Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Day of Atonement


Last Sunday, Pastor Ron talked about Rosh Hashanah, which is the head of the new year. He was pointing to the Jewish calendar that God is keeping. He also pointed out that this past week were the Days of Awe in which the people of Israel were to examine themselves for anything in their life that is not pleasing to God. The people of Israel are also to use the Days of Awe to prepare for another Jewish holiday. What was it that they were preparing for? They were preparing for today: Yom Kippur. What is Yom Kippur?

Yom = The Day


Kippur = To Atone


Yom Kippur = The Day of Atonement


So what does atonement mean? To atone for something means to make amends. It means to make reparations for something bad that happened. It is to repair. It means to be brought back into one (at-one-ment).


Atonement = (At-one-ment)


The Day of Atonement in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, the Day of Atonement was the day in which the high priest would make intercession on behalf of Israel for the forgiveness of their sins. It was and is still considered the most holiest of days. Why? Because it required the high priest to enter into the holiest of places, that being the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle or temple. It is also because it was the day that God set aside to forgive the entire nation of Israel; that is of course after performing a very strict order of sacrifices that God set in place. These sacrifices are found in Leviticus 16.


I encourage you to take some time and read it for yourself. Yet in the case you have not read it or if it has been a while since you have read it, lets summarize the order of events found in Leviticus 16:


• The high priest first bathed himself to prepare for the ceremony.
• He then put on dedicated white linens that were set aside for the service.
• The high priest took a bull, killed it, and then sprinkled its blood on the mercy seat.
• Then he was to cast lots to determine 2 goats that would be used for the atonement.
• One goat would become the sacrificial goat; the other would become the scapegoat.
• The high priest was then required to slaughter the sacrificial goat, sprinkle its blood on the mercy seat, throughout the tabernacle, and on the alter in the outer court.
• The priest then took his blood soaked hands and laid them on the live goat, confessing all the sins of Israel and transferring those sins onto the goat.
• This scapegoat would then be released into the wilderness where it would take the sins of the people away to a desolate land.
• The priest would then remove his blood soaked garments, bathe himself, and then put his normal priestly attire back on.
• After performing a few more sacrifices, the atonement then would be complete.


Wow! That is a lot for one man to do. Regardless of whether it was the high priest or not, they were not superman. Imagine having to do all of that work by yourself? Imagine having to wrestle and kill a bull, period! Let alone that you had to do it by yourself. Just thinking it through, I imagine that had to be an all day long ordeal.


Even so, it had to be done the exact way that God commanded. This was serious to God. But the question is why? Why did God want this to be this exact way? Why was it so important to Him? The reason is because this sacrificial system was only a type and shadow of the real thing. In other words, it was pointing to a greater system and a new covenant; it was pointing to Jesus.


Jesus is the Fulfillment of the Day of Atonement

The entire system from the goats, to the blood, to the linens, to the sacrifices, all of it pointed to Jesus. The book of Hebrews mentions this in chapter 10.


Hebrews 10:1 - The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves.


This includes the high priest. The high priest had to do everything. He had to prepare himself, slay the animals, perform the sacrifices, all by himself. No other priest could help him with his duties as the high priest on the Day of Atonement. It was all on him. This was not by random choice. It was because he too was a type and shadow of Jesus. In fact, Jesus became the ultimate high priest on our behalf.


Hebrews 9:11 - Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come.


It is true that Jesus became the sacrificial goat by sacrificing Himself on the cross. His blood paid for the forgiveness of our sins. He also became the scapegoat by having the sins of the world all laid upon Him. In doing so, like the goat running into the wilderness, our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west. 


John 1:29 - Behold! The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!


This was planned out by God. Nevertheless, Jesus also was the fulfillment of the high priest as our Great High Priest. As our high priest, Jesus became the mediator between us and God. In the same way the high priest mediated (stood in the gap) for the people of Israel on the day of atonement, Jesus mediated on our behalf by fulfilling the ultimate sacrifice once and for all. The high priest of Israel was required to make these sacrifices once a year. Jesus made a sacrifice once and for all! 


Hebrews 9:12 NLT

12 With his own bloodnot the blood of goats and calveshe entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.


Hebrews 9:15 NKJV

15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.


The high priest went into the holy of holies of the tabernacle with the blood of animals to purchase the forgiveness of Israel for a year. Jesus went into the tabernacle of heaven with His own blood to purchase our redemption once and for all! Jesus is our great mediator!


5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all…” 1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV


A Believers Response to Jesus as Our Mediator

With these things in mind, let us turn to Hebrews 10 as I mentioned earlier.


Hebrews 10:19-24 ESV

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…”


Understanding that Jesus has paid for our salvation through His blood and has removed the obstacle of sin that separated us and God, the word of God gives us a few commands.


I. Draw near to God
a) The overall desire of the writer of Hebrews is that we would draw near to God. He mentions it 7 times in the book of Hebrews.
4:16 - Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace…”

7:25 - Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God"

11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God…”
b) Gods desire is that we would draw near to Gods throne to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. That we would draw near to God for salvation and deliverance. That we go to Him knowing that He will reward us with who He is. 
c) The writer is encouraging us to get closer to God. To have fellowship with Him. That we would not settle for a Christian life that is distance from God. That He would not be an after thought in our minds. Instead, the writers hope is that God would be a present reality. 
d) So how do we draw near to God? Can we do that physically? Can we get closer to God by changing our location? Well, yes and no. We can be in church! (v24 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.) We can get involved with connect groups! (A plug for connect groups) It is true that by being in church, it will help us grow closer to God. However, you can go to church twice a week and still be distant from God. 
e) Instead, drawing near to God is an invisible act of the heart. in full assurance of faith…” It is surrendering our heart and will to God. It is putting God on the throne of our heart. We cannot have communion with God and call the shots at the same time. It doesnt work that way. We place our trust in Him. 

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
 and do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge him,
 and he will make straight your paths.

It is trusting in the Lord with all of your heart and leaning not on your own understanding. It is to acknowledge Him in all of your ways. If we do that, God will take care of the rest. 

The purpose of Christ mediating on our behalf, giving his life upon the cross and taking away our sins, the purpose of it was so that we would draw near to God; both in salvation and in fellowship. 

II. Hold Fast to Your Confession
a) The writer of Hebrews not only wants us to draw near to God, but also encourages us to hold fast to the confession of our hope. What is our hope? It is none other than confidence that God will fulfill all of His promises including our eternal salvation. Our hope is Jesus Christ. 
b) The confession of that hope is what we speak to ourselves and what we speak to those around us. It is confessing to others that you trust and followJesus. It is also living a life that confesses you follow Jesus. 
c) We must not waver from this truth. There will be things that will come along and try to knock you down and convince you otherwise. Nevertheless, hold fast to Jesus. Do not be ashamed to confess that you follow Jesus when the moment arises. 

At the end of the day, He who promised is faithful.
d) Let us not waver from our faith in Christ.

III. Encourage and Love One Another
a) The command here is not that we only love and do good works. We should. But the command is to encourage and stir up others. To stir up is to incite or provoke; not in a bad way but in the best sense. It is to encourage or motivate. 
b) We should always be encouraging people to love, not to slander or divide. We should always be encouraging others to do that which pleases God. Our advice, counsel and instruction should be to do what pleases God. Let us make sure that we are encouraging and stirring up people to love people and do good things for Jesus. 
c) The theme of Hebrews is Holding Fast.” The Christians that the writer of Hebrews is writing to were tempted to abandon their faith and return to their former way of life. This would have been the context for this command. It was to encourage and motivate other believers to love Jesus and love people and also to do what God commanded.

We never know where people are in their faith. Let us encourage others to love Jesus, love other people, and to get involved with what God is doing.  


So lets pull these points back up.


Let us:


Draw near to God


Hold fast to your confession


Encourage and Stir-Up One Another


Which point sticks out to you the most? Whatever it is, start there this week.


Let us draw near to God. Since Christ has given His life and is seated at the right hand of God, since He has atoned for our sins, let us make a decision to draw closer to Him. Let us begin to leave behind our past and move closer to what God has for us ahead. Let us hold fast and not waver from the hope that we have in Christ. Let us live a live that shows that we trust in Jesus. Let us encourage each other to love God, love people, and get involved with what He is doing.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Save the Date


God has a calendar. And He has marked some special days, made some appointments, and sent out some save the date notices.

God is a God of remembrance and celebration. When He wanted to share His yearly calendar events and anniversaries with His family, God wrote them down and made them available and readily accessible to us by listing them in what has become the most popular and best-selling book ever in the history of the world. Of course I am referring to the Bible.

God’s calendar is important to Him and He lives by it. When He makes an appointment and commits to a date, He never forgets, or sends regrets, or shows up late.

Today is an important day on God’s calendar. It is the day on which God decided to begin things. It’s commonly called Rosh Hashannah, which means The Head of the Year.

Just as the Head turns the body, this day, according to Jewish belief, is the day upon which the rest of the year turns. Jesus would have been taught this and would have observed this day as a special day all during His childhood and adult years. Today, Rosh Hashannah, is also called the Feast of Trumpets. One day, maybe today or on another Feast of Trumpets in a year to come, I and many others believe Jesus will return.

So, from God and from all creation, let me say: Shanna Tova! Happy New Year! 5784 …

Before we move on from remembrance of this High Holy Day, allow me to share a few things Christians should know about Rosh Hashannah.

1.   Rosh Hashannah is also the day on which I and many others believe:

·        God created Adam and Eve   

·        The actual day on which Jesus was born

·        It is a new year for people, animals, and legal contracts.

·        No one can predict the exact day or hour the new year will begin.

·        The day of the return of the Lord

2.   So far, we have only seen the dress rehearsals. The ultimate Feast of Trumpets will usher in the return of Jesus.

10 days after the New Year is the annual Day of Atonement. This is the day each year the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple and sprinkled the sacrificial blood on the mercy seat. 5 days later the Feast of Tabernacles begins with the promise of a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness.

So the next 10 days from now are awesome days in the Jewish faith and culture. The days between the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement Day. They are called the Days of Awe.

Both Jews and Christians believe that a person must repent of their sins and be forgiven by God prior to the Day of Judgment. Jews believe this needs to be done each year during these 10 Days of Awe, while Christians believe repentance is what we offer God when we give our lives to Christ which opens the door to God’s forgiveness which is the result of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Without exception, Jews and Christians alike believe repentance and forgiveness are both necessary elements to avoid judgment. And this is the day, and the season God has set aside on His calendar to remind of these truths.

It has been taught since the days of Adam that every person should examine their life and make the adjustments necessary to align themselves with God’s will. Noah needed it; Abraham needed it; Sarah needed it; Moses needed it; Rahab needed it; David needed it; Bathsheba needed it; Peter; Mary Magdalene; Martha; Paul; Timothy; Lydia; John; Me; and you … we all need it.

Each person should examine their life and make the adjustments necessary to align themselves with God’s will.

A life left unchecked, will be unchallenged, and go unchanged. And nothing changes until something changes. This is the season God has placed on His calendar for us to check, challenge, and change our lives to be more like Jesus. And you can feel it in the air … you know what I mean …

No doubt you are being encouraged in some way to examine yourself and make some necessary adjustments to the way you think, speak, act, or feel.

Our text today gives us a platform to do just that. Turn with me as we read a couple of verses in the book of Romans, chapter 12.

Romans 12 NKJV

1 ¶  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

We understand that the Apostle Paul was living in Corinth when he wrote this letter to the Believers in the Church in Rome. Corinth was the “sin city” of its day. Every vice known to mankind was in full force at Corinth.

The people who were being saved in Corinth were sinners from every nation. Cheats, liars, thieves, prostitutes, murderers, and people addicted to gossip were among the converts led to Christ by Paul. The news of what was happening at Corinth spread throughout the Roman Empire. Paul wanted the Church in Rome to know how they too could experience a personal revival and stay on track with the Gospel of Christ.

(Production Media: Put Romans 12:1 and 12:2 on screen as reference as needed while I expound.)

Simply put, Paul wrote:

1.   I beg you, because of what God has done for you …

2.   Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice to God.

3.   Do not allow yourselves to act or react like this world.

4.   Be transformed – Greek: metamorphoo

a.   Changed into another form

b.   Transfigured (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18)

5.   By the renewing of your mind

6.   Prove

a.   The Good will of God for your life

b.   The Acceptable will of God for your life

c.    The Perfect will of God for your life

Examine yourself … Happy New Year! These are the days of awe …

Days of reflection, days of change …

Judgement day is coming … Repent and be forgiven.

It will change your life …

1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.