Christ Our Priest | 1 Peter 2:3-4
Brian Hedges | September 2, 2018
Well, this morning we’re continuing in our series on the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We’ve been looking at the priesthood of Christ the last several weeks. I’ve mentioned several times that I’ve been greatly helped by the 17th-century congregationalist William Bridge, who preached four sermons on the priesthood of Christ, and he outlined the sermons in this way: he said there were four duties of a priest. A priest offered sacrifices to God, a priest prayed for the people, the priest presented the people’s gifts to God, and then he pronounced blessing on the people. Today we’re looking at the third of those things, that the priest presented the people’s gifts to God.
One of the striking illustrations that William Bridge used of this was the illustration of the philosopher’s stone. How many of you have ever heard of the philosopher’s stone? A few of you probably have, if you’ve read the Harry Potter novels, because the very first Harry Potter novel in England was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; it was changed to The Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S. edition.
The philosopher’s stone reaches back into ancient Greece and then into the medieval period. The philosopher’s stone was something that philosophers and scientists were searching for. It had to do with alchemy, so, the transformation of base metals into valuable metals. So, to transform iron into gold, or something like that.
William Bridge says that the priesthood of Christ, in offering our gifts to God, is the philosopher’s stone; it’s that which changes all of our gifts, all of our duties, all of our prayers, everything we bring to God, Christ turns it into gold. I think that’s a very striking illustration for what Christ does on our behalf in bringing us into the presence of God.
So this morning, this is kind of a topical sermon more than an expositional, but we’re going to look at this aspect of Christ’s priestly work, and I want us to notice three things. I want us to see, first of all, his priestly work in offering our gifts, to just state what this is and help you see that in the text. Then I want us to think about the priestly gifts and sacrifices that we offer to God, alright? Christ makes those gifts acceptable, but I want us to see what those gifts are. And then, finally, how it is that he makes those gifts and sacrifices acceptable to God.
We’re going to be in several different passages of Scripture this morning, both in Hebrews and in 1 Peter, and a few others as well, but let’s just work through these three points together.
I. Christ’s Priestly Work in Offering Our Gifts
So, first of all, I want you to notice Christ’s priestly work in offering our gifts. I want you to see this in two places in the book of Hebrews; first of all, in Hebrews chapter 5. It says, “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.”
Alright, so notice there that a priest offers two things: he offers gifts and sacrifices. We’ve already talked about how Christ offers this sacrifice, that Christ is the one who sacrificed himself on our behalf; he did that in order to bring us into the presence of God, to give us access into God’s presence. But the author here also says that a priest would offer gifts to God.
You see the same thing in Hebrews 8:3: “For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices. Thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.”
So, this is really drawn from the Old Testament, so the view of priesthood in the Old Testament, where a priest offered, really, all different kinds of sacrifices on behalf of the people. There were sacrifices that we offered daily as well as sacrifices that were offered yearly. We think, for example, of that great yearly sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, where the high priest would offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people, he would go into the Most Holy place, the holiest of all; he would sprinkle blood on the mercy seat; and that would be done once a year for the atonement of the sins of God’s people.
But, the priests also offered daily sacrifices, and not only that, but the priests would burn incense to God. In fact, William Bridge draws this out, I think, very beautifully. Did you know that there were actually two altars in the tabernacle? There were two altars in the tabernacle. In fact, you can see a diagram of the tabernacle here. One of the altars was the brazen altar, okay? The brazen altar was in the outer courts of the tabernacle, it was made of bronze; and this is the altar on which the sacrifices were made. So, an animal sacrifice would be burned on this brazen altar, and every day there would be a burnt sacrifice; morning and evening, a burnt sacrifice, a burnt offering, and this would be offered to atone for the people. This was happening every day, in the morning and in the evening.
But also there was an altar of incense. This was a golden altar, the golden altar of incense. It was past just the first veil, not in the Holy of Holies, but past the first veil, and on that altar incense would be burned, and that incense was burned continually.
The picture here is that as the incense was being burned by the priest, this incense is going up to God as a sweet-smelling aroma, that at the same time the people would be praying to God. You get an example of this, actually, in the New Testament, in Luke 1:8-10, where Zechariah, who is a priest and he’s the father of John the Baptist - this is almost incidental to the story, but it illustrates his point - Zechariah is a priest who served in offering this incense to God. Look at what the text says.
It says, “Now while he was serving as priest before God, when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” And then notice this in verse 10: “And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.”
In fact, there’s a prayer in the Old Testament, Psalm 141:2, that says, “Let my prayer like incense come up to you, Lord.” So here’s the picture: the prayers are being offered up to God, and at the same this incense, this sweet-smelling aroma, is being offered up to God, and the incense, the aroma, makes these prayers sweet-smelling, right? It gives an aroma, a fragrance to the prayers, so that God receives them.
So here’s the picture: the picture is that Christ is not only the high priest who offers himself as a sacrifice for us, and he’s not only the high priest who intercedes for us, but he’s also the priest who offers this incense so that he fragrances our prayers and our duties and our sacrifices and everything that we bring to God, Christ is the one who makes these things acceptable to God, so that our prayers are being mingled with the incense, the aroma of his prayers. It’s a wonderful picture of what Christ does.
In fact, we could go a step further than this and we could just point out that in Scripture Christ is not only our high priest, but the Scripture says that Christ actually makes us priests, so that you and I are also priests to God.
So, here’s another text for you, Revelation 1:4-6: “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne...” That’s just a way of describing the Spirit of God in all of his fullness, because seven was the number of fullness and completion. And then verse 5, “...and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of kings of the earth; to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
It’s not only that Christ is priest, but Christ through his priestly sacrifice, he’s offered himself, he’s freed us from our sins by his blood; through his priestly sacrifice, Christ consecrates us, and he makes us priests to God as well.
John Newton put it well in one of his hymns. He says,
“Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood,
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God.”
So, this morning, you maybe have never been ordained in a church, maybe you’ve never held any kind of official capacity in a church, but here’s the truth that we have from Scripture: this morning, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a priest to God, and you’re a priest because of the priestly work of Jesus Christ. That means you have something to offer, and God wants you to offer something. You and I have something to bring and contribute.
II. The Priestly Gifts That We Offer to God
So that’s the second thing for us to look at this morning, the priestly gifts or sacrifices that we offer to God. Now, it may be that you attend church and you don’t feel like you have a whole lot to contribute, but I want you to know that you do. You have something to contribute, not only to the body of Christ, but you have something valuable to bring to God himself. I want us to just take a few minutes to survey the kinds of things in Scripture that we are said to bring to God, to offer to God, the kinds of sacrifices that we bring to God.
I want to ground it, first of all, in a passage in 1 Peter chapter 2. Look at 1 Peter 2:4-5. The apostle Peter writing says, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men, but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” Okay, so right there there’s a mixing of metaphors, right? We’re living stones being built up into a spiritual house; this is temple language. So Peter is saying that we are the new temple, being built up in Christ, and he says that we are a priesthood; but he also says that we have sacrifices to offer.
Look at verse 5: “You yourselves, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
So the question is, what are these spiritual sacrifices? He’s not talking about animal sacrifices, he’s not talking about something that we literally bring and lay on a physical altar; he’s talking about spiritual sacrifices. But what are they? What are these spiritual sacrifices? Let me just give you a few of these as we find them in Scripture. Many of these will be passages you’re familiar with, but maybe you’ve never thought of them in these terms before.
(1) So, first of all, we are to bring ourselves to God. We’re to offer ourselves to God. Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Paul says, in light of all the mercy of God that he has been expounding in Romans chapters 1 through 11 - in light of all that mercy, the only appropriate response is to bring ourselves to God - to offer our bodies, because you can’t offer yourself without offering your body; you are an embodied soul, you are a person who lives in a physical body. So you bring your bodies, you bring yourselves to God, and you offer yourself to God, not as a dead sacrifice, but as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Paul says, “this is your spiritual worship.”
Have you ever done that? Have you ever offered yourself to God? Have you ever just given yourself to God? Have you ever presented yourself to God?
This is something that we should have done (and if we became Christians we did) definitely when we came to Christ, and we essentially said, “Lord, I give you myself.” But you know, this is also something that we are to do daily. We are to offer ourselves to God.
This would be a wonderful discipline for you, a practice for you. This is pretty simple to do, it’s just a matter of developing this in your consciousness, that the moment that you begin to awake in the morning, before you even get out of bed, you just begin to pray to God, and you say, “Lord, I give you myself today. I give you my mind, I give you my body, I give you the members of my body, I give you my time. I want to surrender myself to you today, I want to devote myself to you today, I want to offer myself to you today, so that I can serve you, so that I can worship you,” and you consecrate yourself to the Lord. That comes first. Before you can offer anything else to God, you have to offer yourself. God wants you! He wants you before he wants anything that you can give him; he wants you. So offer yourself to God; that’s first. That is your spiritual worship. That’s one of your spiritual sacrifices.
(2) And then there are the prayers that we bring to God. Of course this is something that we offer to God as a sacrifice. I already mentioned Psalm 141:2, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before, the lifting of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Every time you pray, you pray in Jesus’s name, you are offering up a sacrifice to God.
You also get a picture of this in Revelation chapter 5. This is the great throne room scene in Revelation, where John hears one spoken of as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (remember this?), and then he looks on the throne and what he sees is not a lion, he sees a Lamb, a Lamb standing as though it had been slain. But then around the altar, around the throne, there are these 24 elders and these four living creatures falling down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp, and it says that they have these “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” There you have it again, this imagery of incense and prayers mingled together, the prayers of the saints being mediated up to God, being given to God as we pray and as we worship him. So, our prayers are part of our spiritual sacrifices.
You might ask yourself this morning, how is your prayer life? You might say, “Well, I don’t feel like my prayer life is really great.” One of the motivations for developing a prayer life is to recognize that your prayer is part of your worship of God, it’s part of your sacrifice to God, it’s part of what you give to God. Prayer is, of course, something that we do for ourselves, it’s something that we do for others. We make petitions and supplications and requests for the things that we need, and as we intercede for others; but, first and foremost, prayer is part of our relationship with God as we offer to him our thanksgiving and our prayer and our praise.
(3) That leads to another thing; that is, our praises, our praise and our worship. Hebrews 13:15: “Through him,” that is, through Christ, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his hame.”
Brother and sister, every time we gather together on a Sunday morning, we gather, we sing songs of worship, and we offer prayers to God. When we do that, we are not mainly gathering for our benefit; we are mainly gathering for the glory of God. Now of course, we want to benefit, and it’s right for us to want to benefit, it’s right for us to want to be fed and to be helped, and we are fed and helped when we come to the Lord in corporate worship. But our focus is not to be on how well we enjoy it; our focus is to be on the glory and the praise of God.
I saw a little meme that a pastor friend of mine put on Facebook the other day, and it said, “A congregant said, ‘I didn’t really enjoy worship this week.’” And the response was, “Well, that’s okay, we weren’t worshiping you. We were worshiping God.”
That is a good thing for us to remember. In our consumer mentality, it’s easy for us to be constantly critiquing the musicians or the preacher or the people who are stumbling over their words in a call to worship, like I did this morning. It’s easy to be constantly critiquing. Listen, we want a spirit of excellence, and we’re working hard all the time to try to make things better, but listen, our focus is not to pacify people, our focus is not to entertain people, our focus is not for us to enjoy it; our focus is and should be the glory of God, and that should be your focus as well, when you come on a Sunday morning.
Check your heart on Saturday night and on Sunday morning. Are you coming to worship the true and the living God? Is that your focus? Is that your heart? If it is, then whatever the deficiencies in the sermon or in the other part of the worship, if God is the focus you should be able to draw near to him and you benefit and God be praised.
(4) Here’s another one of our spiritual sacrifices. This is also Hebrews chapter 13, and it’s our generosity to other people. Hebrews 13:16: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
Did you know it pleases God, it honors God, when you give a gift to someone else? When you give a gift to help a missionary, that pleases God. When you give a gift to extend the gospel, the kingdom of Christ in the world, that pleases God. When you give a gift to help and person in poverty, a child who is hungry, that pleases God. Our gifts are sacrifices; giving out of what we have to minister to others is part of our worship. It’s one of the gifts that we offer to him. So we should give generously.
(5) Not only that, but even our faith, the very exercise of our faith is a gift, a sacrifice that we offer to God. In Philippians 2:17 Paul says, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”
You actually have two offerings in that verse. You have Paul describing himself as a drink offering. He’s writing from prison, he’s writing as an apostle who has given himself for the ministry of the gospel, he’s sacrificed himself in all kinds of ways for the ministry of the gospel. He says, “I’m being poured out like a drink offering.” But he’s being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrificial offering of the Philippians’ faith! Their faith is a sacrificial offering to God.
Every time you trust a promise, every time you believe the gospel, every time you look to Jesus, every time you lean not on your own understanding, but trust in the Lord and acknowledge him in all your paths; every time you do that, it is an offering to God, something you’re giving to him. You’re trusting him, and he receives even this outward look. When we’re looking to him, we’re asking him to do something for us. When we do that in trust and in faith, God receives glory through that.
Romans chapter 4 says “Abraham was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” It’s through your faith that you give glory to God. Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please” him. In fact, this is right at the foundation of our pleasing and acceptable worship of God. It all depends on faith and trusting him.
(6) Now, it may be this morning that you feel like you’re weak in faith. It may be this morning that you feel like you’re weak in all of these areas, that you’ve been slow to consecrate yourself and your body, the members of your body, to the Lord; that you’re lacking in prayer, that you’re half-hearted in worship, that your faith is weak, that you’re not a very generous person, that you fail in all kinds of ways; and you might think, “I don’t know that I have anything to God, that I’ve ever given anything pleasing and acceptable to God!”
Let me tell you one more thing you can give to God: you can give to God a broken heart. You can give to God a repentant, broken, contrite heart. Psalm 51:17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
If you have nothing else to give God this morning, offer up to God your brokenness. Offer up to God the weakness and the failure, the guilt. Mourn over it and just bring it to God and say, “God, I don’t have anything else this morning, but I bring you might broken heart, my contrite heart; please forgive me.” You know what? God receives it as a sweet-smelling sacrifice, as a gift that pleases him.
When you add all these together, it means a couple of things. It means this, first of all; it means that all of our lives can be offered to God. Our service, our prayer, our activities; everything that we do can be offered to God, and should be. And it means that not anything that we offer to God is ever wasted. Every prayer, every tear, every sigh, every groan, every small act of repentance, every small act of generosity; it all is valuable to God.
You remember how Jesus said that no one will even give a cup of cold water to one of the least of his disciples without receiving a reward. The least thing. The least thing! You may feel that you have a very small thing, only a very small thing to contribute to God. Give it! Give it! It’s valuable! God receives it. Nothing is wasted.
That means that for every person in a church there’s something to contribute. For every single person in the church there’s a way to help, not just to help the church, but there’s a way to do so in which you’re worshipping God, giving praise to his name.
III. How Christ Makes Our Gifts Acceptable to God
So, how then, thirdly, does Christ make these gifts and sacrifices acceptable to God? If we’re honest, we recognize that in the very best of our prayer and worship, the very best of it is still tainted with the flesh and with our sin. I think it was Isaac Watts who said,
“The best obedience of my hands
Dares not appear before thy throne,
But faith can answer thy demands
By pleading what my Lord has done.”
Even the very best we have to offer is tainted. So, how is it that our gifts and our sacrifices are acceptable to God? How does Christ make them acceptable?
Again, look at 1 Peter 2:4-5. “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” They are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
So how does that work? Let me give you three ways of thinking about this.
(1) First of all, our spiritual sacrifices to God are acceptable through Jesus Christ through Christ’s relationship with the Father. Notice how the text begins here in 1 Peter 2, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious…” What is Christ’s relationship with the Father? We’ve already seen in this series, and we all know that he’s the Son, he’s the beloved Son of the Father; but here he’s described as “chosen” and as “precious,” and he’s the living stone, the cornerstone, the foundational stone upon which all of our spiritual worship is built. This new temple that we are, these living stones, we’re being built up into a spiritual house for God, but it’s all on the foundation of Christ, the living stone, the cornerstone. This living stone is chosen and precious.
You want to know who it is in the universe who loves Jesus Christ more than anyone else? It’s God the Father. Nobody loves Jesus more than God the Father. The Father loves the Son, and when we come to the Father through the Son, he loves us for the sake of the Son. He loves himself as well; Jesus said that. He says, “The Father himself loves you.” But it’s a double love. He loves us because he loves us, and he loves us because we come in the Son whom he loves. The Son is chosen and precious, and when we come to the Father through the Son, God is well pleased.
Charles Wesley, again - I’ve quoted this hymn of Wesley’s to some degree in every one of these sermons - Wesley says,
“The Father hears him pray,
His dear, anointed one.
He cannot turn away
The presence of his Son.”
When we come to God and our prayers, our gifts, our sacrifices, our worship, and our praise is mingled with the aroma, the sweet-smelling fragrance of the sacrifice and the intercession and the prayers of Jesus Christ, then God receives it all for Jesus’s sake, because of the Son’s relationship with the Father.
(2) That anticipates the second thing, his sacrifice and his intercession, what we’ve looked at the last two weeks. His sacrifice is the basis of our relationship with God, his sacrifice atones for our sins, cleanses us from sin, presents us to God. You see this, if you just want to stick in the letter of 1 Peter, you see it in 1 Peter chapter 1. In verse 1 he addresses all of these people he’s writing to, “the elect exiles of the dispersion,” and then he describes them in gospel terms in verse 2.
He says they are elect, or chosen, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ.” Notice the Trinity there, Father, Spirit, and Son. “...for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.” We’re sprinkled with his blood! The sprinkling of the blood of Christ sanctifies us, cleanses us, consecrates us to God.
Again, Hebrews 10:19-22: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by,” what? “...the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened up for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Why? Because Christ is the atoning sacrifice, and because in his intercession he pleads the virtue, the power, the sufficiency of that sacrifice. He pleads it, and therefore we’re accepted. We’re accepted, first of all, in our persons, Christ sanctifying us, justifying us in our persons, so that, then, our gifts are also accepted to him.
Here’s the beautiful illustration that William Bridge used. He says to think of a little child who’s out in the meadow picking wildflowers for a parent, and this little child gathers together a bouquet of flowers, but mingled with the flowers are lots of weeds. But before this child presents the bouquet of weeds and flowers to her father, her mother comes along and picks out all the weeds, and then the bouquet is perfect.
That’s what Christ does. He pulls out all the weeds, so that when our gifts are presented to God, the weeds - our sins, our infirmities, our weaknesses, all that is pulled out, and only the perfect bouquet is presented to God.
Bridge says that just as Christ washed the dirt from the feet of his disciples that night of his betrayal, so Christ washes the dirty feet of our prayers. He washes it clean, so that it’s offered to God as an acceptable sacrifice.
John Newton, again, says,
“By him my prayers acceptance gain
Although by sin defiled.
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.”
Why? Because my prayers gain acceptance through him, through his sacrifice, through his intercession.
(3) And then, thirdly, our spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God through our union with Christ. You see it right here in the text, 1 Peter chapter 2. In verse 4 Christ is called a living stone, and then in verse 5, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.” Christ is the living stone, and when we are built up in him we are living stones. Christ, in verse 4, is called “chosen and precious,” but in 1 Peter chapter 1 we are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. How are we chosen? We are chosen in him. We are chosen in Christ.
If you think about this, in Scripture every description of the child of God is a description that is first made of Jesus. You remember when Jesus came out of the waters of baptism and a voice spoke from heaven - it only happened two times in the ministry of Jesus, that we know of, or maybe three times. A voice spoke from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” And again, on the mount of transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him!”
You know what happens to us when we are united to Christ? We are called the sons and the daughters of God, the children of God. We are sons in him. In fact, there’s a great little book on the doctrine of adoption; it’s called Sons in the Son. Christ is the first Son, he’s the firstborn son, and we are also the children of God. Christ is chosen, we are chosen.
Think about our justification. Right at the centerpiece of the gospel, our justification, which means that we are declared right in the sight of God, we’re in the right. In the eyes of the court, in the eyes of the divine judge, God looks at us, and even though we’re sinners he looks on us and we are counted as righteous in Jesus Christ. How is it that we are justified? Well, in 1 Timothy 3:16 we read that great is the mystery of godliness. God was manifested in the flesh, and then it says, “vindicated by the Spirit,” and the word “vindicated” is the same word for “justified.” He was justified in the Spirit.
When was Jesus justified? In his resurrection. The resurrection was the public vindication of the righteousness of Jesus, the public declaration that Jesus himself is right in the sight of God, and you and I are justified in his justification.
Not only that, we are sanctified in his sanctification. John 17, Jesus prays for the sanctification of his people, and he says, “For this cause I sanctify myself, that they might be sanctified.” We are accepted in his acceptance. Christ is accepted by the Father, and we (Ephesians 1:6) are accepted in the beloved. We are raised in his resurrection (Romans 6)! We are seated in his session at the right hand of God, Ephesians 2. Every description of the saint that is made in Scripture is a description of Jesus that is transferred to us! The reason why your spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God is because you’re united to Christ.
If I could just use one of the great illustrations from the Reformer Martin Luther, in his little book The Freedom of the Christian he said we’re like these poor peasant girls, not a penny to our name; but then we marry a great prince, and as soon as we marry the great prince the marriage bond, the marriage union makes us rich with his riches. That’s exactly what’s happened to us. We were penniless, we were paupers, we had nothing to our name, in fact, we were in great debt, but we are now married to the King of the universe, and we are now rich with his riches. Everything that is his now belongs to us, and therefore we have acceptance with God.
Listen to how Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it. “Everywhere throughout Scripture the connection between the saints and their head is perpetually mentioned. In Christ is the very symbol of New Testament writers. Coming unto him as a foundation; we become a temple. Coming to him as the Holy One of Israel, we become a holy priesthood; and resting in his sacrifice, we also offer spiritual sacrifices. Coming close to him (for such is the force of the word), coming closer and closer, we grow up in all things unto him and become perfect in Christ Jesus. Realizing and consciously enjoying our vital union with him, we obtain promises, receive blessings, possess privileges, and exercise offices which can only be ours in union with our Lord.”
What an amazing privilege that is ours through Jesus Christ!
This means two things for us (this is my concluding application). It means two things for us. It means that we should be zealous in good works, full of zeal, energetic, working hard, and it means that we should be humble.
We should be zealous in good works because we have the confidence that everything we do in Jesus’s name is acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Listen, church: we need to be working hard for the kingdom of God. We need to be praying hard for the kingdom of God. We need to be serving, we need to be giving; we need to be doing it sacrificially, with all of the energy that the Spirit of God inspires within us. Work hard for the kingdom! Tire yourself out for the glory of God, because God receives it as a spiritual sacrifice. For the glory of God, work hard for Jesus Christ.
I want to encourage you to do that. I’m so thankful for so many of you who are tirelessly pouring yourself out in ministry in this small church. I’m so thankful for that. Brothers and sisters, I want to see us at a 110 per cent, everybody giving everything they can for the glory of God! Do it for Jesus’s sake, because God receives it, it glorifies him, it honors him. Be zealous for good works. Christ redeemed you for that! He poured out his blood for you so that you would be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14)! He purchased you for this purpose, so that you would have something valuable to give to God.
Are you doing that? Are you living for the glory of God? Are you giving yourself for the glory of God? Are you serving in ministry for the glory of God? If not, you are living at cross purposes with the death of Jesus Christ. He bled so that you could live for Jesus.
But do that without the least ounce of pride. Do it with great humility, because the only way your service is acceptable to God is through Jesus Christ. I’ll tell you what: that will set you free to be able to serve without an ego at stake.
So, the focus is not so much, “I have this talent; how can I use my talent? How can I be recognized? How can I be fulfilled in the way I serve my church?” That’s not the focus! The focus isn’t how are you going to be fulfilled in serving the church; the focus is, how is God going to be glorified in your service that you have the privilege to offer through Jesus Christ?
It just produces humility, where you’re able to give and to give freely and give without needing someone to scratch some itch of approval, without having to be patted on the back, without having to be coaxed, without having to be appreciated by what people do. Because you know what? Somebody’s going to fail. I’m going to fail. I’m not going to thank every single person I should thank; I’m not always going to do that. I want to be grateful and try to be grateful, try to express that, that’s our heart; but people are going to disappoint you. You can’t do it for people, and you can’t do it for the sake of pride; you do it for the sake of Jesus, and you do it with humility, because it is a blood-bought privilege.
That’s the balance that we get. We get the balance of zeal for good works. Nobody’s more zealous for good works than someone who recognizes that all of their service is purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and no one is more humble in all the good works that they do than someone who recognizes that all their service is a privilege purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, do you recognize the great privilege that you have through Christ the priest? That privilege is not only the privilege of your sins forgiven through his sacrifice, it’s not only the privilege of an advocate at the right hand of God interceding for you, it is the privilege of you yourself being a priest to God, that you have direct access to God through Jesus Christ, that you yourself have something to offer, something to give, a way to serve.
Let me just say this morning that if this morning you’ve never given God anything, you’ve lived your whole life for yourself and not for him and not for others, you’ve never given God anything; the first thing to give him this morning is your faith, is your trust. So, if you don’t know Jesus Christ in a personal, saving way this morning, right now would you look to him, would you get out of the self-salvation business, quit trying to earn anything, and instead acknowledge that you’re a poor, bankrupt sinner, that your only hope is in God’s sovereign, saving mercy. Put your faith in Jesus Christ. Trust in him. God will receive your faith and he will receive you for Jesus’s sake.
Our gracious Father, we thank you for the blood-bought privilege we have of being in a relationship with you and in a relationship with you which is dignified, made holy, by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, so that our gifts - our prayers, our praise, our worship, our very selves - we can bring them to you with full confidence that we will be accepted. Father, this is an amazing thing, and we thank you for this grace, we thank you for this love. We pray that you would impress it deeply into our hearts, seal it to our hearts, that you would make this stick in our minds, and that we would be changed through consideration of what Christ our priest has done for us.
Father, as we come to the table this morning, we pray that this would be more than going through motions, that it would be more than the rote observance of a ritual meal, but instead we would in our hearts bend ourselves towards you to give all that we are and to receive all that you give to us through Jesus Christ.
As we take these elements, the bread and the juice, may we remember that Christ is the living bread who gave himself for the life of the world, that it is in feeding on Christ himself that we are nourished, that we are strengthened, that we are saved. So, help us this morning to come in faith to the table so that we not only take the bread and take the juice with our physical bodies, but that we take Jesus Christ himself in our heart of hearts. Oh Lord, bend our hearts towards you, incline our hearts towards you, and meet with us as we continue in worship. We pray it in Jesus’s name and for his sake, Amen.