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Entries in Gospel (19)

Tuesday
Aug212018

Our Prayer Life and Personal Witness

Colossians 4:2-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 12, 2018.

Our world today has convinced itself that there is no eternity for us to face.  And so, people live lives that are focused on the fleeting thoughts and wants of this life, going here and there.  Today we need to hear Christ calling us to lift our eyes and see that there is a harvest all around us.  It is a harvest of people who have been made hungry for the Gospel because they haven’t found something that can satisfy their soul.

In our passage today, Paul is drawing near to the end of his letter to the Colossians, and encourages believers to be active in two different areas of life.  The first part is centered on our internal life and the second is focused on our external life.  When believers recognize the value that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has for us and the people around us, we give prayer and witnessing the proper vigilance that eternal matters deserve.

In our passage today, Paul turns from the relationship between slaves and their masters, and speaks to the group of believers as a whole.

Continue earnestly in prayer

If I were to summarize the book of Colossians I would say this.  Paul is concerned that believers understand the mystery of the Gospel of Christ enough in order to avoid deceptions and to be transformed into the image of Jesus.  It takes prayer to withstand spiritual deception, and it takes prayer to put off the old man and to put on the new man.  Thus in verse 2 Paul uses a verb that has the idea of continuing with strength.  Prayer is not just a passionless duty.  It is not enough to pray when you first get saved and then quit.  It is not enough to pray only in times of disaster and great need.  Believers must also continue strongly in prayer during all the times in between.

Paul emphasizes being “watchful” in prayer.  What are we watching?  We are being watchful of our lives, both external deceptions and our own internal deceptions.  We are watchful for those temptations that would seek to take us by surprise and by storm.  We are also to be watchful over one another, as spiritual brothers and sisters.  Jesus himself used the world “watch” in his last hours with his disciples.  He asked Peter, James, and John to watch with Him as He prayed.  Later, when He found them sleeping, He warned them to “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Matthew 26:41 (NKJV).  They were going through a time of severe testing and strong temptation.  It was Jesus who not only made them aware of it, but also told them that they would only overcome those temptations through prayer.  Satan is often successful because we are not paying attention to spiritual matters.  When our flesh is strong then we are prone to take the bait that he is using for us.

Of course it is easy to let ourselves fall into a dire, and even hopeless, attitude.  Yet, Paul tells them to pray with thanksgiving.  If we only treat prayer as a Christmas list that we take to God, then we can get discouraged pretty quick.  God is not in the business of spoiling His children and turning us into entitled brats.  We would be no good to anybody, even ourselves, at that point.  However, when we learn to pray with other kinds of prayer, we become stronger spiritually.  In Scripture we not only see prayers of petition, in which we ask for things for ourselves, but also prayers of Adoration.  This is where we praise God for who He is.  We should also give up prayers of thanksgiving in which we thank God for what He has done and how He has blessed us.  There are also prayers of confession in which we repent before God concerning any areas of sin in our life.

Prayer may have a novelty feel to it at first.  In fact, we can do different things to try and maintain a feeling of novelty (turn down lights, play instrumental music, light candles, etc.).    However, none of these things will ever be able to overcome the reality that our flesh will quickly grow tired of prayer.  When our flesh realizes that God is not going to satisfy our every whim and desire, it either falls asleep or walks away.  So take time to be thankful in your prayers, but not just for the things He has given you.  Also be thankful for who He is and His character, His faithfulness and grace.  We are on the winning side.  So we need not be dire and glum, though the world around us is given over to darkness.  Rather we can pray with joy and thanksgiving in our heart.

Paul also asks that they would pray for him and his companions, especially that they would have an open door to share the Gospel.  Just as they needed doors, so we too need the Lord to open doors for us to share the Gospel.  We should not take it for granted, but labor for it in prayer.  Paul also asks that they would pray that he would have clarity in explaining the Gospel to others.  Many people have a superficial understanding of Jesus, if anything at all.  They need a clear presentation of the Gospel.  So wouldn’t God just open doors for us, why should we pray?  It is true that if you do not pray, God will still be busy working.  And, God will use others.  However, those others cannot take the place that God has given to me and you.  Without prayer, I will miss those opportunities and those opportunities will be missing in the lives of those I was supposed to impact.  Prayer puts us in the harness with the Holy Spirit to do the work that needs done to prepare people’s hearts, plant the seed of truth, water it, and harvest at the appropriate time.  Even though he was in chains, under house arrest, Paul knew that prayer could open up opportunities to share the Gospel.

Walk wisely around unbelievers

In verse 5 Paul reminds them to walk wisely among “the outsiders.”  This phrase is a reference to people who are outside the Church because they are not believers in Jesus.  Have you ever thought about how your actions can affect unbelievers?  We can be unwise and act foolishly around unbelievers and negatively impact how they view Christ.

Paul also connects to this the phrase “redeeming the time.”  This was a phrase that was used of a person who purchases an item at the perfect time, whether to get a deal in the marketplace, or to take possession of a desired item.  If we walk foolishly then we will lose time in drawing others to Christ.  That can be done by neglecting to look like Christ enough to be attractive to them or even neglecting to share when they are open.  But even worse, we can be offensive to them and drive them away from Christ.  Now, it is true that Christ is offensive to our flesh because He is spiritual.  However, we cannot walk foolishly, AKA unspiritually, and then say they weren’t ready.  We should always have our eyes open and be praying for opportune moments in the lives of people.  Wisdom understands what is important in life and takes care of eternal matters at the expense of the temporal ones.  However, folly takes care of temporal matters at the expense of the eternal.  We redeem the time when we walk in harmony with what God is trying to do in the lives of people around us.

Paul also instructs believers to always speak with grace.  In that sense grace means to speak in a way that is favorable to those who listen to us.  How easy it is to let our speech rush on leaving grace behind.  Even worse, we may pick up unfavorable companions such as: anger, pride, greed, etc.  Part of wisdom is to temper our speech, so as not to offend unnecessarily.  We must remove the obstacles of our flesh as much as we can.  Yes, none of us are perfect, and people can always find some reason to reject us.  But that is between them and God.  My focus needs to be on me.  Lord, help me to walk wisely before those who do not know you.  This connects to the last chapter’s focus on putting off the old man and putting on the new.

Paul also uses a phrase, “seasoned with salt.”  It is a reference to the fact that food is made tastier when it is salted.  Our speech can be plain food without any spice, or we can speak with creative flavor of a life lived in relationship with God.  In fact, Christ uses salt as a reference to believers.  He says that we are the salt of the earth.  Thus our speech should be such that it causes people to want to hear it, at least until they make a decision to either embrace Christ or not.

The combination of prayer, walking wisely, and speaking with grace, will put us in the proper place that we will learn how to answer each person we come in contact with (vs. 6)k  We must truly have a relationship with Jesus before we will learn how to answer those who ask us why we believe in Him.

May God help us to take time this week to pray.  May we pray for the wisdom to redeem the time in the lives of unbelievers.  The “New Man” takes time to pray and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the lost around them.  May God help us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, by the help of His Holy Spirit.

Prayer Life Audio

Monday
Jun112018

Threats of Deception II

Colossians 2:11-19.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 10, 2018.

Today we will continue talking about deception, to which we are all vulnerable.  Christians are not supposed to be gullible, easily tricked people, at least in the area of doctrinal truth.  We of all people have been given a sure record of truth and warned to be on guard against the devil’s schemes.  It is sad that so many people get caught up in many different kinds of deception.  Let’s look at the next verses in Colossians 2.

Remember what you have in Jesus Christ

In verses 11-15, Paul reminds of what they had in Jesus.  Some of the deceptions that the Colossians were facing had to do with ritual observance of things in the Law of Moses.  We know that the Acts 15 council had settled the issue regarding ritual observance of the Law.  No Jew or Gentile could be saved by ritual observations.  Still, it was common for certain teachers to travel around attempting to draw Gentiles into the belief that they had to obey certain things in the Law of Moses.  It is possible that the deception was not about what was needed for salvation, but instead what would make you more spiritual.  Regardless, Paul point Christians back to Jesus and reminds us of the great spiritual advantages that we have in Him.

First of all, he brings up the issue of circumcision.  This was a powerful symbol of rejecting the world and our own sinful flesh.  It represented complete obedience to God and a change in identification.  It marked people as belonging to Him.  The people of Israel took great pride in this difference.  However, Paul reminds these mostly Gentile believers that they have a circumcision that was not made with hands (human hands).  In other words, it parallels the idea in the Bible that believers have a work that is done internally and with the help of the Holy Spirit.  This is much greater than a work done on the external by another human being. 

This is similar to how we are born into God’s Family, which is not by the will of man, but by the will of God.  Those who were born into God’s people of Israel because their parents decided to have a kid had a lesser status than those who were born into God’s people by the Holy Spirit.  Gentile believers (even Jewish believers) had a greater or higher circumcision in Christ.  They didn’t need to add a lesser circumcision.

Also notice that it is called a circumcision of Christ.  In Joshua 5 we find that the children of Israel who were being led into the Promised Land by Joshua had not been circumcising their children for 40 years.  Thus after they had crossed the Jericho river in miraculous style and were several miles from the walls of a formidable walled city-state, they stopped and Joshua had all the uncircumcised males circumcised.  This was a crazy move militarily.  But it was important for them to deal with their disobedience before moving forward.  Joshua is a type of Christ who is our great leader.  Jesus is leading us into the Promised inheritance that God has for us.  But first we must wait and be circumcised in our hearts with a spiritual circumcision.  Jesus teaches us the greater circumcision, that of the heart done by the help of the Holy Spirit.  Paul refers to it as a putting off of the body of the sins of our flesh.  Interestingly enough Paul even connects this to water baptism.

It is clear that water baptism symbolizes a spiritual death and a spiritual resurrection.  But notice that we are “dying” to our flesh and its desires.  We join Christ in putting aside the hopes of this flesh and its desires.  Instead our hopes and desires are in God alone.  Thus we are spiritually raised up to a new life by the Spirit of God.  This is a partnership of us and God.  In verse 13 Paul points out that though they used to be spiritually dead in an uncircumcised state, now through Christ they are spiritually alive and forgiven of every trespass.  Therefore those in Christ have received the higher spiritual reality that was symbolized by those lower, physical commands in the Law of Moses.  As a young Jewish boy would join the people of Israel by circumcision, so a young Christian joins the people of God by a spiritual circumcision which is symbolized by the act of water baptism.  In this ritual there is no distinction made between male or female.

Paul also reminds us in verse 14 that our record of debt has been cancelled.  He clearly envisions some kind of list of our sins or trespasses against God.  This list or record of our offenses would condemn us if it is allowed to stand.  We would be dead men.  Yet, Paul points out that Christ has moved this list from standing against us through two methods.  First he wipes out the charges (some versions say blot out).  Regardless, if Paul had written this in the 21st century, he would have probably said deleted.  Secondly, he takes this list of now blotted out or wiped out charges and nails them to the cross.  To Paul, Christ was not just dying for our sins on the cross.  In Him our sins are being nailed to the cross, where they will be left forever.  The charges themselves are dead and cannot stand against us.

This leads to a powerful statement in verse 15.  At the cross Jesus disarmed our spiritual enemy and triumphed over them.  Though Satan is still dangerous, he can no longer use our sin as a guaranteed way of slaying us.  Through Christ, the work of Satan and his minions is nullified and abolished.  The only way that Satan can destroy us now is by convincing us to not take Christ at His Word.  If he can con us into remaining in our rebellious, disobedient path then he wins by convincing us to do for him what he cannot do to us.

Reject the threats of legalism

In verses 16-19, Paul walks forward the threat of those who rely upon the observance of the Law.  Up to now he has only mentioned circumcision.  But verse 16 brings up the areas of what food and drink you consume, and what days you observe as holy.  Notice that it is introduced with the word “so.”  This point of rejecting legalism is strongly linked to the triumph that Jesus has obtained over our spiritual enemies.  The practical implication of His victory is that we cannot be judged on these ritual matters of the Law of Moses.  Neither can your past be held against you.

Now food and drink is mentioned because the Mosaic Law had much to say about foods.  There was a long list of prohibited foods that no Israelite was supposed to eat.  However, foods cannot make one more spiritual or more sinful.  In fact that was not the point of those Old Testament laws.  Similarly celebrating particular days as holy cannot make you more holy or the lack thereof make you unholy.  Just as our circumcision in Christ is spiritual, so the food that we eat is spiritual as well.  Jesus and His teachings are our spiritual food.  Instead of going back to the lesser symbol, Christians are called to press in to the thing that the lesser commands pointed towards.  Also, through Christ we have entered into the Sabbath of God (Sabbath means rest).  For the believer everyday is a day of rest because we are in Christ every day.  This does not mean that we have no decisions to make in these matters, but that the dietary and ritual commands of the Law are not binding on Christians.

Though Paul says “let no one judge you,” the point is not trying to stop their mental reasoning.  Rather, it is about not being influenced and deceived by the judgments that they do make.  In other words, let them think what they want, but don’t let it influence how you think and act.

In verse 17 Paul gives the spiritual truth that we are to use as our guide in these matters.  Christ is the substance and the Law of Moses is the shadow.  Clearly Paul is talking about the non-moral laws (dietary, ceremonial, and holy observances).  These things are not the substance of what God was concerned about, when He gave those laws.  They were a shadow that gave evidence to or pointed towards something of greater substance, which is Jesus himself.  Circumcision, feast days, Sabbaths, and food are not what are important.  It is what they are trying to tell us about Jesus that is important.  This is what we should follow.  The reality of Christ’s first and second coming is a substantial thing that caused a shadow to be cast back in time.  Because he was coming, God gave Israel commands that would prepare them and the world to receive Jesus.  Many of the laws were not moral laws inherently.  Of course once God commanded them, disobedience would be a moral issue.  But that is not my point.  My point is that the purpose for these laws that involved things that weren’t inherently sinful, was to help Israel see the shape and form of The One who was to come, Messiah.  Now it would be said to remain enamored with the shadow of a person when they have actually come into the room.

Legalism is really a form of stubbornness that refuses to enter into all that the Law was pointing towards.  Legalism honors Moses while dishonoring the God whom Moses obeyed.  Moses himself will stand up in judgment against those who use the Law as a means of righteousness because the Lord whom he followed was greater than all those laws.  However, all of this said, I must emphasize that these arguments cannot be used for the moral laws that are found in the Law of Moses.  Thus, no apostle of Jesus ever said, “Let no one judge you in sexual immorality, or in theft, or in murder…”  These actions are inherently sinful and will never be acceptable in God’s sight no matter how spiritual a person thinks they are.

In verse 18 Paul warns that to give in to this legalism would cause one to be cheated of their reward.  Deception has a cost and is a real threat to our stake in Christ.  Paul lists some of the things that the deceivers took delight in.  First, they love false humility.  The outward shows of devotion can be a cover for pride.  We should follow Christ and His leading and not the false humility of those who glory in their outward ritual observances.  Second, they loved to worship angels.  Though Paul does not go into detail, no being in heaven or on earth should be worshipped but the triune God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Thus those who develop great systems of heavenly or earthly beings to which they pray for help, may seem spiritual.  But they are not, because they resist the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Christ and His apostles.  Third, they glory in great visions of things they may or may not have seen that puff up their fleshly minds.  This is an area where charismatic Christians are very vulnerable.  We are sometimes so desperate to prove that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still in operation that we will put up with people who claim to have had visions of heaven, but are motivated by their sinful desires and puffed up pride.  We must be hungrier for Jesus and our relationship with Him, then for a spiritual gift that someone else claims to have.  The gifts of the Spirit are walked out in relationship with Jesus, who sent the Holy Spirit.  So how does this jeopardize our reward?

It does so by separating us from Christ and towards a person or system of fleshly works who cannot save us.  Thus what Paul says in the negative about these fleshly teachers, we should embrace in the positive.  We must hold fast to Jesus through whom we have true spiritual growth.  No matter what manner of persuasion or deceit comes our way, we must let nothing separate us from Jesus.  Of course deceivers often do not present themselves as a means of being separated from Christ.  However, they always promote teachings in such a way that Christ is never quite enough.  You also need this: (insert the current false teacher’s list here).  When we hold fast to Jesus and Him alone then we have the One who is the source of any true spiritual growth and any real spiritual inheritance that we may have.  He is the one who baptizes us in the Holy Spirit ad leads us forth in victory.  Let us reject all threats of deception and walk with Christ, who is the substance of all that the Law of Moses and the Prophets of the Old Testament pointed towards!

Threats of Deception II audio

Tuesday
Jun052018

Threats of Deception

Colossians 2:1-10.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 3, 2018.

The internet is filled with fascinating illusions and brain benders that demonstrate the ability of our mind to be tricked.  Of course this is one thing when you are looking at a picture and swear that two lines cannot be the same length, when they actually are the same length.  However, in life there are far greater odds at stake, and the deceptions that we face are just as easy to be accepted as truth.

God warns us about deception because truth is an essential part of His nature.  He is truth.  Thus as followers of The Truth and being aware that we can be deceived by those who have honed the art of deception, believers should be leery of those who come along offering something other than what God’s Word says. 

This is the heart of what the devil did with Eve in the Garden of Eden, and what he does with the world every day.  We live in a world drowning in deceptions that have been created and spun over the millennia.  In our passage today the Apostle Paul shows his concern for believers and churches that may perchance listen to those who would try and sway people from the truth that we have received in Jesus Christ.

Paul’s concern for the churches

In verse 1 Paul expresses his concern for the Christians in Colosse and the neighboring city of Laodicea.  Here is a link to a map that will help you see where these two cities are in what we call Turkey today.  It is believed that Paul did not travel through these cities, but that churches were started there by locals who had heard Paul’s preaching and were saved in neighboring cities like Ephesus. 

Chapter two picks up right where chapter one left off.  Paul tells them that he has been laboring and striving for them by the mighty working of Christ within him.  In verse 1 he calls it a “great conflict.”  Though this word could be used for contests of sports and gladiators, it is clear that Paul means it metaphorically (not to diminish the physical exertion he gave in ministry).   His concern for them internally causes him to fight for their faith and spiritual well-being.  In fact this letter is part of that fight.

It is important to have people in your life who are concerned for your faith enough to wrestle over how to help you.  It is also important, as we grow in Christ, to have that kind of concern for others.  Historically it has been called “carrying a burden” for someone else.  It can be from those who are responsible, like church leaders or even parents for their children.  But it can also be from those who are our friends and fellow believers in the Lord who are not directly responsible for us.

In verse 2 Paul lists concerns that he has for things they need to have.  First he wants their hearts to be encouraged.  The word translated “encourage” in this passage is more than emotional strengthening.  It includes exhortation and ultimately means to enable someone to face a challenging situation.  It is important for our hearts to be encouraged, comforted, and instructed, so that we may continue following Christ.

Paul also desires that Christians be “knit together in love.”  What is it that should hold believers together in a local body?  Paul does not lean upon coercion and domineering leadership.  Specifically it is the love of Christ within us that teaches us how to love each other, which results in a bond of Christ’s love between us.  This is what should hold us together.  Anything else will fall short.

Lastly, Paul desires that Christians attain to the understanding of the mystery revealed in the Gospel.  Back in chapter one he has already explained that the mystery he is talking about is no longer a mystery.  He continues to use such words because it was common in those days for traveling teachers to promise to reveal secret mysteries to those who would listen and pay them.  Paul is saying that there is no mystery to be found anymore.  We just need to understand the mystery that Christ and His apostles have revealed once and for all.  In fact, Paul wants Christians to have a full assurance or confidence that the Gospel we have received is itself the “riches” and “hidden treasure” (vs. 3) of wisdom and knowledge.

People do not need to search for or listen to groups or individuals that have a system of attaining hidden or occulted truth.  If you have ever been in a group like this then you know this is much more than learning as you grow, which is a natural form.   God has not called the Church to be a system of working your way to the top so that you can learn the secret.  It is important for believers to know and be confident in the fact that though we are bound together in the love of Christ, our walk is affected by our understanding of what we have in Christ, just as much.  In fact, without a true understanding of Christ we will fail at loving each other as we should.

His concern about deception

Having written about the things that he wants them to embrace, at verse 4 he speaks to things that he wants them to reject, mainly deception.  He is concerned that they resist deception and persuasive words.  Here the concerns are put forth in general terms. 

The problem with deception is that it always comes pretending to be the truth.  In 2 Corinthians 11:14 it says that, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”  Also, in verse 13, right before that, we are told that some people “disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.”  Not everyone who claims to be an apostle of Christ truly is, and not every angel that comes with a message of truth is actually from God and actually giving truth.  Paul recognizes that deception relies upon persuading people.  That is why he emphasized that they already had the understanding of the mystery that had been hidden in ages past, but now in Christ has been revealed. 

When Christians are persuaded that they have received the truth of the ages, then they aren’t open to the salesmen who come plying their wares.  A skilled deceiver has learned how to use people’s eyes and hearts against them.  The closer our relationship is with Christ the less likely we will fall to deception.

In verses 6-7, Paul gives us the key to not being deceived.  Ultimately he tells them to walk or live in the ways that they had been taught and received when they were first saved.  Of course, Paul knew that these specific believers had initially received the truth.  But what about the person who has grown up under deception or has fallen in with a person or group who has deceived them?  We can know the truth because it has been written down as the New Testament.  In spite of the conspiracy theories, the text of the Bible is the most accurate ancient book, which has been substantiated by thousands of manuscripts and millions of researchers.  Put your roots down into God’s Word and take time to search it out prayerfully, rather than looking all over creation for an answer. 

Yet, even the Bible can be used to deceive a person who is unskilled in its contents.  Thus it is important who we are receiving our understanding from.  In this regard you may feel that you are hopeless, but you are not.  If you truly believe in Jesus Christ then His Holy Spirit resides within you.  That same Holy Spirit will work to bring you to a proper understanding of the truth and to the right people to help you in that walk.  So trust Him and seek His leading.

In verses 8-10 Paul gets even more specific.  There were many “Philosophies” that were floating around in those days.  Asceticism focused on denying physical pleasures in order to become more spiritual.  Gnosticism focused on discovering hidden truths that were revealed only to the special initiates.  Dualism saw all physical material as evil and spirit things as good.  As the truth of Christ came into the Gentiles lands, it encountered strongholds of philosophies that would try and bring Christianity under their systems of thinking.  Even today we are in jeopardy of allowing the teachings of Christ to be subsumed into the philosophies of our age, whether that be a material-humanism, or a New Age “all roads lead to God” philosophy.  We even have a modern form of the ancient skepticism, which believes that truth is unobtainable.

Christians are to be watching and on guard.  Otherwise, we run the risk of being cheated out of the truth that we already have.  Deceit is always empty-handed in the end.  It promises the moon, but delivers gravel in your mouth (btw, if you check for your wallet it will be missing too).  Paul lists some of the tools that deceivers use in order to manipulate others.

First, there are the traditions of men.  Cultures and traditions are masterful ways of manipulating the feelings and desires of a person.  Secondly there are the elementary principles of this world.  It is possible that Paul means the elementary spirits of this world.  Regardless, you do not need those things.  What you really need is Jesus.  In Him is everything you could ever need.  If he is in you, then you have all you need.  What are you looking for?  If you are feeling dissatisfied with Christ, it has nothing to do with Him, and everything to do with your own heart.  Look deep within and ask God to help you see your heart and whether you are being played into deception.  It is only by His help and His Word that we are able to see and avoid the threats of deception in this life.

Threats of Deception audio

Tuesday
Aug292017

The City of the Living God

Hebrews 12:18-24.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 27, 2017.

As we continue through this chapter about the believer’s faith, it may appear that this section is a tangent.  However, it is important to recognize that the unseen, heavenly realities are a critical part of our faith.  We have put our faith in the God of far more glorious things than those of this earth.  The temptation to gravitate towards that which can be seen must be overcome by faith in God.

When early Jews began turning towards Christ and His Church, it left many of them with a sense that they were losing some very awesome and amazing things, at least during the 40 years from the death of Jesus to the destruction of the Temple.  The pomp and circumstance of Jerusalem and its temple, priests and sacrifices had no physical correlation in the Church.  Just as idols tempted early Israelites away from worshipping the Living God (or at least mixing His worship with the surrounding idolatry), so early Christians were tempted to go back into Judaism because of its greater physicality (or, again mixing the two).  The writer of Hebrews, and in fact the Holy Spirit, was encouraging early believers that our faith is based on glorious, spiritual realities that far outshine the Old Covenant established by Moses.  Thus Christians should stand firm against the pull of their flesh back towards the Old Covenant.  We too have a tendency to try and build physical things that become more important to us than those spiritual realities.

Christians have a city, a temple, and a high priest that is spiritual and in the heavens as opposed to the earthly Jerusalem.  This does not mean that the earthly Jerusalem is no longer important to Christians.  Prophecy tells us that much is still to take place at that place on this globe that is important to God.  So let’s look at this comparison between the Old Testament (or covenant) of the Law and the New Testament of the Gospel.

The Old Covenant through Moses

In verses 18-21 we are reminded just what the covenant of Moses entailed.  As mentioned earlier, the terms Old Testament and Old Covenant are synonymous in this context.  Both are a reference to the agreement made between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai.  The Old Covenant was made at a specific place on earth.  Thus he emphasizes that it can be touched, which is indicative of the Old Covenant.  It was full of material things here on earth that could be touched and seen.  For example, when a person sinned they physically took a cow, ram, or dove to the temple and it was killed on a literal altar by a human priest.  Though the problem of sin is ultimately a spiritual problem before a spiritual God, the actions proscribed were mostly physical.

We are also reminded of the terrifying nature of their experience at Mt. Sinai.  This would be a fact that the early Christians could forget because they were 1,400 years after this event.  The biblical passage that underlies this passage is Exodus 19-20.  In this passage we are told that as they approached the mountain it was covered by a dark cloud with thunder and lightning.    Then it says that the LORD descended on the mountain as a fire, which caused smoke to ascend from it like a furnace.  On top of this all, the mountain shook from an earthquake.  As if that wasn’t enough to get their attention, a loud trumpet blast sounded from the mountain and got louder and louder.  Then Moses spoke to the LORD and an audible voice from the mountain commanded Moses to come up the mountain. 

We are also reminded that the people were also threatened with death.  God warned the people that any person or animal that touched the mountain would be put to death.  Thus a barrier was constructed between the people and the mountain.  It is clear that the giving of the Law is purposefully associated with a terrifying fear of the LORD by God Himself under threat of death.  The Law hedged them in on every side pointing out their sins.  If not for God’s mercy they could not have survived this relationship.  Over and over again they broke God’s covenant as a people and as individuals throughout those 1,400+ years.

But, the New Covenant through Jesus

In verses 22-24 he shows them that the New Covenant through Jesus is so much better and more desirable.  In a parallel manner we are shown the better aspects of the New Covenant.  As the old was made on earth, the new was made in heaven.  Yes, Jesus died on earth, but the New Covenant is actually created in heaven.  Hebrews 9 speaks of Jesus ascending into the Heavenly Temple, presenting Himself before God, and purifying the heavenly altar once and for all with His own blood.  This is much of the imagery we see in the Book of the Revelation.  The term Mt. Zion was often used of the earthly area in Jerusalem where the temple was.  However, throughout the prophets it is clear that they also speak of the heavenly temple of God as the higher Mt. Zion.  Thus just as we have an earthly city called Jerusalem with the temple of God or Mt. Zion as the place of God’s throne, so there is a Heavenly Jerusalem with a heavenly Mt. Zion upon which the Heavenly Temple, Throne of God resides.  From there God and His Divine Council govern the affairs of the heavens and the earth.   Again, this is the backdrop for most of the Book of the Revelation.  Though we cannot fly airplanes or rockets to God’s throne room, it is real.  In fact, it is more substantial than the temporary courts of mankind, which pass like the flowers of the field.  Now I understand that it can be terrifying to think of standing before God in heaven, but here we see that the Covenant of Christ bids us to come and join the family of God.  That is why it is called the Gospel, or Good News.  The atmosphere of the New Covenant is this invitation to intimate relationship with our Maker.

We are then told that this heavenly city is full of heavenly beings.  There are an innumerable company of angels (Revelation speaks of myriads of myriads).  Though some of them have fallen with the devil, there are still millions, if not billions, that are faithful to God.  Next we are told that we are a part of the General Assembly.  Some see this as synonymous with the next phrase “Church of the Firstborn.”  However, the General Assembly seems to be everyone, both angels and humans, all the faithful of creation.  The Church of the Firstborn refers only to humans who have been called out of the world to belong to Jesus, who is the Firstborn.  Our names are not registered in an earthly place where the nation could be destroyed and records lost.  Instead our names are registered in heaven where nothing can touch it or destroy it.  It is kept safe by God Himself.  We are also coming to God, who is the Judge of all things.  We are also coming to the spirits of just men made perfect.  This is our destiny.  We too will enter the spirit realm and take our place among the just that have been made perfect.  At this point we are not perfected yet.  But by faith we trust Jesus as the author and finisher/perfecter of our faith.  They are spirits now because they have left their earthly bodies behind, but the Resurrection has not occurred yet.  Eventually we will all have immortal, heavenly bodies.  This reminds us that God is bringing us to a higher order of existence, which is similar to what angels enjoy now.  Imagine being a part of a nation of angels and immortal, perfected men.  Who would want to go back to any earthly nation of this world from that?

One being is left to be mentioned and that is Jesus Himself.  In Jesus the New Covenant has much more precious service than the Old Covenant.  Jesus is the mediator between us and God.  This mediation occurred at the time that the Covenant was created.  This means that Jesus is our High Priest and He serves us in heaven.  This will never change or be handed down to a descendant.  Jesus does not offer multiple sacrifices throughout all of time.  Instead, He offered himself once and for all.  1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.”  This past mediation becomes the foundation for His present intercession on our behalf.  It also mentions the “blood of sprinkling.”  This refers to the sacrifice.  Blood from the sacrifice would be sprinkled upon the altar, thereby removing sin from the individual.  Notice that it says the blood of Jesus speaks of better things than that of Abel’s.  Some have connected this to the blood of Abel’s sacrifice.  This makes sense if you focus upon the sacrificial aspect of the death of Jesus.  However, the passage emphasizes what the blood is saying (Abel’s blood speaks something that is not better and Jesus’ blood speaks something better).  This clearly links to the record in Genesis 4 where God says that Abel’s own blood (shed by Cain) was crying out to God from the ground.  Though we are not told what this blood cries out for, we must compare it to what Jesus cried out when He was dying.  “Father, forgive them.  They do not know what they are doing.”  If the blood of Jesus cries out to the Father to be forgiving then Abel’s blood cries out for something less than forgiveness.  It would seem that Abel’s blood is crying out for justice because God places a curse upon Cain for what he has done.  So what is God’s response to the Blood of Jesus and it’s cry of forgiveness?  His answer is this.  He will forgive anyone who repents of their sins and puts their faith in Jesus.  Have you done this today?  If you have done this, are you tempted to add to the Gospel all manner of visible aspects of the Law to assuage your flesh?  Let us hear the call of Jesus to those who are weary and heavy laden.  Come to Him and find rest.  Repent of your sins today and follow Jesus by faith.  Don’t be tempted to go back under the Law of Moses, but instead, walk with the Spirit of God and live out the righteousness of Christ.  Our destiny is to take our place in the Heavenly Jerusalem among the glorious beings and having a glory of our own.

City of the Living God audio