Campbell Markham

Jesus Our High Priest—the Anchor for Our Soul

With Jesus as your High Priest, you are anchored behind the veil into the presence of God himself: anchored to his forgiveness, and anchored to his blessing, favor, and love. You are anchored there because Jesus is standing right there, representing you. He brings the blood of a sacrifice—his blood—evidence that your sins have been punished and dealt with. With Jesus as your High Priest you have absolute assurance that you are free from condemnation. And he brings to you, from God, abundant mercy, forgiveness, and life. 

Unlike our beloved Anglican cousins, Presbyterians don’t believe that it is right to ordain priests into the church. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t think that we need a priest. On the contrary, we most desperately need a priest! Not a mere human priest, however, but the one great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. (Heb. 5:1-4)

First, what is a priest? A priest is a go-between, someone who represents God before humanity, and humanity before God. A go-between is needed because God is holy, and we are not.
The Holy God hates sin with a passion and breaks out against it with fierce anger (remember the Flood, the Ten Plagues, the Exile…). But we are sin-full. In the West Australian town of Greenough, constant strong winds have bent the trees to grow right-angled to the ground. Humans are bent by sin to do what God has forbidden, and to fail to do what God has commanded.
Sinners cannot stand in God’s holy presence without being destroyed.
This is why Isaiah said “Woe to me! I am ruined!” when he found himself in the presence of the “Holy! Holy! Holy! LORD Almighty!” (Isa. 6:1-5). This is why the Beloved Disciple, confronted by the Holy Son of God, fell at his feet “as though dead” (Rev. 1:17).
Sinful humanity must come to God to plead for his mercy and blessing. But how can we? It isn’t safe to be around him, since we would be destroyed in his presence like a tissue in a bonfire, like a comet straying near the sun, disintegrated to ashes by the nuclear heat.
God on his side longs to bring us grace, forgiveness, and blessing. But how can he? His holy presence would destroy us, we who are fouled black by sin to our very core.
Two nations are at war, trying with might and main to obliterate one another. If there is to be any dialogue, any hope of reconciliation, a go-between is needed: traditionally, someone from neutral Switzerland. We need a Switzerland: a go-between to approach God on our behalf, to plead for his mercy and blessing; and someone who can come from God to us, to bring mercy and blessing. That is what a priest is. He represents sinful humanity before Holy God, and Holy God before sinful humanity.
A priest must have two qualifications.
First, in order to represent humanity, a priest must be one of us. He must know what we know, he must have felt and experienced what we have felt, to plead for us from a place of personal knowledge and encounter. Yet, though human, he must be sinless, so that he can enter Holy God’s presence without annihilation.
Second, in order to represent God, the priest must himself be divine. A true mediator between God and man must himself be—a God-man.
A priest has duties to perform.
In order to reconcile Holy God and sinful humanity, the priest must satisfy God’s demand for the execution of just punishment upon human sin. God can no more overlook and disregard sin than a human justice can overlook premeditated murder. If God and humanity is to be reconciled, human sin must be dealt with.
How can God bless sinful humanity, when he must punish us? God in his wisdom and grace has provided a sacrifice: a means by which our sin can be punished in another, in a substitute.
Just punishment for our sin can be executed upon the substitute, so that we may instead be blessed. The priest can make this sacrifice, and then bring evidence to God that the sacrifice has been made, and that sin has been justly punished. The priest brings the blood of the slain victim: “Look, here is the evidence that this person’s sin has been punished, that justice has been administered.”
God sees the blood of the substitute, and his holy justice is satisfied. The person for whom the sacrifice was made is no longer the object of his wrath: for his wrath has already fallen upon the sacrificial victim.
Then God sends the priest back to the people he represents: to pronounce God’s forgiveness and favor, God’s promises and reassurance.
The high priest was Israel’s only priest.
This was the awesome office and duty of the Old Testament priest: he was a mutual representative of Holy God and sinful humanity; he brought bloody evidence to God that Israel’s sin had been justly punished; he took God’s blessing to Israel, whose sin had been lifted.
The singular magnificence of the dress of the high priest showed that he was actually Israel’s only priest—the other “ordinary priests” merely served as his assistants.
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The Four Titles of Jesus — Isaiah 9:6

Do you need direction, light, and the truth? He is the Wonderful Counselor. Do you need a mighty champion to defeat the enemies of sin and death? He is Mighty God. Do you need permanent fatherly affection and protection? He is Everlasting Father. Do you need to be reconciled to God and your neighbor to enjoy peace and prosperity? He is Prince of Peace. Jesus the Mighty Savior will defeat all of our enemies: the world, the flesh, the devil, and death itself—enemies that we ourselves are helpless to defeat. He wins our salvation and safeguards our salvation. 

Cut flowers. I have mixed feelings about this.
Yes, I love it when the fairer sex in our home carry in bunches of bulbs, roses, lavender, and hydrangeas from the garden. They brighten and cheer us all, but I think we all feel a bit sad when we cut flowers. We know that we have cut them off from their life source. We stand them in vases of water, but this can only slow the process of death and corruption. The flowers droop, the petals fall, the vibrant colors fade to brown, and then the whole bunch is crammed into the curbside bin with the other rubbish.
Christmas. Exchanging lavish gifts. Putting up a pine in the living room and decorating it to the tunes of Bing Crosby. Drawing together the family. Eating festive foods like ham on the bone, fruitcake, and rum balls. Why do people do this? “Because we have always done it, going back generations.” Yes, but what made our forebears do all this in the first place? What made them celebrate? It was of course the birth of Christ. Christmas was a general celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago.
Like cut flowers, Christmas is drooping because we have cut it off from the source.
But Christmas is drooping. We still do the good old things, but the petals are falling and the colors are fading. We can see a future when it will be tossed out altogether. Why? Because we have cut Christmas off from the source.
Let’s get back to the source. Let’s go back to the things that made us celebrate in the first place. We can’t reconnect cut flowers to the plant, but we can all reconnect to the Christmas history. It’s important to do this. Not to save Christmas—although that may come to be a delightful side effect—but ourselves. To be saved from meaninglessness, our sins, death, fear, and estrangement from God.
Isaiah 9:2-6: God Will Send a Child
In 740 BC the nation of Judah was frightened. To the north, the brutal Assyrian Empire was growing rapidly in power, and it seemed only a matter of time before they would descend to ravage Judah’s villages and homes. Then God told them not to fear because he was going to send them a child:

The people walking in darknesshave seen a great light;on those living in the land of deep darknessa light has dawned.You have enlarged the nationand increased their joy;they rejoice before youas people rejoice at the harvest….For to us a child is born,to us a son is given,and the government will be on his shoulders.And he will be calledWonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:2-3, 6;all Scripture quotes from NIV)

“The government will be upon his shoulders.” And this great prophecy was fulfilled with the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem (Luke 1:31-33). He will carry the world in the direction he wants to carry it. He will rule—the future is on his shoulders. God’s people don’t have to live with fear and uncertainty.
The character of a ruler is of the greatest importance.
But what is the character of this Savior? God said through Isaiah to not be afraid because he will rule; but, what kind of ruler would he be?
The fact is, the kings of the day were never good men. Israel’s first king, Saul, was fearful and impatient; he disregarded God’s laws and turned to necromancy. David was Israel’s archetypal “good king,” yet even he succumbed to adultery and a murderous cover-up. Solomon succumbed to the idols of his gargantuan harem. Rehoboam was a hot-headed fool. And so on. There were very few useful kings in Judah, and all of them were flawed.
So we can understand if Judah heard Isaiah’s words cynically: A great king? Universal rule on his shoulders? Yes, but will he be good?
We too know all about bad leaders. Kaiser Wilhelm led the world into the sickening First World War. Mussolini led Italy into fascism and inspired Spain’s Franco and Germany’s Hitler to do the same. The Japanese warlords ravaged Southeast Asia. Lenin, Stalin, and Mao butchered their people. Petty leaders like Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Ratko Mladic were genocidal maniacs. Then there are arch-terrorists like Osama bin Laden and nuclear gangsters like Kim Jong-un.
Even the “good” leaders are fatally flawed.
The British and French general staffs of World War I were homicidally reckless with the millions of young lives under their command. The British Parliament’s appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s paved the way to the great slaughter of World War II. Roosevelt was manipulated by Stalin.
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What Is the Significance of the Three Gifts the Wise Men Offered to Jesus?

The fact that non-Jewish pagan religious leaders came to worship Christ shouts out that the Savior came to rescue not just Jews but people from every tribe, nation, and tongue. So some thirty years later the same Jesus would command his followers to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” 

Editor’s Note: Campbell Markham is pastor of Scots’ Presbyterian Church in Fremantle, Western Australia.
On the night before Christmas, growing up, we put out empty pillowcases next to our beds. In the morning they would be filled to bursting with presents.
Once, I mistimed my Christmas morning wake-up. I could feel at the end of the bed that the bag was full, but not even the birds were awake. Reclaiming sleep was hopeless, and the next hour or two of waiting in the quiet darkness was a bit torturous.
Perth Christmas mornings were invariably cool and clear-skied, with the promise of much swimming in the pool later on. We would take our bulging pillowcases into the living room, and then began the heaven of extracting and unwrapping one perfectly wrapped gift after another.
Our parents’ amazing generosity did not however prevent us from inwardly assessing present quality. What separated the sheep from the goats was the hardness of the wrapped gift. To put it bluntly, a solid gift rated high, a soft gift rated low. Hard gifts were likely to be a toy—for example, a Star Wars blaster, board game, or something electronic like a Walkman (if you’re under 38, ask someone older). Soft gifts were likely to be clothes. Nothing is less interesting than clothes.
The Magi presented three gifts to the child Jesus in Bethlehem.
Yet, what about the gifts that were given at the first Christmas—the three presents of the Magi presented to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem?
Matthew alone tells us the story:

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Matt. 2:9-12)

We don’t know how long after Jesus’ birth this happened. Given that King Herod, just after the Magi’s visit, tried to kill Jesus by ordering the death of all boys in Bethlehem aged two years and younger, it may have been anytime within two years of his birth.
Who were the “wise men” in Matthew 2:1-12?
A magos was a pagan wise man, priest, and/or astrologer. “Magic” and “magician” come from magos. Magi is the plural, and coming from the east and following a star, these were probably Persian astrologers.
Our Christmas cards’ assumption that there were three Magi rests on the giving of three gifts. From Matthew, though, we learn only that there were more than one. The traditional names, Balthazar, Caspar, and Melchior, were fabricated about five centuries after Jesus’ birth.
We know for an historical certainty, however, what the Magi did when they finally found the baby Jesus. They “fell down and  worshiped him.” The word “worship” typically described prostration before a king, to kiss the hem of his robe. The Magi fell on their faces before the baby Jesus in awful respect.
The magi “fell down and worshiped him.”
Many have dismissed the story of the Magi’s visit, “What Persian wise man would come to honor the birth of a Jewish peasant?” The strangeness of their worship points to the greatness of the baby.
These travelers, who would have been very rich to have made such a long journey and were no doubt highly honored in their own land, saw in the baby Jesus someone of cosmically greater honor and glory.
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Sleeping on Rocks Right Now? Jesus Is Right There

Jacob had betrayed family and God and had lost everything. Yet God was working right then even in Jacob’s betrayal and desolation to fulfill his promise. God was there, heaven and earth were joined. God’s ministering servants rushed up and down for Jacob. How gracious God is! How kind, patient, and longsuffering. How wise and mighty that what we intend as evil he intends for our good (Gen. 50:20).

Weeks after winning my license, I crashed my car. It was a wet night and my friends and I decided it would be fun to drift around corners with wheels spinning. I lost control, the front of the car hammered into a high curb, and the steering was wrecked.
I limped the car home, too ashamed and embarrassed to tell my parents. I drove it first thing in the morning to the repairers in town. The mechanic hoisted it up and showed me how I’d bent the wheels and steering arms. Repair would be very costly.
I remember pacing the wet streets car-less, wondering where on earth I would find the repair money and still too ashamed to tell my family. For just a few hours I felt unusually helpless, almost nauseous with worry and loneliness. Looking back, I see how unnecessary my suffering was. All the help in the world was all around me, and I was blind to it.
So it is with Jacob in the book of Genesis.
Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran (Gen. 28:10).
What tragedy we read in these few words. Jacob was born into a rich and loving family. But he tricked his twin brother out of his birthright (Gen. 25) and then pulled a seriously devious and nasty deception on his blind father, tricking Isaac into giving him Esau’s covenant blessing (Gen. 27). So now Jacob is fleeing Beersheba, his home in the south of the Promised Land, to Haran in the strange and distant north: beyond Galilee, beyond Syria and Damascus, right up near Assyria and the Euphrates River.
Jacob means “Grasper.” Grasper had betrayed his family. And by lying and cheating and dishonoring his father, he had also dishonored God. What had he accomplished? A family in humiliation and disarray. He himself running, alone, and far, far from home.
Remember, this is the father of Israel. According to the principle of corporate identity as explained in Hebrews 7:1-10, the entire nation was physically latent within him at that moment. Jacob is Israel. Grasper personifies the church. What is true of him is true of the church.
What is true of Jacob is true of the church.
And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep (Gen. 28:11).
After fleeing all day, night falls with no motel or friendly house nearby. In verse 20 Jacob prays for “food to eat and clothes to wear.” So we see a lonely, guilty, destitute man. He lies in the open air with a rock for a pillow. He is exhausted physically, morally, spiritually, and relationally. This by nature is you. This by nature is your church.
Sleeping on rocks gives anyone strange dreams. God gives Jacob a vision. It is a kind of apocalypse; God pulls aside the curtain to show Jacob what is going on behind his desolate circumstances.
God showed Jacob a staircase joining heaven and earth.
And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac” (Gen. 28:12-13a).
God cast our rebellious parents, and thus us, out of Eden. Cherubim wielding blazing swords barred the way back (Gen. 3:24). Humanity, and not least Jacob at this point, live within the desolation of that separation. But God showed Jacob a staircase joining heaven and earth.
The people of Babel attempted something like this, to build a tower to reconnect heaven and earth, to manufacture greatness and security (Gen. 11:1-9). But it was human-made and prideful, and God razed it. If God separated humanity from heaven, what can we do to bridge the gulf?
We cannot reach up to God, but he can reach down to us. That is the staircase.
Why are angels dashing up and down it? “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). They rush down with God’s word and salvation (Heb. 2:2), and rush back up with our prayers (Rev. 8:4). The staircase establishes communication between Jacob and heaven. It is a conduit of help—of salvation.
The One who speaks to Jacob is “the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” He made that unbreakable promise to Abraham:

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen 12:1-2)

At that point Jacob must have doubted those promises. “Land? Great nation? Great name? Blessing? I’m an exile from the land. My ‘great name’ is Grasper. I’m cursed, not blessed!” Jacob had betrayed family and God and had lost everything. Yet God was working right then even in Jacob’s betrayal and desolation to fulfill his promise. God was there, heaven and earth were joined.
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Does Jesus’ View of Grace Offend You? The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

Before time, God determined to save a people. The Son agreed that he would come, that he would take on flesh, that he would bear the sins of his people, that he would give his body to be tortured and crucified for them. The gift of the kingdom of heaven is free for the recipients, but costly for the giver. God purchased the kingdom of heaven for us with the blood of his Son (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Love it or despise it, this is grace. This is the beating heart of the Bible. God is a gracious God. He gives the kingdom of heaven. He gives it to the undeserving. He gives it at the cost of his Son’s blood. Salvation comes only by grace.

Where is grace? Real grace. True grace.
Giving to one another generously and abundantly, without thought of any payback? Giving not just from a bucket of excess, but from one’s needs? Giving that causes the giver to suffer? Giving to those who can never repay? Giving to those who hate you? Who have harmed you?
Where is this grace? It is a foreign object. We don’t see it. We don’t understand it. We don’t do it. We don’t know how to do it. And we don’t like it.
I am likely typical. I give of my surplus: my surplus money, time, and energy. And I hope to be noticed, to get appropriate gratitude and applause. When do I give without wanting anything back? When do I give to those who hurt me or insult me?
Grace is pouring out one’s life, without any hope of something being poured back. Grace is pouring out our time, talents, resources, physical and mental energy, without looking to see what is left. Grace is emptying self, until suffering, even upon those who hate.
Who does this? We hear rumors of it, but we don’t see it. What is familiar is the pouring out of anger and frustration. We are harsh with each other. Even in our homes, grace is alien. We get cross with each other. Prickly. “I have poured out much. You have poured out little. So I will punish you, and coddle myself.”
Grace is central to Christianity, and so it is still in the DNA of Western society. This means that one important aspect of grace—giving one’s life for the good of others—is still admired.
But true Christian grace has been pummeled. The German philosopher Nietzsche (1844-1900) did a lot of the demolition. He derided the Christian values of humility, kindness, and pity. These only got in the way of the ideal “superman,” the “magnified man, disciplined and perfected in both mental and physical strength, serene and pitiless, ruthlessly pursuing his path of success and victory and without moral scruples” (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1997, p.1154). Nietzsche understood grace, and it disgusted him.
Grace is alien to us.
Ayn Rand (1905-82) was the same. In her much-admired novel The Fountainhead, hero Howard Roark is strong and talented. He takes what he wants and lives unashamedly for himself in order to achieve his fullest potential and fulfill his destiny. He cares nothing for the weak, the disabled, or the frail. These are hindrances to be thrown off. Grace has no place in Rand’s system. By retarding the strong and the talented, Grace just poisons things.
Such attacks on grace have not been unsuccessful. Our naturally ungracious hearts have lapped it up. In short, grace is alien to us.
In fact it is so alien to humanity, that in order for us to understand grace, Jesus has to shock us. And he does that in his parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.
He tells a story that will antagonize us, that will perhaps even enrage us. When builders insert bolts into concrete, they use explosive tools. Explosive charges force and break the bolt into the hard concrete. The concrete is our graceless hearts. The explosive bolt is Jesus’ parable. He tells it not to guilt us into grace. He tells it that we might understand grace, and so be in a position to receive it. For it is only when we have received grace that we can come to be gracious.
Here is the parable from Matthew 20:1-16,

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius….”

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Why Nothing Will Stop Jesus from Building His Church

Many times Jesus’ church has seemed close to extinction: under Saul’s savage persecution of the church in Acts 7-8, under the vicious imperial persecutions of the first three centuries, under the scourge of Muslim conquest in the seventh and eighth centuries, under the almost complete loss of the gospel in the Middle Ages, under the toxin of liberalism prior to World War II, and so on. Jesus will build his church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail.

“I’m frightened.” These were my Pop’s last words. I saw him just after death, and his face and body evinced struggle. He did not profess to be a Christian, and I asked my pastor whether this struggle was perhaps a sign that God was working on his spirit, and that perhaps he could have come to salvation in his last hour?
My pastor, knowing that Pop had not professed faith, answered with a straightforward “No.”
I was a little shocked. How could he speak with such certainty?
Matthew 16:13-19 explains how, a passage that Michael Green rightly calls “the hinge on which the whole Gospel turns.”

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matt. 16:13-14; all Scripture passages from NIV version)

Caesarea Philippi, at the foot of snow-veiled Mount Hermon (the source of the Jordan river) is in the picturesque northern extremity of Palestine. In Matthew’s day it was the famously pagan center of pan-worship. Jesus probably retreated there with his disciples for a time of rest and instruction.
The lessons begin with this vital question: “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?”
“Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite designation for himself. It captures both his humanity and, from Daniel 7:13-14, both his divine nature and divine destiny of universal and eternal rule (see Matt. 26:64).
Jesus knows exactly who he is. And by his authoritative teaching, healings, domination over the demonic realm, and supernatural command and control over nature, he has categorically revealed his identity and mission.
Having seen and heard this, what conclusions have the people drawn? “John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah …” Perhaps these great prophets had been resurrected in the person of Jesus. Without doubt he reprised the spirit of their ministry.
Is there a common thread? Were these three not the more poignant and pessimistic of the prophets? Certainly they were very exalted Jewish figures. Should not Jesus be flattered by the comparison? Not at all. None of them, like Jesus, claimed a divine identity and mission—nor proved it with supernatural acts of power. They were as inferior to Jesus as the ambassador is to the King, as the creature is to the Creator (Matt. 23:37).
What may have been meant as a compliment was in truth a profound denigration, a patronizing and willful denial of Jesus’ manifest identity.
The patronizing has never paused. A person with a passing knowledge of Jesus may perhaps deign to grant his existence, or even his importance as “a great moral teacher.”
Beyond excuse, however, are those New Testament scholars who shut their eyes to the arc-lamp of his glory that blazes from every paragraph of the Gospels, and who demote and disqualify and denigrate Jesus as “a very fine example.” J. Gresham Machen described this:

The modern liberal preacher reverences Jesus; he has the name of Jesus forever on his lips; he speaks of Jesus as the supreme revelation of God; he enters, or tries to enter, into the religious life of Jesus. But Jesus for him is an example of faith, not the object of faith. (Christianity and Liberalism, p. 85)

Any conception of Jesus that falls short of what Jesus revealed himself to be is not only an error or lie—it is perverse idolatry. It is to concoct a false image and to call it “Jesus.”
“But what about you?” Jesus asked.
“Who do you say I am?” The NIV captures the urgent personal emphasis and the life and death probing of the original. What do you yourself think?Your answer to this question fixes your eternal destiny!
Notice also how important it is to say what we think about Jesus. Heart and mouth must work together, for a merely inward faith is no faith at all (Rom. 10:8-11).

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16)

The Christ is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Divine and Saving Prophet, Priest, and King promised on every page of the Old Testament (Luke 24:27). And Jesus is the eternal “Son of the Living God” in a way that no one else is or ever can be (John 1:1-3).
Like King Josiah before him, Peter smashes down the idols to leave nothing but the One True Jesus Christ.

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17)

The makarios, the blessed, is the one who should count themselves truly happy. This is the person the world should congratulate (see Matt. 5:3-10).
Why is Peter so blessed? Because, literally, no “flesh and blood” had brought him to this truth, least of all himself. He was blessed because the truth he had owned and expressed had been revealed (apokalyptō) by “my Father.” He had only believed and said what the Father had, first of all, placed there.
“You are one of the happy ones, Simon, whose father is Jonah, because my Father in Heaven has come and opened your eyes and mouth to say what you have just said.”
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Why do Christians Pray, “For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, For Ever”?

The moment we bow the knee to Jesus, that ghastly spirit of self-fulfillment, which claws and gnaws at our souls, howling “Mine be the glory!” flees back to the hell from which it came. In its place comes sanity, joy, and a peace that transcends every pain and trial. What a happy prayer to pray: “Lord Jesus, thine be the glory!”

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.  — Matthew 6:13 (KJV)

The splintering pain at the core of every human being, and which today is felt more acutely than ever in the West, is precisely the pain of the square peg being bashed into the round hole.
We were designed and crafted to praise Jesus Christ with our bodies and souls. If Jesus is God’s Son, the beautiful Universal King and Savior, then it’s impossible to conceive of a higher, happier, and more expansive purpose. He is worthy of our praise, and it is a delight to give it.
Yet, we insist on battering ourselves into the cramped cavity of self-fulfillment. This leaves us bruised, brittle, and spiritually exhausted.
The doxology after the Lord’s Prayer is a perfectly biblical and correct thing to pray.
The traditional ending of the Lord’s Prayer is not found in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament.[1] A pious scribe, copying Matthew’s Gospel by hand, perhaps could not help adding the doxology after the Lord’s Prayer. It is generally accepted that it is taken from David’s prayer to God in 1 Chronicles 29 where David says similar words.
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Striving for Godliness in the Christian Life—2 Peter 1

Here is the great purpose of God’s long-prepared and long-promised salvation: that we come to reflect certain of the very attributes of God. Not, of course, his incommunicable attributes of self-existence, unchangeableness, omnipresence, and omnipotence; but definitely his communicable attributes of love, sacrifice, faithfulness, and service.

In 2016 the Australian demographer and social commentator Bernard Salt stirred up a cyclone over smashed avocado.
He observed that many young Australians, instead of saving money for a home deposit, spend their money on expensive café luxuries like “Smashed Avo on Toast.”
This is opting for the immediate gratification of a tangible though fleeting luxury over restraint and self-denial for the sake of an intangible but substantial long-term benefit.
Peter’s letters show how aware he is of the fierce rivalry and struggle between the visible, passing pleasures of this world—many of which are immoral—and the invisible but permanent good of forgiveness, freedom, and eternal life with Jesus Christ.
This is the daily conflict that every Christian since the first generation of eyewitness disciples faces. We have not seen, and do not now see Jesus (1 Peter 1:8). The full enjoyment of his Kingdom lies in the future. Until then we face persecution, alienation, and fierce inward threats to our faith.
But we do easily see the pleasures of this world, pleasures to indulge in right now, pleasures in which there seems no real harm. We are told to “live your best life now.”
Dodgy pastors tap into this conflict with half-truths and obscuration, not because they really want people to believe certain (false) doctrines but because they’ve worked out a way to make a comfortable life and living from the church by teaching a feel-good evisceration of the Christian message. This preaching accentuates self-affirmation and easy-going positivity and downplays self-condemnation—the “blood, toil, sweat, and tears” that true faith demands.
We can hear them now: “Yes, Jesus said that he was about to return. Yes, he said that we must give up the passing pleasures of the world and be keenly watching and waiting for his arrival. But he hasn’t come and won’t come in our lifetime. And didn’t Paul say that we are justified by faith alone? Relax! Enjoy the pleasures of this world!”
The result? Too many utterly ineffectual Christians and churches, “waterless springs and mists driven by a storm” (2 Peter 2:17). This is the woeful state of affairs that Peter tackles: a worldly, lazy, self-indulgent, and ineffective church. He tackles it head-to-head.
Remember that you have been saved to godliness.
[You] have obtained a faith of equal standing (privilege) with ours.(2 Peter 1:1)
The Greek verb for “obtained” (λαγχανω, lanchanō) means “to obtain by lot” and emphasizes that faith is God’s gracious gift (cf. Eph 2:8).
The Greek adjective for “equal standing” (ἰσοτιμος, isotimos) refers to someone who is “equal in value, equal in privilege, status or rank in civil life.”[1] Perhaps you thought that the first generation of Christians, who saw Jesus face-to-face, was the hard-core, sacrificial, persecuted church which gave everything for Christ; but that we who haven’t seen Jesus—“who hasn’t yet returned and doesn’t look like he’s going to”—can relax and settle in to a life of compromise.
Not at all. You have the same privileged standing as the first disciples, and you share the same responsibilities.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.(2 Peter 1:3a)
The Greek word for “godliness” (εὐσεβεια, eusebeia) is a rich word encompassing “awesome respect accorded to God, devoutness, piety, godliness.”[2]
The power of God is just as available for the church today as it was for the first disciples, granting the same spiritual life and capacity for godliness.
Through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.(2 Peter 1:3b)
In fact, we have an advantage over the first generation of Christians. Though Peter, James, and John saw the transfigured Jesus (Mat 17), subsequent generations have “the prophetic word more fully confirmed” in the Holy Spirit-given, permanent, stable, and unquestioned truth of the Scripture (2Pe 1:19-21).
…he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you might become partakers of the divine nature.(2 Peter 1:4a)
Here is the great purpose of God’s long-prepared and long-promised salvation: that we come to reflect certain of the very attributes of God. Not, of course, his incommunicable attributes of self-existence, unchangeableness, omnipresence, and omnipotence; but definitely his communicable attributes of love, sacrifice, faithfulness, and service. The sixteen-century Protestant reformer John Calvin writes, “This thought alone ought to give us abundant cause to renounce the world entirely and be borne aloft to heaven.”[3]
Having escaped from the corruption (rottenness) that is in the world because of sinful desire.(2 Peter 1:4b)
Just as the Lord freed Israel from Egyptian idolatry and slavery to obedience and pure worship, he has rescued us from the punishment and corruption of sin to joyful obedience lived in the coram Deo, the presence of God.
Therefore, pursue godliness.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith.(2 Peter 1:5a)
The prosaic “supplement” translates the poetic Greek word ἐπιχορηγεω (epichorēgeō). In the ancient world it described gifts given by rich patrons of the arts. It means to supply generously and lavishly.[4]
Peter uses the Greek word for earnestness (σπουδη, spoudē) to convey the idea of both earnest commitment, eagerness, and diligence; and haste and swiftness.[5] The whole phrase “make every effort” conveys the idea of lavishly and urgently employing “every ounce of determination we can muster.”[6]
We want to “make every effort” to strive forward in a life of faith, to build the eight Christian qualities that Peter describes in 1 Peter 1:5-7.
You would never fly to Paris and sit in the Charles de Gaulle airport. You would never, after twelve years of schoolwork, be accepted into your chosen university and then not proceed with the course of instruction.
Having been saved from corruption to new life with God, we would never be content with bare faith and belief in Jesus. We want to “make every effort” to strive forward in a life of faith, to build the eight Christian qualities that Peter is about to describe: “a chain of deep, internal, and experiential changes that will meet our hunger for God’s reality.”[7]
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.(2 Peter 1:5-7)
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Blood and Water: The Christian Fight for Holiness

We fight for holiness, for this leads to real peace and joy. We fight for holiness, “for without holiness no one will see the LORD” (Hebrews 12:14). We fight for holiness, because our Father, whom we love, is holy and he wants us to be like him. “Be holy, because I the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16).  

The apostle John stood on Golgotha and watched Jesus die in agony. He heard him utter, “It is finished,” and he saw his head drop at the moment of his death. He saw the soldier take his spear and plunge it into Jesus’ side, right into his heart. And he saw something remarkable: an immediate flow of blood and water (John 19:34). This distressing and surprising sight gripped John’s mind and soul. We know that because of the very weighty testimony he gives to it:

The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.(John 19:35; see also 1 John 5:6-8; all Scripture quotations from NIV)

This makes us think of the temple. The temple was God’s house, and a person could only go into God’s house via the altar and the sea (1 Kings 7:23-26 and 2 Chron. 4:2-5). At the altar sin was atoned for by the blood of a substitutionary sacrifice. At the sea—which held some seventeen tons of water—sin was washed away.
Reconciliation to God means blood atonement, and washing. Jesus’ death, releasing water and blood, accomplished both for his people.
Jesus’ death has washed us.
My impression is that we focus very much on the blood. I believe in Jesus, he died for me and his blood atoned for my sins, and so I have been saved from the punishment of hell. This is glorious, but he did not die just to free us from punishment. He died also to wash us and make us clean. He died to save us from the punishment of sin, and he died to wash away the corruption of sin: the guilt of our sin, and its power over our lives.
A believer therefore not only has a new ultimate destiny, but a new life right now. The old sinful nature has been crucified (Rom. 6:6). We have been freed from its slavery (Rom. 6:18). We were once wedded to the sinful nature; but that cruel old husband is now dead, and now we belong to a good husband (Rom. 7:4).  Our sinful hearts of stone are transformed into tender hearts of flesh (Ezek. 36:26). There is rebirth (John 3:7) and a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
Sanctification is the process of growing in holiness.
Jesus’ death has washed us. We are free to walk in this new life, we will want to walk in this new life, and we must walk in this new life. This is sanctification.
The word is built from the Latin sanctus, meaning “holy.” In the Latin Bible the angels around the throne in Isaiah 6 call out Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus! Sanctification is the process of growing in holiness.
At this point we must distinguish between definitive and progressive sanctification. Definitive sanctification is really the same as justification; it is an act of God whereby he declares us right and holy in his sight on the ground of Jesus’ death:

…But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:11

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6 Crucial Facts about God’s Word from Revelation 10

The book of Revelation concerns not just the present and future of Christians, but of the entire human race. So, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3). If churches rise or fall according to their convictions about Scripture, so does the well-being of every Christian.

Survey history and you will soon see that the health of the church rises and falls with its convictions about the Bible. When the church knows and believes that the Bible is God’s Word, it grows as strong as Hercules. It becomes a light on the hill, a sheltering tree with wide-spreading branches.
When the church is confused about the Bible, its light grows dim, its branches wither. It becomes more of a danger than a help.
In Revelation 8-9 the first six trumpets sounded. The seventh trumpet will not sound until chapter 11. In Revelation 10 we stop and reflect on something vital: the character of God’s spoken and written revelation.
Revelation 10 reveals to us six facts about God’s word that when known and believed will strengthen and enliven the church:
1. Jesus Christ is the author of God’s Word.

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded.Revelation 10:1-3

Basically, angelos means “messenger.” Many debate whether or not this particular messenger is Jesus. I argue that he is, but even if you don’t agree we must all see that he manifests undeniably Christ-like attributes.
First, he is wrapped and robed in a cloud, just like the LORD in the Old Testament. Jesus said that he would return like that for final judgment, in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13:

“But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”Matthew 26:64

Second, his head is crowned with a rainbow, the sign of the Noahic Covenant of mercy when the LORD pledged never again to destroy the world by flood (Gen. 9:14-16). Revelation has already shown us Jesus—the Lamb who was Slain—on the throne and encircled by the rainbow (4:3).
Third, his face shines like the sun. Revelation 1:16 showed Jesus like this, and on the Mount of Transfiguration Peter, James, and John saw the same: “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matt. 17:2).
Fourth, his feet (podes can refer either to feet or legs) are like fire. Revelation 1:15 showed Jesus with feet “like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace.” His feet are the solid opposite of the feet of clay of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, which represented ephemeral world empires (Dan. 2:33).
Fifth, he holds a biblaridion, a little scroll or book. (“Bible” comes from biblion, which was in turn derived from the Phoenician city Byblos, well known as the port through which Egyptian papyrus was imported into Palestine.) For now, we note that in Revelation a scroll usually represents God’s decree for history. We will return to this little scroll in a moment.
Sixth, he plants his right foot on the oceans, and his left foot on the land. This is the Creator of heaven and earth, who stands over and transcends his creation. It recalls Jesus striding over the raging waters of the Sea of Galilee like he owned it. Indeed, he created and owns and rules the universe.
Seventh, he gave “a loud voice, like a lion roaring.” This is the invincible voice of the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ, who spoke creation into being (Rev. 5:5).
The author of the little scroll, and all of God’s revelation, whether spoken through his prophets of the Old Testament, or his apostles of the New, is Jesus Christ.
“All Scripture is theopneustos”, said Paul (2 Tim. 3:16); theopneustos means “breathed out by God.” Every word and syllable and letter of the Bible comes out of the mouth of Jesus Christ. 
2. God’s Word is Jesus’ powerful voice.

[He] called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write…Revelation 10:3-4

Here we expand on verses 3-4. Last year the mighty cruise ship MS Queen Elizabeth, 300 metres long and weighing 92,000 tons, docked in Hobart. I happened to be on the wharf at its departure, when it gave a triple blast on its horn. It was like the deep bass rumble of a very large cathedral pipe organ, but quantumly louder, easily the loudest man-made sound I’ve heard, and felt. The blast bounced off Mount Wellington and echoed and resounded around the city for a remarkably long time.
Jesus’ Word is echoed by “seven thunders.”
Again and again the Gospels let us hear the mighty power of Jesus’ voice:
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