September 24th, 2012 by Christine Colbert

The events of the week that began with Jesus’ humble-but-triumphant entry into Jerusalem and culminated with the crucifixion are unspeakably precious.

The overturning of the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple apparently followed His arrival in Jerusalem. Every one of His recorded acts during this pivotal week is spotlighted by the world-changing events that would subsequently unfold. This story of the cleansing of the Temple comes to our ears and hearts on its surface as revealing Jesus’ desire to re-establish God’s sacred intent for the Temple. To put the emphasis back on prayer and take it away from financial gain. “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer.’ — but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

This level of purpose comes across clearly. Perhaps nothing is more important in this world than prayer. But Yeshua was accomplishing more than this with His decisive and fearless disruption of the status quo.

He knew that He would fulfill the Passover later that week, once and for all, as the sacrificial Lamb for whom God had been preparing the way through the Temple’s sacrificial system. God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice animals. And the specific practice of sacrificing a spotless lamb at Passover had been divinely instructed as the Israelites prepared to depart from captivity in Egypt for the Promised Land. We remember John the Baptist’s clarion announcement: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” And Revelation’s describing Yeshua as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”

His overturning the tables that had been used for the business of selling doves and pigeons to Jews wanting to make ritual sacrifices signaled the end of the centuries-old sacrificial system. Fully knowing the price He would very soon pay to deliver Himself up to redeem lost humanity and restore us to His Father and our Father, no one was more appropriately qualified to upset these tables — notwithstanding the indignation of the Temple elites who stood by. This was His way of signaling the new and better covenant; the new dispensation of grace that He, the spotless Lamb, would provide through His voluntary sacrifice of His own sinless blood. He showed us in a way that we cannot forever miss how profoundly God loves every one of us. “For God so loved the world . . .”

Matthew 9:13 is a wonderful, instructive verse. The Torah teachers or scribes had just asked Jesus’ disciples why their teacher ate with marginal people like tax collectors and sinners. Yeshua the great communicator replied, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT; italics added)  This is a direct reference to Hosea 6:6, among other passages. Jesus revealed that God never liked the idea of killing animals to sacrifice their blood. But He instituted this practice to paint a picture of Yeshua’s ultimate atonement. Down the long centuries God had worked through a concrete example that He hoped would provide the clear insight to enable Israel, forever the beloved seed of Abraham, to recognize Yeshua.

In Dr. Brown’s The Real Kosher Jesus, he provides several rabbinic texts that speak of the atoning sacrifice of a tsadik (righteous one) as a means of saving the people. He points out that this concept is not a Christian construct; it had for centuries been part of Judaism. As one example, “. . . the Zohar states, ‘As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and the sacrifices they performed [in the Temple] removed all . . . diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world.’ ”

In addition to providing several rabbinic sources for this fundamental Jewish teaching, Dr. Brown details discussions from rabbinic literature associating the deaths of righteous people with atonement. Miriam and the sons of Aaron are examples.

These insights help to clarify the initially-opaque John 18:14, among other verses, which indicates that Caiphas, because he was “high priest that year,” explained the need for one person to die for the people — as the dark events surrounding Jesus’ illegal trials unfolded. While Caiphas undoubtedly had his own misguided reasons for citing this Jewish teaching in support of the outcome of the bogus hearing that was perfunctorily extended to Jesus, Caiphas’ doing so clearly reflects that an understanding of the power of the death of a single person to benefit all the people was present in Temple instruction.

Dr. Brown’s life-long focus on sacred content that matters is deeply appreciated. Its power to enlighten our understanding is considerable.

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March 9th, 2011 by Bryan Anthony
“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him…” -Dan. 9.9

The mercifulness of God is so contrary to the revenge-driven nature of humanity, that if we see Him rightly in light of the Gospel message we are overcome by His kindness and shocked to the core with how delightful He is.

We ought to be suspicious of a brand of Christianity that is so solemn that it removes us from the joy of His salvation, puts us under the weight of religious performance, and causes our souls to be continually downcast. There is a valid place for the burden of the Lord, and for weeping after His great intentions, but the mainstay of sonship, the foundation of our union with Him must always be found in a vital and active union with the God who is merciful.

Eugene Peterson has written:

“If we get our information from the biblical material there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping, daring life.”

There is something dubious about a version of the faith which lacks the spontaneous joy that results from the reality of salvational experience. If we are gripped with a burden in prayer, it is meant to be unburdened right there, in the place of intercession. The burdens are not always to be carried in a public way or placed on the shoulders of other saints. There may be times when the Lord calls you to communicate that burden as the prophets of old, but if you carry it in such a way that the Lord has not intended, you will convey something in the name of God that is not marked with the Spirit of God. If the Lord gave it to you in the place of prayer, enjoin your soul immediately with His until the burden lifts and you have done your part as His co-laborer. If you parade the burden before men, and fail to pray it through to the satisfaction of God’s heart, you will defeat the purpose of the burden itself.

The Church is in a radically anemic place, and while much of the lack can be traced back to a casual, irreverent corporate disposition toward the Lord, one great source of our malnourishment is that we are not rightly receiving His good mercy and holy affection. We are in great need of the Spirit of the fear of the Lord, and we need ever to live in a consciousness of the judgment to come, but there is great need also for new and fresh immersions in the mercies of God.

We chase after material possessions, the preservation of our reputations, or religious and ministerial status improvements only because we are still functioning on carnal grounds, and we have not adequately received and delighted in the God who is merciful.

Consider these words from the great Puritan writer, Richard Sibbes (1577-1635):

Among the things that are to be taken heed of, there is among ordinary Christians a bold usurpation of censure towards others, not considering their temptations.

… we should not smite one another by hasty censures…

… Christ, for the good aims He sees in us, overlooks any ill in them, so far as not to lay it to our charge. Men must not be too curious in prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than into that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume, to estrange us. Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak.

… The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls. Oh, that that Spirit would breathe into our spirits the same merciful disposition!

(The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes; Banner of Truth Trust: Carlisle, PA; pp. 32-33)

When we lose touch with the merciful nature of God and His distinct kindness, immediately we become that brand of Christian that receives power (albeit a false power) by searching out the shortcomings of others. The evidence that our smiting of “one another by hasty censures” is not prompted by the Lord is shown in the fact that rather than giving ourselves to secret intercession on the behalf of the weak ones, we harbor thoughts of superiority against them. If we are more apt to speak negatively about men, or to think ourselves superior to them, rather than giving ourselves to merciful prayer on their behalf, we can be sure that we are operating under the influence of darkness.

Yet if the “Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls,” and if “the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him,” far be it from us to reject a brother in his struggle and inconsistency! This is not to make light of sin, for we are called to purity, and to “speak the truth to one another in love.” Rather, we are to make much of His mercy, and we need to remember that His kindness is itself an expression of His holiness. His righteousness and His gentleness are not in opposition to one another, but are intrinsically linked attributes of the only true God. If He were not a merciful God, neither would He be a holy God.

Has your experience of “faith” driven you into a continually solemn place, where there is no longer any “dancing, leaping, or daring” in your spirit? Is the garden of your life overgrown with the weeds of criticism, superiority, and the continual examination of others? Dear saint, He did not save you to induct you into a life of lackluster seriousness, suspicion and censure, or depressive discipleship. His desire at the time of your salvation, and His desire today, is that “your joy may be full.” (Jn. 15.11b)

Delight in His goodness then, weary soul! Lay down your chapped and calloused frame of mind regarding yourself and those around you. Let it die and go into the ground, that new life and a God-centered perception might be your portion. Bask in the His mercies, for they have been extended to you. They are intensely available to all who would call on the name of the Lord.
Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely . . . . Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love. And repose in his almighty arms. -Robert Murray McCheyne

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May 28th, 2010 by Bryan Anthony

“Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.” -Ps. 51.4

The degree to which we have come into a true knowledge of God is directly related to the measure of our own awareness of sin. There is no true repentance, and thus no true salvational experience in the delivering sense, until the hideousness of our own sin has flashed before our souls, and the radical requirement of Jesus’ crucifixion comes into view.

A great number of Church-going people in our nation have never come to this place, for the most popular message of modern preaching has been totally devoid of this reality. It’s no wonder, since a man cannot rightly call others to this place unless he himself has passed through the press and crisis of conviction and come into the personal event of receiving mercy.

We have heard more about the Gospel than any other generation, and yet scarce few have come into the inward-transaction of the Gospel in the way that David the Psalmist did. It had everything to do with his own knowledge of God as He is, and the corresponding awareness that his sin was not merely a mishap or an accident to be swept under the rug, but a heinous crime committed straightforwardly against the Lord of glory. This acute knowledge of the sinfulness of sin revealed that even though he was the great psalmist of the Holy City, his heart still had the propensity to despise the One to whom he sang.

“Against You, and You only,” was David’s true lament. Our problem is that we do not know the “You.” We have an inward image of a lesser God who is not as requiring. David’s sin was all the more grievous because his knowledge of God was so much deeper.

(Art Katz, The Cross; Forthcoming, Chapter 1; Art Katz Ministries/Burning Bush Press)

If we are inwardly winking at sin, and have grown numb to its hideous nature, it is only because we have had an inadequate revelation of God. If we are self-righteous, and thinking too highly of ourselves without being continually aware of our own propensity for sin, we have fallen just as short of the glory of God.

David could have swept things under the rug, or fallen back on his heritage and anointing as the King of Judah. There were more than enough “yes men” surrounding him to appease his conscience and lull him into a sleepy indifference towards the gravity of his sin. But when the word of the Lord came through Nathan, “you are the man,” the hideousness of his sin flashed before him, and he cried out from the marrow of his being, “Against You, You only, have I sinned….”

Even the anointed King and Psalmist could not play the game of reputation once his sin was disclosed. He did not shift blame or water down the hideousness of his crime. He saw himself as facing the high courts of heaven, and his transgression was not merely against men, angels, saints of old, or the heavenly creatures surrounding the Throne of God. His offense was acutely and directly against the Lord Himself, and he knew that this kind of ultimate confession and repentance was the only gateway to cleansing and redemption.

We need, like David, to come into an awareness of the depth of our own sin. We need to be convinced that regardless of our spiritual history, our religious heritage, and our pious consistency, we still have the propensity to sin, and our blackness of heart is no less black than David’s was. When we are made aware of our depravity, by the grace of God’s speaking, we are then standing upon the proper foundation of truth, by which we are enabled to cry out for purification and restoration. If we have yet to be brought to that place, we have not repented, nor have we been saved from the stranglehold of our sin.

We do not hear sufficient prophetic preaching these days, not the kind that addresses the issue of sin, and we need desperately for that kind of proclamation to be restored. Our ministries have discouraged an adequate consideration of sin, and we have striven to extend comfort to those who have yet to come into a revelation of their own offense against God. We cannot live lives of mercy until we are actively receiving mercy, and if we have failed to cry out to the Lord over our own fallenness, we have not come to that place.

But when we have been convinced of the hideousness of our sin, we will cry with the psalmist:

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities. (vv. 7-9)

We will not only cry out about a particular and embarrassing sin, but about our very tendency to stray from His ways, and when we have cried out from that sacred ground of revelation, God Himself will cleanse, restore, and deliver us to the uttermost, and we will be like Jacob- unable to walk again as we had theretofore walked- awed and jolted by the fact that we have “seen God and lived.” His mercy will be altogether merciful to our souls, and His goodness altogether good. The intimate knowledge of His mercy in light of the hideousness of our own sin is the essence of the Gospel of God. What about you, dear saint? Have you cried out from that place?

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