Pastoral letter 163 Jesus Christ our Best Pastor

JOHN GILLESPIE

 

 

May the God of Peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.

(Hebrews 13:20,21)

 

Beloved,

 

This shall be my final Pastoral Letter.  What a joy it has been for me to walk with you for so many years, and what a joy it has been to share these letters with you!

 

How fitting is the subject which we have come to today, and with which we conclude these letters!  We have been walking through the great letter to the Hebrews, and we have seen that Jesus Christ is our Best:

 

Brother

Prophet

Priest

Purifier

Promise

 

Now we shall see that the Lord Jesus is our Best

PASTOR

 

How wonderful it is for me, as I leave this time as your pastor, and as you await the coming of your next pastor, to commend you to the True and Greatest Pastor, the Lord Jesus Himself.

 

A pastor is a “shepherd”.  The Latin root for the word means just that.  Look at the text at the top of this letter from Hebrew 13.  It refers to Jesus Christ as “that great Shepherd of the sheep”.  I am a pastor (what a privilege!).  I am a “shepherd”.  It has been my joy to feed you in the green pastures of God’s Word over these many years.  Another will soon come to take my place.  But neither of us, indeed, no mere man, is “that great Shepherd”. That title belongs to Jesus alone.

 

As an “under shepherd”, my job has been to keep a keen eye upon “that great Shepherd” and lead us where He goes.  So will be the role of your next pastor.  The key figure here is not me, nor the next man, but Jesus.  He is the True, Faithful, Final Pastor!  Men come and go!  Men disappoint!  Men die!  Jesus is “that great Shepherd”.

 

The job description for every pastor is very simple and it is derived directly from the Lord Jesus Himself.

 

He is to Gather the flock

He is to Guard the flock

He is to Guide the flock

 

All of these are done through the ministry of the Word of God to the people of God.  This has been my aim and life to you for all these years.  This has been my Job.  This will be my successor’s Job.  But it is Jesus Himself who is behind it all.

 

It is He who Gathers the flock (when sin has separated the sheep from the Shepherd and from one another) through the ministry of the Word in evangelism

 

It is He who Guards the flock (when wolves threaten to devour) through the ministry of the Word in teaching, warning, and instruction.

 

It is He who Guides the flock to green pastures (where the sheep are nourished and made strong) and through dark valleys (where the sheep are kept safe and secure) through the ministry of the Word in encouragement and exhortation.

 

Just feast upon these words from Jesus:

 

“I am the Good Shepherd [pastor]…I know my sheep…I lay down my life for my sheep…

I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my

Hands.”  (John 10:11 ff)

 

As difficult as it is for Tessa and me (Ben!) to leave you (and it is very difficult), it is good for us all, because it reminds us that Jesus is our “great Shepherd”.  Your next pastor will be different than me (he might be a vegan!).  His wife will be different than Tessa (she might eat white bread!).  His kids will be different.  But his job description will be the same, and, most importantly His Boss will be the same.

 

This is a great time for us to prove that we are Christ-centred and not man-centred.  This is a great time to prove to ourselves that the Word of God and not the personalities of men is what holds us together as a People.  This is a great opportunity to prove that the bond of love which exists between us comes from Jesus Christ and His Redeeming Work for us, and not from anything to do with us.

 

Let us exalt Jesus as the Best Pastor.  Let us hold without compromise to Him and His Word.  Let us follow Him as our Great Shepherd.

 

Christ will prove Himself faithful over you.  Focus upon Him.  Be attentive to Him.  Encourage your next “under shepherd” to be first and foremost a man of the Word and of prayer….ever attentive to “that great Shepherd”…

 

….And all will be well.

 

I love you with all my heart, and it has been the great privilege of my life to have been your pastor for all these years.

I commend you in faith to Jesus Christ

THAT GREAT SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP

 

 

John Gillespie

 

He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. (Isaiah 40:11)

 

Pastoral letter 161: Jesus Christ our Best Promise

JOHN GILLESPIE

Jesus Christ our Best Promise

Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant

(Hebrews 7:22)

Printable version: pastoral letter 161

Dear Family in Christ,

Please take a few minutes and read Hebrews Chapter 7.  Enjoy it!

As we continue our journey through the letter of Hebrews, let’s remember that so far we have seen that Jesus Christ is our Best Brother, our Best Prophet, and our Best Priest.  Let’s also remember that we are learning that the very health of our eternal souls is dependent upon the value and worth of that which we love the most.  Hence, discovering more of Jesus Christ, and loving Him in ever new and deepening ways is the way to true spiritual health and wholeness.

How we need the Lord!  We need to see all that we can of Jesus Christ.  The Bible shows us so many facets of Jesus Christ.  We see Him from so many different angles, in so many different lights.  Indeed, the Bible has so many gems to give up to those who will take the time to hunt for them!  Diligent searchers are forever finding diamonds and rubies of Truth regarding Jesus Christ….right in their own Bibles!

Today we will discover that Jesus Christ is our Best Promise.  This discovery is really a follow-on, or sub-theme of what we discovered last week, that Jesus Christ is our Best Priest.  Remember that a “priest” is a “bridge-builder”, or, one who secures and nurtures another’s relationship with God.  Our key verse for our discovery is Hebrews 7:22:

Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant

A “Covenant” can be seen as a “promise”.  It is far more than a mere contract.  It is much more powerful and secure.  It is built upon trust.  It cannot be violated.  In this case, it is initiated by none other than God Himself, and guaranteed by none other than Jesus Christ, being put into effect by His very shed blood.  It is therefore the strongest covenant in all history, the Best Promise in all the Universe.

Let’s take some time and explore it!

Take a moment and jump ahead a chapter and read Hebrews 8:6:

…the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the

Covenant of which He is mediator is superior to the old one

And it is founded on better promises.

The entire argument of Hebrews here is that Jesus Christ ministers as High Priest over a better Covenant (than the Old Testament one which Israel was living under).  This Covenant is better because it is founded by and guaranteed by Jesus Himself.  In being better, it replaces the old.

But wait a minute!  We can almost hear a faithful Jewish friend saying:  “You say Jesus is a faithful priest over a better Covenant, but hold on a minute!  He does not even come from the right family!  All Jewish priests come from Levi’s family!  Jesus comes from Judah’s line!  So…you are asking us to trade in our priests…all the hundreds of them, ones that we can see and touch and talk to, for your priest, an invisible one that we cannot even see, and who is from the wrong family to boot…!”

Well, how do we get out of this?  Our Jewish friend is right … to a degree.  The “standard” line for the priesthood in Israel was the line of Levi.  There were thousands of levitical priests.  There were pages and chapters, even a whole book in the Bible dedicated to these priests.  And, yes, Jesus was not of the levitical line.  The Book of Hebrews admits these two truths and makes no attempt to hide the fact that Jesus “…belonged to a different tribe, and no-one from that tribe has ever served at the altar.” (7:13).

But!  There was another priesthood in the Old Testament.  It was very different from the levitical priesthood.  It only ever had one member.  It was only ever mentioned twice, once in Genesis 14, and once in Psalm 110, getting a meager total of 4 verses limelight in all!  The priest was named as Melchizedek. His name meant “King of Righteousness” and he was king of Salem, which meant “King of Peace”.

Hebrews 5:10 tells us that God designated Jesus to be High Priest from this order.  Hebrews 6:20 tells us that Jesus holds this priestly office of Melchizedek forever.

So here is our answer!  Jesus is a Priest, a High Priest, a legitimate High Priest because He comes from the priesthood of Melchizedek.

So, how is this line better than the “standard” line of Levi?  How does this link make Jesus a better priest who makes a better promise?  What difference does it make to us today?

First, this priesthood is better because it is a Primary Priesthood.  It was put into place long before the levitical priesthood.  That is the big point of the somewhat cryptic verses in Hebrews 7:1-10.  Long before Levi was even born, when, as a descendent of Abraham he was still “in” Abraham, Abraham acknowledged Melchizedek as Priest unto God.

The argument goes like this:

“If Abraham, the spiritual father of all the faithful, the physical father of all the Levitical priests, honoured Melchizedek as greater than himself, and in turn was blessed by Melchizedek, then it stands that any priest of Melchizedek’s order (there is only one other, Jesus) will be greater than any priest from Abraham’s order.”

Next, this priesthood is better because it is a permanent priesthood.  Just look!  Verse 16: Jesus reigns by an “indestructible life.” Verses 17 and 21:  Jesus is a “priest forever”.  Verse 24: Jesus “lives forever”. Verse 25: Jesus “always lives”.  Verse 28:  Jesus is “perfect forever”.

Now the implications of this for the believer are profound!  Thousands of priests from Levi have come and gone.  They live, they die.  Some good, some bad.  But this one priest, this Jesus, who lives forever, promises a permanence in terms of our salvation and security.  This one Priest who secures my salvation and insures it forever, is therefore able to “save completely those who come to God through Him” (v25).  That word “completely” means “thoroughly” and “permanently”.

Just take a minute (or an hour!) to consider One who promises and is able to “save completely.

Finally, Jesus’ priesthood is better because it is a perfect priesthood.  The thousands and thousands of priests in Israel could not promise what this one Priest, Jesus can promise, because they were “weak” (vv 18,28).  Sin had weakened every one of these many priests.  They had their own problems to deal with.  They “made nothing perfect”, literally meaning that they “could not finish the job”.  They could not guarantee to keep anyone to the end.  They could make no such promise, for they were weak in themselves.

How exhausted they must have been offering endless sacrifices for their own sins as well as for the millions of sins of Israel!

But Jesus “sacrificed for sins once and for all when He offered Himself” (v 27), and now He can promise to lose none that the Father has given Him, but raise them up at the last day (John 6:39)!

Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!

The Best Priest makes the Best Promise!

This Priest:  “meets our need” (v 26), which is to be reconciled to God.  He “always lives to intercede for us”(v 25). Jesus will never retire from being our Priest.  His atoning work will never lose its efficacy.  Not ten-thousand by ten-thousand years from now! This Perfect Priest makes Perfect Promises to make perfect a way for imperfect sinners to approach and worship a Holy God.

Again, Hallelujah!  What a Saviour

Settle it now.  Entrust your entire being to the Lord Jesus!  His promise to save is sure because it is founded upon His very nature as the Son of God.  Rest your case with Him.  Give Him your souls for safe-keeping.  Trust Him as your Priest.  Trust in His promises toward you.

…He has given us His very great and precious promises…

(2 Peter 1:4)

Enjoy being saved by Jesus Today!

Pastoral Letter 160

HOW TO KEEP ON YOUR WAY TOWARD HEAVEN

 Printable version: Pastoral letter 160

 

The following article was inspired by the saintly William Gurnall (1617-1679) in his book The Christian in Complete Armour.

 

 

How we need wisdom and encouragement in order to follow Jesus well!  How important it is that we learn of others who have followed before us and finished the course.  Sadly, many make a ruin of their faith.  Some begin well, but do not finish well.

 

If you would be one who not only starts the race, but finishes the race, then the following exhortation will prove to be of immense value to you.  I want to share five essentials with you for keeping on your way to Heaven.  These are tried and true.  Others who have run well will have discovered that the following five helps have been indispensable in running well and finishing well.

 

But first, let us remind ourselves and assure ourselves that God’s part is sure and certain in this matter.  The Lord wants every believer to finish well.  Be sure of His heart in this matter.  He will provide all the grace necessary.  His Word, His Spirit, and His Church are all ready and waiting to come to our aid and encourage us continually along our way to Heaven.  Indeed:

 

  • Jesus wants all that the Father has given Him to “be with Him where He is and to behold His Glory” (John 17:24)

 

  • He promises to “complete what He has begun in us” (Philippians 1:6)

 

  • He assures us that He will “lose none that the Father has given, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39).

 

His part is sure and certain.  But His faithfulness in our salvation is not to make us lazy.  We are not merely to sit back and coast into Heaven!  The Bible has many exhortations for us in response to God’s faithfulness.  Grace is not a license to laziness but a motivator to diligence.  Grace is free, but it is proven by diligence in the things of God.

 

The following helps to keeping on your way to Heaven are active and ongoing responses to the Grace of God.  They are not new; they are not original.  They are time-tested and true.

 

Help Number One:

 

If you would keep on your way to Heaven, if you would finish well, then:

Declare War upon the Sins of Your Own Heart

 

Most of us have no problem declaring war on sins…as long as they are others’ sins.  But it is our own hearts which we must be diligent over.  Indeed we should “above all else guard our hearts” (Proverbs 4:23).

 

Now some sins are comparatively easy to do away with.  Others are very difficult.  The secret sins of the heart are the most difficult and deadly of all!  Pride, envy, lust, greed, these can be particularly defiant and dangerous.  The diligent Christian will not make peace with them!  He will declare an unending war against them.  He may have to make a thousand trips to the cross in brokenness, confession, and repentance, he may have to cry out for grace many times, but he will not make peace with any sin, least of all these deep heart sins.

 

The Bible says that we are to “put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5), considering ourselves to be “dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

 

God will supply all of the grace that we need to wage this holy war.  But we must declare it, and settle for nothing less than victory…even if we have to die fighting!

 

Help Number Two:

 

If you would keep on you way to Heaven, running well and finishing well, you must:

Determine Not to Live After the Ways of the World

 

The Bible warns us:  “Love not the world, nor the things of the world” (1 John 2:15).  This does not mean that as Christians we become ascetics, never enjoying the good things that God has given to us.  It does mean that we do not derive our pleasure from treasuring a world which scorns the very God that made it.  “Worldly Christians” are strange animals.  They call Christ their Saviour, but they look to the world as their satisfier.

 

If you love the world, the world and its cares may well choke out the good seed of the Gospel, rendering you fruitless, or worse, spiritually dead.  Determine that Christ and His Gospel will be your source of joy and fullness.  Resolve right now that you will not make it your aim to “fit in” to a world which crucified your Saviour.  Offer your whole self as a “living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1) as the only fitting response to the bountiful mercies of God received through Jesus Christ. Don’t be afraid to be different because of Jesus.  Make it your happy aim to be as holy as you can possibly be this side of Heaven.


Help Number Three:


If you would keep on your way to Heaven, resolve:

 

To Keep Going when Others Quit

 

It is a sad truth that some begin, but do not finish.  There can be little more discouraging than a quitter.  Perhaps the saddest line in the Bible is the brief “For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10).

 

Now it is the testimony of virtually every follower of Jesus that there are times when you must follow Him all alone.  There is such sweetness in Christian fellowship, such sadness when that fellowship ceases because one with whom you walked has gone back.  But it is often in the lonely times that discipleship is proven.

 

One with whom you are walking now may prove to be a Demas to you one day.  Determine now that Christ will be your constant companion, and your deepest friend.  Be deeply thankful for every brother or sister who walks with you, especially for those most loyal; but do not put your final trust in any man, but only in Jesus.  Jesus alone can say “I will never leave you or forsake you”(Hebrews 13:5)

 

Help Number Four:


If you would keep on your way to Heaven, resolve today:

 

To trust in God when you cannot find Him

 

Praise God for those times when the Lord seems so very close.  There are times when the Bible seems to open right up to us, prayer is so real and vibrant.  Heaven seems within reach and God has drawn nigh.

 

But the Christian life also has its valleys.  Jesus Christ is a Shepherd, not a tour guide.  He leads us through valleys and shadow lands.  He sometimes withdraws, not His covenant of saving love, but His sweetness, and for reasons sometimes known only to Him.  The life of faith has its seasons: some are bright and summery; some are dreary and winter like.

 

If you would keep on your way toward Heaven, then you must trust in the Lord even when you cannot find Him.  You must be willing to say with the Psalmist “I waited patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 40:1) when the Lord takes His time over you.  The Psalmist does not tell us how long he waited!  But he does tell us that he was in a pit!  And God was slow enough that he had to be “patient”.

 

During such times we have to trust in what we have come to know about the character of God from His Word and from our history with Him.  This is surely what David did when he “strengthened himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6).

 

 

Help Number Five:


If you would keep on your way to Heaven, running well until you see Jesus:

 

Make certain that your days on earth and your service to the Lord finish together


Beware of living too long!  We dare not outlive our desire to serve Jesus.  We should aim that our earthly days and our earthly service should go off stage together.  Certainly as strength wanes, we may have to surrender certain forms of service.  But we can always be useful to the Lord and His Kingdom in some valuable way.

 

If in your heart you are thinking “I will serve Jesus for a while, but then I want to retire and live out my days in ease and self-service, you may well ruin your soul in your latter days.  The aged Apostle could humbly but confidently say:  “…the time for my departure has come I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…” (2 Tim 4:7).  We should aspire to live well for Jesus until our very last breath, and trust God to give us grace to do so.  We should believe that God will save the “best wine” for the end of our lives!

 

 

Conclusion:


May the Lord Jesus give us all grace to run well, and to finish well.  He is sure and faithful; He will give us all the grace we need to live faithfully until we see His face, and fall into His embrace.

 

“May the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word…

To Him who is able to keep you from falling and present you before His glorious presence faultless and with great joy – to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord before all ages, now and forevermore. Amen!”

(2 Thessalonians 2:16; Jude 24)

Pastoral Letter 159

JOHN GILLESPIE

 

 Printable version: pastoral letter 159

Jesus Christ is the Best!  He is our Best

 

Brother

Prophet

Priest

Promise

Purifier

Pastor

 

 

The Book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers in the second half of the First Century.  As you read it, you get the drift that these believers were losing their zest for Christ, and beginning to think longingly of their old Jewish ways.

 

One can almost imagine their Jewish grandmother coming for a visit and lamenting their absence from the Temple:  “Don’t you miss the wonders of the Temple?  The sacrifices you can see and smell? The feeling you get just being in a place so grand?  And the priest! His robes? His presence? His grandeur?  You have no such things in this ‘church’ you now attend! Where is your temple? Where is the sacrifice?  Where is the incense?  Where is your priest?

We are all so worried about you!

 

Indeed, in the book of Hebrews, faith is all about the unseen  and the  future.  In Hebrews, it is unbelief that is caught up in the here and now and insists upon seeing and touching.

 

Now, our Jewish brother is going to have to tell his grandmother right out that he has a priest, a wonderful priest, the Best Priest, but that his Priest is unseen.

 

Jesus is the Christian’s Priest.  We cannot see Him now.  We have heard of Him, and we have received Him by faith. As our Priest, He:

 

Has done something

Is doing something

Will do something

 

Now, this may not be good enough for some, certainly not for our Jewish grandmother! But it is the way of faith.  It is the Christian way.  The book of Hebrews presents Jesus Christ as the Best Priest, and our souls will be greatly enriched to explore Him in this regard.  Remember!  The health of our soul is determined by that which we love the most, so, may this exploration serve to enhance yet more our love for Jesus!

 

A Priest is a spiritual “bridge builder”.  He is one who stands for another in order to mediate his cause.  He is one who takes care of another’s relationship with God.

 

Now nobody does these things like Jesus does!

 

Take a few minutes and read Hebrews 4:14- 5:14

 

We are moving into the very heart of Hebrews now.   Discovering Jesus Christ as Our High Priest, understanding just what this means to us as His People, is revolutionary.  Our passage will reveal great Truths about Jesus as our High Priest, all to bring us great encouragement.  Once again we encounter this word “therefore”.  Whenever we see this word it always refers backward to what has just been written and then forward to application.  The immediate preceding verses are full of warnings!  “Let us fear…”; “Be diligent…”; “Do not harden your hearts…”.  What are we do in light of such warnings?  Where do we go for help?  Our passage points us to our Priest!  It warns us then it encourages us to look to Jesus.

 

Jesus is our Victorious Priest

 

The first thing we discover about our High Priest is that he is our Victorious High Priest.

Verse 4:14 tells us that Jesus Christ has “gone through the heavens”.  Unlike all other priests, this Priest is crucified, risen , and ascended in heaven!  Now He is at “the right hand of Power on High”. He is “exalted to the highest place and given a name that is above every name.”  He has “sat down at the right hand of Majesty on High”.

 

So, here we have:

 

A Superior Priest in a Superior Place!

Our Best Brother is in the Highest Position!

 

Peter Lewis writes:

 

There is a human being on the throne of the universe!  Go to the heart of the created universe, and you will find a man!  Go to the place where angels bow…and you will find a man!  Go to the very centre of the manifest Glory of the Invisible God, and you will find a man.  True human nature, one of our own race, mediating the Glory of God.

 

Jesus is our Compassionate Priest

 

Next, we see that He is our Compassionate High Priest.  God required that every High Priest be able to “deal compassionately with those who are ignorant and going astray” (5:2).

 

Just look at Jesus. He:

 

  • Was “tempted in every way, yet without sin.” (4:15)
  • Was “subject to human weakness.” (5:2)
  • “Offered prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears” (5:7)
  • “Learned obedience through what He suffered.” (5:8)

 

Therefore, because of Jesus being our compassionate High Priest, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (4:16)

 

The old Temple was all about barriers.  The Gospel is all about access.!

 

Take some time and consider this.  Think about it.  Ask the Lord to plant this wonderful Truth about Jesus Christ deeply into your spirit.

 

Jesus is our Appointed Priest

 

Then, we discover that Jesus is God the Father’s Appointed  Priest.  He is the One  God wants us to have!  The world is full of “priests”. Every religion seems to have multitudes of them.  Jesus is the Father’s choice for us!

 

He is:

 

“Called by God“(5:4)

God the Father says of Him:

 

“You are my son” (5:5)

 

You simply cannot do better than agreeing with God that Jesus Christ, God’s appointed Priest, is the One for you!  God declared Jesus to be His chosen Priest for us by raising Him from the dead (5:5).  This was true of no other priest, ever, and will never be true of any other priest, pope, or pastor (I’m sticking with Jesus!)

 

Jesus is an Eternal Priest

 

Further, this appointed priest is a Priest Forever.  “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”  (5:6)  We will look at Melchizedek in depth later, but for now, just consider the following about him, that relates to Jesus, our Priest:

 

He was:

 

*A King of Righteousness

*A King and a Priest

*A Priest before Levi and his company of priests

*Timeless in ministry and power

*Installed by God’s oath

*Blessed by Abraham

 

If Jesus is a Priest forever, let me ask you, “How long is forever?”  The Book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation for those who obey Him.” (5:10)

 

Well, who takes care of your soul?  Who is the guardian of your salvation?  Who is the bridge builder between your sinful self and our Holy God?  Who secures your relationship with God?

 

Entrust your whole self to Jesus Christ and He will be a faithful High Priest over you…Forever.

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter 158

JOHN GILLESPIE

 Printable version: pastoral letter 158

Beloved,

 

To treasure Christ supremely is to be truly rich in the soul.  To treasure Christ above all else is true health and wealth.

 

There is no need greater than that of a deeper and fuller experience of Jesus Christ.  A knowledge of Christ which is both intellectual and felt is the greatest need that you and I have.

 

The letter to the Hebrews presents Jesus Christ as the Best.  He is the Best in every category that counts for the soul.  There is none who surpasses the Lord Jesus.  He is our best:

 

Brother

Prophet

Priest

Promise

Purifier

Pastor

 

Remember what we are learning, that great lesson that the godly Henry Scougal taught us:  The health of the soul is determined by the value of that which it loves the most.  Take some time and read Hebrews 3:1-6.     The passage begins with that telling word “therefore”, meaning, “in light of what we have just discovered about Jesus”.  We have just discovered that the Lord Jesus is our Brother, our Best Brother, our Victorious Brother, the Conqueror of sin, Satan and death.

 

Now these Hebrew Christians are being encouraged to hold their nerve as believers, to fix their thoughts, to not blink in the face of trials. Their old Jewish ways are beckoning them to fixate on the seen and present, they are being encouraged to persevere in faith in the Invisible and Future.

 

In Hebrew 3, Jesus is being presented as One better than Moses.  It is hard for us to imagine just what Moses meant (and means) to serious Jews.  He was their best prophet.  There was none like him.  Moses:

 

Was called God’s friend

Saw God and spoke with Him

Delivered Israel from Egypt

Gave Israel their Law

 

He was their Hero! There was no rival as their #1 prophet.

 

How could anyone be better than Him?  Could Jesus Christ, a lowly, crucified Nazarene, be better than Israel’s Moses?

 

These Hebrew believers, “brothers”, who “share in a heavenly calling” are being summoned to “fix their thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest” whom they, and we, confess (v.1).  “Fix their thoughts on” literally means “to scan closely”, to “consider carefully”.  This brings to mind the command for us in Colossians 3 to “keep seeking things above” and to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things”.

 

Certainly “scanning”, being “fixed upon” Jesus Christ is vital to treasuring Him.  Perhaps as we “consider Him continually“, we will inevitably grow in our love for Him.  If this is so, let us now “scan” Jesus, daring to compare Him to Moses, discovering just how He is our Best Prophet.

 

In other words, let’s discover just how Jesus is greater than Moses, Israel’s best prophet,

 

The heart of the matter is that Jesus was faithful as a Son, where Moses was only faithful as a servant (vss 2-6). God the Father sent God the Son to:

Seek and save the lost

Bind up the broken hearted

Gather the poor, the blind, the lame

Save the lowly things of this world

 

To be sure, Moses was the greatest of all to the Jewish Nation (Numbers 12:7).  But Jesus is greater still!  Christ is the heir of all that is the Father’s…namely US:  “And we are His house”.  Just consider the difference in a servant and a son in terms of the care given for what is in their charge!  As faithful as a servant may be, a son, owns what is charged to Him.  More so, a son is bound by love to his father, and will therefore be faithful through a greater motive.  So, as God’s Son:

 

  • Jesus always does what He sees the Father doing
  • The Father, who loves the Son, has placed everything into His hands
  • Will lose none of all that the Father has given to Him, but will raise them up at the last day.

 

As wonderful as Moses was, he could not, and does not, do any of the above!  The clincher here is that the Son is faithful over the Father’s house (the Church) because He loves the Father in a way that a servant cannot.

 

He:

Stewards

Protects

Provides for

Nurtures

Disciplines…

the Father’s House.

 

He is:

 

Able to keep you from falling and present you before His glorious throne without fault and with great joy…

 

…Because He loves the Father

 

Now take some time and consider this.  Meditate on what Jesus’ love for His Father means to you as a child of grace.  Add all the prophets and great men and women of faith up and consider them next to Jesus.  He alone is faithful as God’s very Son.  He is the Best Prophet, because He is more than a prophet.  He is a Son.

 

Read the rest of Chapter 3.  There is a stern warning affixed to the declaration that Jesus is greater than Moses.

 

Remember, this great letter was written to early Hebrew Christians who were taking their eyes off of Christ and looking longingly back to their old ways.  So, they are reminded of just what happened to those ancient Jews who followed Moses, one so inferior to Christ…The warning is clear:  If they rebelled in the face of the lesser, what about us if we rebel in the face of the greater?

 

Those ancients:

 

Hardened their hearts (v7)

Rebelled (v8,16)

Tested God (v9)

Did not know God’s way (v10)

Disobeyed (v 18)

 

In short:  They proved themselves to be Unbelievers! (v19): Unbelievers in the face of so much blessing; unbelievers who had been miraculously delivered and preserved by God’s might and grace; unbelievers who, through Moses, had heard the very voice of God.  Their unbelief, which displayed itself in grumbling, thankless, hard hearts, disqualified them from entering the fullness for which God had delivered them (v19).

 

The message/warning to us, who have One far greater than Moses is:  “See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (v 12).  We are called to “encourage one another daily” (v 13), to prove our “share in Christ” by holding “firmly to the end the confidence we had at first”.

 

When a professed Christian departs from rejoicing in Christ and His Gospel, replacing rejoicing in the Truth of what he has heard and come to trust in with a murmuring, ungrateful spirit, he is in danger of proving that in fact he has no share in Christ.  When a professed follower of Christ looks back over his shoulder, and hearkens for the old days and old ways, he is leaving the way of faith, evidencing a “sinful, unbelieving heart”.

 

Brothers and sisters, we have the Best in Jesus!  He is not only our Best Brother, He is our Best Prophet.  He is faithful as a Son, over us.  We simply cannot do better than trusting in Jesus!  There is simply no better place to be than in God’s House (the Church of the Living God), and there cared for by none other than God’s Son.

 

Take time this week and consider your privilege and security as a follower of Jesus.  Refuse unbelief and rejoice in your salvation!

 

Yours,

 

John Gillespie

Pastoral letter 156

JOHN GILLESPIE

 Printable version: pastoral letter 156

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

The theme of Bible Week for this summer was to have been:

 

            Grace to Die For:  Treasuring Jesus Christ More Than Life

 

We all understand that we sadly had to cancel Bible Week this year (who knows what may happen in the future!).  But, I had already begun to work on the five messages relating to the glorious theme of treasuring Christ more than life itself.  What I want to do for these next five Pastoral Letters is present these five messages to you in letter form.  These together will bring my years of Pastoral Letters to a fitting close.  I trust that these five letters will be of particular blessing to you, and that they will encourage you to joyfully choose Christ everyday above all else.

 

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Treasuring Christ More Than Life: Jesus Christ, The One Who is Treasured

 

“Now unto you therefore who believe, He is precious”

(1 Peter 2:7)

 

Henry Scougal (1650 – 1678) was a Scottish pastor and theologian.  He lived a very short, but profoundly significant life.  He left the world with a book The Life of God in the Soul of Man, a work as brief as was his life, but one which has gone on to influence millions of believers across the centuries and across the world.  Indeed, the great George Whitefield said that he never really understood Christianity until he read that book.

 

The theme of the book can be summed up in one great sentence, which expresses one great idea:

 

The health of a soul is determined by the value of what it loves the most.

 

Just take a moment to consider that truth.  You have a soul.  It can be to one degree or another healthy or sickly.  Many have mortally ill souls.  Some have fit and healthy souls.  Scougal’s right on observation was that the determining factor here is the object of the soul’s affection.  If you supremely love base and low things, your soul will suffer.  If you supremely love noble things, your soul will be fit and well.

 

If you love that which is most precious and wonderful of all, then your soul will be truly well and full of life.

 

The most wonderful and precious “thing” that there is, is none other than Jesus Christ. If He is rightly the object of your affections, then you will prosper, right down to your inner-being, even unto Eternal Life.

 

Jesus alone is worthy of our highest thoughts, our greatest efforts, and our deepest love.

 

Why?

 

What is it about Jesus Christ that makes Him so wonderful and so worthy?  Why is it tragic to attempt to love anything in the place of Jesus?  Why should it be that Christians treasure Him supremely, even more than life itself?

 

Why is Jesus “Precious” unto those who believe?

 

It all has to do with two things:

 

1)  Who He is (His person)

 

2)  What He has done, is doing, and will do  (His work)

 

As for Who He Is, there is simply none like Him.  The Bible says of Jesus:

 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers, or authorities, all things were created by Him and for Him.  He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.  And He is the head of the body, the Church, He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.  (Colossians 1: 15-20)

 

Now, it is impossible to think of or imagine a greater being than the one just described.  Try to. Try as hard as you can.  You cannot.  Jesus Christ is superlative in every category.  He is God the Son, one with the Father and the Spirit; He is eternal, having no beginning or ending, the Creator and Sustainer and Redeemer of all.

 

The Apostle Paul, a man who was captivated and gripped by Christ, goes on to say of Him that in Him:

 

“…are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3)

 

Imagine that!  All learning, wisdom, science, discovery, beauty, intelligence, are somehow sourced in none other than the Carpenter from Nazareth!

 

Knowing Him is the very highest thing your mind can pursue.  Loving Him is the very highest affection your heart can have.

 

History has known many great men and women.  Some of them good, some of them wicked.  Line them all up.  Survey the great figures of history.  You will not find Jesus Christ among them.

 

He stands alone.  He is in a different category.  He is the Man who is God, the God who is Man.  He is the Lord of History, the Judge of all, and the Saviour of Sinners.

 

He is precious because of Who He is.

 

But, if that were not enough, He is yet more precious for What He has done, is doing, and will do.

 

This Eternal Creator God:

 

1) Became a Human Being.  He really did.  As Charles Wesley said, He “emptied Himself of all but love”.

 

“Though in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but He made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in human appearance as a man, He humbled Himself.”(Philippians 2: 6-8)

 

Jesus was God walking on earth.  He loved the loveless, rebuked the proud, cleansed the filthy, fed the hungry, touched the untouchable, healed the sick, rebuked the storms of nature, defied the devil, and raised the dead. He was Truth in human skin.

 

2) Died a sacrificial death as a perfect Substitute for the sins of the world.

 

“God made Him who knew no sin to be a sin-offering for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

 

“…and became obedient to death, even death on a cross,” (Philippians 2:8)

 

Wonder of Wonders!  Jesus Christ gave “His life as a ransom for many”.  Every religion on the earth grapples with the problem of sin and the human heart.  But it is Christ who came to bear sin, to offer Himself for sin, to deliver from sin, to pay for sin, to forgive sin.

 

3)  Rose again in a Glorified Body, thus conquering death itself.

 

“Therefore God exalted Him to the Highest Place….” (Philippians 2:9)

 

“…but God raise Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” (Acts 2:24)

 

The grave did not have the final say over Jesus, and it will not have the final say over those who trust in Him!.  “Vain the stone, the watch, the seal.”  People of every culture and time dread death.  But death has been roundly defeated in Jesus and His resurrection.  You can visit all the tombs of the great and powerful, the graves of the weak and small, but there is an empty tomb and a vacant grave where Jesus Christ is concerned.

 

4)  Ascended into Heaven and grants forgiveness of sin and Life Eternal to all who trust in Him.  He owns all authority in the entire Universe.

 

“All authority in heaven and in earth has been given to me…”  (Matthew 28:18)

 

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)

 

Jesus Christ will hear you when you pray.  He lives today and is our way to the Father.  The work He did once on the Cross, still speaks a word on our behalf before the very Throne of God.  The way to the Father, to Heaven, to Life, is open for all who will come to Christ.

 

5)  Is the final Judge of all men, and is King of King and Lord of Lords.

 

“For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man [Jesus Christ] whom he has appointed.” (Acts 17: 31)

 

All Creation has a date set…an appointment…with Jesus Christ.  All will appear before His Judgment seat.  There is no avoiding Him.  He will sort out the tangles of history.  He will make sense of it all.  He will reign in justice and power.  He will save those who tremble and believe, and punish those who refuse.  Amazing Jesus Christ!

 

6)  Is the Theme of Heaven and, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the praise of all Redeemed Creation forever.

 

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the Glory of God gives it light, and Lamb is its lamp.” (Revelation 21:21)

 

Will you be bored in Heaven?  Not if Christ is your Treasure, for He is the very theme and focus of Eternity.  He wants all that the Father has given Him to be with Him and to behold His unfathomable Glory.

 

Well, who can compare with this matchless Jesus Christ?  Those who have treasured Him supremely have, with healthy souls, lived to transform nations, families, homes, cultures.  They have righted wrongs and turned what is upside-down right way up.  They have loved the loveless and lived lives of significance and purpose.

 

May the Lord Jesus Himself be the delight of our souls, the chief aim of our affections, the “Pearl of Great Price”, precious beyond all else to us.

 

Yours,

 

John Gillespie

Pastoral letter 157

JOHN GILLESPIE

“He had to be made like His brothers in every way”

Hebrews 2:17

 Printable version: pastoral letter 157

 

Over these next six weeks, we will be discovering just why Jesus is to be treasured above all else, even above life itself.

 

Our exploration will take us through the Letter to the Hebrews.  This letter was written to Jews who had come to believe in Jesus.  In encouraging these Hebrew believers to remain faithful followers of Jesus Christ, Jesus is presented as the One who is better than all the best their old Jewish faith had to offer.  In Hebrews we see Jesus Christ as our Best:

  • Brother
  • Prophet
  • Priest
  • Promise
  • Purifier
  • Pastor

There is so much more to Jesus Christ yet to discover!  The Bible presents our Lord Jesus in so many facets, so many images, so many dimensions.  The letter to the Hebrews is deeply rich and multi-faceted in its offering to us of Jesus Christ.  As we explore this treasure-trove of Truth let us grow in treasuring Christ supremely.

JESUS, OUR BEST BROTHER

We will do well to remember that the very health of our soul is determined by the value of that which we love the most.  To see Christ with ever-increasing clarity and fullness is to invite one’s soul to love Him with ever-increasing abandon and joy, growing in ever-increasing health.

 

Now, imagine with me that you are a Jewish person who has come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and as your Lord and Saviour.  In turning to Christ, you have turned away from the Temple, the Priest, and the Sacrifice, all of which you can see, smell, and touch right now, receiving instead a Faith that deals in the unseen, the heard of, and the future.  You have left a sense-based religion for a faith-based relationship.

 

You have joined a new family, and Jesus, the Lord Jesus, is now your Brother, your best Brother.

 

Take some time to read Hebrews 2.  You will there discover four wonderful Truths about Jesus, our Brother.

 

First, Jesus Christ is not just our Brother, not even just our best brother.  He is our Perfect Brother.

 

Hebrews 2:6-8 speak of the nobility of mankind:  “made a little lower than the angels…crowned with glory and honour…everything under his feet…”  But there is a problem here!  Right now we do not “see everything subject to” mankind.  Rather, we see emotions, wills, homes, nations, bodies, marriages, far from subject to mankind, at least not so in any glorious sense!

 

What do we do?  Where do we go?  Is there any human being that we can look to in confidence?  Is there anyone to “champion” the human family?  Is there anyone without a skeleton in their closet?

 

Yes there is!  Our Brother, Jesus Christ:  “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels [who became our brother] now crowned with glory and honour” (v.9).  We dare not, we cannot, build our hopes upon each other, but we certainly can do so upon our Perfect Brother, Jesus Christ.

 

Broken people, failed and frail creatures of dust, need to see their Perfect Brother crowned with glory and honour and find their hope and victory in Him.

 

Next, He is our Proud Brother. He is not only “not ashamed” to own us as His brothers and sisters, (v 11), he is happy to boast of us, owning us as His own before the very throne of His Father (vv 12-13).

 

He confidently leads us to right to Heaven itself. It is He who will bring “many sons to glory” (v 10).  Indeed, God saw fit to use Jesus’ suffering to provide for us a perfect, complete, saving Brother for us.

 

Jesus Christ, our Best Brother, is both the holy One and the One who makes us holy (v.11).  We are “of the same family” with Jesus.  And as such, “Jesus is not ashamed to call [us] brothers.”

 

What infinite and unimaginable condescension!  Jesus comes down so that He can lead His brothers and sisters up…all the way to glory. He actually wants those whom His Father has given Him to be with Him where He is and to behold His glory! (John 17:24)

 

Because He has redeemed us at immeasurable cost to Himself, He is actually proud of us as His brothers and sisters.  We are His boast!  “Here I am and the children God has given me” (v 13).

 

But there is more to learn of our Brother Jesus!  He is our Victorious Brother. This Brother defeats our enemy for us. Look at verses 14-16.  Our Big Brother, Jesus, has dealt with that “evil trinity” of Sin, Satan, and Death on our behalf.  He handled the bully and sent him on his bike!

 

The Bible is clear that in sharing our humanity, Jesus has even shared in our death, that “by His death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil”.  Jesus, our Best Brother, took it on the chin for us, and then floored the devil for us!

 

We no longer need be afraid of death, held in bondage to it by the fear of it.  Death has been destroyed by death, as John Owen rightly noted in the title of his book, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

 

What a Brother!

 

But there is a fourth great Truth regarding this our Best Brother.

 

He is our Priestly Brother.  Jesus Christ represents us in Heaven.  Read verses 16-18.  Indeed, it is not what you know but who you know that counts!  This Jesus was “made like His brothers in every way” (ponder that), which has enabled Him:

1) to be a “merciful and faithful High Priest” representing us to God,

2) “make atonement for the sins of the people” (that means us!), and

3) “help those who are tempted”, because He Himself has  suffered temptation.

 

Imagine this:  God’s Son is our Advocate before His, and our, Father.  He is our Barrister before a Holy and all wise Judge.  And it is He Himself who has already satisfied the requirements of that Judge, His Father, with His own sacrifice of Himself on the Cross.

 

Our Perfect, Proud, Victorious Brother, is our Priest before the very throne of God the Father.

 

Take time and consider this Wonderful Jesus.  Call Him, the very Lord of all, your Brother, your Perfect, Proud, Victorious, Priest Brother!

 

Treasure Him in this way this week.

 

Your Brother and His,

 

John Gillespie