Thursday, May 7, 2015

National Day of Prayer

Every year Gene Hall and his team put together a National Day of Prayer event at Red Oak Excavating.  I had the privilege of speaking at this event this morning.  I am posting my manuscript for my speech below.

National Day of Prayer
May 7, 2015

            Have you had a good time this morning?  I count it a privilege to be a part of this event again this year.  Thank you to Gene Hall and others who are responsible for putting this wonderful event together.  It is a great blessing to gather with brothers and sisters in Christ in this free land to consider the importance of crying out to our God in prayer, and then to do just that.
I have been given the task this morning of pulling all of the speeches and prayers together in kind of a concluding fashion under the banner of the theme: Lord, Hear Our Cry!
Of course, as you have heard, the verse of Scripture associated with this theme comes from 1 Kings 8:28.
“Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”
This verse is found in the context of Solomon's prayer of dedication for the recently constructed temple.  If you are familiar with the story, you know that Solomon's father David desired to build a temple for the Lord.  This would be a place for the Lord to dwell.  There the people of God could have fellowship with their God.
            But it was not God's plan for David to build this temple.  Instead, He told David that his son would be the one who would build the temple.  God said to David, "Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart.  Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name."
            And here in 1 Kings 8 we see the fulfillment of that promise that God made to David.  Solomon has overseen the building of a temple.  Now He is dedicating that temple to God.  In doing so, He cries out to God, "Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day."  Solomon's hope was in the fact that the God He worshiped hears the cries of His people.  That is certainly the source of our hope this morning as we unite under the theme of "Lord, Hear our Cry!"  God hears the cries of His people.
            Because of the fulfillment of God's promise, Solomon's heart was filled with worship to God.  Solomon prayed, "O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart."  He goes on later in the chapter, "Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised.  Not one word has failed of all his good promise which he spoke by Moses his servant."  Friends, this God that Solomon worshiped is our God.  He is still a covenant keeping God.  His promises never fail.
            Now, while there is a sense in which God's promise to David was fulfilled in his son Solomon, there is also a sense in which it was not fulfilled until many years later and is still being fulfilled.  As we turn to the New Testament in Matthew chapter 1, we see that Jesus the Messiah was a descendant of David.  This promise that a descendant of David would establish a place of worship for the one true God was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  In fact, we see Jesus refer to his own body as a temple during His time here on earth.  Also, we see Jesus establishing a people for God through His sinless life and death on our behalf.  And one day, we know that Jesus will return to establish a new heaven and a new earth where God will dwell with His people forever.
            But in the meantime, we are God's temple.  Those who have repented of their sin and placed their faith in Jesus, the people of God, are His temple.  The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit of God resides in all believers.  Thus we know, that just as God heard the cries of His people in 1 Kings 8, He hears the cries of His people today.  Romans 8 talks about the Spirit interceding to God on our behalf.  The writer of Hebrews talks about Jesus as the mediator between God and man.  We have access to God this morning, as we gather for this day of prayer, because of Jesus.
            The cultural situation in which we find ourselves is bleak.  All one needs to do to see this is turn on the news.  Often it feels as if the enemy is winning the battle.  We see rioting in the streets of Baltimore.  Buildings burned.  Police cars are smashed.  Gunshots are fired.  We see more injustice piled on top of injustice.
            Then just a short drive down I-95 our attention shifts to arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States about whether states should be forced to recognize something as marriage that cannot and never will truly be marriage.  Confusion abounds as the truth of God is exchanged for a lie.  Rather than the worship of the Creator, we see men and women worshiping and serving the creature.
            And if you're paying attention, you know that the crowd screaming "tolerance" is the most intolerant of them all.  If you dare speak the truth of God and His Word to the culture, you better be prepared to face the consequences.  You may be ostracized and cast aside as a bigot.  While our nation was founded on the principle of religious freedom, that freedom is eroding before our very eyes.
            So where is our hope?  I truly think that perhaps the changing cultural tide in our nation is a good thing.  It doesn't feel good, but perhaps it will serve to set our minds on the author and perfecter of our faith.  For far too long we have placed our hope in the political process.  For far too long we have set our minds on the ballot box.  But the reality is that there is nothing our elected officials in Richmond or Washington can do to change the hearts of men and women.
            And friends, that is what we need more than new laws in Washington.  We need new hearts.  And this change must begin with you and me.  It must begin with the people of God.  We must fall on our knees first in repentance.  We repent of having trusted the political process more than we trusted God.  And we vow to live differently moving forward.  We vow to walk by faith, and not by sight.  We vow to be the instruments God uses to effect the change we desire to see.
            Our God is the same God who made His promise to David.  He is the same God who kept His promise in Solomon.  He is the same God who is keeping His promise even now in Jesus.  We carry with us, fellow believers, the greatest message in all the world.  It's the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who lived in perfect obedience to the Father.  The one who died to pay for the sin of all those who would repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus.  The one who was raised on the third day.  The one who ascended into heaven and is right now seated at the right hand of the Father.  And He is the one who will one day return to establish His kingdom forever.  At that time, He will right all wrongs.  Friends, this is the only source of hope for us, and it is the only source of hope for this great nation.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

To My Daughter

I am writing this letter while experiencing a whirlwind of emotions.  Your mommy and I have been waiting eagerly (and somewhat patiently) for your arrival.  It has been nine months since God first entrusted you to our care.  We are thankful.  We have shared the news of your coming birth with great excitement.  Our friends and family have rejoiced with us and showered us with gifts.  We can't wait to see you wearing all of the cute little dresses that have been hung in your closet with care.

We went to the doctor again yesterday.  Mommy is 39 weeks pregnant now.  We know that it won't be long before we hold you in our arms.  Perhaps it will be today.  I hope so.

But as I think about your entering this world, my heart is also heavy.  You see, you will be entering a world that is very broken.  A recent earthquake has devastated the country of Nepal.  The death toll there continues to climb.  Many are mourning the loss of those they love and trying to figure out how their most basic needs will be met.

Also recently, a young man unexplainably lost his life in police custody in Baltimore.  On Monday his body was laid to rest.  The tragic nature of this man's death has led many to peacefully protest in the streets of Baltimore.  Sadly, many have chosen to compound tragedy with more tragedy.  Buildings have been looted and set on fire.  Gunshots have been fired.  Police cars have been destroyed.  Businesses have been forced to close, and baseball games have been postponed and moved to different locations.

Even as all of this is going on, yesterday in our nation's capital, oral arguments were heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in a case that could affect the state of marriage in the country we love for generations to come.  In light of this, I want you to know that there is a God in heaven.  He established marriage in the beginning when He created Adam and Eve.  He designed marriage as the lifelong union between one man and one woman.  No human being or government official has the authority to alter that definition.

My heart aches for you, sweet girl, because I know you will be born into a world that is very broken.  Pain and suffering abound.  Our world is plagued by fear and uncertainty.  This is not a new development of course.  Sin started all the way back in Genesis 3 when our parents, Adam and Eve, rebelled against God the Creator.  As a result, sin has spread to the whole human race.  This is why people lose their lives in Nepal.  This is why those in authority sometimes abuse that authority.  This is why people think that the best response to injustice is to compound it with more injustice.  This is why confusion abounds in our culture about love, sex, gender, and religious liberty.

In spite of all this, I promise you that your mommy and I will do everything we can to protect you.  We love you.  We promise to wake up at 3am, feed you, and rock you back to sleep.  I promise to sing "Jesus Loves Me" to you, though it may ruin your ear for music.  We promise to do everything we can to provide for your needs.  We will teach you the Bible.  We will show you what it means to love and follow Jesus.

Despite our best efforts though, we cannot promise you an easy life.  We cannot be certain that tragedy will not come to our neighborhood.  We cannot be certain that the devaluing of human life will not increase.  We are not sure how receptive our culture will continue to be as it relates to our faith in Jesus Christ.  We do not know what the future holds for your life or ours.

But we know the ONE who holds the future.  We know that Jesus, the one who died to pay for sin and rose again three days later, is seated right now at the right hand of God.  We know that He is in control.  We know that He has gone to prepare a place for all those who repent of their sin and believe on Him.  We know that there is coming a day when He will return to right all wrongs.  We know that there is a promise of life eternal, free from pain, suffering, and sin, in the new heaven and new earth for all those who are in Christ.

Though we mourn the pain and suffering all around, we do so as those who have hope.  We are not afraid.  Fear not, little girl.  Jesus loves you, this I know.  For the Bible tells me so.

See you soon,


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Book Review: EP Study Commentary on Acts

I recently received a copy of Guy Waters' new commentary on the Acts of the Apostles.  The commentary is a part of the EP Study Commentary series.  The EP Study Commentary is a reformed commentary series that covers both the Old and New Testaments with 22 volumes thus far.  Guy Waters is a professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary.

I was not familiar with this series prior to receiving the volume on Acts.  I found it to be very well-written.  It is written in a manner that is adequately thorough, but is not overly technical.  Lay people and ministers alike will find it to be a valuable aid in Bible study and teaching preparation.

As a committed Baptist, and because Waters is writing from a Reformed perspective, I was interested to see how he handled baptism throughout Acts.  I was pleased to discover that Waters handled the passages that address baptism in a way that is very faithful to what the text of Scripture actually says.  He doesn't argue for infant baptism in Acts 10 where Cornelius and his household come to faith in Christ.  He doesn't shy away from believer's baptism as pictured in Acts.

I also just finished preaching 1 Corinthians 14 in the church I pastor.  For that reason, I was interested to see how Waters dealt with the passages that mention tongues.  He doesn't try to explain away the occurrences of tongues in Acts.  He also recognizes that the events of Acts are not necessarily normative for Christians today.

One of the things I appreciate most about the commentary is the sections covering application.  The commentary follows its discussion of each portion of Scripture with a section on application.  Application is one of the more difficult things for me in preaching and teaching.  It is also an essential element of a good sermon or lesson.  I know that this commentary will prove helpful in the future when I am preaching and teaching from Acts.

I would recommend this volume to anyone seeking to learn more about the Acts of the Apostles.  It would make a great addition to any pastor's library.  Those planning to preach through Acts should definitely pick up a copy of this commentary.  I look forward to using it more in my own study.

You can purchase a copy of this commentary here.

I received a free copy as a part of the Cross Focused Reviews program.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Power of Social Media

Nine years ago when I started college you had to have a college email address to open a Facebook account.  I knew about Facebook, and was excited to get my Liberty email address so that I could open my Facebook account.  Today, Facebook is not limited to college students, and it seems that the age demographics continue to expand at both ends of the spectrum.

With an increasing percentage of the population logging onto Facebook, the power of social media continues to grow.  Gone are the days when you needed a prayer chain to hear and spread gossip.  Now you only need to log onto Facebook.  All the juicy gossip you desire is then available right there on your computer screen.  If you are a Facebook user, you have likely seen the negative impact that one controversial discussion gone wrong can cause.

While I lament the negative impact of Facebook on relationships within families, churches, and communities, I rejoice in the positive aspects.  I am able to keep up with friends from college that I would have otherwise lost contact with as soon as we each moved the tassel on our graduation caps.  I am also able to share content with others very quickly and easily.  I also try to use Facebook to spread the word about church activities and events.

That brings me to the point of this article.  I want to invite you to use your Facebook account for the glory of God and the good of Drakes Branch Baptist Church.  That certainly begins with not posting things that dishonor Christ or His church, but it doesn't have to end there.  I want to suggest six simple things you can do with your Facebook account that would be more beneficial to our church than 100 expensive newspaper ads.

1. "Like" Drakes Branch Baptist Church's Facebook page.  By "liking" our page, you will receive updates in your newsfeed that you can then share with your Facebook friends.

2. Use cover photos from the Drakes Branch Baptist Church page as your own cover photo.  I made a cover photo to promote our Easter Sunday service.  By using that photo as the cover photo on your Facebook page, you can promote our Easter service.

3. Take pictures of church events and activities, and post them on Facebook along with a brief description.  Photos help people see what goes on when we gather together.  Show people what a good time we have together.

4. Post a brief invitation on your Facebook status for people to come to something going on at DBBC.  Let your Facebook friends know that you would love to have them join you for an upcoming worship service or special activity.

5. Share the link to the church website where people can find Sunday's sermon audio.  Sermon audio from the previous day is typically posted every Monday on the church website at  You can share the link to that Sunday's sermon on your Facebook page, especially when you found that week's sermon to be particularly helpful for you.

6. Share something on Facebook on Sunday afternoons that stood out to you from Sunday School or the Worship Service that morning.  Let people know what a good time you had studying God's Word and worshiping together with other believers.  When others see your excitement, it becomes contagious.

This article is not intended to suggest that you need a Facebook account to spread the word about the things God is doing at Drakes Branch Baptist Church.  Pick up the telephone and give someone a call to invite them to church.  Speak to that person that you run into at the grocery store about how much you would love to have them join you at church.  Let's all commit to looking for ways to be intentional in reaching out to others in our community.

Christ is building His church.  His kingdom will not fail.  Let's pray that God would use Drakes Branch Baptist Church as a part of His kingdom building work.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Reviews: Why Christmas? and Why Easter?

When given the chance to review Why Christmas? and Why Easter?, I jumped at the opportunity.  As the dad of a two year old son with a little girl on the way as well, I desire to be a good steward of the responsibility God has given me to train my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  I want to teach that that Christmas is about much more than Santa Claus and presents.  I want to teach them that Easter is about Jesus and His resurrection, not bunnies that lay eggs.

Barbara Reaoch has provided me with an excellent resource to do just that with Why Christmas? and Why Easter?  As I flipped through my copy of each book, I found myself impressed with the layout and design.  The illustrations are also well-done.  They very much add to each day's reading rather than distracting from it.

Each book is designed to be used in the four weeks leading up to their respective holidays.  Each day has a reading from the Bible, some additional thoughts related to that reading, questions for discussion, a memory verse for the week, and a song for the week.  Each of these different components will keep children engaged in family worship.

I appreciate that the "How to use this Devotional" page underlines the importance of actually reading the Bible rather than just the devotional material.  The devotional material is intended to supplement and support the Scripture reading rather than replace it.  In fact, understanding the devotional material requires that you read the Scripture passage for that day.

While my son is only two and does not completely understand everything I am saying when I read to him, I expect these two books will be a resource that I will use for many years to come.  The theology is solid.  The devotionals are written in a way that is easy for children to understand.  And they are intended to point our attention to Christ.  It is my judgment that both books do an excellent job of doing exactly that.

You can purchase Why Christmas? here and Why Easter? here.

I was given a copy of each book in exchange for an honest review as a part of the Cross-Focused Reviews program.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Book Review: Heaven, How I Got Here

Heaven, How I Got Here is one of the most enjoyable books that I have read in a while.  Colin Smith does an excellent job of helping the reader think through the events of Jesus' last day on earth from the perspective of the thief on the cross.  The book is a great idea, and is very well done.  I recommend it to anyone desiring to think through the events of the cross in a fresh way.

You might ask how it is possible to write an entire book from the perspective of someone that we know so little about.  That was my question when I first heard about the book.  The book begins with a short chapter imagining what the thief's life must have been like as a child growing up in a Jewish family under Roman occupation.  This helps set the stage for the rest of the book.

Each chapter is then identified by a time of day, beginning with breakfast and ending up in heaven with Jesus.  I found this approach to be really helpful in thinking through the events of Jesus' last day.  The thief's perspective is an interesting one that ought to be given adequate consideration.

One thing that I expected when I picked up this book is that it would be filled with a lot of conjecture.  Since we don't know a lot about the thief, I figured the author would have to make up a lot of stuff to write a book on his experiences that falls just short of 100 pages.  That is not the case at all.  Smith masterfully weaves what we do know together with some things that we can be almost certain about.  The book should not really be characterized as historical fiction.  It tells a real story in a very accurate way.

Finally, the thing I loved most about the book was the way it proclaims the gospel.  It is as if the thief on the cross were sharing the gospel with you from heaven as you read the book.  While he would not have understood all of the things he shares when still on the cross, the setting is not the cross but heaven.  He is writing from a fuller knowledge of the gospel.  The writer masterfully uses the entire New Testament to share the message of the gospel from the thief's perspective.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book.  I hope to make use of some of it in our Maundy Thursday service at church.  You can purchase the book here.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as a part of the Cross-Focused Reviews Program.

Monday, March 2, 2015

2015 Bible Reading Challenge - Week 8

You can find the devotionals I wrote for week 8 of our 2015 Bible Reading Challenge below.  Email me to take the challenge.

February 16, 2015

Scripture Reading: Leviticus 9-10 and Matthew 27:24-44


One of the unfortunate things about reading through the Bible in a year is that the Old Testament reading and the New Testament reading for each day are not directly linked together.  But every now and then you come across a day when the two are very closely related.  Such is the case today.

We have been reading in Leviticus over the last few days.  Over that time we have seen the instructions that God gave concerning sacrifices and offerings.  If you are like me, you have been overwhelmed by it all.  The instructions God gave to His people were very thorough.  He didn't leave out any details.  It is intended to remind us that our God is a holy God.  He does not play around with sin.  He is holy, and He requires holiness from His people.

Then today we read a story about Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu.  The Bible tells us that they offered unauthorized or strange fire before the Lord.  This was done against God's commands.  Immediately, fire came out and consumed them.  They died as a result of their disobedience to God.

They thought sacrifices were something that could be taken lightly.  They certainly didn't think they would lose their lives over it.  God once again demonstrated His holiness.  He requires obedience from His people.  That is not partial obedience, but complete obedience to Him.

Now fast forward to Matthew 27.  We are reading about the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.  We are reminded of all the suffering He endured on our behalf.  We are reminded that He is in fact the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.

The Leviticus laws and story of Nadab and Abihu certainly demonstrate that God is serious about sin and holiness.  But the fact that God would have His own son murdered to pay for sin demonstrates even more clearly how serious God is about sin and holiness.  God requires holiness from us.  He does not settle for partial obedience; He requires complete obedience.

The comforting thing in all of this is not that we have been obedient to the level that God requires.  We most certainly have not.  Our hope is in Christ.  Our hope is in His righteous life.  Our hope is in His death in our place.  God can look at us and see righteousness because of Jesus.  God knows that we are not perfect.  That does not mean He accepts anything less than perfection.  He means that He has made a way for us to be perfect, through the shed blood of His own Son.

Prayer Focus: Give thanks to God today that you are not bound by the sacrificial laws of Leviticus.  Give thanks to God that He sent His only begotten Son to die as a sacrifice for your sin.

February 17, 2015

Scripture Reading: Leviticus 11-12 and Matthew 27:45-66


When reading Leviticus, it is easy to focus on the endless list of laws God gives.  It is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed.  But as I was reading Leviticus 11 today, I was overwhelmed by the grace of God.  I saw three examples of God's grace in Leviticus 11.

First, I think it is important to note that God gave His people food to eat.  We can sometimes focus so much on what the Israelites COULD NOT eat that we forget about all of the things they COULD eat.  We do the same thing in talking about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil found in Genesis 3.  God gave His people all of trees in the garden from which to eat (Genesis 2:16-17).  There was only one tree from which they were not to eat.

The same is true in Leviticus 11.  God created a wide variety of animals.  Certainly He told His people that they could not eat certain ones.  However, this left a wide variety of animals that they could eat.  God's gracious provision is seen in this way in Leviticus 11.

Second, we see that God told the Israelites what was unclean.  He could have kept this information to Himself.  He could have allowed them to unknowingly defile themselves.  Yet He graciously told them what not to eat.  God desires relationship with His people.  He sought to prevent them from defiling themselves by giving them the information they needed.

Finally, we see that God made a way for them to be made clean.  This is perhaps the most gracious act of God seen in Leviticus 11.  God told them what not to eat and/or touch.  But He also made provision for them to be made clean if they defiled themselves.  He told them exactly what they needed to do to be made clean.

This of course reminds us of the cross.  It reminds us that we are all unclean.  God has told us what to do to walk in righteousness.  We often fail and defile ourselves.  Yet God has made a way for us to be made clean through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  We can be reconciled to God.  He has poured out His grace on us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Prayer Focus: Give thanks to God for his sovereign provision.  Give thanks to God for His grace in providing a way for you to be made clean.

February 18, 2015

Scripture Reading: Leviticus 13 and Matthew 28


Today's reading brings us to the end of Matthew's Gospel and one of the most well-known passages in the Bible.  I am talking about the passage of Scripture that we typically refer to as The Great Commission.  This commission from the lips of Jesus to His disciples has received many names through the years.  One of my favorites is "The Marching Orders of the Church."  I think this name embodies what Jesus was intending to do when He spoke these words to His disciples.

Jesus was getting ready to ascend into heaven.  These men who had been following Him for three years would no longer have Him by their side.  They would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve as leaders of the newly formed church, the body of Christ still present on earth.  So Jesus gave them these instructions to guide them as they carried forth the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth.

While first given to the eleven (post-Judas), these words were not intended to be limited to Jesus' original disciples.  These are our instructions.  They are our marching orders as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Much has been said about these instructions, but I want to focus your attention on the primary command in the passage.  That primary command is to make disciples.  We do this as we go, and we do it by baptizing and teaching.

You will notice that the primary command in the passage is not to make converts.  Now certainly making disciples begins with seeing people converted, but it must not stop there.  We should measure the church's fruitfulness not merely by asking whether people are being converted, but by asking if they are being discipled.

God is certainly in the business of saving men and women, boys and girls.  But He does not save them to leave them where they are.  He desires to grow up each of us to be mature followers of Jesus.

So the application for each of us is to ask whether we are growing as disciples of Jesus.  This is the will of God for you—that you would mature as a follower of Christ.  Then we should ask whether we are participating in seeing others grow as disciples of Jesus.  The Great Commission was not given to pastors only.  It was given to all believers.  We all share the responsibility of helping others grow in Christlikeness.

Prayer Focus: Pray that God would help you to grow as a disciple of Jesus.  Pray that God would use you to help others grow as disciples of Jesus.

February 19, 2015

Scripture Reading: Leviticus 14-15 and Mark 1:1-20


Today we turn our attention to the second of four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark.  Mark's Gospel is the shortest of the four, but the accounts of specific events are often longer than in Matthew and Luke.

Who was Mark and why did He write an account of the life of Jesus?  The Mark who wrote this Gospel is the John Mark of Acts 12.  Mark was not an apostle, but we see in the book of Acts that he was a close companion of the apostles.  While some disagreement between Mark and the Apostle Paul shows up in Acts 15, reconciliation between the two appears to have taken place by the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy.  Paul asked for Mark to come to him in his final days because he was "useful [to Paul] for ministry" (2 Tim. 4:11).

But what about the first twenty verses of Mark?  We notice immediately that Mark does not begin his Gospel in the same way that Matthew and Luke began theirs.  Matthew started with a genealogy of Jesus and a brief birth narrative.  Luke begins with a rather extensive birth narrative.  Mark begins with the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus' baptism is recorded for us in the first verses of Mark.  We see the identity of this one that Mark is going to be telling us about.  He is the one who is mightier than John the Baptist.  He is the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  He is the Father's beloved Son with whom He is well pleased.

This is the one whose life Mark is going to trace through this Gospel.  He is 100% man.  He is 100% God.  We will observe Him perform many miracles.  We will see him show love and compassion to the down and out.  We will see Him rebuke the self-righteous.  He is the one who came to give His life as a ransom for many.  He came to take away the sin of the world.

This is the Jesus we love.  This is the Jesus we worship.  Allow yourself over the next month as we explore Mark's Gospel to set your mind and heart on Jesus.

Prayer Focus: Pray that God through His Spirit would help you to see Jesus clearly through the Gospel of Mark.

February 20, 2015

Scripture Reading: Leviticus 16-18 and Mark 1:21-45


This is probably a good time in our journey through the Bible for us to pause and think about the Mosaic Law for a moment.  We have seen all kinds of laws as we have moved through Exodus and Leviticus.  What you may have noticed is that Christians typically believe that some of these laws are still in effect today and others are not.  How do we distinguish between the two?

One answer that is sometimes given is that any law that is repeated in the New Testament is still applicable for Christians today.  This approach is unsatisfactory.  There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that the Old Testament has been abolished.  In fact, Jesus said that He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.

But still, we do not observe laws concerning how to trim our facial hair (Lev. 19:27) or what kind of fabric we can wear (Lev. 19:19).  But why?  Is it simply because we don't like those laws and they seem terribly inconvenient?  If that's not the reason, how do we distinguish between the laws that are still for today and those that are not?

Theologians have typically understood there to be three types of laws contained in the Law given by Moses to the people of Israel: moral, ceremonial, and judicial.  The moral law is a reflection of God's holy character.  It includes the 10 Commandments along with other laws that are moral in nature such as Leviticus 18 which talks about unlawful sexual relations.  Because these laws are a reflection of the holy character of God, and God is unchanging, these laws do not change.  They transcend time and culture.  This is the law that Paul tells us in Romans 2 is written on our hearts.

Then there is the ceremonial law.  These are laws that had to do with temple practice.  Leviticus 16 gives instruction concerning the Day of Atonement.  God gave His people very clear instruction regarding how they were to deal with their sin before a holy God.  He also gave instructions concerning cleanliness to protect His people from disease and sickness.  The ceremonial law is not completely detached from the moral law.  Instead it is the application of the moral law.  But we believe that the moral law has different application for us today.  We no longer worship in the temple, and we have more knowledge concerning cleanliness and disease than the people of Israel in that day.  Also, Jesus was he fulfillment of the sacrificial system.

Finally we have the judicial law.  The judicial law was also application of the moral law.  It gave instructions to the Israelites concerning how they were to deal with sin in their midst.  What should happen to someone who kills one of God's image bearers?  What should happen to someone who commits adultery?  These questions and more are answered in the judicial law.  Israel was a theocracy ruled by God.  Therefore, God gave them clear penalties for certain sins.  We do not observe the judicial law today because we do not live in theocratic Israel.  We live in a different country with different penalties for things like murder.  We are therefore subject to the governing authorities over us.

So why is all of this important?  What application is there for us today?  It is important that we not dismiss God's Law.  We do not get to pick and choose which laws we like and which ones we don't.  We must submit ourselves to God's standards for life revealed in the moral law because these standards are a reflection of the holy character of God.  God says several times throughout Leviticus, "Be holy as I am holy."  This is the call of God on our lives.

Of course, ultimately, this is only possible in the person of Jesus Christ.  We are not holy.  We have disobeyed God's moral law.  We need grace and forgiveness.  Our only hope is if we can have a righteousness that is not our own.  That righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus.  Jesus took on our sin on the cross that we might become the righteousness of God.  May we repent of our sin and believe on the Lord Jesus, knowing that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Prayer Focus: Pray that God would give you understanding of His Law as you read and study.  Thank God for the righteousness of God in Jesus.  Thank God that you are no longer bound by the extensive ceremonial and judicial laws.