Only the high priest can enter this space, the holy of hollies, and only once a year. On the Day of Atonement (or “Yom Kippur”), the high priest, following very specific instructions, goes in and makes a sacrifice offering on behalf of all the people. He steps into the tabernacle, beyond the curtain and approaches the mercy seat, sprinkling sacrificial blood over it. Blood is shed for forgiveness of sins. Fitting that it is shed over the ark of the covenant, the place where the law is kept. The law that no one can ever keep.
This is a day to acknowledge the sins of the people and make a sacrifice to be temporarily reconciled to God. It is temporary because it has to be repeated every single year.
Much is required to approach a holy God. It is not to be taken lightly. The priest is to bring two young goats and a bull. At God’s direction, one goat will be sacrificed with the bull, and the other one set free.
The blood from the sacrificed goat and bull is sprinkled on God’s mercy seat; on the Ark of the Covenant. The priest then puts his hands on the other goat and confesses the sins of the nation, transferring them onto the goat. The goat is brought deep into the wilderness and released with the sins of the people.
Two goats – payment for sin and removal of sin. Bloodshed and freedom.
It is a shadow of the sacrifice Jesus came to offer. Hebrews 5 shows Jesus as the great high priest, both sacrifice and sacrifice. Not only does Jesus come to die on the cross to shed blood in payment for our sins, but He also transfers His righteousness to us. He takes our punishment AND sets us free. Free from guilt and condemnation. Free to approach a holy God. One sacrifice for all time. Only Jesus…the great high priest and spotless lamb.
The Bible – the inspired word of God -- was written over a 1,600-year period by more than 40 authors … royalty, farmers, fishermen, a tentmaker, homeless prophets, a doctor, a professional scribe, vocational musicians, pastors … in three continents (Asia, Africa & Europe).
The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. In the original languages, the Bible has about 611,000 words.
The full Bible has been translated into over 500 languages, and partially translated into over 2,800 languages
It is the most owned item in the world.
The Bible is the best-selling book in history, with total sales exceeding 5 billion copies.
Discoveries regularly come to light that support the historical accuracy of the Bible.
An edifying word can encourage you.
A smart word can enlighten you.
A motivating word can inspire you.
A witty word can improve your mood.
But only God’s Word can change you; transform you; save you.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
What other book of words could be read, re-read, and studied for thousands of years and still not fully understood? Indeed, the Bible is LIVING and ACTIVE. So much more than mere words. Life.
God, let me never lose the awe and wonder of your gift to us.
We are in the midst of a great war…a battle deep in enemy territory. Clothed in comfort and freedom and luxury, we are at risk of hard hearts, unbelief and lukewarm faith.
We love the stories of the beginnings of the early church…a community of believers on fire for Jesus, in constant fellowship, studying and praying and eating together...even amidst persecution. We crave radical sold-out living for Jesus, but do we do much to pursue it? The alternative is to position ourselves for deceit and falling away.
The writer of Hebrews warns, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)
We know our mission includes loving God and making disciples, but Hebrews is emphasizing the importance of Christian community; of deep relationship with other believers. To exhort one another. Every day. Lest we may be led astray in this great battle waging within us and around us.
Some of you may be great at Christian community, but if I am honest, I’ve let this one slip over the past year or so. This is a weakness for me in this season of my life. Though I have been in the past, I am not currently in a small group. Though I study the Bible a lot on my own and even teach it to teens, I am not part of a group of peers or mentors at this time. I love my church, but it is BIG and I haven’t taken steps to make it small. I pray often for friends and even strangers, but I am no longer part of a face-to-face prayer group. Today I am convicted by the message the Spirit has given me through Hebrews. What about you? We can’t fight this war on our own. We were meant to fight with and for each other, as fellow warrior, consoler, and cheerleader.
What is the most special part of Christian community in this season of your life?
You know what everything means? It means EVERY THING. All. Things. And the writer of Hebrews tells us that EVERYTHING was put in subjection to Jesus. NOTHING was left outside of His control.
That addicted loved one? Part of everything. That wandering child? Yep, part of everything too. That chronic illness? Still everything. That financial burden? Everything. That bully and abuser? Every. Thing. That missed opportunity and broken relationship? Also in the everything category.
Like me, you might be asking, “If Jesus is in control of everything, why can’t He just fix this situation? Why do bad things happen? Why is there so much pain and suffering? Why is life so hard? Why does it sometimes feel like Jesus isn’t in control of everything?”
The author answers these questions in the next statement. “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him.” (Hebrews 2:8b)
God’s story is unfolding, but it has not yet been fully revealed or executed. We are further along than our biblical ancestors, but we are not yet at the end. We live in a fallen world, so suffering and pain and death are still part of our lives. However, the Bible tells us that one day God will fulfill all of His promises. His story will be complete and those who have put their faith in Him will spend eternity in heaven. There will be no more tears, no more suffering, and no more pain.
The writer of Hebrews tells us we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. In other words, we must be anchored in God’s truth or slowly and steadily – perhaps without even noticing – the tides and currents of culture will have us drifting away. To do nothing is to drift.
Though we do not yet see or understand many things in our world, it is still absolutely true that EVERYTHING is under the control of Jesus. HE’S GOT THIS! When we turn to Him, He will help us overcome. It’s ALL under His control. Our job is to remain anchored in His truth; His word.
Jesus is better. Even when I don’t have it all figured out or understand it all. Even when the more I study, the more clear and less clear it all simultaneously gets. Still I can say without a doubt, JESUS IS BETTER!
When Ruth decided to go with Naomi back to Bethlehem, Ruth, a Moabite, didn’t have all the answers, but she believed Naomi’s God was better. When Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho, hid the spies and tied the scarlet cord outside her window, she didn’t understand it all, but she believed the God of Israel was better. When Peter remained despite Jesus saying hard truths that drove many away, he didn’t understand how it would all go down, but he believed Jesus was better.
Jesus is better. He is alive and sitting at the right hand of God the Father. With all power and authority until at just the right time; the ordained time, He will come again.
Hebrews opens with the assertion and truth that God speaks. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke through the prophets. But in these last days, He speaks through His Son. Jesus didn’t just bring a message…He IS the message. Jesus wasn’t just another prophet and spokesperson…He is the radiance of the Glory of God; He is the exact imprint of the nature and character of God. He is God. Jesus is better.
Jesus came to earth and made purification for our sins. By one offering, He made righteous all who believe. And then He sat down. His offering was perfect and complete to make us perfect and complete in Him.
Do you believe Jesus is better? You don’t have to have it all figured out. None of us will on this side of heaven. Ask God to reveal Himself to you through Jesus; through His word. He may be sitting, but He is still powerful; He is still watching and still working and still rooting for you.
Onesimus, a bondservant in the house of Philemon, who had since escaped with stolen goods, is set to head back from where he came.
He fled over 1,00 miles, ultimately landing in Rome.
Here he met Paul. Here he met Jesus. Here the running stopped. Here he became truly free.
And instead of continuing to run, Paul is sending Onesimus on a mission, letter in hand, back to Philemon. The letter he carries is unlike Paul’s other letters. This one is personal…believer to believer. A plea to Philemon to see Onesimus with new eyes; to see him as he is…a child of God sold out for Jesus. No longer a bondservant, but a beloved brother in Christ.
Paul pleads to a friend on behalf of a friend, desiring reconciliation and restoration. Paul offers to personally right any wrongs; to pay anything owed on Onesimus’ behalf for what he had taken. Paul is careful to not order or command it, but to appeal on behalf of Christian love and compassion. Because it is a heart change that transforms, not another dictate to follow.
As Onesimus makes his way to Colossae – over 1,000 miles back to the owner he fled from – I wonder what is going through his mind. Is he terrified? Is he hopeful? Is he praying? Is he having second thoughts? I wonder if he is making connections to the freedom the One he put his hope and faith brought about on his behalf…not the freedom from a bondservant-owner relationship, but the freedom from sin and condemnation and eternal death.
Bravely Onesimus goes, no doubt clinging to, and safely guarding, Paul’s letter. No longer a slave; no longer in hiding. He messed up and he must make it right. But everything is different this time. In the blood of Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek…slave nor free…male or female…for we are all one in Christ (re: Galatians 3:28). Onesimus is returning repentant and free.
Scholars believe that the Bishop Onesimus of Ephesus was THIS Onesimus. Perhaps he played a part in preserving this letter – his story – in God’s story to us. Freedom is contagious. And when we are truly free, there is no stopping us. You who are in Christ are FREE. You no longer have to run or hide or be afraid. Be free and step into your new life; your new calling.
He saved us. “When the GOODNESS and LOVING KINDNESS of God our Savior appeared, he saved us.” (Titus 3:4)
Our Savior is GOOD.
Our Savior is LOVING.
Our Savior is KIND.
And so Paul reminds Titus to remind us that we too should be good, and loving, and kind. He tells Titus to remind us to be submissive to rulers and authorities. To be obedient. To be ready for every good work. To speak evil of no one. To avoid quarreling. To be gentle. To show perfect courtesy toward all people.
Because there was a time when we too weren’t yet saved. There was a time when we were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days with malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us.
D.L. Moody says, Grace means undeserved KINDNESS. It is the gift of God to man the moment he sees he is unworthy of God’s favor.”
If we want to show people Jesus, we will show people goodness and loving kindness.
What struck me about this portion of Paul’s instructions to Titus was the importance of spiritual mentorships. It’s something that has been on my mind for some time now. I’ve been working on a book + Bible study for girls starting college, and as part of my research I surveyed over 300 college girls or recent grads from nearly as many different schools. A common piece of advice these girls would give to those coming behind them was to seek out a godly mentor. What this looked like varied among the girls in terms of age and proximity, but they wanted someone who could teach them — show them — how to live out their faith in this new, often contentious and antagonistic, environment.
A sophomore from Texas State said, “I wish I had had a personal mentor to guide me through the hard times and keep me motivated while also being able to celebrate accomplishments and victories. Someone who could strengthen my faith and answer any questions I had about Jesus.”
Paul’s instructions to Timothy are directed at both men and women, each with responsibilities toward those younger than them. Things like being sober-minded, self-controlled, reverent, dignified; sound in faith, love, steadfastness. To teach what is good, and set a good example in word and behavior.
What if we all took a younger seeker under our wings? What if we all submitted ourselves to the wisdom of a godly mentor? No matter your age or experience level, there is someone who has gone before you and someone who is coming up behind you.
I think many of us are missing out on this valuable part of what Christian community looks like, both as a giver and receiver.
I would love to hear your mentorship experience and any advice you have on finding or becoming a mentor. Thanks, friends!
How many people can you genuinely count on? People that will without a doubt be there, and never lie under any circumstance? I’m guessing very few, if any. I think this might be part of why we have such a hard time believing just how good and reliable God really is in our lives. It is hard to grasp perfection…perfect holiness, perfect truthfulness, perfect righteousness, perfect justice, perfect mercy, perfect sacrifice, perfect love. It is beyond our understanding. We look to the person we know the best – ourselves – and we fall so very short.
In Paul’s opening words to Titus, he speaks of the hope of eternal life we have; hope that was promised before the ages…and he inserts these words of God “He never lies.” Never. Ever.
This hope promised before the ages began is manifested in His word THROUGH the preaching of His word. Paul had been entrusted to preach the word. We have been entrusted to preach the word. And we can know without doubt that it is true. God never lies. His word never lies.
In our “Post-truth” (Oxford Dictionaries 2016 word of the year) world, it is hard to know what is truth. Real, at the core truth. Not perception, hope, gut, emotion, wishful thinking…but TRUTH. Smooth words and eloquent rhetoric by gifted speakers claiming to be enlightening and empowering preach things like truth is relative. Your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth; there are no absolutes. But what a weary world really needs – whether our visceral human flesh will admit it or not – is TRUTH. Because everyone’s idea of truth based on their current desires, needs, circumstances, emotions, surroundings…will never lead to healing. It may feel good and affirming and tolerant and loving at the time, but it will lead to a path of destruction.
If we love; if we seek healing; if we desire restoration; if we long for salvation, we must preach truth. And there is only one truth…that from the Creator of truth; the One who can never lie.
God, may we never veer from truth. May it be our foundation and our goal post. May we believe it, live it, and preach it. Even when it is hard, because it will be hard.
2 Timothy 4
Having fought the good fight. Having seen glorious highs and gruesome lows. From a prison in Rome shortly before his death, scholars believe 2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter and last communication to the churches. And these are his final penned words...
“Be diligent to come to me quickly,” Paul is eager to see his friend and protégé one more time.
“Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world and has departed for Thessalonica.” In both Colossians and Philemon, Paul speaks of Demas as a fellow worker. But now he has chosen the world. He lost his love for truth. How heartbroken Paul must be.
“Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia…and Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.” Unlike Demas, these have left on mission; carrying on Paul’s ministry…but nonetheless, their presence is missed by him.
“Only Luke is with me.” Trusted, loyal Luke remains by his side. We need that one; the one who stays.
“Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” A beautiful picture of redeemed relationships. Mark, who caused the separation of Paul and Barnabas. Paul had refused to bring Mark along, still bitter about an earlier abandonment. Some friendships come in and out of season. Restoration happened between Mark and Paul, and Paul longs to see him.
“Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come, and the books, especially the parchments.” The simple things Paul wants in his last days...his friends, his cloak, and words...especially Scripture.
Paul, who boldly planted churches and preached the Gospel. Paul, who wrote the most powerful presentation and defense of the Gospel. Paul, who learned to be content in all things. At then end, it is his people, a little comfort, and God’s Word.
And here we get a peek into Paul’s tribe at the end of his life. Remnants of a strong and messy community. But aren’t they all?
Some have carried the baton to finish the work he started. Some are literally by his side. And some have painfully deserted him; have chosen another side.
Sometimes our tribe will lift us up, and sometimes people will let us down. We are human; we are sinners. But our tribe matters. We prefer to have them near. We covet their prayers and love and support. We are stronger and can do more together.
Paul’s final penned words are full of emotion. This author and apostle I admire so much values his people, but knows the true source of all comfort and contentment is when Jesus is by his side...
“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:15-18
We need a strong, steady, loyal tribe, no doubt. But our most consistent, powerful, and important tribe member is Jesus. He will be the one standing with us at the end; He will be the one to usher us safely into His heavenly kingdom.
So, what does your tribe look like? Is Jesus invited?
All 1 1 Corinthians 1 Peter 1 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 & 3 John 2 Corinthians 2 Peter 2 Thessalonians 2 Timothy Acts Colossians Ephesians Galatians Hebrews Info James John Jude Luke Mark Matthew Philemon Philippians Revelation Romans TItus