Archive for the ‘Yom Kippur’ category

Our Refuge, His Presence

May 6, 2011

If you are poor, tired, forlorn, and lost there is a place you can go to meet Jesus. It does not depend on your being accepted by a bunch of snooty church folks, you do not have to wear the right clothing, or smell nice. It is a certain and guaranteed thing, because it depends on Jesus alone. Therefore it is not subject to the whims and religious attitudes of men. It is also a place that many have been denied, because the most basic information about it has been obscured for hundreds of years, yielding generations of babies who know a little (or maybe just a lot of academic schlock) about Jesus, but who do not know Him personally (or by means of the Spirit).

 

The place I speak of is the place where Peter was when he was praying in Joppa, (Acts 10:10) and it is where John was when he mentions that he was “in the Spirit” at the beginning of “The Revelation Of John” (Revelation 1), It is where Paul was when he mentions casually that he was taken up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-6).

 

It is as if, when you hear the good news and accept it, you are set down in the outer courts of Solomon’s temple and you tramp around there enjoying all the praise bands and the religious goings on, but to get to the court of the Priests you have to seek the entrance, you have to find the door. Further on to gain access to the temple itself and the Holy of Holies which is your right as a child of the Living God, you have to find the entrance, The entrance in all cases is Jesus, getting to know Him in the most intimate way, is your doorway to these wonderful places. You might say, well this Scriptural evidence is sketchy, yet I am only scratching the surface, there are many examples of this in the New Testament, you just have to look for them, Jesus set the tone in this way of life by spending considerable time, alone with the Father, in prayer.

 

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19

 

“19 You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you. You have received the Holy Spirit from God. So you do not belong to yourselves,” New Century Version

 

Paul said very much the same thing in several places in his epistles, and I would like to suggest to you that for Paul the Temple he once served and the temple God was building in His people were not so different, just far more personal.

 

When you ask, seek, and knock (Luke 11:9-13) God sets up a place in your heart for His presence, a Holy of Holies to which you can retreat to be with Him. I also think that in a slightly different way He is speaking of the same thing when He said “Behold I stand at the door and knock,” Revelation 3:20-22
He encourages us to seek Him, but I believe that He also actively calls us to seek Him.

 

The initiative was God’s from the very beginning, it is our responsibility to respond. To live the life that He has so graciously provided we must walk with Him and dwell in Him. But the flesh resists this simple and beautiful gift which God has placed on our doorsteps. The flesh wants an appearance of Godliness, but please none of that radical stuff!! But sometimes, in it’s contrary way, the flesh makes a religious duty out of being radical. So you can see it all around you in the religious observances that Christians occupy themselves with every day.

 

On the one hand, it is fairly easy to detect an immature approach to the Lord, when others try to convince you to follow their example (and they will!), because the followers of babydom do not have the Spirit to guide them, they only have the book (the Bible) and lacking clarification from the Spirit they cling to whatever interpretation of Scripture they have obsessively, because that is all they have.

 

On the other hand, life in the Spirit is multifaceted, you can walk and talk with Him, listen to Him, and obey Him, He guides you, there are secrets and gifts He will share with you so that you may help people, and He has secrets and gifts for you alone, it is never dull and Scripture will unfold for you in the brilliant light of His Spirit, the very one who wrote it.

 

When you give up your feeble, and failed attempts at controlling your life and place yourself solely in His hands you will find that He is adding to you and augmenting your life beyond anything you ever thought possible.

 

This is our legitimate claim on Jesus, and He is pleased to help us receive it.

But it all starts when we find our refuge in Him, our sanctuary in His Presence.

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Call Upon The Name Of The Lord pt 2

July 29, 2010

I am the God Of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

It has become popular over the last 400 years to disassociate Jesus from His Hebrew roots. To replace Israel with the church in many readings from the Old Testament, and to generally hold the God portrayed in the Old Testament in contempt because of His judgments. I am here to tell you today that the God Jesus spoke of was the very same as the one Abraham and Moses spoke to, in fact it seems likely that it was the pre-incarnate Christ that they spoke to. Jesus also makes it clear that He came to seek and to save the lost sheep of Israel first of all. In God’s scheme of things it was only after the nation of Judah rejected Him that God then turned the gospel out into the world at large and made His acceptance of gentiles widely known. This is the meaning of the parable given in Luke 14:16-24 when the original guests who were invited to the feast refused to attend, God went out into the streets and ditches to find people among the poor and sick to attend the feast.
We are those people, we are grafted into the olive tree of God’s family, we are now in His family and God is glad to have us. Yet God has not forgotten Israel.

Here is something to think about for those who reject the idea that the God of the New Testament will levy judgment.
After Judah rejected Jesus and the concentrated efforts of the Apostles in the time between the crucifixion and the year 67 AD. The Jewish Zealots began a rebellion against Rome. The Jewish zealots were trying to force God’s hand. Surely, they thought, God would aid them against pagan Rome.
It was not to be, the society that rejected and insisted on crucifying the Messiah was dealt a blow when Jerusalem, including Herod’s temple, was besieged and burned by the future Emperor Titus, in 70 AD. Josephus the Jewish historian who was working for Titus at the time, chronicled this period of rebellion in great detail. After the fall and destruction of Jerusalem the Romans rebuilt the city in their own image with a temple to Jupiter on the site of Herod’s temple. The rebellion continued, various rebel outposts fell during several separate outbreaks, including the Herodium and Masada, There was a final rebellion in 132-134 AD led by a fellow named Simon Bar Kokhba who fancied himself to be the Messiah. The Romans had had quite enough by this time and after they defeated bar Kokhba they sold the surviving losers into slavery all over the Empire.
These events could be chalked up to bad luck for a bunch of folks who simply could not tolerate pagan overlords and who could not stop themselves from bucking Rome. Or they might be seen as a near perfect parallel to the destruction of Jerusalem (and Solomon’s temple) and the captivity of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar (most of the population of Judah was dragged off to slavery in Mesopotamia for 70 years). This sequence of events was clearly set forth in the Old Testament as judgment for Judah’s worship of idols and non adherence to the Law, in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other books of the prophets.

So history speaks to us in a way none of us could have foreseen. Here we have a group of people who lived after the resurrection, who rejected and killed Jesus, and who killed some of the followers of Jesus and eventually drove the Apostles away from Jerusalem. They rebelled against and felt the full wrath of Rome, they were slaughtered and enslaved and their Holy city was destroyed. Now I don’t know about you, but I do not believe that this was a coincidence.
This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 21:33-46
33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. 37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38  But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘ The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the LORD’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

Matthew 21:33-46  New King James Version

Even as we consider how God judged Judah, we must also consider how He has so often restored His people.

10 This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
12 In those days when you pray, I will listen.
13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”
Jeremiah 29:10-14 NLT

God had Jeremiah deliver this message as these people were being dragged off in chains. He is reassuring them that when they are ready to return He is there waiting.

Again and again in Scripture God defines His people as those who know Him, as those who seek Him. If you don’t know Him, He won’t protect you from the hazards of this world.
God’s mercy in this age is shown in the fact that anyone, absolutely anyone, who wishes can know Him. He has given us ample clues in the Gospels that He will go after anyone whose heart is His. Are we to doubt that He can reach a person in another culture if they want to know Him?
We have been addicted to the idea that Jesus is up in His place far, far away and that if anything is going to get done we must do it. I might add that this interpretation of how God’s work is done is highly flattering to our egos. Contrary to our attitudes, Jesus can and does work in people’s lives without our say so. He is even able to make contact with people without our help (ie the angel’s visit to Cornelius in Acts 10). We need to understand that it is not about us, it is all about Him. It is not our place to call the shots, we must follow the example of the Apostles who were directed by God in their work.
So how are we to respond to Him? Should we turn to Him out of fear of judgment?
No, that is not His message at all, really His message, in addition to forgiveness,  is that we can know Him, we can grow in Him, He will perfect us in His image. And last and perhaps least important we will avoid judgment in doing so.
If you are found in Him there is nothing this world can do to harm you.

Call Upon The Name Of The Lord

July 20, 2010

I have noticed recently a trend among the hip christians who like to have endless theological discussions on Facebook, this trend is demonstrated by the comment
“I couldn’t love the God of the Old Testament (hereafter OT), He is a murderer and He seems to delight in torturing people.”
This comment and many others like it reveal something about the people who make them. They have a thorough lack of understanding of the God of the OT.
In the OT God is sovereign, God is feared, and most of all God is right.

One of the effects of the fall and subsequent removal of Adam and Eve from the garden is an irrational fear of God. They hid out of fear from the very person they had been walking with just the evening before. With their act of rebellion they slipped from knowing God with certainty, to knowing that they were grossly imperfect and that God could destroy them, therefore they no longer believed in God’s demonstrated love toward them, they foundered on the rocks of fear and doubt, they even doubted that God had told them the truth, and they became strangers to the one who loved them most. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit they left God, not the other way around. When they fell Adam and Eve were no longer equipped to live in the presence of God. By listening to and believing the serpent, and turning their backs on the Lord, they had made their decision. So they had to be evicted from the garden.

This is a matter of putting another being before God, believing the words of another over God’s words. they listened to the serpent and believed the serpent’s lies over all that God had told them. There are some very interesting places in the OT where God could have taken another tack with us. One of those is in Genesis. If Adam had thrown Himself on the Lord’s mercy and confessed, things would have turned out rather differently for them. But he didn’t confess, he lied and blamed his wife and she blamed the serpent, and this is why I underscore the point that Adam and Eve left God not the other way around. They could have asked Him for and received forgiveness.

This becomes even more apparent when you read the chat that the Lord has with Cain, now the occasion was that Cain and Abel had each brought offerings to the Lord Cain of his harvest for he was a farmer, and Abel of his flocks for he was a shepherd. God favored Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. Now it is obvious from the context that Cain and God had quite a conversation, so it is evident that Cain was able to hear God. It also shows that God was interested in helping Cain. The problem was not that Cain did not believe in God, he did believe and he conversed with Him. The problem was that Cain insisted that God regard his offering with equal favor to that of Abel. Cain wanted to tell God what to do and he sought to force God’s hand by murdering his competition for God’s favor. This is obviously an evil attitude. And after the murder did Cain ask for forgiveness? No way dude, he just spent a half a chapter bewailing his cursed situation. We would call it crying in his beer.

Then a little later, God brings our attention to something new which was happening He introduces us to Enoch and he talks about how Enoch walked with the Lord for 300 years and then God took him.
Now in the world which Genesis unfolds for us which is becoming increasingly rebellious, wicked and willful, God brings us the story of someone who knew Him and walked with Him. Someone who had a close relationship with Him, and shortly afterward God judges the earth and it’s inhabitants and destroys them. But standing on it’s own, in glaring contrast to that judgement, is the treatment He gave to the man who knew Him, who walked with Him. God received Enoch to Himself, He preserved Enoch’s righteous offspring Noah and his family and He disposed of the wicked ones.

When I was a kid I read about the Nuremberg trials for the Nazi war crimes and later the capture of Adolf Eichmann, I remember that for the worst crimes against humanity imagineable there was only hanging as an option. If human courts and human judges can only think of swift execution as the penalty for unbelievable evil and that is considered just, then don’t you understand that God who knows every motive and evil deed is certainly entitled to do with us as He sees fit.

Now I don’t know about you, but instead of playing at being God by judging God I think I would like to understand what the narrative is telling me. It is saying that if I walk with God like Enoch did, and indeed Adam and Eve before the fall, if I get to know God, then God will preserve me and take me into His own care, and not only that but He will walk and talk with me as a friend, but if I turn my back on Him, pursue my own selfish interests and try to hang labels on God and judge the righteous judge (as did Cain and the pharisees) He will declare that He does not know me and He will cast me out.

Time after time in the OT we find God expounding upon and often mourning His loss of relationship with His people, from the high poetry of David, to the amazing pronouncements of Isaiah, to the tearful pleadings of Jeremiah. Again, again, and again God calls His own into deeper relationship, a call which was largely ignored. Again and yet again He puts the most important messages for Israel and Judah in strictly relational terms. If His people sought Him and walked humbly with Him, He would preserve, and cherish them, as a husband would his wife, but if they were unfaithful to Him and worshipped idols he would turn His back on them and destruction would surely follow.

So finally we come to this, the most amazing declaration from the “angry” God of the OT hidden in the middle of one of the most legalistic of the books of the law.

“1  “When the time arrives that all these things have come upon you, both the blessing and the curse which I have presented to you; and you are there among the nations to which ADONAI your God has driven you; then, at last, you will start thinking about what has happened to you;  2  and you will return to ADONAI your God and pay attention to what he has said, which will be exactly what I am ordering you to do today – you and your children, with all your heart and all your being.  3  At that point, ADONAI your God will reverse your exile and show you mercy; he will return and gather you from all the peoples to which ADONAI your God scattered you.  4  If one of yours was scattered to the far end of the sky, ADONAI your God will gather you even from there; he will go there and get you.  5  ADONAI your God will bring you back into the land your ancestors possessed, and you will possess it; he will make you prosper there, and you will become even more numerous than your ancestors.  6  Then ADONAI your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children, so that you will love ADONAI your God with all your heart and all your being, and thus you will live.”

Deuteronomy 30:1-6 The Complete Jewish Bible

Can’t you see He is saying when you return to Me I will return to you, but the message is actually much deeper than that, He means, when you return to Me I will be there for I did not leave you, it is you who left Me.

This is the very same message Jesus brought to Judah in His day,
Jesus said
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
Matthew 23:37 NKJV

Jesus said
10″For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:10 NASB

Jesus said
39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!
40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.
John 5:39-40 NLT

Jesus said
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV

God’s message of relationship has never changed. It is and always has been God who has come after us.
Do not be deceived, we are not going to suddenly get up one day and heroically thrash through the impassible jungle to find Him. Not even close!
He is standing next to you waiting for you to respond to Him. He is closer than you think. He is closer than your next breath. And it was the same for the people of the OT it’s just that the Messiah had not yet come.

Jesus Is Our Priest

May 4, 2010

I look at the institutional church now days and I see a tremendous deficit, we have, in our modern context, taken a concept which would aid us immeasurably in understanding what God is doing, and we have distorted it beyond all recognition. I speak of the office of priest. In our day to day lives, if anyone would identify themselves as a priest we would instantly know him to be from the Roman Catholic or Anglican traditions or perhaps a little less familiarly from the Orthodox tradition. In the Protestant world I live in, priesthood is foreign, and all too often identified solely with the Roman Catholic world. In our culture we have allowed the Roman Catholic church to define priesthood, so we tend to avoid the subject, and give it short shrift whenever we encounter it in Scripture.
I am hoping that today we can get to the bottom of this subject. A subject which deserves far more attention than we have given it in the past.
So what is the definition of a priest? This is what the Merriam-Webster’s website says

“Main Entry: priest
Pronunciation: \ˈprēst\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English preist, from Old English prēost, ultimately from Late Latin presbyter — more at presbyter
Date: before 12th century

: one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God; specifically : an Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, or Roman Catholic clergyman ranking below a bishop and above a deacon.”*

Let’s look at the first part shall we?
Webster says; “one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God;”
This definition is the most general possible and applies to human religious priesthood, christian or pagan.
If you dig into the Bible, for that is where we will find the full definition, you will discover another facet of priesthood, a true priest is one who is appointed by and sent from God. There is also a sense from the appearance of Melchizedek the King of Salem (Shalom or peace) in Genesis 14, that God will provide a priest.  So here is the first clear requirement of priesthood, a true priest is one whom God has chosen and sent.

A second requirement is that a priest be from among the people who are being represented. Melchizedek was a human and he represented humankind to God, Aaron was a Hebrew and he represented the descendants of Jacob to God.
An angel or any other kind of non-human could never be a priest for humans. Therefore to be our High Priest Jesus had to become one of us. By means of the creative power of the Holy Spirit, through Mary, He became a human being. Jesus was a descendant of Abraham through Mary and, by adoption, of David through Joseph in order to represent Israel and to be it’s King, but as a human being He represents us all. Therefore as one begotten of God, He is the God-man and at the same time the man-God.

So now we come to the wrinkle which God threw into the concept of priesthood, which departs from the Old Testament office of human priest. He is revealing the reality of priesthood to us, in that Jesus was, in His earthly form, Immanuel or God with us, So we have a person who is a human being to represent us to God, and He is at the same time God to represent God to us. This reflects the ministry of the high Priest of Israel, who went through the veil into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur to bring the blood of the sacrifice into the presence of God, standing as a representative of the people to God, and then he would come back out through the veil to pronounce the blessing to the people, announcing the forgiveness of God to them, thereby representing God to the people. Jesus is the only person begotten of God, that is, who came directly from God, who was chosen and sent by God and revealed in human history. He is the only human who ever lived who is actually fully qualified to speak to God for humankind and to speak to us for God. Thus He is the only way to God. He is the door, He is the gate, He is the only true Shepherd.

A priest does what the rest of the people cannot do for themselves, he goes into the presence of God and pleads for those whom he represents. So it is that this man Jesus was the High Priest for all humanity on that day so long ago when He went through the veil of death into the very presence of God to present His blood as a sacrifice for us all. Then He came back out through that veil, back to life in His body, to announce God’s blessing of forgiveness, but as God sometimes does He introduces us to something new. Jesus did not simply repair His old body, to be just like ours, no, He raised it to be as it should be, the singular mark of representing God to us, and the signpost of our future as ones who will be like Him.

So let us review.
A true priest is one whom God has chosen and sent.
Jesus is the Messiah or the “anointed” or “chosen one” of God.
In our culture, in the traditions which ordain “priests”, we seem to think that we can choose someone, train him, and voila! he is a “priest”. We as humans wish to choose our own representatives. Yet in situation after situation in Scripture if someone whom God did not choose sets himself up as a priest, not only does God not accept this, but disaster usually follows. It is quite clear from Scripture that Jesus is the “chosen one”, let’s save ourselves a lot of grief and go with God’s choice.

A priest must be from among the people who are represented.
Jesus was a human being and a member of the tribe of Judah. therefore representing Israel and humankind before God.

In a twist from God, Jesus was divine, making Him uniquely qualified to speak to us as God. This confirms the chosen nature of priesthood, for God sent Jesus, a vital part of Himself, to show us Himself. This simply would not have been possible with anyone else, Jesus came from God, he was chosen by and sent from God.

Finally a priest does what we ourselves cannot. He prepares the sacrifice and He goes into the presence of God to present the sacrifice and to plead for us.
Jesus sacrificed Himself and went through the veil of death into the very presence of God to be “us” before God, that is why those of us who know Him are “in Him”. Then He came back through the veil of death to tell us that we have been reconciled to God. And He did more than that in sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to set up a Holy of Holies in our hearts, thus we are, each of us, the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Just as the Temple of God in Jerusalem was the meeting place between God and man in the world during that time. Now we who know Him are the meeting place between God and man in this present world.
Therefore we are all priests under our great High Priest Jesus. We plead for our friends and neighbors to God, and we represent God to the world.

Blessings to you all,
Nathan

*My sincere thanks to Merriam-Webster and their fine editorial staff for making this available, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/priest

About Authority

March 6, 2010

I have felt the need to respond to a lot of strange messages I have seen lately on Facebook and on various blogs, and I see a theme developing here. The subject is inevitably authority. We live in a society which claims all sorts of authority over our lives, Educational institutions claim to have all kinds of expertise, Science claims to be the source of truth, and of course the government claims authority over life, death, the legal forms of justice, and taxes. And over the last 1800 years we have been faced with another form of authority. A form of government which would have us believe that our very souls are at stake if we do not submit to it. I speak of the “church” in it’s many bewildering forms.

Now come back with me, if you will, 2000 years to the situations Paul faced, for it is Paul’s nomenclature which all “churches” mimic. Paul uses the word πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros) to indicate a sort of special level among the people who know Jesus. The word is usually translated as elder. Indeed in other places in the New Testament it is used to indicate some one who is actually older, i.e. the older brother of the prodigal son is identified in this way. But if we are to understand what Paul is saying we must think of what he was dealing with. Each assembly of believers was constantly welcoming newcomers, babies in the faith, so if Paul wanted to indicate those who had known the Lord longer and were more mature, he would have naturally chosen the word elder, as in older in Christ, or mature in the faith.

Elder in this sense does not always indicate advanced age, for Paul tells Timothy to not allow people to despise his youth, yet Timothy was an elder, of course it is because he had known Jesus all of his life. Therefore the term often seems to indicate Spiritual maturity rather than simply advanced age.
There is also a situation Paul experienced which very few of us see now days and that is that these assemblies which Paul addressed in his letters were comprised of many, perhaps a majority of believers who were mature and knew Jesus intimately. Paul does not divide the assembly into clergy and laity, to him they are all believers, all possessing gifts from the Holy Spirit and the mature, Spiritual ones in the group are the elders.
There is also today a great deal of confusion about the role of men who serve God. Much of what we see today is based on the Old Testament idea of “priesthood”.

In the Old Testament priests had various daily chores to do around the temple, but once a year on Yom Kippur the high priest would stand in God’s presence in the Holy of Holies to represent the people before God, he would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat, and then he would come out of the Holy of Holies, and stand before the people representing God to the people, to pronounce God’s forgiveness. This is the duty of the High Priest, it is all part and parcel of the sacrificial system which God put in place to assure Israel of His favor.

When the Messiah came He did away with the slaughter of lambs and goats, with His own sacrifice and guess what else? He did away with the need for a another person to stand before God in the place of the mature believer. He did away with this human role because He Himself is the fulfillment of that role. He is our Great High Priest. He stands before the Father interceding for us constantly. We are standing before the Father in this way also, for those of us who know Him are a part of Him, we are present in Christ. And what was that other function of the High Priest? To speak to the people for God. Do you remember “My sheep hear My voice?” It is to be expected in the life of the mature believer that they hear Jesus, that they know Him as their Shepherd, their guide, and their friend. Jesus told us that it would be a normal thing for us to hear Him (John 10), and it makes perfect sense when you understand that as our High Priest He will speak to us for God.
In the New Testament whenever the term priest is used it is in reference to the Old Testament style office of priest and the Greek word used to indicate this is ἱερεύς (hiereus) this term is used to refer to the priests in Jerusalem and the word ἀρχιερεύς (arch-iereus) is used to refer to the Judaic high priest or to Jesus as our high priest. The word ἱερεύς (hiereus) is also used to refer to our priesthood under Jesus in the book of Revelation.

Throughout church history there has been a struggle going on, it is the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. So when you are involved in the fleshly tradition, instead of being encouraged to look to Jesus alone and live in His Spirit, you are told that living in the Spirit requires a human agency an “elder” and although it is more obvious in the Orthodox and Catholic traditions, this fleshly idea has gained traction among every branch of the Protestants. We are taught that we must be under the proper authority. That we are somehow second class citizens of the kingdom if we are not under some sort of “elder”. The modern interpretation of the “proper authority” usually involves a graduate degree from seminary. I might take this opportunity to point out that none of the apostles save for Paul had any extensive education, it cannot be stated with any certainty that very many of them could even read, but what they all most certainly did have was the Holy Spirit.

So who are these “elders”? Is it not as plain as the nose on your face that they are the people who knew Jesus the longest and the best. The elders are the people who were mature in the Spirit of God who lived day by day in His presence.
It has become quite clear to me and I hope to you as well that if we are to mature, we must come to understand that in Jesus’ economy we are all to become “elders” we are all to become kings and priests before Him (Rev 1:5-6).
So you say yes, what about that “kings and priests” thing. How are we to be like priests?

We are, each of us, priests in the Old Testament fashion when we share our relationship with God with other people, we are speaking to people for God, to people who do not know the Holy Spirit. Then in the peculiar symmetry of the Old Testament, we turn around and speak to God for them when we pray for them. We are therefore “priests” under our Great High Priest.

Whenever Paul refers to ministry in his letters it is πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros), διάκονος (diakonos), or ἐπισκοπος (episkopos) or elders, deacons, and overseers. We get the English word “priest” from prester the abbreviated form of presbyter, and “bishop” from the greek word “episcopos”. Even so, there is no indication apart from the general understanding of priestly functions for all of us, (Rev 1:5-6) that there are any hieratic (priestly) functions for specific individuals in the New Testament except for Jesus. In other words no one needs to speak for me to God because I am not able, and on the other hand no one needs to hear God for me because I am not able. Jesus has taken care of all of these things and communicates with those who are found in Him. He may choose to augment what He tells me through other members of His body, perhaps through a prophet, or like the situation where Paul corrected Peter, but the job of speaking to me for God does not belong to one particular individual all of the time. Through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as a believer and a member of His body, I am to be in communication with God at all times.
Ah, you might remind me of the passage in John, which seems to refer to a priestly function.
23 “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
John 20:23 (NLT)

Yes that is certainly a priestly function, but I would like to point out that this fits quite nicely into the idea that we all speak for God to those who may not know Him yet. I know that the Catholics in particular make a point of saying that Jesus was giving this ability to the disciples/apostles and therefore to the clergy, but I say since they also represented the nascent church that it would be impossible to say that they don’t represent all of us here.

So you see Paul faced a very different situation from that which we see in most “churches” today. It would appear that Paul saw the assemblies as groups of believers, each with a core of mature believers who were called elders. These “elders” were the core of the group and they taught and helped the newbies along into maturity, into becoming “elders” themselves. Today we have a professional priesthood, the “clergy” who over the centuries have wrangled their position from being humble brothers who helped the immature reach maturity in Christ, into rulers who have an unhealthy amount of control over the lives of the “laity” (from Greek, the “others”). They have also in many cases appropriated the idea that God speaks almost exclusively through them. They have stolen the central role in the “church” and the rest of us are only hangers on. In the “church” system of today we have forgotten that very basic lesson from Jesus.

1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, 7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

17 “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
John 10:1-18 NLT

So I would suggest to you that it is time to run away from the robbers, thieves and hired hands. It is time for all of us who wish to follow Jesus to follow Him alone. I would encourage all of you who might be reading this, to seek the Lord on your own, do not look to men to be priests for you, seek Him yourself, through His Spirit. I believe that you will find that this is what we have all been meant to do since the time of Pentecost, for each of us to mature in His Spirit and to be in intimate fellowship with our God.

Yom Kippur

September 28, 2009

It is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, sound the shofar!!
This is the day in the Hebrew calendar when the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies, to offer the blood of the sacrifice for the people of Israel. Since Jesus died on the cross we no longer have to rely on the blood of cattle, goats, or rams to enjoy reconciliation with God. But this would be a good time to review what God has done in your life, your Yom Kippur has forever been accomplished.
So what lies ahead for you?
You say you don’t know?
I don’t know what He has for you, but I do know that He is willing to tell you what He wants you to do if you are willing to humble yourself and listen. Jesus didn’t embark on His own Yom Kippur lightly.  He did what He did so that you and I would have free access to Him. The veil separating us from God was torn from top to bottom. He opened it up Himself.
Like the ancient Hebrew high priest, Jesus went through the veil into a place where none of the rest of us could go and came out again to pronounce the blessing, the announcement of the complete reconciliation of God and man. He rose from death, to give you and me life.
To have this life is to have His Spirit.
This is what had been acted out in symbolic form since the time of Moses. Now it is available for all of us, when God promised Abraham that He would bless the whole world through his seed, God wasn’t kidding. That means every man, woman, and child on earth can seek Him and know Him personally. We can ask anything of Him in His name and He will respond to us individually. We can know Him. We can hear Him. We can walk with Him.
Yom Kippur as we now understand it, is our opportunity to throw open the door of our hearts to Him, to be united with Him.
We can finally experience shalom.