A Sign of Love

Facemask

We are in the midst of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 has spread rapidly around the world. We are currently doing all we can to stop the spread of the virus. This includes lockdowns and social distancing and face masks.

Historically, face masks have been used as means to prevent the getting the disease. However, due to the nature of COVID-19, this has changed. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that studies have revealed that “a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html).

This means that we all need to change our perspective on face masks. Face masks are not just for those who want to prevent sickness. Face masks are also for those who might be sick and who might transmit COVID-19. Thus, “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission” (ibid).

For face masks to be accepted in our culture, we need to begin understanding that those in public with face masks on are not trying to protect themselves, but are actually trying to protect others. In this way, they are actually showing love to all of us. Face masks are a sign of live.

This is similar to the cross of Christ. The cross was an emblem of sin and shame (Hebrews 12:2). Yet, Jesus went to the cross as an act of love for us. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It was upon the cross that Jesus “bore our sins in his body” (1 Peter 2:24).

For those who don’t believe in Jesus, they need to change their perspective about the cross. It’s not a sign of sin and shame. It’s a sign of love.

Worship and Community

ChurchCommunity

On vacation this summer, we had the opportunity to attend a few churches. The music was nice. The preaching was good. The Bible was prominent. God was central. But something was missing. Community was missing. Not their community, but our membership within that community.

We noticed visible signs of strong and active communities. Before and after the services, people were talking and expressing their care for one another. But we weren’t a part of their community. We aren’t together all year long with them. We aren’t involved in their lives. We are like distant cousins, not close brothers and sisters.

Without the blessing of the depth of relationship with those around us, the church services were mostly about us and God. Now, certainly, this isn’t bad, but it felt shallow. It felt like a mere ceremony, devoid of accountability and mutual encouragement.

This is not our regular experience at church. Usually, we worship the Lord in the presence of those we know and love. The experience is entirely different. It is deeper. It is more profound. It feels like family.

The writer to the Hebrews connects worship with community. He connects ceremony with life in the body. He writes, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). Certainly, this can (and must) be done through a ceremony of singing and Scripture reading and praying and preaching. There must be reverence and awe, for worship deals with the gravest realities of life: apart from Christ, we are consumed in the fiery wrath of God. But this cannot be void of community.

The author continues in the very next verse with this exhortation: “Let brotherly love continue” (Hebrews 13:1). This is what was missing from the churches we visited on vacation. It’s not at all to say that those at the churches weren’t loving. They were loving. We felt their love through their kindness and grace. Nor is it to say that they were uncommitted to serving Christ. They were committed. Our conversations were centered on Christ and ministry. But it is to say that we weren’t a member of their family. We weren’t engaged in brotherly love with them like we are at our home church. We felt the void. We are looking forward to worshiping with our church community this Sunday.

Life is a River

“The life of this world is not a lake. It is a river. And it is flowing downward to destruction. If you do not listen earnestly to Jesus and consider him daily and fix your eyes on him hourly, then you will not stand still, you will go backward. You will float by” (John Piper, “The Danger of Drifting from the Word,” preached on April 28, 1996.  You can read it here).

“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).

Behold the Lamb of God!

“The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

In the 1800’s, Charles Spurgeon was planning to preach at The Crystal Palace in London. He went to the place a day or two before the event to test out the acoustics (they didn’t have any amplification back then). So, he cried out in a loud voice, the words of John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Unknown to Spurgeon, there was a worker who was working in one of the galleries. He heard the message, was convicted of his sin, and believed on Christ. Such is an example of the power of the word of God.

Giving Good Reasons

When God calls us to believe and trust and hope in Him, He doesn’t give us something far-fetched to believe. He doesn’t say, “Believe that the moon is made of cheese, and I’ll give you eternal life.” No, he gives us good reasons to believe. He gives us good reasons to place our hope in Him.

We read in Hebrews 6:19-20, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

In other words, God has given us a reason why we can have a sure and steadfast hope in Jesus. Jesus entered heaven as a forerunner for us. He went first with the intent to bring many behind Him. Furthermore, His priesthood is forever. It will never stop. We can anchor our hope in Jesus.

The Big Battle

Tonight is the big game.  The New England Patriots and the New York Giants will battle it out in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XVLI.  It is the biggest battle of the sports year. Well over 100 million Americans will tune into the game.  The game will be broadcast all over the world.  Nobody really knows how many people will be watching worldwide.

However, there was a battle bigger than the Superbowl.  It was the battle in the Judean wilderness between Jesus and Satan, recorded in Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights.  He was fasting and being by the devil.  At the end of His time in the wilderness, Jesus faced three of the strongest temptations known to man.  Satan tempted Him to turn the stones into bread to satisfy His hunger.  Satan tempted Him to jump from a large height to show that angels would rescue Him. Satan tempted Him to worship Satan in exchange for all of the kingdoms of the world.

To each and every temptation, Jesus responded with the Scripture, “It is written, … It is written, … It is written.”  Jesus didn’t turn the stones into bread, because it is written, “Man shall not live on bread alone.”  Jesus didn’t jump from the height, because it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  Jesus didn’t fall down to worship Satan, because it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”

With these responses, Satan was defeated. Jesus won the great battle. To the best of our knowledge, nobody was watching.

The good news is that “Since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

How to please God

Many people try hard to please God.  They pray and pray.  They are involved in much religious activity. They seek to do good to many.  Those who fervently pursue such things often end up wondering what else they must do to please God.

Hebrews 11:6 gives us a good answer:  “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  How can you please God?  (1) Believe in His Reality; (2) Believe in His Reward.

Preaching Hebrews 9-10


The above video is of Ryan Ferguson “preaching” Hebrews 9-10. Actually, he was merely quoting the Biblical text (English Standard Version).  This video left two lasting impressions on my life:

1. After watching this video, I came to understand that the book of Hebrews was really a sermon that was written down.
2. After watching this video, I put efforts into memorizing entire books of the Bible.

Covering It Up

I spent much of my day off this week, resealing our driveway.  It has some cracks that needed repair, so that the freezing and thawing of the cold and snow might not destroy the drive way. I purchased some sealer and proceeded to cover my entire driveway to protect was was underneath. As I spread the tar along my driveway, I thought of how many people attempt to cover their sins in a similar way.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the people to offer up sacrifices as a covering for their sin. In our day, people often try to cover up their sin by performing deeds of righteousness. But, such things will only cover up sin. What we need is our sin removed and taken away!

The writer to the Hebrews spoke of the inability of the Old Testament sacrifices to take away our sins. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).  The same goes for our good deeds.  We can never have our sins removed by doing good deeds. But, the good news is this, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ can actually take away our sins!  John the Baptist looked to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Let’s be done with trying to cover our sin. Rather, let us trust in Jesus, who can remove our sins far from us.  The Psalmist writes, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

 

Finding Help

God has made the world in such a way that we all need help. As much as you might try to be independent, you simply cannot be independent. There are far too many things in this world that you can’t live on your own. Unless you are a farmer, you need others to help you raise food for you. Unless you are a tailor, you need others to help you make your clothes. Unless you are a mechanic, you will need others to help you with your car when it breaks down. When it comes to daily life, you simply can’t do it all.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. You can’t come to God on your own. You need help. The good news is that there is one who can help you. His name is Jesus Christ.  He can bring you to God.  He can help you with all of your spiritual needs. So go to Him to find the help you need to get to God.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).