Terms and conditions

Read: Leviticus 1-3, Matthew 24:23-51

If you’re reading along in your Bible, you will have started Leviticus today. It’s a slog. Unless you’re really into the macabre, there isn’t much exciting about the first three chapters of the book. There’s a lot of killing of animals and gore. And some baking at the end. Don’t forget the salt.

We, having been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, have no need to make animal sacrifices in order to atone for our transgressions. So what is there for us in a book like Leviticus?

Let me explain.

Say you have an item of great value for sale. You’ve done your research and have had it appraised. You set a fair price and the item goes on the market. Someone approaches you and offers you an insulting price. They want to pay you half of what it’s worth. You immediately decline. But this person argues. They really, really need the item you have. You’re not convinced. The person making the offer becomes upset. Who are you to tell them what they can and cannot pay for an item they require? It’s not fair! It’s unjust! You shake your head. It’s your item, after all, and you have every right to decide it’s price based on fair market value. Heck, you can even decide to charge double fair market value if you want. It’s yours! The buyer continues to argue and you try to walk away. They chase after you trying one argument after another. The more they argue, the firmer you are in your decision not to sell to this person even if they ever decided to pay the price you set.

It all sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? When you’ve set the price on something you own, you are under no obligation whatsoever to accept anything but that price.

So why would we ever think that God should be required to accept anything less than what He’s required for the payment of our sin?

The book of Leviticus is God’s terms and conditions. They apply. Since He is the one who offers forgiveness, He is the one who gets to set the price. For those under the old covenant, some very specific sacrifices had to be offered in very specific ways. For those of us under the new covenant, it’s Jesus and Jesus alone who can (and already has) made the sacrifice for us.

John 14:6

There is only one term: Jesus. One condition: our acceptance of him. Anything else would be like the buyer offering half value. Since God is the one in possession of what we need, He is completely within His right to set the price and, if we truly want what He has to offer, we must accept His terms and conditions.

The business of prayer

Read: Genesis 20-22, Matthew 7

Matthew Henry the business of prayer

I have noticed that prayer meetings—though some of the most important meetings a church can hold—are often some of the least attended. Everyone will turn out for the day when they get something, but no one wants to show up when they have to give something, especially of themselves.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7 (NIV)

Ask. Seek. Knock. These terms are not meant to indicate a single action, but a repetitive one. Keep on asking. Don’t stop looking. Continue knocking. Keep doing it until you get an answer.

In a culture of instant everything, having to wait for anything seems like a waste of time. Time is money, after all. But aren’t there things in life that are worth far more? Perhaps our relationship with Jesus? The greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward.

Take a look at Abraham. God gave him a very specific instruction.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and got to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Genesis 22:2 (NIV)

Now, if you’re Abraham, do you simply say, “OK,” and go about that which God asked you to do? The scripture doesn’t say so, but I believe that Abraham would have been praying the entire three day journey to their destination. What father wouldn’t do everything and anything possible to avoid the loss of his only child? I am sure that his words were very similar to Jesus’ before his death.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.

Luke 22:42 (NIV)

How often do we pray like we really mean it? As though our very lives—or the lives of loved ones—depend on it? Is prayer a hobby or it is our business? It could be said that prayer is the family business. If we declare ourselves to be a part of the family of God, then prayer has become our business. It is our trade. It is our responsibility to hone that trade.

If you have yet to see the answer you seek, keep on seeking. Ask until you get a response. Knock, pound on the door if you have to, until it opens. Because then, and only then, will you see the rewards of your labour.

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:8 (NIV)

In His own image

Read: Genesis 1-2, Matthew 1

Genesis-1-27

Reading through the account of creation, we see that man is the only thing God created in His own image. Man is the only being that God breathed His own life into. Though they were made on the same day, man was different from the beasts of the field.

Man was made upright. His understanding saw Divine things clearly and truly; there were no errors or mistakes in his knowledge; his will consented at once, and in all things, to the will of God.

Matthew Henry

Before Adam made the worst decision in the history of humanity, he was at one with God. He knew no separation from his Creator and lived in perfect communion with Him. We know, that at the moment Adam chose to eat from the forbidden tree, that unique relationship was severed. While that relationship can never be fully restored on this side of heaven, God made a way for us to still have communion with Him. But it takes work. It’s not an instant fix; it is a lifelong effort on our part.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

The only way to gain back even a portion of what Adam experienced with God in the garden is to continually renew ourselves to His will. You truly to become like the people you most spend time with, so spend time with God. Become more like Him—the way we were all created to be. This process of renewal must be constant and consistent. always moving forward and never looking back.

Paul said we need to be forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13). We have a decision to make. We can continue to live in separation from God and do as we please. Or we can approach Him through the grace provided through Jesus’ sacrifice and get to know Him and His will for us. We can live as we were created to live in perfect harmony with our Father.

Going through the motions

We all go through motions every day. There are things we do that we’ve done so many times that we don’t even have to think about what we’re doing—getting dressed, brushing your teeth, pouring a cup of coffee, work, even commuting. We go through our daily routines by rote. Little or no thought is required. It’s easy to slip into those kinds of habits. Even when it comes to God.

I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is.

Amos 5:21-23 (NLT)

Ouch! Here God is, telling Israel that He will not accept the very things He gave them. Why not?

Yaweh did not desire the slavish observance of ritual, he desired right conduct, which in itself is an act of true worship.

International Bible Commentary

At this point in Israel’s sin, notice that God no longer referred to the festivals and offerings as His own. The attitude behind the sacrifices had become so focused on the action that God had nothing to do with them anymore and the actions belonged solely to Israel.

God has given us so much, so many ways to praise and worship Him yet we, like Israel, can easily slip into habits where we go through the motions, but our hearts and even our minds are no longer engaged.

Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.

Amos 5:24 (NLT)

Far more than mere actions of pious offering, God would have us live lives of perpetual worship. Fake it ’till you make it can only get us so far. Sometimes we just need to start, but if our entire lives become a series of hollow actions, God receives no glory.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30 (NLT)

Let us all strive to produce a river of righteous living. Let us put meaning to our motions so that our works become our worship.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 4-6, Revelation 6

One bad apple

Yesterday, after being out for most of the day, I was anxious to get home. I like being at home. I pulled into the driveway, grabbed all my stuff from the car and stomped up the front steps. Unlocking the door, I expected to be greeted by warm comfort. Instead, an overwhelming stench assaulted my senses. Dropping my things, it then became a bit of a wild goose chasing trying to find where the smell was coming from and what was causing it. While all of our organic waste is supposed to be kept separate, something landed in my garbage bin and stayed there for a while—long enough to stink up the entire house. The bin barely had anything in it.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. When it comes to produce, once something starts to spoil, it doesn’t take long for it to spread to the good fruit. Back in Ezekiel, God was busy giving the prophet some very specific instructions regarding the temple. One thing among many stood out.

Take careful note of who may be admitted to the Temple and who is to be excluded from it.

Ezekiel 44:5b (NLT)

Only certain priests from a certain lineage were permitted to enter certain places in the Temple. To have anyone else enter would mean that it, and any utensils they came in contact with, would no longer be holy. A long process would then have to take place in order to re-sanctify that place and those things.

Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will bring ruin upon anyone who ruins this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you Christians are that temple.

2 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NLT)

Now, we no longer live under the Old Covenant and we don’t need to go to a physical temple to make sacrifices in order to atone for our sin. Jesus was the sacrifice that made eternal atonement for us. And we are now the temple—that holy place where the Spirit of God resides. And, just like the priests of old, we should be very aware of who and what we allow into the temple.

Like a little bit of garbage can stink up an entire house, one wrong person in our lives can ruin the temple. We all have different social circles and levels of relationships in our lives. Our inner circle should be reserved for a very select few people. How do we know who to let in? Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves:

  • Does this person share my faith?
  • Do they lead me toward Jesus or draw me away from him?
  • Am I challenged to become better and stronger with this person in my life?
  • Can I depend on this person in the bad times as much as I can in the good?

The list could go on, but I think you get the point. The inner circle, like the holy of holies, is sacred. It should be protected so that it—we—can remain holy. We may even have to distance ourselves from certain people in order to preserve that sanctity. Don’t let that bad apple in.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 43-44, 2 Peter 2

Finish the race

When I was a kid, I wasn’t much of an athlete. I’m still not an athlete. It’s not that I don’t enjoy exercise, but it’s never been one of those things that comes naturally to me. I had a hard time finishing a race. But it wasn’t so bad. So long as I participated, I still got a ribbon.

Many of us approach our faith the same way we might have approached an elementary school track meet. Show up. Good enough. Get a ribbon no matter what. We care not whether we finish or, if we do, what place we take. It doesn’t matter.

But it does matter. We are not the only ones affected by how we run our race. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the Hall of Faith. It gives a brief list of many who have gone before us and run their race to the best of their ability. And they ran it with fewer benefits than we have now.

All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race.

Hebrews 11:39-40 (NLT)

The promise, the benefit that we have that our fathers and mothers in the faith did not have, is Jesus Christ. We have the fulfillment of the promise they never had. When Abraham laid Isaac on the altar and raise a sharpened blade above his head, he had no guarantee of what would come of his sacrifice. When Moses’ mother sent him down the river in a basket, she had no promise to hold on to. Through the entire chapter, the list goes on. One faithful person after another waiting for a promise they would never see in their lifetime.

But we have seen that promise. We partake of that promise with every breath we breathe. Even knowing that we have received what these great men and women never did, we’re content to settle for the participation ribbon.

Even if we don’t want to run the race for ourselves (but why wouldn’t we?), we should be running it for our Bible heroes. Because we’re all in this race together. Either we all win or we all lose. Jesus’ blood ties us all together as one family. One body. A foot cannot win a race without the leg and the leg cannot win without the hips. The hips cannot win without the torso, and so on. When Jesus comes back in all his glory, we will all cross the finish line together.

Because Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Rahab, Gideon, and all the others ran their race without the promise, we should run even harder because we have the promise and we’re not just running for ourselves. We’re running for the whole body. Finish the race.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 13-15, Hebrews 11:20-40

Uncommon and holy

You may have heard of a message of grace. Not just grace to cover sin when you first approach God in repentance, but a message of a grace that means you can live however you like and God will have to forgive you no matter what. Some may call it hyper-grace.

The conclusion of hyper-grace teaching is that we are not bound by Jesus’ teaching, even as we are not under the Law; that believers are not responsible for their sin; and that anyone who disagrees is a pharisaical legalist.

(Source)

To live a life under hyper-grace, means that, while one may accept salvation through Christ, they do not accept his teachings nor do they experience any real change in their life because of Jesus.

It’s a sad truth that there are many who profess Christianity live in what they believe to be grace, but it’s nothing more than self-condemnation. They devalue the sacrifice and blood of Jesus by expecting that God must forgive them no matter what—without ever having to come to Him in repentance.

Anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Think how much more terrible the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God and have treated the blood of the covenant as if it were common and unholy. Such people have insulted and enraged the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to his people.

Hebrews 10:28-29 (NLT)

Imagine a kid who comes home after having found a mud pit. The child approaches his parents with remorse because he knows that he cannot go into the house in his current state. Since his parents hadn’t yet addressed the repercussions of playing in the mud, they clean him off, put him in new clothes and bring him into the house. The next time they send him out to play, he is reminded to stay away from the mud. But that’s exactly where he goes. Once more, Mom and Dad clean him off, give him clean clothes and bring him inside. But once this happens a few more times, Mom and Dad aren’t so forgiving. Yet the kid only sees that he’s going to get cleaned up no matter what. Soon, he feels no remorse over his disobedience and simply expects that Mom and Dad will clean him up and dress him so that he can go inside. As the parents, how long will you allow this behavior? I doubt it wouldn’t be more than two or three muddy returns before the child is punished. Yet we should expect that God simply smile, shake His head, and immediately forgive us of far worse over and over and over again?

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we received a full knowledge of the truth, there is no other sacrifice that will cover these sins.

Hebrews 10:26 (NLT)

Do we slip and fall and get ourselves dirty? Yes, of course we do. And God is faithful to help us up and dust us off. But to keep on deliberately sinning is ignorant and insulting to all that He has done for us. God has called us out of the muck (Psalm 40:2). He has called us to live pure, clean lives. It is to our benefit as well as those around us.

Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:23-24 (NLT)

Grace is not a Get Out of Jail Free card to be played whenever we get ourselves in trouble, but rather a gift that should be treated with awe and reverence. We should be doing all that we can to remain under the cover of grace and to pull others into its shelter.

Grace is not common and unholy, but rather uncommon and holy.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 7-9, Hebrews 10:24-39