in flesh eating, teeth gnashing, wailing, burning, nothingness separated from God. That is what we deserve for what we have made of ourselves and the world we live in. When we believe on Jesus, He frees us from our death sentence. In Him, we know that we will be able to join Him in heaven in the presence of the God and know eternal joy. We know in Him that there will be an end to this madness that we live in. We know that in our physical death we will join Him in eternity. We know that in the end that Jesus will redeem His creation and conquer evil once and for all. In Him, there is hope.

That is why the cross makes sense to me now. I grasp who Jesus is. He is my Savior. He is the Son of God. He is God in the flesh who loves you and me enough to break into the history of His creation and offer Himself up as as sacrifice for your and my sins so that we can be redeemed from death in Hell. That’s why the cross makes sense. Do you get it?

Luke 23:26-31 — Memorial Day. It is the day in the United States on which we honor our valiant military men (and women now) who have given their life to defend the honor and interests of the United States. It is ironic we arrive at this passage today as Jesus is being led away to the cross. For many who have died for our country, there were series of events that could not be changed that led to their deaths fighting for a cause we believed to be right. Jesus is now in the middle of unalterable events that will led to his death in a cause that not only He believed to be right but He knew to be right. Our soldiers play small parts in a larger picture with a larger purpose. We thank them today for doing their part in a larger picture. We must thank Jesus in His earthly life for playing His part in the larger picture. For without the sacrifice of our valiant soldiers, we would not be a free nation. For without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we would not be free from the tyranny of sin.

When we think of the sacrifices of our soldiers today, we do not know all of the gory details of their battles. Some will tell you about them with graphic detail that tells you of the horrors of war. Some others remain quiet about it refusing to speak of it. There was a friend of my dad when my dad was serving two churches in the Travelers Rest, SC area when we were there in the late 70’s-early 80’s that served in Vietnam that refused to speak of the horrors of war that he endured. It was too painful to speak of. Luke does not mention the flogging of Jesus because as a physician I bet that it was too painful for him to write about in his gospel. Many soldiers of our armed forces have been captured and tortured during war and have suffered unimaginable horrors. Beaten within an inch of their lives at times. The valiant ones never give up. They think of not compromising their fellow soldiers. They think of the cause they are fighting for. They never gave up on the purpose for which they were enduring great suffering. Jesus is the same kind of soldier. He endured much pain and suffering but never forget to keeping pushing on through for the purpose for which He was fighting.

Here today in this passage, we know from Mark 15:15 that Jesus was flogged before his final sentencing to death. Lead tipped whips would beat and bruise the flesh and then rip the flesh upon recoil of the whip by the holder of the whip. We know from Matthew 27:27-31 that Jesus was beaten too with sticks by the Roman soldiers and mocked and spat upon by them. Flesh ripped from the body. Body bruised and batter. Bleeding from every area of his earthly body. Then beaten by sticks on a body that was raw meat to begin with. Luke is silent about this. It may have been to painful for him to write about. But no wonder in Luke we find Simon of Cyrene being forced to carry Jesus’ cross. Jesus must have been so weak from his beatings that He could not carry the cross. He must have been beaten to a pulp because Roman soldiers would rarely show this kind of mercy to a condemned man. For all the negativity Mel Gibson took for the Passion of the Christ, I think he got it right about what Jesus looked like after having been whipped and beaten. Jesus kept moving though. He kept surviving. Even though if He was beaten so severely like the Passion of Christ portrays, it would have been easy for Him to just give up and stop this whole mess. However, Jesus soldiers on. He knows there is a higher purpose and point to His temporary suffering here. He had all of eternity in view. His momentary deep physical pain was not going to deter Him from His goal. He was not going to throw the eternal future under the bus just because He was suffering. What a soldier!

Jesus though bloodied and battered was able to speak to the wailing women along His trip to the cross. He was able to warn them of the coming doom of Jerusalem. Jesus is believed to have died in 30AD so it was only 40 years later than Rome so completely tired of the rebellion in Palestine that they sent the full force of the Roman army against Jerusalem and laid it to waste. Nothing remained. Not even the Temple. The only thing that remains of it today is the Western Wall of the Temple grounds. Jesus warns them that they should not cry for Him (for He was really doing His Father’s will). They should lament what was about to happen to them so four decades ahead. First, Jerusalem was starved to death by a siege and what was still living was killed brutally when Titus led his armies inside Jerusalem. Jesus knew that His death was serving a purpose and He was doing it willingly. It reminds us the defiance of our soldiers captured by the Japanese in the Philippines. The Death March to Bataan. They were defiant to the end in the belief that the United States would win the war and the tyranny of the Japanese military would be destroyed. Jesus defiantly warns the onlookers that His death was for a greater purpose and a greater eternal victory. He warns us today through this statement that the things that we count on as eternal are just fleeting and that we must look to his death as the source of our eternal victory not the things of this world. What a soldier! Preaching about the kingdom even when suffering unimaginable earthly physical pain.

On this day, we salute our fallen heroes who paid the ultimate price for the defense of American freedom. They gave their lives to protect our interests around the world. They gave their lives because they believed in honor, duty and service to a country that they love and were willing to defend with their lives. Soldiers today have various reasons for going into the military but common thread they have is ultimately when it comes down to it, they love their brothers in arms and they love this country. They are willing to put theirselves in harm’s way and to die for a way of life that they believe in. They believe ultimately in the freedom that they defend. They give their lives in defense of it. They defend you and me and we don’t even know 99.9% of them. They work on our behalf daily without us even knowing it until we take pause to do so. What soldiers we have!

Jesus is the the ultimate soldier that suffered unimaginable pain and suffering even before He got to the cross. Why? Because He had a higher purpose. He knew that His suffering was in defense of us, you and I, from the condemnation to hell that you and I deserve. He fought for us by dying at the cross. He gave His life willingly so that we could have freedom from the tyranny of sin. He gave His life for you and for me even before we came to know Him personally. He gave His life so that someday you would come to know the peace and comfort of the eternal presence of God. He gave His life for that. We give pause when we accept Him as our Savior and we live a life of thanks for the remainder of our days for his sacrifice. As we are eternally grateful to our soldiers who gave their life for the freedom we enjoy in this country, we give thanks to Jesus Christ for the eternal freedom that He gave us through His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. What a soldier was He!

Luke 2:25-35 — Today is our last look at this passage before we move on. Simeon warning to Mary is as profound today as it was then. Jesus requires a reaction. You either reject Him or you accept Him. There is no middle ground when it comes to Jesus.

Simeon tells Mary, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but He will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” With Jesus there was no neutral ground. People either joyfully accepted His message or they totally rejected Him as a threat to their status quo. Mary would be grieved by the widespread rejection of her son.

There are two ways that people reject Jesus and only one way that they accept Him. First, there are those who totally reject Him. They do not believe that He existed. They do not believe a Word that He says. They think that He and other religious figures are just inventions of man to keep people under control. They think that religion is something created by man to keep them having hope in a world that is completely a set or disorganized random circumstances. These are the people of reason who believe than man is his own god. They believe that religion is the bane of man’s existence. These are Satan’s favorites. They believe that there are no moral absolutes. They believe that the restrictions on behavior are constructs of society and religion intended to keep man in line. They believe that in the absence of restrictions of society that man will grow to be more evolved, more tolerant. These are the very people that criticize Christians for being intolerant. To them, that is the worst sin of all is intolerance of men who do not wish to allow me to do whatever I want. They believe that what is right for me may not be right for you but you MUST be tolerant of what I do. This is the first group that rejects Jesus.

The second group that rejects Jesus are those that see Him only as a great philosopher and a radical rabbi. To them, Jesus was a great man, a great political figure. They see Him as one of many great prophets. These are the ones who amalgamize all religions and take the best of each and create their own brand of religion. I was here in this category for a great deal of my life. I saw Jesus as great martyr. I saw Him as a guy who took on the Jewish religious establishment and the Roman Empire and single handedly changed both. I saw Him as a great man and an inspiration to men like Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Gandhi. To me, He was the champion of the underdog. He was the champion of change through love rather than violence. But ultimately just a man. He was one of those generational rebels, generational changers that come along every so often to shake up society and change it in some fundamental way. In this way, I completely sidestepped what Jesus had become to my Christian friends. I just could not buy that He was what they were saying He was. I just couldn’t buy all the miraculous stuff. I thought these were inventions of the church itself and that Jesus would have scoffed at them. As well, I thought too if the miracles were true, there were rational, logical explanations of them within the realm of the scientific laws of the universe. To me, Jesus was greater as a radical political figure than as some hocum of Him being the Son of God. That just did not make any sense to me. In this way, many like myself were and are rejecting Jesus on these grounds. Accepting Him as a great man but not the Son of God is rejecting Him just as much as those who reject Him altogether. Mary’s soul is pierced by both. This sweet teenager who gave birth to Jesus and raised Him as her son and love Him as only a mother could love her own child is grieved. Not because she is of equal stature with Jesus but because she was his mom. She loved her son. She knew He was the Son of God and she was grieved when her “baby boy” was treated so badly.

There is only one way not to reject Jesus. There is only one way. We must see Him as the Son of God. We must see Him as what the Bible tells us. He is God come to earth in the flesh. He came to earth for a very specific purpose. He came to be the sacrifice for our sins. He was the culmination of everything God was preparing before He came in the flesh as Jesus the Son. Our sin separates us from God permanently – only one sin taints us and by golly we are a sinful sin committing daily lot are we not. These things separate us from God. There is no way no matter what anybody tells you that we can offset our sin nature by doing all the right things and trying to avoid the obvious bad things. We are sinful. We are born with the propensity to sin and the first time we consciously execute our sin nature, we are boned. We are sunk. Nothing can fix it. However, Jesus came to fix it. He came to earth. He, since He is God and not a created thing, was able to live the perfectly sinless life. There was no sin in Him and He committed no sin. His purpose was to be the final sacrifice of the the Old Testament sacrificial system. No longer would daily, weekly, monthly, annual sacrifices for sin be necessary. He was the perfect sinless sacrifice. He was the final sacrifice for sin. He took God’s wrath against sin on the cross so that you and I and any who believes that He is the Son of God would not have to. When we see Jesus in this way and accept Him as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, we are covered by His sinlessness. We take on His nature. Through His perfect sinless nature, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. When we see Christ as our Savior and accept this fact, we open our eyes to the fact that they we are indeed sinners and were destined for hell in the absence of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Our eyes are opened to Scripture. Our eyes see Him as the Son of God and the miracles, the teaching, the life all make perfect sense to us. To those who do not see Jesus in this way, Paul was right. It seems as unreasoned foolishness to them. But to us, there is nothing more logical and nothing more profound and nothing more worth sharing that our salvation through who Jesus really is — the Son of God.

Where do you stand with Jesus today? Are you willing to risk your eternity on totally rejecting Him? Are you willing to risk your eternity on seeing him simply as a radical political figure? Or are you willing to risk ridicule in this life for the eternity secure in God’s hand by understanding who Jesus really is — the Son of God who died on the cross for your sins? May your eyes be opened to who He really is? Amen.

Romans 16:1-16 — After reading through the list of names in Paul’s greetings to the church at Rome, it strikes you that the early church was diverse and it was mobile.

The list of names includes Roman names, Greek names, Jews and Gentiles. It includes men and women. It includes prisoners and prominent citizens. It reveals that the church’s base was broad. It crossed cultural, social and economic lines. This is what the church should be. It should not matter where you live, what you look like, how much money you make, or the color of your skin. The thing that matters is that we all believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Too often in the church now, we segregate ourselves by economic lines, racial lines, etc. Our churches are mainly people just like us. Yes, there are many large churches that are culturally and racially diverse, but there are far too many mid-size to small churches that are not. We should be welcoming to all believers who walk through our doors and make them feel comfortable and accepted. The only qualification for acceptance in our pews should be that we are all seeking Jesus. Although LifeSong may not be as culturally and racially as diverse as we could be, our church is a collection of young in their walk believers and believers who have been away from church because of past hurts. As a result there is a general sense of acceptance to anyone who walks through our doors. The general sense we have at our church is that we are simply thankful to not be living our old lives and because of that we simply have no time for the old games. There are no stares or quiet whispers when someone new walks through our doors. This is church as it should be.

The list of names also make recognize that Paul apparently already knew a good many people from the church at Rome. How did this happen if he had desired to come to Rome but had not yet been there. The answer is that the church at Rome, much like all of the early churches, was mobile. Everyone was a missionary. Paul would meet these people in other places where the church was being planted. All of the early church was eager to get out and help the church along wherever the help was needed. These early Christians would go anywhere anytime to spread the gospel. They were willing to go to prison for it. They were willing to die for it. What if we had these sensibilities today. Many today use the excuse that they have jobs in the real world and thus what they can do is limited, very limited. Didn’t people have to work back in the first century? Well, of course they did. However, they made the advance of the church the single most important priority. They measured their employment options by how it would affect their ability to participate in the mission of the church. Last night, I was sitting in the upper deck of Clemson’s football stadium watching the Tigers play along with 80,031 of my friends. It struck me that we make priorities out the things we WANT to make priorities out of. What if we had the passion for the church’s mission that we Tiger fans have for our beloved Clemson Tigers. Clemson fans are some of the most passionate and most willing to travel fans in college football. Last week, Clemson was well represented at the Boston College game – the longest road trip that the Tigers have every other year. What if we were just as willing to travel far and wide to spread the gospel with that same passion and loyalty. What if we were willing to make the same sacrifices for the church’s worldwide mission that we are willing to make to follow our Tigers. May we be as passionate with our LifeSong Church t-shirt on as we are when we have our Clemson t-shirts on. May be be as passionate to post on Christian blog boards as we are to post our passionate feelings on our Clemson blog boards. The early church was mobile, passionate, and willing. This is the hope we have for our church in today’s world. May we be a church that is willing to do whatever it takes, go wherever we need to go, to help the spread of the gospel.

Father, help us to remember that the only thing that matters about membership in the fellowship of saints is that we are seeking Jesus Christ. No other qualifications matter. Help us to also remember that we should be passionate about this fact, seeking Jesus and making His name known. We should be willing to go anywhere and do anything to make His name famous. May we do it with all our passion. May there be no sacrifice that we consider too great to make this happen. Jesus thought that we worth no sacrifice too great. Let us repay Him with the same mindset. Amen.