Hebrews 12:2 NIV84 - Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week: the Week of our Lord’s Passion. The importance of the events of that first Sacred Week 2000 years ago is impossible to overstate. Christ entered Jerusalem amid the shouts of “Hosanna!”
What must it have been like for the Savior that day? As he listened to the shouts of celebration from those who would in a matter of days scream for his life to be taken, when the crowd became a mob; did he question the value of dying for such a people as this? When the cynics challenged him and the religious leaders tried to trap him by misusing the very Scriptures that He had breathed into existence, did he wonder if such arrogant ignorance should have the opportunity to be redeemed?
As the week unfolded and he washed the feet of the man who would betray him with a kiss, did he regret the investment of loving grace that he had expended on Judas? Or when everyone abandoned him but John, and Peter cursed forth his bitter denial, did the Lord feel that somehow the ministry of the Kingdom imparted to these Twelve was all for not, with only one disciple and a few women left to follow him to Golgotha’s Hill?
The Great Advocate stood in silence as the Sanhedrin railed against him. He refused to defend himself in Pilate’s Court, nor would he entertain Herod’s curiosity; but as a Lamb before his shearers, he was silent. He was silent when one word in his own defense would have triumphed over all his accusers and set himself free. Did he consider an open rebuke of the mockers, the destruction of the rebellious, or a quick escape from the trial?
No Beloved, for even as the overwhelming enormity of the task cascaded down upon Him, crushing the Man Christ Jesus in the agony of the Garden, he yielded to the purpose and the strength of His Father declaring, “your will be done!” For you see my precious brothers and sisters, this task belonged to Jesus, and He alone! No other one…no man…no woman…no angel…no one in Heaven or on Earth…NO ONE could take away the sins of the world. The was Jesus’ task ALONE! For a brief moment in history, once and for all time, EVERY SIN EVER COMMITTED OR TO BE COMMITTED WAS LAID UPON JESUS, and the weight of it was staggering. No wonder on that first Palm Sunday, when all the people were celebrating, our Lord Jesus wept.
Acts 4:12 NIV84 - Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible places a great deal of importance upon relationships of all kinds: Family, Friends, Neighbors, Colleagues, and of course, Humanity and God. The emphasis is so strong that while our salvation is personal, the Word of God compels us to recognize that we are part of a larger family: the Family of God…the Body of Christ…the Community of Faith.
Today, we recognize not only our participation within the Global community of the Christian Faith, but we also celebrate this unique, Local Community of Faith here on Coolidge Avenue: Christian Cathedral, the Patten Academy of Christian Education, and the Patten Educational Foundation. For over seventy years, it has been the privilege of the Patten Community of Faith to share in the ministry of the Lord Jesus in the heart of this city.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a “Community” is “a unified body of individuals.” As you probably are aware, the word is a merging of the words “common” and “unity.” It is the unifying of individuals within a common framework, body, or fellowship. More than just principles and values (as important as they are), we are unified by a common Savior. We have met Jesus, and He is the unifying Principle, the cherished Value, and the Lead Person we follow.
In our Lord's Prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed that The Father would bring us “…to complete unity.” Obviously, we can conclude that this is a deep desire of our Savior if the statement ended there, but it does not. Jesus had still another motivation for our unity. He continued His prayer by stating that our unity would “…let the world know that you [The Father] sent me [Jesus] and have loved them even as you have loved me.” The influence of the Church within the World is directly correlated to our willingness to walk in the Unity of the Spirit.
Loving someone who is lovable or liking someone who gets along with us is not a major accomplishment. Likewise, this is not something that is a testimony to the World, because even the Lost can do that. To love, however, the unlovable, the obnoxious, and the disagreeable is to love as Jesus loved and this is a testimony to the lost. This is the type of unconditional Love that marks a disciple of Jesus Christ.
John 13:34-35 NIV84 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Hebrews 13:15 NLT - Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.
The Writer of the Book of Hebrews points to Jesus as the Ultimate One. He is greater than Abraham and the Patriarchs, greater than Moses the Lawgiver, greater than Joshua the Warrior, or David the King, or Solomon the Wise, or one of the prophets. Christ is greater than the Priesthood of Aaron; He is greater than the most righteous of the saints, and greater than the most powerful of angels.
He is the Great mediatorial HIGH PRIEST and the SACRIFICE. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, who not only mediates the New Covenant, but also secured it with the shedding of His own blood. He sacrificed his life for us in order to draw Humanity near to the Father. Therefore, since Jesus offered all of the Sacrifices Himself: Sin, Atonement, Consecration, Sanctification, Devotion, Fellowship…everything, there remains only ONE Sacrifice left for us to offer: THE SACRIFICE OF PRAISE!
We cannot make atonement for our sins. We cannot bring ourselves into right standing with God. We cannot provide for our eternal life…only Jesus can, and only Jesus did! But what we can do is Worship and Praise His Holy Name and relish the Beauty of His Holiness. We can offer the SACRIFICE of PRAISE and recognize that as a “sacrifice,” it includes all the necessary components of Cost, Declaration, and Transformation.
“Through Jesus” the Writer Hebrews declares, not just, “to Jesus” or “for Jesus.” Oh no, Beloved, this Sacrifice requires the provision and Grace OF Jesus. It is too much for us to offer on our own, and to prevailing to simply be the words of mere mortals. We must have THE WORD flowing through our lives to offer this Sacrifice!
John 4:24 NIV- God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
We are called to praise the Lord at ALL times, and in the midst of ALL circumstances, not as an expression of our Religious Preference, but as a Prophetic Declaration of WHO Jesus is and what He has COMPLETED for us! This is not simply the expressions of the poet or the melodic chords of the Composer. It is the Prophetic Voice of the Almighty God crying out through His Broken, and yet faith-filled Child. It is the “deep” of God’s Heart penetrating the “deep” of this Vessel of Clay, and being professed back to the Throne of God, piercing the Darkness and DECLARING the Honor of Christ in this Age of Rebellion and Fear. In this sense, the Sacrifice of Praise is a uniquely prophetic utterance and declaration!
Without Faith, we cannot grow. The good news is that God has given a portion of faith to everyone (Romans 12:3): the ability to believe what we cannot see and to hope for what we do not currently possess.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV84 - Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
But faith is not something that operates in a vacuum or by itself. We do not have “faith in Faith” or exercise some spiritual version of “mind over matter.” Faith must have an Object of Focus. In other words, as Believers our actions are based upon our Belief in Jesus, and we have Confidence that He will honor the Promise of His Word.
The Apostle Paul talked about this core belief in a letter to the Christians at Thessalonica. He was addressing an issue which is one of the most, if not the most, challenging issue any of us face: the death of a Loved One. Paul wrote…
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NIV84 - Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
This is a great passage that gives us an abundant hope for eternity, but it is not hope in hope, faith in faith, or “pie in the sky” optimism. It is faith IN Jesus Christ: His Promise and His Power. This hope has transformed our lives, secured our eternity, and comforted our hearts!
Faith is a Decision…NOT an emotion. Faith is not the absence of doubt, any more than Courage is the absence of Fear. Focused upon the Christ, Faith for the Believer is a rational decision to not be ruled by doubt, but instead to be GOVERNED BY PROMISE.
Dr. Tobey Montgomery