What Does the New Testament Say About Temples and Priests?

Through Jesus we become his priests and his temple, which should change everything

Jesus makes us his priests and his temple.In the Old Testament the people go to the temple to encounter God. The priests help them in this; they act as a liaison between them and God.

In many ways we still do this today. We go to church to encounter God. We look for our ministers to help us in our quest, to act as a liaison between us and God.

But this is a wrong perspective. We cling to the Old Testament practice and largely forget how Jesus fulfilled it. Peter helps us understand this in his first letter. He says we are living stones built into a spiritual temple, prepared for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus (1 Peter 2:5).

Yet from our perspective of going to church to encounter God, this verse is confounding. It turns what we do upside down, and that’s the point. Jesus came to turn the old ways upside down and make something new for us.

We need to embrace this. We need to change our perspectives.

Living Stones: As living stones our actions matter. We live for Jesus. We live to honor him, praise him, and glorify him. We live to tell others about him through our actions and even through our words. Our faith is alive, and our actions must show it.

Spiritual Temple: As living stones we become part of the construction of his spiritual temple. And if we are part of his temple, we don’t need to go to church to meet him because, as his temple, we are already there and can experience him at any time.

Holy Priesthood: As living stones we are being made into a holy priesthood. If we are truly priests through what Jesus did for us, then we don’t need ministers to point us to God, explain him to us, and assist us in encountering him. God is preparing us to do that for ourselves as his holy priests.

Spiritual Sacrifices: As living stones and holy priests, serving God in his spiritual temple, we offer to him a spiritual sacrifice. This spiritual sacrifice negates the need for many of the animal sacrifices and offerings we read about in the Old Testament.Through Jesus we do things in a new way. Click To Tweet

This thinking is so countercultural to the way most Christians live today that it bears careful contemplation. Through Jesus we do things in a new way. We are living stones built into a spiritual temple, being prepared for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices.

This can change everything—and it should.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Peter 2, and today’s post is on 1 Peter 2:5.]

Put Your Faith in Action

Good deeds and right living don’t earn our salvation, but they do confirm it

Put Your Faith in ActionPaul writes to his friends in Thessalonica. He reminds them—and us—that salvation is a gift from God. We can’t earn it and can only receive it through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). But it seems that many people do try to earn their salvation through their actions, by living in right ways and doing good works for others.

James helps us put this into perspective. Though our actions don’t earn our right standing with God, they do prove it. He asks, “How can I see your faith apart from your actions?” He goes on to say, “I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice. You’ll know my faith is real by the things that I do,” (see James 2:18).

From God’s perspective, our actions don’t earn us anything. Yes, doing good may earn us attention from other people. We can receive appreciation from those we help and admiration from those who watch us. Yet to God our good works don’t matter.

Then why should we bother?

It’s through our right behavior and what we do to help others that we prove we have faith. By putting our faith into action, we demonstrate that it’s real. Faith without works is dead.Our actions say thank you to God for what he has done for us. Click To Tweet

We don’t act in certain ways to garner God’s favor. Instead, the things we do emerge from our gratitude for what he has done for us. Think of our actions as a tangible way of saying “thank you” to God for the gift he gave us.

By his grace and through our faith, we receive salvation. We need nothing more. But if we truly appreciate this gift of what he has done for us, then we show him by what we do.

We put our faith into action. And that honors God.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is James 2, and today’s post is on James 2:18.]

The Bible Tells Us Good Things Are Coming: Are You Ready?

The Bible isn’t the point, it’s the God revealed in the Bible

Hebrews chapter 10 opens with a line worthy of contemplation.

It says, that the Law—that is the Old Testament—merely hints at what we have to look forward to, of the good things God has in store for us. The law shouldn’t be our focus. Instead we should give our attention to the real things that the law points to. That would be God (Hebrews 10:1).

Though we are right to reverence the Bible and hold it in high esteem, the Bible isn’t the point. The purpose of the Bible is to direct us to God. He is who we should reverence. He is who we should stand in awe of. He is who we should worship, not the Bible or the words in it.

But the verse doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say that the Law—the Old Testament—isn’t enough. Following its rules is insufficient to perfect us as we try to draw near to God. Though the context of this verse is about the sacrifices offered every year, we can expand this thought to encompass all the rules we read about in the Old Testament.

What we see in the Old Testament isn’t enough to make us right with God. In theory, if we followed every rule perfectly every time, that would be sufficient. But no one can do that. It’s humanly impossible. We falter and fall short.The Bible isn’t a set of rules to bind us. The Bible points to the God who frees us. Click To Tweet

We must keep this in perspective. The Bible isn’t a book of laws we must follow. It’s not a set of rules to bind us. Instead, the Bible points to the God who frees us.

May it be so. May we find freedom through Jesus and shake off the slavery of legalism.

God is the point, not the Bible.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 10, and today’s post is on Hebrews 10:1.]

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For Many Christians, It’s Time To Grow Up

One of the reasons we learn about God is so we can teach others

It’s time we start eating solid food.In the letter written to the Hebrew people who follow Jesus, there’s a short phrase that’s easy to skip over. The author, who I suspect is Paul, criticizes the people he’s writing to. He says they should be at a point in their faith journey where they can teach others. Instead they are content to be taught. They’re drinking milk, but they should have moved on to solid food.

Notice that the writer doesn’t call out specific people. He makes a general statement to all who receive his letter. That’s everyone. In our Christian society today, most people remain content to have someone teach them. They seldom take time to teach others about God, their faith, and their faith Journey.

Our churches today are filled with people who crave milk. Even though they are mature enough to eat solid food, they haven’t grown enough to take that step. Instead they’re content to suck milk from a bottle.

This is to their shame and to our shame. We expect others to teach us, when we should be doing the teaching ourselves.We expect others to teach us, when we should be doing the teaching ourselves. Click To Tweet

Teaching can take several forms. It might be standing before a group and giving a lesson. It might be sitting in a circle and sharing what God is doing in our life. Or maybe it’s one-on-one interaction when we encourage a friend to move forward in their faith and to make Godly decisions.

Some people delude themselves by claiming they’re not ready to teach. But I think most simply find it’s the most comfortable thing to do. They prefer to go to church and sit passively in their pews so that someone else can give them milk to drink.

Instead we should adopt a new attitude. We should realize we have insights, knowledge, and experiences that can help others. Everyone knows something that will benefit the people we talk to. We need to share what we know. Likewise everyone we encounter knows something that we don’t. We must be ready to hear what they have to say and learn from them.

Our job is to grow in our faith, and then to teach others. It’s time to start doing that.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 5, and today’s post is on Hebrews 5:12.]

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Don’t Be Alarmed: Supernatural Encounters May Be Scary

Angels often start by telling the people they visit to not be afraid

Don’t Be Alarmed: Supernatural Encounters May Be ScaryThe Book of Mark wraps up with three women going to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body. They are Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. They approach the tomb preoccupied, wondering how they will roll the stone away to gain access. As it turns out, this won’t be a problem.

When they arrive at the tomb the stone has already been rolled away. They see a young man sitting there. He’s wearing a white robe. He’s like an angel, but there’s no indication if they realize this or not. But his presence does surprise them.

The first thing he says is, “Don’t be alarmed!” (Mark 16:6, CEB).

Throughout the Bible, whenever anyone has a supernatural encounter with angels, one of the first things these heavenly beings say is usually, “Don’t be afraid!”

I get this.

Should someone out of this world appear before us, our first reaction would certainly be fright. Without assurance, our first response would likely be flight. It would be hard for us to hear their heavenly message if we were running away from them.

I’d like to think my reaction would be different. I’d like to think I wouldn’t be afraid of an angel that God sent to me. I’d like to think I would confidently hear everything they would say, though in awe over their presence.

But I know me. I know better. Though I might be brave in my spirit, in my mind I would fear, just like everyone else.What will our reaction be when we see God for the first time? Click To Tweet

If a typical reaction to an angelic encounter is fear, what will our reaction be when we see God for the first time?

I’d like to think I’d feel peace. I’d like to think I would approach him with confidence and embrace him. I’d like to think I would remain calm.

But I know me. I know better. I’m sure I would tremble in his presence. Fear and excitement would surge through me in anticipation and apprehension, quaking in fear over the unknown.

I suspect the first words God will say to me will be, “Don’t be alarmed. Do not fear.”

And then everything will be okay, because I will be home, basking in the glory of his presence.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Mark 16, and today’s post is on Mark 16:5-6.]

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Is God’s Forgiveness Conditional?

Jesus wants us to fully forgive others so that we may be fully forgiven

Is God’s Forgiveness Conditional?In asking the simple question, “Is God’s forgiveness conditional?” the answer seems obvious: “No! God’s forgiveness is unconditional.”

I was taught that if I followed Jesus, he would forgive me. It was a fact. Forgiveness was unconditional. It made sense, and it comforted me.

However, Jesus’s instruction in today’s passage seems to question this assumption.

Jesus teaches about prayer. He says that when we pray, if we think of someone holding something against us, we must forgive them “so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25, NIV).

Does this mean that if we withhold forgiveness from others that God will withhold forgiveness from us?

I think so.

Recall the Lord’s Prayer. One phrase says, “Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12, NIV). This phrase flows from our mouths with ease. On the surface these words offer us assurance of forgiveness. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus means by this simple expression. He seems to be saying that to the degree we forgive others, God will then forgive us.To the degree we forgive others, God will forgive us. Click To Tweet

Stated another way, the extent to which we withhold forgiveness, will be the extent to which God withholds our forgiveness.

What a terrifying thought.

Between what Jesus instructs us through the Lord’s Prayer and what he teaches in today’s text, we get the real feeling that the degree to which we can receive God’s forgiveness hinges on the degree to which we extend forgiveness to others.

This is a sobering thought.

May we always forgive fully, so that we may be fully forgiven.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Mark 11, and today’s post is on Mark 11:25.]

5 Things Jesus’s Disciples Did

We are to go out and preach repentance under the power of the Holy Spirit

5 Things Jesus’s Disciples DidAfter Jesus calls his disciples, he trains them and then sends them into the world. He gives them five simple instructions:

Go out: To be effective Jesus’s disciples can’t hang out with each other. They need to go out into the world around them.

Preach Repentance: A basic understanding of preach is to tell or to encourage. A simple definition of repent is to turn yourself around, to make a U-turn. When Jesus tells his disciples to preach repentance, he’s instructing them to encourage others to turn their lives around and head toward him.

Drive Out Demons: Jesus empowers his disciples to do miraculous works in his name. These wondrous signs certainly get people’s attention. Supernatural power not only helps people in need, but it also rightly directs our attention to God. I think that’s the point.

Anoint the Sick: When Jesus tells his disciples to anoint the sick, he’s instructing them to bless those with health concerns and pray for them.

Heal People: Yes, Jesus wants us to heal those who are hurting. He gives us the power to do so, through the Holy Spirit. We need to walk in faith to make that happen.The instructions Jesus gives his disciples, can also apply to us today. Click To Tweet

The instructions Jesus gives his disciples, can also apply to us today. We are to go into our world and encourage people to pursue Jesus. As we do, we are to go in Holy Spirit power to perform signs, anoint people, and heal those in need.

While some people assume the supernatural power of signs and wonders ended with the disciples, I see no indication of that in the Bible. What Jesus gave to his disciples then, he gives to us today. It’s up to us to accept his call and move into it. And when we do, our witness will be magnified, and Jesus will be exalted.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Mark 6, and today’s post is on Mark 6:12-13.]

What is Our Answer When Jesus Calls?

What is Jesus calling you to do today?A grand adventure awaits us but only if we are willing to leave what we have behind

The first chapter of Mark talks about Jesus calling his disciples. As he walks along the shore, he comes across two brothers fishing. Jesus says, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Mark 1:16-18, NIV).

What a powerful way for Jesus to cast a vision. He takes the routine of what they’re doing, fishing in order to earn money. He turns it into a metaphor for a mission. Instead of seeking fish to sell in order to survive, Jesus calls these two men into something greater, to seek people for his kingdom.

While Jesus’s metaphor makes perfect sense to us today. I wonder how his disciples received it then? Were they confused by his call for them to fish for men? I think I would have been.

Yet something about what Jesus says compels them. For they stop what they’re doing, abandon the tools of their trade, and go with him. In that instant they make a life-changing decision. They give up what is normal, what is common, so they can pursue something that is grand and beyond them. Jesus invites them into a great adventure, and they accept, without hesitation.Jesus calls them to a great adventure, and they accept, without hesitation. Click To Tweet

What is Jesus calling us to do today? I wonder if he wants all of us to give up what is normal, what is common to us, so we can pursue something that is grand and beyond us?

I suspect that what God has in store for each of us is beyond what we can expect or even hope for. He offers us something more. It’s up to us to take hold of what he wants to give us. It’s up to us to answer his call.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Mark 1, and today’s post is on Mark 1:16-18.]

The Light of the World and the Light of Heaven

God will shine so brightly that we won’t need the sun to see

The Light of the World and the Light of HeavenAs the epic battle in Revelation continues, just before Babylon—the symbol of all that’s evil—is about to receive her final punishment, an angel comes from heaven.

John writes that this angel has great authority, and his splendor illuminates the earth (Revelation 18:1). I don’t know if this angel’s great authority makes him an archangel or not, but it does make him a very special angel. This may be why he shines so brightly.

Imagine that. An angel who shines bright enough to light up the whole earth. This is not a searchlight that illuminates one spot at a time, but a floodlight that lights up everything.

But this angel isn’t the only one who shines brightly. Later on in Revelation, John writes that in the future, there will be no need to light a lamp or for the sun to shine, because God will be our light, the only light we need to see (Revelation 22:5). In our future home, God’s splendor will shine so brightly that we won’t need the sun. Click To Tweet

Isaiah says the same thing. In the glory of the future city there’s no need for sun or moon to shine, for the brilliance of God will provide all the light we need (Isaiah 60:19). God will be our everlasting light. He will surround us with his splendor.

When we think of an angel lighting up the world by the glory of his authority, that’s an amazing image. I don’t know if he’ll shine as brightly as the sun, but I do know that in our future home, God’s splendor will shine so brightly that we won’t need the sun to be able to see. The light of God will be the only light we need. And that’s more than enough.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 18, and today’s post is on Revelation 18:1.]

Let’s Not Forget Who’s in Charge

Good and evil are not equal and opposite forces

Let’s Not Forget Who’s in ChargeIn Revelation we read about the dragon and the beast, a great battle, and the tribulation the whole world faces.

Embedded in the middle of this epic tale, we see a curious revelation. John writes that the beast is given power to wage war against God’s people that he created. John says the beast is given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation (Revelation 13:7).

Who gave the beast his power and authority?

God.

If God can grant the beast power and authority over the world and all creation, then that means God is more powerful than the beast and the forces of evil.

Think about this.

Contrary to what many people think, God and Satan do not exist as equal players in the age-old war of good versus evil. God is superior to Satan. God created Satan, albeit for good. Satan, in his pride, rebelled against God and has fought him ever since. You see, the battle isn’t fair. God has the upper hand. Satan functions within the limits God places on him.In the final battle, the victory goes to God. Click To Tweet

That means in the final battle, we already know the winner. The victory goes to God. Satan loses. Big time.

If we’re on God’s team, we’re on the winning side. And for those who follow the enemy, they’ll lose along with him.

God’s in charge. God is more powerful then evil. Let’s not forget that. When we go with God, we go with the winner.

To him be the honor, and the glory, and the power, forever and ever. Amen.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 13, and today’s post is on Revelation 13:7.]