Devotional and Theological Thoughts on Leviticus

February 18, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Theology | Leave a comment

I finished reading through Leviticus last week.  So many Christians struggle unexcitingly through this OT book, and many well-intended Bible readers get bogged down in it.  Here are some thoughts I jotted down this time through:

            First, Sin is sin – whether intentional or unintentional.  There are numerous instances in Leviticus where sacrifice is required for sins that are unintentional (4:27 and 5:15 for example).  That means we can sin in ways we don’t even know.  I remember, when we were in college ministry, hearing a talk from a person who believed a perfectionist theology – that we actually come to a point in our spiritual growth where we no longer sin.  He defined sin as only those things we intentionally do against God knowing they are wrong.  I struggled with these ideas at the time, but an interesting event convinced me how wrong this teaching is.  I had a job on game days that took me under the grandstands of the college football field before each game.  While walking down there, and pondering this matter, I came around a corner and saw a shapely cheerleader from behind, at that moment she bent over to tie her shoe, not knowing I was behind her, and revealed way too much of her attractive anatomy.  My mind immediately went every direction it should not have gone.  But it occurred to me, in that instant, that my lustful thoughts, though certainly not intentional, were very much sinful.  We all sin way more than we want to admit; sin affects every part of our being; and though we don’t choose it, it’s still always there; in this life we will never grow totally out of it.  That’s what the Reformers called total depravity.  It is, contrary to the perfectionist preachers, what the Bible clearly teaches.  Perfectionism would imply we can do it at least partly on our own, but Leviticus convinces us of our constant need for a savior.

            Second, we don’t have to do all these requirements to receive forgiveness of sins!  Aren’t you glad!  Every time wrong is done, a sacrifice is required, and the laws about what gets burned, or tossed out, or given to the priests, or eaten are very complicated.  Not only that, but those sacrifices are only good until the next time the person sins, which, in light of observation number one above, is not very long.  So they had to keep offering sacrifices year after year.  In Christ, we are forgiven, once and for all.  His sacrifice is effective for all time, thus I am forgiven of past and future sins!  Hebrews 9 and 10 give a great teaching on this matter:  “Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.  Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.  But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (9:24-26)  “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, . . . because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (10:11-14)

            Third, Leviticus is about a God who is holy, and who wants his people to know him and be holy like he is.  It is not all about clean/unclean or right/wrong.  Next time you read this book, note how often God says, “I am the LORD,” or “I am the LORD your God.”  Though you’ll find them throughout the book, these expressions are especially thick in chapters 18-22.  Chapter 19 alone has 16 instances of these two phrases and also contains what I believe is the major theme verse of the book: “The LORD said to Moses, Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”’” (19:1-2;  see also 11:44-45, 20:7, 21:8, 22:32, etc.).  Hey guess what?  It’s all about God!

Jesus and BMW

February 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Theology | Leave a comment

            We have continued to read Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts for our family devotions, though not as often as I would like.  Below is a passage we read the other day that deserves mention.

       Imagine for a moment that someone, say, an older brother of yours, was shopping for a new car.  He went to a BMW car dealership and asked to test drive a beautiful, shiny, brand-new sports car.  The dealer handed him the keys, and he drove off.  Now, you need to know that for the past several days it had rained buckets in your area, and your brother decided to drive this shiny new car out on the dirt roads in the country.  Well, as you could imagine, the roads were muddy as could be, and your brother drove this car wildly, turning and sliding every which way in the mud before he brought it back to the showroom floor.  When he drove it in, absolutely covered in mud, the dealer exclaimed, “What have you done to my car!”  But to this your brother calmly said, “O you needn’t worry.  I’ve not taken anything away from your car, I’ve only added to it.”  And, of course, your brother was right.  Every quality of that car was still there.  It still had its beautiful coat of paint and luster; nothing had been removed from what was there before.  Rather something had been added to it – a thick coat of mud!  But notice what this mud did.  It covered over that beautiful shine, so that, even though it was still there, you couldn’t see it.  (p.112)

            Ware uses this great illustration to demonstrate for young minds how Christ “emptied himself, taking on the form of a bondservant,” to be made in the likeness of man.  Though Jesus didn’t lose any of his divine qualities in his taking on the form of a servant, he voluntarily gave up the use of some of them.  They were masked by his servant hood, just as the car in the illustration was masked by the mud, yet he still was God with all the divine attributes.  A great word picture to explain a difficult idea!

The Higher Road

February 4, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Posted in God's Love, Marriage, Questions for Pastor Glenn | Leave a comment

Yesterday the local news radio had an interview with Ted Haggard’s wife Gayle about her recent book Why I Stayed.  I appreciate her perspective, which I believe is consistent with God’s best for marriage.  I try to tell couples that staying together, even in situations where divorce is allowed biblically, is the best route to take.  The following is a letter I wrote once to a man who was pondering leaving his non-believing wife.  Maybe God can use it to minister to others.  Here is a link to the radio  interview.

             I appreciate the phone call the other day, as I was hoping to talk with you.  Though I haven’t experienced what you described, I now have a greater appreciation for what you’ve gone through in your marriage.  I know it hasn’t been easy, but I have confidence that you will do the best thing.

            I want to share perspective that you will probably not hear from anybody else, but please consider carefully what I say.  I believe the decision you make will impact your wife and kids in spiritual ways you’ve never considered.  I won’t make promises to that end, nor will I tell you I have all the right answers, but I want you to see a biblical perspective on marriage and what I believe is the highest road.  Notice I didn’t say the right road, because, in these complicated relational matters, there could be more than one choice that isn’t necessarily sinful.

            It has often been said that one’s understanding of God is determined in large part by how that person was treated by his/her father.  You admitted that your wife’s trouble trusting God now is probably related to that issue.  So her best chance to see a loving God could rest with you.  If she feels abandoned by you, that could further color her distrust of God and push her farther away than she is now.  If your kids, though already older, see your leaving as abandonment, and they will regardless of what they tell you about it, they could have a life-long misconception of God just like your wife.  However, God does not abandon his people.  He loves us regardless of how much we hurt him and turn against him.  I’m sure that is not easy, but that is God:  He loved us by sending his Son for us, even when we were his enemies.

            So here’s my proposal, and the reason I find divorce, even in cases where scripture allows it, a lesser option.  This, I believe, is the highest road.  If you were to go to your wife, explain that you’ve decided not to leave, simply because God doesn’t leave us – rather tell her that you’ve committed to love her to the end, no matter how she responds, because that’s how God treats us – then you will have given to her, and to your kids, the best picture of God that anyone could ever have:  God as unconditional love.  That’s the God I know, the God I worship, the God who loves us.

            I won’t tell you God will make that road easy.  It will be anything but easy; it may be even more difficult than what you’ve already been through.  But I will tell you that, if you determine to go that route, God will give you the grace to get through it.  And that when you do, your family will have seen God in ways they never will if you choose another path.  I know you’ve always wanted your family to know and worship God as you do.  So ponder this carefully.

            Finally, understand that my writing this does not mean I will turn against you if you choose a path other than the one I present here, even if you choose a path I think is wrong – that would be the ultimate hypocrisy!  God will love you regardless of what path you choose, and I will make that effort as well.

Trusting only in God’s grace, Pastor Glenn.  Gloria in excelsis Deo!

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