(Lev 16.31-32) It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and be consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments.
This is the famous Day of Atonement passage. In Leviticus 16 God communicates to the Nation of Israel how they would have their sin dealt with. This annual event was to deal with their uncleanness due to their sin. Embedded in the pronouncement of cleansing (Lev.16.30) is this reminder of repetition.
Why don’t people heartily engage in mission?
This is not a new question and I won’t propose any new answers. However, the question remains important to ask and answer. When I say “mission” I mean the mission of the church, specifically, the making and training of disciples (Mt. 28.19-21).
Why is there disengagement with and ambivalence towards mission? The answer is simple: selfishness. Selfish people do not give themselves away for the purpose of others. Selfish people do not serve, they want to be served. Selfish people will not open their homes, mouths, or lives for the sake of others. The enemy of mission is me.
This reminds me of a powerful verse in the back third of our Bibles. The Apostle John writes 3rd John to commend the church towards a gospel-driven hospitality. A “gospel-tality” if you will. He does this by highlighting the faithfulness of Gaius and Demetrius in contrast to the mission-sabotaging rebellion of Diotrephes. He could also be known as “me first guy.”
One pleasant aspect of pastoral ministry is all of the different types of people I get to meet and interact with. The range of answers to common questions such as “Where are you from?” or “What do you like to do?” are fascinating. There are hunters and there are non-hunters. For every lady who loves crafts there seems to be one who does not. Some families enjoy camping and others would never put a stake in the ground. Some watch football and others paint or read. In our context in Omaha most people, surprisingly, are not from here. In most of our Connect Classes we have people from all different parts of the country coming to Omaha for one reason or another. It is fascinating to think about.
But, what makes it even more remarkable is the fact that these people with all kinds of different interests, from all different places, living in different stages of life–they all find community together in the church.
At the end of a football game often times the defensive team will collapse back to prevent a big play in order to preserve their lead. This defensive scheme is appropriately entitled a “prevent defense”. The goal is to prevent the big-play that would jeopardize their lead. The concession, of course, is that they are willing to give up some yards.
This defensive strategy works for short periods of time and only in particular situations of a game. It would be a laughable strategy for the entire game or if you were losing. There is simply too much yardage conceded and the game clock would become an enemy.
When we think about marriages, it appears that many people, particularly men, rely upon a “prevent defense” approach. Their philosophy is that the outcome is secure and they are simply trying to prevent the big-play. They are “playing” to prevent divorce, major unhappiness, or personal discomfort. This is deadly for a marriage. Marriages that employ this scheme are in trouble because, instead of actively trying to improve, they are characterized by a slow decline or are content to just “hold the line”.
In light of the brutal murder of 21 Christians in Egypt this weekend, I received a good question yesterday about suffering: “How do we apply the passages on persecution when we in the West don’t have much of it?”
Here are some examples of passages that are commonly referred to:
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (Philippians 1:29)
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12)
““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
As a pastor my life is characterized by an incessant longing for people to taste and see the goodness of God’s grace in the gospel. I pray for it, plan for, organize events to promote it, and even dream about it. I want to see the gospel come to our city and our church. I want evident gospel renewal.
In Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities, there is a memorable scene where a large cask of wine is dropped and broken in the street. The cask had burst like a walnut shell and gushing all over the stones in the street. Dickens goes on to write:
All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough, irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that approached them, had dammed it into little pools; these were surrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according to its size. Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women’s heads, which were squeezed dry into infants’ mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stern the wine as it ran; others, directed …
“And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.” (Mark 14:53)
At the trial of Jesus we have him being led to the chief priest. Here we have a very ironic scene that is both historically and theologically charged.
In the Bible we understand that everything ultimately points to the person and work of Christ (Lk. 24:26-27, 44-47). The Old Testament is laden with shadows pointing forward to the substance which is Christ (Col. 2:16-17). As question 19 in the Heidelberg Catechism say, “God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets and foreshadowed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; and finally God fulfilled it through his own beloved Son.”
So here in this scene we have Jesus standing before the high priest. Or, we might say, the substance (Jesus) standing before the shadow (high priest).
I recently asked one of our younger children to do a job that required some detailed clean-up. In the course of explaining the job as well as the steps to complete the job, I was interrupted. “I know. Dad, I know.” Everything I said was punctuated with “I know.” It was like a Baptist church hitting you with Amen’s after everything. Then I let them do it. It was a disaster. Things didn’t get put away, they actually got misplaced. Instead of the table being cleaned the floor became messy. Upon coming back to check on the situation I asked, “What happened here?” The answer, not surprisingly, “I don’t know how to do that.”
In the church we have a lot of impediments to growth in godliness. We live in a sinful world, have imperfect preachers, have trials and tribulations, and a relentless enemy who endeavors to be the stick in our spokes at every turn. But there is one great impediment to growth, this is the impediment of thinking that we already know everything. Let’s call this person “Mr Know-it-All”.
Mr Know-it-All does not really think that they have to learn anything. They are already there. They are, in effect, unteachable.
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:20-22)
The final words of the first chapter of Job are extremely powerful, but they are particularly so when considered in light of the entire chapter. It is clear that Job is a very blessed man and a very godly man. In the midst of this God permits an onslaught of affliction. In a brief period of time Job’s family and property were raided by marauders, fire, and a windstorm. His kids were dead and his business destroyed. Here at the end of the chapter he is mourning this tragic day.
Our family recently moved to a new home in a new neighborhood. We lived in our previous home for over 10 years. During those years our family saw four children born, major medical trials, a church planted, and a plethora of daily events that produce a range of reactions. Whatever the situation I would always tend to find myself in the same place, leaning against a wall in the family room looking out our back window. This spot proved to be extremely versatile. It was there that I wept for fear, excitement, regret, answered prayer, and joy. Now we live in a new home, in a new space. My familiar wall and view are not there. Sometimes I catch myself roaming about the house like Noah’s raven looking for a place to land. I’m sure the time and space will come.
As a believer do you have a place in the Bible that you return to for particular gospel encouragement? Is there a Scripture that is so versatile that it is able to meet and greet you in every one of life’s events?