I’m Every Person


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Observations from sermons on the parable of the Good Samaritan from Morris Hill Baptist and St. Peter’s Episcopal today. Yep, two sermons, two denominations, same Gospel passage, two different perspectives, one Truth. God has a point for me to get today.

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25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coin and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” ~Lk. 10:25-37

“The lawyer realized that the only way he could possibly fulfill the Law’s demand was to limit its demand.”

Do you just fulfill the letter of the Law, or compassionately, do you go the extra mile to serve your neighbor who needs mercy? 

Faith is not a noun, a definition understood; but an action, a show of behavior like that of our divine Father. We are chips off the Divine block. And we should behave in such a way toward those our Father places in our path each day.

My takeaways:

We are all the lawyer, desperately seeking in vain to fulfill the law in our own strength.

We are all the broken man in the road, rejected by someone at sometime in life.

We are all the priest and the Levite at times, holding on to prejudices and selfishness, putting ourselves, our beliefs, and our rituals above others.

We are all the Samaritan, people made in the Image of God who are capable of inconveniencing ourselves, motivated by compassion and mercy, to reach out and show love to the ones we are least likely to show love to naturally.

In the words of singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan,

Who is my neighbor? Anyone the Lord leads you into contact with! The person who lives next door…the mailman…that checkout clerk at Walmart…your waitress at IHOP…your child’s basketball coach…the man begging for food…the person you sit next to at the theater …your plumber…you get the idea…those you have any type of relationship with! Ministry does not require that you have expertise in a person’s field any more than it requires that you have experienced their particular sin or hurt. But ministry does require a few things.

Ministry requires that you love your neighbor as a potential new creation in Christ and, if they are a believer, to love them in spite of your discomfort with their particular struggle. Love does not require the other person’s agreement. You can love someone without agreeing with their political, spiritual, or moral beliefs.

To save the lost around us, we must establish relationships with them – loving people how they are, where they are.

So, who is the neighbor you need to go out of your way to love today?

A New and Living Way, Part 2


I. God has provided for us a new and living way. (10:19-21)

Verses 19-21 are a summary of the previous nine chapters. These chapters explain to the Jewish believers why the covenant of Christ was superior to the covenant God made with Moses. In these three verses we are given three descriptions and benefits of the new and living way God has provided through Jesus Christ: we have a new family, we have direct access to God, and we have a Great Priest in Jesus Christ.

A. We now have a new family. Looking at verse 19, the reader is instantly confronted with the idea that, as believers, we are family. The writer addresses his audience as “brethren,” or brothers. As family, as members of the house of God, the writer tells his audience that they can enter the holy place of God. To first century Jews, this idea was completely foreign. In the Jewish sacrificial system described in the Old Testament, only the High Priest was allowed into the presence of God, the part of the temple called the Holy of Holies. The law allowed him to enter the Holy of Holies only once a year to offer sacrifice for the sins of Israel.

In Ephesians 1:5-8, the apostle Paul told the church at Ephesus that, “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” The new and living way that is spoken of in this passage is the way of the new covenant that is made possible by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In his Gospel, John the Apostle tells us in 1:12, “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God.”

My parents were foster parents when I was growing up. The last foster child we had, Brittany, came to live with us when she was six weeks old. After she had lived with us for three years, the state began looking for a permanent adoptive home for Brittany. Three years later, no home had been found and she had lived with us for all six years of her life. She was family. My parents filed the appropriate paperwork, made appointments with lawyers, and went before a judge to declare their intentions to adopt Brittany as an official member of the Mason family.

Once those papers were signed, Brittany became a member of our family just as if my mom had physically given birth to her. By us choosing her, she was given the right to become a Mason, and once she was a Mason, she had access to all of the legal privileges of being a member of our family that I had as a biologically born member of the family. But not only is Brittany now recognized as a legal member of our family, she is also loved and accepted as a member of our family, and is confident in the fact that she will be treated just like my biological brothers and me in matters of love, protection, and provision. Just like Brittany was chosen to be a member of the Mason family, those who have been chosen as children of God also have rights that accompany that adoption. One of those rights is direct access to God.

B. We now have direct access to God. For the Hebrew believers hearing this for the first time, the notion of entering the holy place of God only brought thoughts of death and condemnation, for no one but the high priest was allowed to enter the holy place in the temple. But here the writer tells us that Jesus made a way for us to confidently approach God. When a young child is confident of the love and acceptance of her father, she has no worries about approaching her father with any request. The writer is telling us here in verse 20 that because of the work of Christ on the cross, the veil that previously separated us from God was torn open and we now have the right to boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence.

The idea that Jesus is superior to both Moses and to the line of levitical priests is key to understanding what is meant here when the author says that Christ is the new and living way. The old covenant, which is also called the covenant of Moses and the law, was designed to show the Israelites their sinful inability to save themselves. Paul declared in chapter three, verse twenty of his letter to the church in Rome that, “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” This verse tells us the law brings awareness of sin and death. Jesus Christ, through His willing sacrifice, brings a new and living way of salvation for all who repent of their sins and believe on His name.

This new and living way is now the only way to gain access to God. In the original language, the word we translate as “new” has a meaning of freshly slaughtered and not previously available. It seems odd to consider something as both freshly slaughtered and living at the same time, but this is just the point the author is trying to make. John MacArthur observed in his commentary on Hebrews, “The blood of animals allowed only the high priest to enter the veil briefly. Jesus’ blood allows everyone who believes in Him to enter the veil permanently.”

C. We now have a Great Priest in Jesus. Not only are believers now members of the family of God who have permanent access to the Father, we can see in the passage above that we also have a mediator in our Great Priest, Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews explained this in chapter 9:11-14 when he wrote:
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

So it is only through the sacrifice of Christ, our Great Priest, that we are able to confidently gain access to God as his children. Paul further explains this in Galatians 3:22-26:
But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

We are told in Romans 3:23 that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are also told that this sin separates us from God because He is perfect and holy and cannot be in the presence of sin. But to show His glory and His merciful love, God made a way for our sins to be forgiven by sacrificing his son, Jesus, who took our punishment for sin and gave his blood for us. He took our punishment and died in our place. That is why Jesus is referred to in this passage as the new and living way. Jesus himself declared in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”

The only way that you can be forgiven of your sins and become a part of the family of God is to recognize two things about yourself. First you must realize that your sin separates you from God. Second, you must acknowledge that there is nothing you can do on your own to connect you to God. Only by turning from your sin and believing that Jesus died as a sacrifice for your sins and then rose from the dead three days later, proving his victory over death, can you be called a child of God. Have you ever done that? Have you ever realized that because you are a sinner separated from God, you will spend eternity separated from Him unless you turn from your sin and believe in Christ as your Savior? Only that will allow you to be a part of God’s new and living way. If you have never had that moment in your life, I pray that you will consider your position in the family of God and will make the decision today to turn from your sins and believe that Jesus, our Great Priest, is the way God provided for you to be His child.

On Passover and Easter


From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. Matthew 27:45-50

This Good Friday Morning broke with glorious sunshine and warmth here in Wake Forest. The weather has been cold but deceptively sunny, so the sunshine combined with warm temperature was a welcome change. But early this afternoon, the weather shifted quickly. The sky grew dark and it began to rain. The change reminded me of the account Matthew gives of a similar Passover that took place two thousand years ago. I read this account of the crucifixion of Christ with new eyes today because last night I attended my first Passover Seder with a Messianic congregation. Participating in a religious tradition that has been observed for thousands of years is a soberingly reflective event all by itself. But to practice a Jewish observation with a group which is concurrently celebrating the sacrifice of the Messiah to which the Passover points? Well that was an overwhelming experience for the senses as well as the soul.

Just take a moment and think about the three hours that are described in the short passage above. They are the climax of history. From the moment Eve chose to doubt the word of her Creator, all of time had been hurtling toward this moment of redemption. Eve’s decision did not take God by surprise, and His plan to redeem mankind was not a kneejerk reaction to the choices made by His creations. Genesis 3:15 declares God’s promise that the seed of woman would overcome the evil one, crushing him under His heel. God then chose Abraham to be the man through whom this promised seed would be delivered to the world. Just read the Old Testament. The thread woven throughout Scripture is the promise that there would be One who would deliver His people and save them. Through famine, war, sin, near destruction, terrible choices and a few faithful, God showed Himself faithful to keep His promise to His people that He would provide a redeemer to sit forever on the throne of David.

God instituted the sacrificial system as a picture of the sacrifice that would be required for the forgiveness of sin. Hebrews 9 is a beautiful explanation of how this picture pointed to and was fulfilled in the sacrifice of Christ. It was no accident that His crucifixion occurred on the Friday of Passover. Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God, the one and only God-Man who was perfect and could therefore serve as a worthy sacrifice to take upon Himself the judgment for our sins.

There is no way our minds will ever be able to comprehend “the Great Exchange” that took place during those three hours of darkness. So often we focus on the physical pain and sacrifice of Christ that took place on that tree. But have you ever stopped to think about the emotional and spiritual sacrifices made? Before this time, Jesus had spent 33 years on this earth, walking in perfect communion with the Father. Think about how disconnected you feel when there is sin in your life that breaks your communion with God. Now, imagine you had never before experienced that disconnect and now, suddenly, every sin ever committed has created a seemingly unspannable chasm between you and the Father. When Jesus was being falsely accused before Pilate, He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah and like a sheep before his shearer, He was silent. It was not the attack on His character that caused Him to cry out. Throughout the rejection, the lies, the betrayal and denials, he remained silent. Scripture records that He did not utter a sound while enduring a physical beating that was known to kill its bearers before they ever reached the hill of Golgotha. But when He bore the weight of our sins on Himself, the separation from the Father was so excruciating He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That sort of pain is truly excruciating; the word excruciating literally means “out of the cross.”

I so flippantly talk about sacrifice and pain. I know nothing of sacrifice and pain. On this day over two millennia ago, Christ offered Himself as the one and only sacrifice worthy of being the once for all sacrifice for our sins. He accomplished for us what we could never accomplish for ourselves so that we will never have to experience the truly excruciating power of the curse of sin.

My question for you this Good Friday is, Have you recognized your sin? Do you know that you are separated from your Creator? Can you see that here is nothing you can do within yourself to restore that relationship? God is the only one who is able to provide what is needed for our relationship to be restored, and He sacrificed Himself as the ransom for our sins. Do you recognize your need for a Savior? He offered Himself for you. There will be no better time to offer yourself in repentance, thanksgiving and obedience to Him. Paul declared “now is the day of salvation!” God knew before time began what He was going to do about us and our rebellious nature. But the question now is, What are you going to do about His offering of salvation and forgiveness?