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