December 12, 2012

Wine Skin.

What does Jesus mean when he speaks of cloth and wineskin in Mark 2:21-22?
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old  wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:21, 22 ESV)
The physical illustration is clear in terms of cloth and wineskin.  An un-shrunk cloth, if added to an old (already shrunk) garment will cause it to tear as the new cloth shrinks with wash and use.  Wineskins, when old become more brittle and hard, while a new wineskin is soft, so if you put your new wine into an old wineskin, the wineskin will tear, or break … In other words, it’s not suited.
When Jesus said what he said, it was in response to him being questioned about why whis disciples were not fasting like the Pharisees.  Jesus told them not to worry, that their day of fasting will come.  These Pharisees were far more concerned with the appearances of “tradition” than with everything Jesus has been preaching about and demonstrating.  At this point in
His ministry, Jesus had been healing multitudes, casting out demons, and preaching the Gospel. This included Him saying, “repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand”.
In a picture, Jesus was saying that the Kingdom of God cannot be considered simply an addition to the Mosaic Law, or an addition to the traditions of the day.  The Kingdom of God, is not a piece of cloth to be added to the old way of doing things.
The Kingdom of God IS a new garment.  The Kingdom of God IS a new wine and a new wineskin.  Jesus has come to fulfill the Law, to complete the plan of God.  Jesus had come to redeem man, to conquer the enemy, and to establish a new Kingdom, not a political power, not an earthly king, not a new philosophy, and not to simply add a few new ideas to what they already had.
This statement can be applied to a number of ways as the kingdom impacts our lives as Christians.  Jesus cannot just be an addition to your life, In Jesus you are completely new, you completely died, and have completely been raised.  Also, as God matures and grows the church, the church needs to be watchful of not becoming an “old” wineskin, where our traditions and old ways take place of hearing God for every season it finds itself in.
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November 16, 2012

God of the Old & New Testaments

Is there a difference between the “Old Testament God” and the “New Testament God”? Why was He so harsh and really testing us in the Old Testament? Does He still do this and it’s just less harsh?

In short the answer to your question is no, there is not a difference between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. He is always the same, never-changing. The entire Bible points us to the Heart of God. Both Old and New Testaments speak volumes about the character, sovereignty, and ways of The Lord. The narratives and prophesies in the Old Testament which detail God’s wrath and/or judgment may seem harsh and unfair but further investigation and study reveals beautiful stories about God’s unfailing kindness and abounding love.

God’s purpose, from the very beginning, was to have a relationship with His created mankind. In Genesis 15, God makes a covenant with Abram, and in Genesis 22:18 God declares that
through his descendents all nations will be blessed. These descendants were the people of Israel (and ultimately Jesus). Israel was chosen, for no reason unto themselves, to be a light to the Nations of the world. They were to display the magnificent Glory and Power of the Lord of Lords to the pagan nations surrounding them and be a people set apart unto the Lord, but they failed, consistently. Because sin had entered into the world though Adam the people of Israel were selfish, easily swayed, and enticed by their neighbors. The entire Old Testament is a cycle of Israel rebelling against the Lord, finding themselves in near destruction, crying out to the Lord for help, and then being rescued by the Lord. Once they were again secure the cycle started all over again.

Throughout the Old Testament God is pursuing the people of Israel and shouting, “Catch my heart! Be my people!” There were seasons when Israel got it, but there were far more seasons
when they did not. The Lord’s response in each of these cycles is different, but sin is always dealt with. Sometimes He disciplined his people and His wrath and hatred for sin was felt,
sometimes He used the opportunity to display His power and demonstrate that He holds the keys of life and death, and other times he allowed the people of Israel to feel the weight of their sin while still never removing His hand from them.

God knew, from the very beginning, that there was no way mankind could live a sinless life in obedience to Him. Sin cannot stand in the presence of God, and the punishment for sin is always death (Romans 6:13) yet, God desired to restore His people to a right relationship with himself. So, He sent Jesus. Jesus was the perfect sinless sacrifice to take the punishment and wrath for sin once and for all. That is why the way in which God deals with people in the New Testament is different then that in the Old. Sin has been dealt with. So, it is not that the character of God has changed, but rather our position in front of Him. God still disciplines, he still uses our rebellion to demonstrate His power (Acts 5:1-11) and He will still (sometimes) allows us to feel the weight of our sin while never taking his hand off of us. Yet, the debt is paid. We are no longer bound to sin & death, but through the sacrifice of Jesus are able to enter into the presence of the Lord boldly and with no reservations.

April 11, 2012

How to “Talk God”?

Question: Is there any advice on how to “talk God” with non-believers? I know it is different for each individual but I never understand how someone can so nonchalantly bring up such a heated subject.

For the sake of this argument we will classify a “non-believer” as someone who does not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Within this subjects there are many ways in which a discussion of the divinity of Christ can become heated, (i.e. past abuse, judgment, man-centered teaching from the church, self-righteousness, misunderstandings) when discussing issues that could be sensitive in nature it is important to be aware of possible presuppositions.  Again, for the sake of this question, we will focus on a non-augmentative, nonchalant, conversation.

Let’s step back and discuss who we are as Christians.  The moment we received Christ the process of sanctification began. We are being changed from the inside out through the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). This transformation changes how we think, talk, and act.  Our revelation of Jesus Christ as Lord does not ONLY mean we now believe in God, it also means we have subjected ALL aspects of our lives to Him. The way that we talk, the way that we live, the way that we work, how we spend our time and money, how we lead our families, how we behave and communicate to others around us, our whole being is dedicated to the Holy King.  We are no longer the same person.  We are now children of God.

As Christians we are to be at peace and allow those around us (including non-believers) to see that peace at work in us.  This peace is not made-up or worked-up, but the peace of the Father imparted to us (John 14:27). Understanding that God has given us “His Peace” should affect our daily activities and conversations.

Our everyday conversations with “non-believers” should not be any different than our conversations with other Christians.  For example, when a non-believing coworker asks about your weekend, you should respond to them in the same manner you would a believer.  Hopefully, it will be something along the line “I had a great weekend. I did such and such on Saturday; on Sunday we had a great church service through worship and the word.  I really enjoyed being in the presence of God.  Sunday afternoon, I met up with some friends at the park.” Our conversations with non-believers, whether about family, work, sports, or hobbies, should not differ from out conversations with believers.

Our lives, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, should be transparent to everyone around us (Matt 5:14).  We are not meant to live two different lives; one with Christians and one with non-believers.  Before we were born again, we were people living in this world AND of this world.  After receiving Christ, we still live in this world but are NOT of this world (John 17:16).  While it is true that we now belong to the Kingdom of God and look forward to our future inheritance, we still live our present lives in this world.

Most non-believers have been programmed to view Christians as a judgmental, self-righteous, and religious people.  The only way we can change this perception is to allow them to see us for who we really are; imperfect and sinful people with everyday obstacles and difficulties similar to them.  However, we are at peace through those obstacles and difficulties because we know our destiny through our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Living in the fullness of His grace will enable His peace to work in us and flow outwardly to those around us.  This in turn, will allow us to talk about our incredibly good God “nonchalantly” or naturally.

February 28, 2012

Is Jesus really that loving when He calls a woman in need “a dog”?

Question: “In the passages Matthew 15:25-27 and Mark 7:27-28 a Gentile woman is asking Jesus to heal her daughter from an evil spirit. How can it be said that Jesus is loving to all and came for the lost when his response was insulting by referring to her as a dog and then placing emphasis that his main focus and “first responsibility” is on the Jews?”

The text in question: Matt 15:21-28 21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

My understanding of this passage is linked to what we make of the phrase “children’s bread”. I believe Jesus is communicating through that phrase that deliverance and healing is primarily for those who are covenanted to/with Him, which at that time were the Jewish people. Why is that important? Well earlier in Matt 12 Jesus taught that if you are set free from an evil spirit but are not walking in covenant or close relationship with Him, your condition might worsen. 43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Out of His love for this woman, Jesus did not want to set the daughter free only for her to be worse later because she was not walking closely (and therefore under the Lord’s protection) with Him. However, when Jesus saw the faith of the Gentile woman and her belief in Him (“O woman, great is your faith!”) He was amazed. She was seeing “beyond” (prophetically) His current mission to the Jews, beyond the work of the cross to a time that was to come when Jesus died for all mankind (“For God so loved the world…”).  When Jesus saw this He set the daughter free, knowing that her faith and trust in Him and her revelation of what He ultimately came to do would keep her free.

It was in fact the most loving response He could have given. Jesus’ response of “throwing the children’s bread to the dogs” was not name-calling on His behalf but using a culturally relevant phrase to drive home a point…the Gentile woman understood that in the eyes of the Jews she was a dog.

 

February 17, 2012

Why should I attend the USA Equip Time?

You may have heard mention of the NCMI USA EQUIP time. What is it and why should I attend?

An EQUIP time is a week long gathering of churches from around the US for worship, teaching, ministry and relationship building in response to Eph 4:12 which teaches that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are given by Jesus to the body to “prepare God’s people for works of service (the work of the ministry of advancing God’s Kingdom in the sphere of influence entrusted to you)”.

CITC closely partners with an Ephesians 4 ministry team called New Covenant Ministires International (NCMI). NCMI are a team of Eph-4 gifts with an apostolic/prophetic heart (a desire to break open new regions for the Kingdom while discerning God’s prophetic direction and inheritance and preparing to walk into it). There are many Eph-4 teams around the world but we (CITC) have chosen to partner with NCMI. Partnership is an important word…it implies working closely with the NCMI team in the leading of our local church, involving them in major decisions and seeking their perspective and input. All of this is done in the context of strong relationship and recognizing the gifting on their lives – they are humble men and women with a strong call and anointing, with many years of successful ministry experience behind them. In addition to them building into our local church, we get behind what they are doing around the world, sending people and resources to help advance God’s Kingdom into the nations.

The USA EQUIP time is a gathering of similar local churches to ours – those who have chosen to partner with NCMI – for worship, teaching, ministry and friendship building. It’s not a conference with guest speakers or “big names” but an opportunity for the NCMI team to follow the leading of the Spirit and bring what they believe to be an encouragement for the local churches in our nation for this season. They don’t  teach their favorite message or “go-to” sermon for conferences and they aren’t there to promote their latest revelation. As I said earlier, the intent and purpose is to equip the saints (that’s you and me) for the work of the ministry! All of us lead busy lives and there are many things competing for our time, money and attention. This won’t be the flashiest event you’ve ever attended (though it will be hosted with excellence) but that’s not the point. If you are part of the CITC family the worship, the teaching and the ministry will resonate with your heart because we partner with NCMI and share similar vision and values and opportunity to build relationships with those from other churches in the US is delight. We quickly realize God is doing so much beyond our immediate context here in Chicago and that stretches us to believe God for so much more!

Debs and I have been attending EQUIP times around the world for nearly 20 years and each time is infinitely more valuable than the inconvenience and cost associated with going. I hope you’ll join us this year.

For more information about the USA EQUIP in Kansas City please click here 

February 8, 2012

How does the Kingdom advance?

Firstly, we need to ask and answer: “What is the Kingdom of God?

2 definitions from Scripture…

Rom 14:17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking (rules/do’s & don’ts) but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (through relationship with the person of Jesus).

1 Cor 4:20 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

POWER…there is radical transformation when the Kingdom advances, sometimes slowly (like a mustard seed) sometimes instantly (like Paul when he met Christ on the road to Damascus) the result is the same…you are left UNRECOGNIZABLE!

A definition from Chris Whiteley…

The kingdom of God is the increase in Jesus’ government (rule) in every situation where there has been loss because of the enemy.

A definition from RT Kendall…

The kingdom of God is the rule of the un-grieved Spirit in the life of a believer.

Some comments…

  • Even though God is omnipresent we don’t experience His MANIFEST presence all the time. Why?
  • Because we can grieve (to make sad, sorrowful, heavyhearted) the Spirit: Eph 4:30 Don’t break his heart. The Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. Make a clean break with all slander, backbiting, gossip and profane talk.
  • When God’s Kingdom takes root internally (Christ-likeness, gifts of Spirit, holiness, etc) it OVERFLOWS to the world around us (the Great Commission achieved thru the Great Command).

Now we can ask and answer: “How does the Kingdom advance?

To begin, consider this…which Scripture more accurately represents the increase of the Kingdom?

  • Matt 18Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Acts 19So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” (the context is the transformation of Ephesus thru the gospel.)

BOTH! Since both represent the increase of the rule of Jesus. The point is this: to see the government of Jesus rooted within a culture, community or city to has to take root in peoples’ hearts. Transformation takes place one person at a time.

The challenge is we might see fruit of Kingdom transformation, we might not. But either way only in eternity we will see the full harvest that one act of love or a single, seemingly insignificant Spirit-led, kingdom decision can have. That’s the lesson from Heb 11:32-40

  • Faith is NOT convincing God to give us a better life or that we can escape suffering by serving Jesus (which is a modern-day popular perversion of the Christian faith).
  • Within the life of faith there are varying experiences…
    • Some might see fruit – some not!
    • Some must endure the very thing other’s escape from.
    • Either way FAITH IS REQUIRED & should be COMMENDED = Heb 6:12!

In summary, how is the Kingdom advanced?

  1. Love God with all your heart
  2. Love the people God has entrusted to you
  3. Be the best “…” you can be

Specifically though, here are some thoughts from 2 Tim 1:1-2: the Kingdom is advanced as when…

  • …we identify and step into God’s calling for our lives

We must be careful not to despise what God has called each of us to. How?

  1. Comparison with others
  2. Dissatisfaction
  3. Impatience
  • …we obey God
  • …we believe His prophetic promises
  • …we release His life
  • …we share Jesus with others
  • …we invest in relationships
  • …we share our lives with others
  • …we help others experience God’s grace, mercy and peace
  • …we make sure Jesus is Lord

 

February 1, 2012

Can I “flow” in any or all of the spiritual gifts?

The question received was: “Do you feel everyone has all seven spiritual gifts in them and they chose which to use? Or is it more along the lines of someone gets this or that? Can spiritual gifts be forced upon people (ie. should we have workshops for them)?

Great questions. Let me first recognize that these are not questions that Scripture directly addresses. These questions didn’t seem to be issues in the early church. These are wonderful, natural, and common questions that are valid for our culture today, but they are questions that have come up as a result of observing our modern Christian cultures and not the early church, so we must take that into account. Let me briefly address issues of clarity within these questions and then present the Biblical approach to navigating our way through them.

What Spiritual Gifts are you referring to?
I assume these questions are referring to the gifts given by God the Father (prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy) mentioned in Romans 12? I say this because it is the only “list” of gifts in Scripture that lists seven gifts. The other two main portions of scripture that address spiritual gifts are 1 Cor. 12 (lists nine gifts given by the Holy Spirit) and Ephesian 4 (lists five gifts of Christ). I’ll differentiate below the various spiritual gifts that scripture mentions and who/what they are each for.

“Forcing” the Gifts vs. “Having” the Gifts
It seems that perhaps what you are actually wrestling with here is whether someone who doesn’t have a certain gift can have it forced on them through teaching or training of some kind? Along with this is the natural question of whether every Christian has access to all the gifts? This is why we need to establish what gifts are for what purposes. If someone is not an apostle, you cannot “force” someone to be one (even if they “want” to be one;). Neither can you have workshops or training that will “make” them an apostle. However, the gift of faith mentioned in 1 Cor. 12 is given by the Holy Spirit to every believer for the specific purpose of profiting the body. Christians can certainly grow in this gifting, and in this case a “workshop” or teaching of some kind may in fact be quite useful.

Certainly scripture does not encourage us to “force” spiritual gifts.  A person can theoretically “force” the salvation message on someone simply in the way they present the good news, but ultimately each individual needs to individually surrender their heart.

Having workshops certainly isn’t a mandated command of Scripture. Workshops are also typically an optional benefit in the life of many churches, to equip those who are hungry to receive and grow in doing the work of the ministry. As you’ll see below, Christ’s gifts in Ephesians 4 of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are gifts given to equip the body. If a “workshop” serves in equipping the body, I would argue that scripture would support it. For another example, Elijah and Elisha had what were essentially “schools of prophets” (see 2 Kings) that trained prophets in essentially the same way a workshop would be intended to.

We first need to clarify what spiritual gifts we are addressing.
The Spirit-filled experience is essentially coming into the fullness of the gifts and fruit of the Spirit as outlined in the New Testament (1 Cor. 12:7-1; Gal. 5:22-23). It also encompasses the broader scope of exercising God’s gifts of spiritual enablement described in Romans 12:3-8 and Ephesian 4:7-12.

The Greek word charisma (singular) or charismata (plural) is used to designate spiritual gifts, and in the most technical sense mean “gifts of holy grace.’ In Ephesians 4:11-13 the words dorea and doma are also used to designate “gifts,” referring to these gifts as “enablers” or “equippers” for personal service in the kingdom of God. Also, the word pneumatika  employed in 1 Corinthians 12:1 is used to describe the gifts as “things belonging to the Spirit.” The point is that each of these words gives a contemporary meaning to the supernatural work of the Spirit in our lives as He prepares us for kingdom service and growth in grace. For this to happen we are called to “earnestly desire the best gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31). Thus, removing the cloak of passivity and ardently seeking to understand the operation of and appropriate response to all spiritual gifts is biblically proper.

In speaking of the gifts, however, exclusivism is never implied. The gifts are placed in the church as resources to be utilized at the point of need for ministry in the body. This means that not every believer will have the same gifts as every other believer. Rather, the Holy Spirit is the Author and Dispenser of the gifts to bring about integrity in worship and kingdom expression.

The Gifts of the Godhead
For many, clarification of the distinct role each member of the Godhead plays in giving gifts to mankind is helpful. Foundationally, of course, our existence–human life–is given by the Father (Gen. 2;7; Heb 12:9), who also gave His only begotten Son as the Redeemer for mankind (John 3:16). Redemptively, Jesus is the giver of eternal life (John 5:38-40; 10:27-28): he gave His life and shed His blood to gain that privilege (John 10:17-18; Eph. 5:25-27). Further, the Father and Son have jointly sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17, 33) to advance the work of redemption through the church’s ministry of worship, growth, and evangelism.

Gifts given by God the Father (Basic Life Purpose and Motivation)
Romans 12:3-8 describes gifts given by God the Father:

Prophecy            Exhortation            Leadership
Service               Giving                      Mercy
Teaching

They seem to characterize basic “motivations,” that is, inherent tendencies that characterize each different person by reason of the Creator’s unique workmanship in their initial gifting. While only seven categories are listed, observation indicates that few people are fully described by only one. More commonly a mix is found, with different traits of each gift present to some degree, while usually one will be the dominant trait of that person. It would be a mistake to suppose that an individual’s learning to respond to the Creator’s gifting of them in one or more of these categories fulfills the Bible’s call to “earnestly desire the best gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31). These gifts of our place in God’s created order are foundational.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit
In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed:

Wisdom                               Prophecy                       Healing
Words of Knowledge        Discerning Spirits        Miracles
Faith                                     Tongues                         Interpretation of Tongues

Their purpose is specific–to “profit” the body of the church. (“Profit,” Greek sumphero means “to bring together, to benefit, to be advantageous,” which is experienced as the body is strengthened in it’s life together and expanded through its ministry of evangelism.) These nine gifts are specifically available to EVERY believer as the Holy Spirit distributes them (1 Cor. 12:11). They are not to be merely acknowledged in a passive way, but rather are to be actively welcomed and expected (1 Cor. 13:1; 14:1).

Gifts given by the Son (To Facilitate and Equip the Body of the Church)
These are pivotal in assuring that the first two categories of gifts are applied in the body of the church. Ephesians 4:7-16 indicates the “office gifts” Christ has placed in the church, along with their purpose:

Apostles            Prophets            Evangelists
Pastors              Teachers

The ministry of these leaders is to “equip” the body by assisting each person: (1) to perceive the place the Creator has made him to fill, by His creative workmanship in him, and the possibilities that salvation now opens to his realization of what he was made to be, and (2) to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and begin to expand each believer’s capabilities beyond the created order and toward the redemptive dimension of ministry, for edifying the church and evangelizing the world.

In this light, we examine these clearly designated categories of giftings: the Father’s (Rom. 12:6-8), the Son’s (Eph. 4:11) and the Holy Spirit’s (1 Cor. 12:8-10). While the study expands beyond those listings and beyond the above outlined structure of the gifts of the Godhead, these distinctions of these texts help in two ways:

  1. It assists us by noting the distinct interest and work of each member of the Trinity in providing for our unique purpose and fulfillment.
  2. It prevents us from confusing our foundational motivation in life and service for God with our purposeful quest for and openness to His Holy Spirit’s full resources and power for service and ministry

Example:
Because all three categories of gifts involve some expression of “prophecy,” it is helpful to differentiate. In the category of Romans 12, the focus is general, characterized by that level of the prophetic gift which would belong to every believer–”all flesh.” The Holy Spirit’s gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 12) refers to supernatural prompting, so much so that tongues with interpretation is equated with its operation (1 Cor. 14:5). The office gift of the prophet, which Christ gives to His church through individual ministries, is yet another expression of prophecy: those holding this office must meet both the Old Testament requirements and New Testament standards of life and character required of spiritual leadership.

This response is a bit lengthy, but it serves to clarify and differentiate the gifts. Sadly, the spiritual gifts have been a topic of much debate and distraction in church history. Through the body of the church, we ALL have access to ALL the gifts, and if a workshop is helpful to equip and train the body in these gifts, then a workshop could certainly be a good thing, and not “forceful” at all. Often the focus can shift from “eagerly desiring” the spiritual gifts, to “limiting”  the gifts or placing extra restrictions on their use because of all the hurt this topic has caused in the past. While carelessness in this area has been hurtful to many, we can’t let negative experience trump the reality that the church has been given these gifts for a purpose and we must steward them well.

**The following book was used to provide much of the content above: Hayford, Jack W.. The Hayford Bible Handbook. Updated & rev. [ed.]. ed. Nashville, Tenn.: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004. Print.

January 31, 2012

What can we learn from Old Testament Sacrifices?

What was the purpose of Sacrifice?

            Sacrifice in the Old Testament provided the means by which a sinful human being could approach a Holy God. Upon reading Leviticus, or Numbers (the books that contain the primary instructions for sacrifice) it is easy to be distracted and disturbed by the sometimes gruesome and detailed descriptions of animal sacrifice. Leviticus, which mentions “holy” 87 times, and “atonement” 45 times teaches that, “sinful human beings can approach the infinitely holy God of the universe only on the basis of sacrifice through shedding of blood.” Since God prescribed in detail how sacrifices should be made, the people of Israel could enter the temple in boldness, knowing that their sacrifice would be received. There was one problem; animal sacrifice was only a temporary solution. In fact, sacrifices had to be made on a daily basis in order to cover the “unknown” sins of the people, as well as special sacrifices for “known” sins. It was a never-ending cycle of sin and sacrifice that the Levites had to precisely follow in order to be accepted. God’s heart can be seen in that even though sin had entered the world through Adam, God provided a way in which his people could still commune with him. This system, however was only temporary, Jesus, the second Adam, came and provided a single sacrifice for all sins.

How was a sacrifice made?

There were many types of sacrifices for many different things. All sacrifices were different and so in order to understand exactly how a sacrifice was made, we have to understand what type of sacrifice it was. The Hebrew term zebah is the word often used of sacrifices, when used it means that a sacrifice was burnt, in whole or in part. Most sacrifices were burnt offerings. Along with burnt offerings, Leviticus speaks of grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and guilt or trespass offerings.

Burnt Offerings (Leviticus 1)

The Levitical priest offered a burnt offering of an unblemished male animal or bird twice daily. The entire animal would be consumed by fire so that nothing was left over. The smoke would rise and be a pleasing aroma to God. The sacrifice would be offered morning and evening symbolizing, “the entire surrender or consecration to God of the individual or of the people as a whole.” Burnt offerings did not cover sin, a sin offering had to be made to cover sin.  An individual would lay hands on the animal to be sacrificed signifying that the animal would be accepted on their behalf. The sacrifice was made, “as an expression of the religious disposition of all true Israelites in covenant relationship with God…” The sacrifice was made not only in the morning and evening, but also on the Sabbath, during the new moon, during the great festivals and on the Day of Atonement.

Grain Offerings (Leviticus 2)

Grain offerings consisted of offering flour or cakes baked without yeast, seasoned with salt, olive oil and incense. A portion of the offering was burnt and the rest was for the use (consumption) of the Levitical priest. This sacrifice was made in order to recognize God’s sovereignty over earthy blessings and his generosity there of. Grain offerings were often made with burnt offerings in both a public and private atmosphere.

Peace Offerings (Leviticus 3)

A peace offering consisted of an animal. Unlike a burnt offerings, only a portion of the animal was burnt on the alter, a portion was consumed by the “donor” and his family at a festive meal, and a portion was consumed by the priests. There are 3 peace offerings mandated in Leviticus. If an individual “vowed” to make a sacrifice in the Old Testament, it was generally a peace offering. Peace offerings were also part of many public occasions and festivals. Like a burnt offering, the one offering the sacrifice placed his hand on the animal before the animal was killed showing his identification with the sacrificial act.

Sin Offerings (Leviticus 4:1-5:13)

Sin offerings were given when a person, or the entire community, sinned unintentionally due to carelessness, ignorance, or weakness of flesh. Sin offerings were not given for intentional disobedience. An individual, or the elders would offer the sacrifice if the congregations had sinned as a whole; they would place their hands on the animal signify the transfer of sins onto the animal. The type of animal sacrificed corresponded to the sin and ones station in life. Fine flour was a permitted sacrifice for the very poor.

Sin offerings for the whole congregation were offered on various occasions, at the new moon, Passover, Pentecost, at the Feast of Trumpets and Tabernacles and on the Day of Atonement. On the Day of Atonement the high priest would sprinkle the blood of the animal on the mercy seat of the ark in within the Holy of Holies. The majority of the animal was burned, while the unclean parts were disposed of outside of the city gates and burned. A sin offering was not consumed.

Guilt or Trespass Offerings (Leviticus 5:14-6:7; 7:1-10)

A guilt or trespass offering offered atonement for a particular offense. It was not offered publicly. The sacrifice usually consisted of a ram or a lamb and was accompanied by punishment and/or compensation. This was the sacrifice made for intentional or willful sins.

What can we learn from Old Testament sacrifices?

The sacrificial system was put in place in order to allow the people of Israel to commune with God. It was nowhere near a perfect system, because no matter how many sacrifices an individual made, they could never fully atone for their sins. Thus, always being separated from God. That is why Hebrews speaks so passionately about sacrifice. The Jews in Jesus’ day would have been well acquainted to the many sacrifices required; they knew only blood could cover sin. So, when Jesus came making the ultimate sacrifice as the perfect, spotless, lamb, the curtain between the temple and the Holy of Holies (where the presence of the Lord dwelt) was torn from top to bottom. Sinful human beings could now enter into God’s presence not under the temporary covering of an animal, but under the permanent covering of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

January 23, 2012

Is Jesus Lord?

***the following notes are taken from Steve Sudworth’s sermon on January 8th, 2012 – you can listen to the audio message here***

British theologian Handley MouleNo surer test, according to the Holy Scriptures, can be applied to anything claiming to be Christian teaching (or anyone claiming to be a Christian), than this: Where does it (they) put Jesus? What does it (they) make of Jesus Christ? Is He something in the teaching (or in the Christian), or is He all? Is He the Sun of the true solar system, so that every planet gets its place and its light from Him?

Oswald Sanders: The ultimate object of Christs death and resurrection was the winning of sole, unrivaled and undisputed Lordship over the men for whose sakes He died and rose again.

 

Handley Moule: There emerges the startling fact that the very purpose of His death and resurrection, was not alone, that we might be saved in the future from the agonies of hell, but that He might be exalted in the present as the Lord of our life.

Paul in Rom 14:9 “Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the living and the dead.”

Jesus Christ died and rose again not just to be our SAVIOR but our LORD! But why can’t He just Savior? Because we are all led by someone or something but Jesus our Lord is the only one who can and will lead us without destroying us.

What does the lordship of Jesus mean?

 

It means unconditional obedience EVEN IF IT DOESNT MAKE SENSE OR APPEAR TO BE WORKING! We all have or will (for most it will be many times) face the challenge of the Lordship of Jesus – when God has asked us to do something that doesn’t make sense or when things don’t appear to be working as we originally thought! The challenge we face is are we going to be true to the Word of the Lord? Examples…

  • Abraham being promised a son
  • John the Baptist asking Jesus “Are you the Christ?” (Matt 11)?
  • You: When following Christ becomes very costly…relationships, business, facing struggle, etc even though you obeyed

 

If we follow Jesus conditionally (only when it makes sense or appears to be working), it begs 2 questions to be asked…

  1. Is truth from Jesus ABSOLUTE or is truth only true when it works for you? “I am the way, the truth…” vs. your likes & dislikes?
  2. Who is really serving whom? Is God serving us or are we serving Him and His purpose? Whatever follows the IF in “Ill follow Jesus if” is your true master.

So what does this Lordship mean?

  1. It means a new IDENTITY: Whatever or whoever you give yourself the most to or pursue the most is the thing or the one that will fashion your identity. The question is, is that Jesus? If you build your identity on anything but Jesus you will loose the essence of who you are (Lk 9:23-25).
  2. It means a new PRIORITY: The point is not just “Is Jesus Lord OF everything?” but “Is He Lord IN everything?” (work ethic, social schedule, spending habits, etc)
  3. It means a new COMMUNITY: We not only belong to Jesus BUT WE ALSO BELONG TO ONE ANOTHER (Rom 12:5). Because we are saved into community the Lordship of Jesus means accountability to community not just accountability to God.

Why make Jesus Lord?

If the distance from earth to sun equals the thickness of 1 sheet of paper, then the distance from earth to nearest star is a stack of paper 70ft paper & the diameter of our galaxy is a stack of paper 310 miles (remembering our galaxy is one of infinite number in the part of the universe that we can see). Heb 1 says Jesus upholds the universe by the power of His word. Why then would we ask Jesus to be our life coach, assistant, secretary or consultant. Surely he can only be absolute Lord or nothing at all?

Jesus Lordship is not a control that manipulates or removes our dignity. He governs our lives by being who He is without compromise & insisting that we become all that we are meant to be. This can only be by following Him, obeying Him and living in close relationship with Him. God created us for Himself. If we live with any other center in our lives we live incompletely. Is Jesus desire to be Lord some fetish of His? No. Why then is it so important to him? Besides the fact that He deserves it, He knows Hes the only one who can control us without destroying us. No one will ever love you like Jesus.

So why make Jesus Lord?

 

  1. Because something or someone else already is. You aren’t giving up your independence to follow Jesus, because you already have!
  2. Because we need Him. Him being Lord doesn’t help him, He helps us! Why do you command someone to eat? Because they are dying without food.
  3. Because He deserves it. He’s not our assistant!
  4. Because of the greatness of His sacrifice. His last breath was for you.
  5. Because He is the only person who can control you without destroying you.

How do I know if He is Lord?

Ask yourself these 3 questions…

  1. If Jesus is Lord, am I willing to obey whatever He says no matter what I feel about it or only if it makes sense, I fully understand it or I like it?
  2. If Jesus is Lord, is there anything more than Him that I am holding on to to provide hope and meaning in my life?
  3. If Jesus is Lord with infinite power and resources, are there obstacles or limitations in my life that I think are too big for God to overcome?
October 28, 2011

What is “Ephesians-4 Ministry”?

Sunrise on the Lakefront
The “Genesis” of Eph-4 Ministry
In Mt 19:17 Jesus teaches the importance of new wine (God’s Presence) and flexible wineskins (the “how-to” for God’s Presence). Both are important since the wineskin holds the wine but it’s the wine that our neighbors, our city, and nations need. The Biblical wineskin (pattern) for New Testament local churches is to work in partnership with an Eph-4 ministry team.

Jesus is committed to building HIS church HIS way (Mt 16:18). Of all the things He could have used to build His church following His ascension to the Father’s right hand (Eph 4:7-8), He chose the 5-fold ministry gifts (sometimes called Eph-4 gifts); the gift of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher.

What do the 5 gifts do?
Generally, Eph-4 gifts help to prepare God’s people (the saints) for the work of the ministry of advancing God’s Kingdom here on earth (Eph 4:12). Their work is necessary…

  • in order for the body of Christ to be equipped, encouraged and built-up (Eph 4:12)
  • until we reach unity in the faith and knowledge of Jesus (Eph 4:13)
  • until we become mature (Eph 4:13)

Specifically, the Eph-4 gifts equip the church in the following ways…

  • apostles: to own the “bigger picture” of God’s Kingdom and build on the cornerstone and foundation of Jesus
  • prophets: to see, prepare for and live in the prophetic future plans of God
  • evangelists:  to receive Jesus’ heart to seek and save the lost
  • pastors: to free the captive and heal the broken-hearted
  • teachers: to disciple others from God’s word

What is a mature church?
A mature church is one that operates effectively in each area corresponding to the Eph-4 gifts. In other words, a mature church sees people…

  • receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior as the Gospel is preached (evangelist)
  • coming into freedom from bondage and released to wholeness in Christ (pastor)
  • grounded in the Word of God (teacher)
  • able to see, prepare for and become what God has for them (prophet)
  • partnering with Jesus and one another in advancing His Kingdom (apostle)

Men and women with a recognized Eph-4 ministry gift operate in the gift themselves (an evangelist will preach and win souls) but train others within the local church to operate in that gift (an evangelist will train the saints to be evangelistic). If a church is to be mature she needs regular exposure to all of these five gifts. Sometimes a church is fortunate enough to have one of more of the gifts resident in the church, but where there is lack the elders need to invite the other gifts into the church from time to time.

How is this outworked at Church in the City?
CITC partners with an Eph-4 team called New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI). NCMI is an Eph-4 ministry team with an apostolic-prophetic heart (A heart to GO, not just GATHER. A desire to see, prepare for and walk in God’s best.). NCMI exists to see local churches achieve their God-given dreams. In response to the leading of the Holy Spirit, CITC’s elders will periodically invite couples who serve on NCMI’s team to visit and minister at our church. While we honor our primary relationship with NCMI, there are times when the elders will invite an Eph-4 gift that is not part of NCMI. However, whenever an invitation is extended to an Eph-4 gift it is always with the following in mind…

  • We invite those we have relationship with (not guest speakers).
  • We invite those who build with us (not who simply come to bless) .
  • We invite those with a recognized Eph-4 gift (recognized by the entire eldership time and other churches that we partner with).

Why should I prioritize these times?

  • Because you will grow in your knowledge of and love for Jesus.
  • Because you will be strengthened and encouraged.
  • Because you will be equipped to fulfill the ministry of advancing God’s Kingdom here on earth.
  • Because you will grow to love the body of Christ and how each diverse part is vital.
  • Because you will understand the importance of your contribution within the local church.

How should I receive and respond to Eph-4 ministry?

  • Don’t just prioritize the ministry weekends that excite you (i.e. if you are prophetic, don’t only prioritize the weekends when we have an Eph-4 prophet visiting) – we mature when exposed to all 5 gifts.
  • Make room in your heart through prayer and come to the meetings expectant for God to speak to you.
  • Following the ministry, ask yourself the following questions, “What has God said to me and to CITC? What must I do about it?”
  • Find time with one of the leaders to share what you feel God was saying and how you should respond.