We Are Sanctified

Hebrews 10:1-10

10 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.

But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:

In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.

Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;

Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.

10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

I am just about done with testing to renew my insurance license.  I have been selling various kinds of insurance for almost 9 years, and every three years I have to go through a mountain of material and take tests to get this renewal completed.  The law used to say that 18 hours of this had to be classroom time, but that was changed last year and I can take the courses all online without a proctor for the exam, and without sitting through classes.  I am glad for that change, because my memory is not as good as it used to be, and there is a lot of material to go through.  Once it I complete, the transcript will be sent to the state insurance office and I can pay to have my license renewed.  Then I have to send the information to the various companies I represent.  I have to do this every three years!  There is no such thing as a permanent license that does not expire.

My drivers’ license is a different story.  I renewed it in 2019 and will not have to renew again until 2027.  Because I am over 70, I will have to go in and have my eyesight tested, but should have no problem getting that renewal done.  If I was a fisherman, I would be eligible for a lifetime fishing license in the State of Iowa.  When you turn 65, you can purchase this for $65 and it is good for 100 years.  But there I an expiration date, although I doubt anyone will reach that date.

Everything on this earth will eventually expire or decay.  Food has dates that it should not be sold after, or used after.  Metal can rust, wood can mold, rubber and plastic can wear out.  There is nothing that is permanent and will not deteriorate with time.  Even the trees eventually fall, the mountains quake and tremble and the oceans and seas evaporate one day with fervent heat.  All of it is temporary.

In the Old Testament, God sent His Word to establish a pattern for all of us through the nation of Israel.  The journeys of this nation, and its’ history, are a picture of how our lives can be up and down, but God is always there to pull us through the hard times.  The system of sacrifices, the feasts, the priesthood and the day of atonement also show a pattern that must be followed in order for us to have peace with God.  This peace, the same peace on earth the angels spoke of to the shepherds that night, can only come into our lives when our sin has been forgiven.  God has not changed the requirement that blood must be spilled for the remission of our sin. 

But the pattern of the Old Testament was only a pattern for that time.  Jesus Christ came, from the line of David, a priest in the line of Melchizedek, to be the blood offering for all sin, for all time.  He was sinless lamb, having been conceived by the Holy Ghost and not through the fallen seed of Adam.  The pattern of the Passover was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  The sacrificial law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  The day of atonement was carried out for all time when He shed His blood on that cross.  The vail of the temple was rent fro top to bottom and the Holy Ghost was made available for all of us as a comforter and guide.  Never again will Christ have to offer His life.  It was a once in forever thing. Sanctified means set apart. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we have ben set apart for God for all time.  What a glorious thing it is to be able to call on Him for help at any time!  What a wonderful thing to know He has a plan for us, and will speak to us and show us His plan.  What a freedom we gain when we put our trust in Him!  We are forever set apart for God!  Hallelujah!

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A Star is Born

I love looking up at the stars.  To me, there is no greater majesty than these pinpoints of light that dot the sky at night.  I always loved getting out in the early morning hours, before the sun even thought about rising, and looking up to the heavens to see what they had in store for me that morning.  In Iowa, it’s easy to get to a place where there is little man-made light to interfere with the grandest display of God’s majesty.  I could walk away from the campground in the summer months, over to the blacktop road, and down a few hundred feet and the stars would brighten up like a 3-way lightbulb does as you turn the knob.  Glorious!

My favorite constellation is Orion by a long shot.  It rises in the Easter sky in the spring after a long winter hiatus.  On the horizon you see it smaller and less pronounced.  That rectangular shape with three stars in the middle slowly makes its way through the sky, getting larger and larger it seems as it gets higher and higher.  Called the hunter, he dominates the sky with his size and outstanding features.  It seems he is hunting right in your backyard.  But, in truth, the closets of those stars is estimated to be 693 light years from earth.  Or, to make the number a little more real to you, that is around 4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles away from earth, and the farthest star away is almost double that.  I don’t even know how to pronounce that kind of distance. Yet, they look so close in the night sky, and so bright,

Even the planets of our own solar system are seen as lights in the sky, and often appear as stars to our eyes.  Usually, the most brilliant of those are Jupiter and Venus.  Venus is often seen in the wee hours of the morning just before the sunrise in the eastern sky.  The truth is, while the stars in the heavens are mostly just that and give off their own light, these planets are mere reflections of the suns light upon them.  This star we call the sun is so bright and gives off so much light, that even its reflection makes a dark place look bright to our eyes.  Yet the sun, which dominates our sky and light our way, is about 93 million miles away from us, and is a small star in comparison to many stars over our heads. Jupiter is 390 million miles away and Venus is 153 million miles away.  Yet they shine so brightly.

Have you ever heard of Louis Giglio?  He does an amazing job showing the majesty of God’s creation in two videos.  The fist is Called “How Great is Our God” and the second is “Indescribable”  There are longer and shorter versions of these videos, and I highly recommend them if this is of interest to you.  Incredible and vast are the heavens above us.  There is one more about something called Laminin that will blow your mind!

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday that had a link attached.  This link led to an article in Forbes magazine about the appearance of what they called the Bethlehem Star.  In so many words, it explained how the confluence of planets coming together would form a more brilliant light in the heavens than is usual and customary.  Man has such a strong desire to explain the supernatural so that they can comprehend it. Scientists do this all the time because they just can’t believe the miracles that happen in the heavens or on this earth.  But science cannot explain a miracle.  Doctors cannot explain when someone is all of a sudden healed from a disease they said was terminal.  They cannot explain why many narrow escapes happen to people, or how they escaped an accident with little to no bruises.  Science can explain the natural, but not the supernatural. 

The star that night was supernatural.  Don’t let scientist fool you.  If it was a natural heavenly event, like every picture we see depicts it, all the people would have seen it and flocked to Bethlehem.  It would have been apparent to all that something amazing was happening when that overly bright star appeared.  But only three men saw it, and only three went to where it was.  The wise men said to Herod that they “saw His star in the East” (Matthew 2:1).  Then, in verse 9, Matthew writes “And behold, the star they had seen in the east went on before them, until it came to rest over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great gladness.  Why didn’t Herod send his men behind them if the star was so brilliant?  Why would Herod wait 2 years before going to kill all the firstborn? The Bible also tells us that the wise men want to the house, not to the manger, where we typically depict them.

It is nice to include the wise men in the story of Christmas, as well as the star. No one knows where the wise men came from, only that they travelled far.  Estimates range from 400 to 1200 miles and longer.  Some say they travelled 6 months, others 2-1/2 years, to get to Jesus.  The Bible says they saw the star in the East.  So, does that mean they were in the East when they saw the star, or that the Star was in the Eastern sky?  It makes a big difference which one of those is true, and we really do not know.  All we know is what the Bible tells us – they saw a star that no one else could see, and they travelled to a destination that no one knows in a year that we also do not know.

This star that they saw was supernatural, as it had to have appeared to only them.  No one else came to where the star was.  This star was more than just a star, it was a light that transcended the stars.  It guided three men from a far country to a very specific location.  That is what God does.  He leads us by a light only we can see.  Others do not know our path.  They do now know where God is taking our lives.  Only we can see the light that goes before us to the destination God has in store.  Do you see His light in the silence of the night?  Are you looking for His direction, and praying He will guide you?  He may not speak audibly to you, but deep in your heart the Holy Spirit will stir you to the right direction.  His light will shine on the path you are to take.

That Bethlehem Star was born just for the wise men, not the whole world.  It was born for them to see that night, and it guided them to their destination.  A Bethlehem Star can also be born for you if you ask God to light His path in your life.  No one else may understand or see the direction you are going because they cannot see that star – only you can.  Good men can give advice and wise counsel, but only you know where that star is leading you. God speaks to your heart and sheds a light on your path.  Let His light guide you to the Savior, because that is the final destination for us all. And when you get there, you can be that light to other.  Jesus said that our light should shine so bright that everyone would see our good works, and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).  The star that appears to us should reflect off of us so others can find the light, just as the sun reflects off the planets and they appear as light.  We should be the beacons of light, the stars, that shine so others can find their way to Jesus! We should be 300-watt light bulbs not 25-watt night lights.  Let the Bethlehem star be born in you, and for you, this Christmas.

The Beauty of Silence

(As a disclaimer, I have been listening to messages by Alistair Begg that inspired me to write this piece, and I may use some of his material here without actually quoting him.  This thought came to me yesterday morning while listening to him and I felt it was worthy of sharing with you.)

Silence.  Some of us dread it, others rejoice in it.  Some will not allow it, talking incessantly just to keep from entering into silence.  They can’t stand the quiet moment of wondering who will speak next.  The air has to have noise for them to be able to concentrate. They play music in the background, or watch TV while doing other things, or they just talk to themselves when alone. They do not look forward to silent times.  I am one of these most of the time.  I like to have something going on TV, or the radio in the car, or someone to talk to. Silence is welcome at times, but not too many times.

Then there are those who relish silence.  They look forward to the quiet times to pray, or to meditate, or just to reflect and write in their journal.  They prefer not to have background noise when they are doing things.  I am like this when I write, whether it’s a blog post like this or poetry.  I need the silence to hear God speaking.  His voice is what guides me to write the things I write, I learned to listen in the silence when I was going through chemo treatments and stem cell transplants during the cancer months.  He spoke to me a lot, and the silence helped me to listen.  It still does today.

The nation of Israel was waiting for God to speak after almost 400 years of silence when they were in Egypt.  They were doing hard labor for Pharaoh and longed for a way of escape from this brutal taskmaster. God had told Abraham that they would face 400 years of captivity and then they would be set free.  But they could not believe this would happen under these circumstances.  Then came Moses, back from the wilderness after escaping death as in infant under Pharaohs’ rule.  God brought ten plagues on Egypt which finally convinced Pharaoh to let them go.  400 years a silence turned into the freedom of a nation.

The prophet Malachi spoke some stirring words at the end of his prophecy.  Malachi 4:5 says Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Then there was silence.  No prophets, no word from God.  Nothing to let the people know God was still with them.  For about 400 years the people of Israel waited and waited for God to speak to them again, but nothing came.  I am sure they thought God had abandoned them again, just like it was in Egypt.  This time they had come under Roman rule.  It was not as brutal as Egypt’s subjugation, but it was demeaning.  They longed to hear from God.

Zacharias was a priest of the Lord, and it was his honor this day to bring incense before the Lord.  He was an older man, and his wife Elizabeth was barren after years of praying for a child.   She was past the age of child-bearing now, and I’m sure they had given up hope, but continued to pray anyway.  Zacharias was a righteous man, walking in the commandments of the Lord, as any good Levite would do.  The task of bringing incense was a solemn task, and only given once a year to a priest of the tribe of Levi.  I’m sure he was excited and somber as he entered the Holy Place to burn incense to the Lord on the table of incense.  All the people prayed as he entered the temple, and they kept praying all the time he was in there, As he offered up the sweet-smelling savor to God, an angel appeared to him.  I am sure he was frightened by this sight because the first thing the angel said was “Fear not.”  He told Zacharias Elizabeth would have a son, and they should call his name John. The angel also told him that this child would be great in the sight of the Lord, and that the Holy Spirit would be in him from the time he was in his mother’s womb.  Then he quoted words that Zacharias knew from Isaiah the prophet. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Zacharias did not know what to say.  These words spoke of the forerunner of the Messiah.  This could not be!  His wife was too old to have a child, and now the angel was telling him his son would prepare the way for Messiah?  Zacharias said to the angel “How will I know this?”  The angel replied that Zacharias would not be able to speak until the child was named and then he left.  Outside, the people were wondering what was taking so long.  Zacharias finally appeared, and I’m sure the people wanted to know what had taken so long.  But Zacharias could not speak.  He could not explain to them what happened.  He could not share with his wife what the angel had said.  For nine months, there was silence.  Then the day came when the baby was born. On the day of his naming, the usual practice was that he would be given a family name.  But Zacharias took something to write on and wrote that his name will be John.  Hen suddenly he was able to speak again.  The song he sang had much to say about this baby that had just been born,

Silence.  What a beautiful thing this can be.  How do you feel when God is silent?  I often wonder why, during a particular stretch of time, I do not hear God’s voice in the way of poetry and songs.  I do not think it was because He was not speaking, but rather because I was not listening.  The silence we hear is a silence of our own ears most of the time, because God is always speaking to us these days.  His Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of His children, guiding and directing them in the way they should go.  But there are times when God is quiet, and these are the times we should relish.  I believe God is doing His greatest work in us when He is silent.  He tests our faith so that it can become stronger.  He teaches us patience as we wait for Him to speak.  He watches from afar and sees whether we are true to Him or not.  This is all so He can speak once again and draw us closer.  He is a loving God, full of grace and truth, and will always draw us to His side.

Listen carefully when you pray.  Don’t make it a one-way street.  Give God time to speak to you in the silent time of your prayer.  The silence is the most precious time, because that is when God will come.  In our worship services, we err when we do not give time for silence, to hear God’s voice and to consider His mercy and grace in our lives.  He longs to speak to you.  He longs for you to listen to His words. Practice time of silence at least as much as you pray.  Give God room to speak to you, and I promise you will hear His voice.

Making Room

It seems to me that many times we disparage the innkeeper in the Christmas story.  We think he was rude and uncaring to Mary and Joseph, and that he should have found a way to give them a room at the Inn.  After all, she was pregnant and obviously had travelled a long way to get to Bethlehem.  I’m sure they were dirty and tired from the long 80-mile journey they had just finished.  I’m sure Joseph begged with the Innkeeper for a while before he finally gave up begging.  It had to be hard for the innkeeper to turn them away because no good businessman turns away a customer

In defense of this man, he was a successful business owner.  His inn was full because he ran a good establishment and people wanted to stay there.  People want to go to a place that is run properly, and I’m sure his place was.  We only hear of this one innkeeper, but I am sure Joseph tried every inn in the city before this one.  He was turned down at every one.  The city was full because of the census Caesar had commanded.  Bethlehem was a small city with a small population, but because it was considered the City of David, all people who were of the house of David had to return there for the census.  This not only overcrowded people’s houses but all the business establishments that were in the city.  I can imagine this business owner was having his best business day ever and was quite happy about that.

So, when this couple came riding up on a donkey, and she was pregnant and seeking a room, the innkeeper simply stated the obvious.  He had no rooms available, and quite possibly a waiting list of people who would like a room if one became available.  As he turned the couple away though, he had a moment of compassion.  He showed mercy to them.  He had a stable in the back, and they could stay there the night.  He was not a bad man.  This innkeeper is mentioned in the Bible and all the others Joseph might have tried are left out.  Why?  Because he was a merciful person who wanted to help this couple out.  He had mercy on the one who gives mercy.  He had compassion on the one who showed compassion to all.  He provided shelter on the one who provides all our needs.  We should be applauding this innkeeper, not disparaging him.  Jesus found a place in his heart even before He was born, before all the miracles, before all the teaching, before He died for all the sins of mankind.  He really did make room for Jesus!

How about you?  What will you do with this man Jesus?  What will you do with the

one who came riding into your life in all humility, only seeking a place in your heart?

Have you allowed the cares of this life and your success make you blind to your need for Him?  Have you had too many other distractions to consider His life, His cross and His sacrifice for your sins?  Do you even know who He really is?  He innkeeper did not know, and yet he still gave him a place.  Being in a culture that is full of the gospel message, certainly you now more about who Jesus is than this innkeeper did!  At this time of year, we call Christmas, the message is everywhere we look.  The lights show to us the star that shone so brightly above His manger bed.  The tree shows us the vehicle that brought His death.  The manger scenes all over town show us that simple picture of a babe in a manger.  How can you miss it?  He is everywhere, humbly seeking for you to make a place in your heart for Him.  He calls to you in the songs of the season that we hear on the radio, or in the thrill of children opening the presents under the tree.

You see, He was the very first Christmas present.  He was given to us to show us the Father, to teach us mercy, to be an example for us to follow.  He appeared suddenly and made an immediate impression on some lowly shepherds in a field, and a busy innkeeper who found a place for Him.  Here was no fanfare, no far-reaching announcement of His coming.  He King of Kings c am quietly to most.  Only some shepherds in the field were given the announcement of who this baby really was.  Some wise men from distant lands saw a bright star in the sky and knew it was the sign of a great Savior being born.  But no one else heard the angels, and no one else recognized the star. Just like Santa puts Christmas presents under the tree in the middle of the night, Jesus came into the middle of an unknowing world.  A present for all of humanity.  A present that would not only change the course of history, but change a persons’ life.

How about you?  Are you a successful business person and feel like your life is full?  Or are you famous and rich and don’t have room for anything else?  Or are you just a servant of some other business, making money in the middle of the night of your life? Whatever your situation, you need Jesus.  He is the only one who can save you from eternal Hell.  He is the only one who can rid you of your sin and cleanse your heart and mind.  He is the only way to heaven.  He comes in meekness and humility and asks you to make a place in your heart.  Won’t you let him in today?  Won’t you make room?

He Appeared to Put Away Sin

Hebrews 9:18-24

25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

It’s time for a reality check.  The question of the day is “Are you a sinner?”.  I am asking this using the definition of sin, which is disobedience to God.  It is not doing something wrong, or saying something wrong, or acting foolishly and harming others.  Sin is not an action that occurs between people, but it occurs between people and God.  When we do do wrong, it is sin against God, not against the other person, or dog, or tree.

But sin is more than just doing wrong.  Sin is indwelling in every man, woman and child.  We are born with it, and we will die with it.  It cannot leave us.  When Adam sinned in the garden, his seed became infected with sin, in a way. That sin seed travels down through time every time a person is born, and is transmitted by the seed of a man.  It is inescapable.  You and I will always be sinners.  There is no way to avoid having that seed within us.  There was only one who was ever born who did not have this seed of sin, because His seed came from the Holy Ghost.  That is Jesus, who was born of a virgin.  Therefore, He is the only one who can ever claim He is sinless, and He did walk a sinless life while on this earth.  The rest of us will be cursed with this sin seed the rest of our years.

The nation of Israel was no different.  They were sinners, and needed someone to make atonement for them to cover their sin before God.  Every year, only once a year, there was a solemn day called the day of atonement.  We have spoken of this before during this study on Hebrews.  The High priest would take two goats and let one go (the scapegoat) a symbol of sin leaving the camp.  The other goat would be sacrificed on the altar and the blood would be taken and sprinkled on the mercy seat, which covered the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies.  It was the only time anyone entered the Holy of Holies all year.  This ceremony took place every year to make atonement for the sins of the people.  Every year.  For centuries it had been this way.  The pattern was set (see my last post on the Pattern of Things).

Then came Jesus.  He was a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.  He was sinless, not having the seed of sin within His body due to the virgin birth. He was the only one who lived, or ever will live, a sinless life.  He was offered up on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin.  When He died, the veil of the temple rent from top to bottom, signifying the Holy of Holies was now available for all to enter.  The mercy of God, the law and the power were now all available to us on a personal basis.  No longer a need for anyone to stand between us and God.  The confessional in a Catholic church is so different than this picture.  I’m sorry, but I can go straight to Jesus with my confession, and he forgives me without the need of Hail Mary.  In fact, Mary can do nothing to cleanse me of the sin that so easily besets me.

Jesus is our mediator, as we looed at before.  He is the one who stands before God and makes supplication for us.  He is the one we go to for cleansing, for sanctification, for deliverance, for all things God has for us.  There is no one else in heaven or earth who comes close to the power and authority that Jesus has.  The promises of God are delivered to us through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  There are thousands of these promises throughout the scriptures, all for us.  The only thing we have to do is accept this offering that has been made for us, the offering of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.

Paul said that he died daily.  What exactly was he talking about?  He was saying that each day he must get up and die to the sin that still is in his body, that seed of sin that causes us to have wayward thoughts, or do unholy things, or say words that can hurt and make others turn away from Christ.  Christ is our strength, and we can do all things through Him.  But in order to trust Him completely, we must give ourselves completely to Him.  When we start to trust in ourselves, that is when we will fall.  WE have no power against sin.  It is Christ who is the overcomer, and we must allow Him the authority in our lives to help us overcome also.  The only way we can do this is to die to ourselves, so that Christ might live in us.  A John the Baptists said “He must increase, I must decrease.”

The seed of sin has not left my body.  It is still real, and it is still affecting my daily actions.  After all, I am living in a fleshly body while on this earth.  As long as I do, sin will be in my being.  Jesus has eradicated my sin, but it is my obligation to make sure I confess that sin each day to God, and ask for His forgiveness. I also must ask forgiveness from others if I sin against them. Jesus places a high score on forgiveness.   It was one of the last things He said from the cross.  Jesus said if I don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us.  Unforgiveness is sin, and we must steer clear of this.  Sin will knock on our door constantly, trying to make us turn from God.  But God promises that no temptation will come into our lives that we are not strong enough to handle.

We have an appointment with God.  We have an appointed time with death, and none of us knows what day that will be.  Only God knows where this falls on the calendar.  He only opportunity we have to make things right with God is before this death appointment takes place.  Here is no purgatory where we shall be, and where God will give us another chance to accept His offering after our death.  There is only heaven or hell.  It is time you made your choice on where you will go.  Hell is reserved for sinners, for those who are disobedient to God.  We are all sinners until we accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on that Cross.  Have you confessed your sin to Him and turned away from it?  Have you trusted in Him as your Lord and Savior?  If your answer is yes, Praise the Lord!  If it is no, please do so right now, and Jesus will meet with you right where you are.  Be saved by His grace today!