Saturday, September 13, 2014

GGC Ministry Center on full-blast!

 Basement Parking
 Basement Parking
 View of the upper ground floor from Mangga Avenue
 Elevator Shaft
 Elevator Shaft and stairs
 Fire Exit
 Entrance leading to the Ministry Center
 Ramp leading to and from basement parking
Lower Ground Floor parking

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Right Man for the Job (Hebrews 2:5 - 18)

The Right Man for the Job
(Hebrews 2:5 – 18)

Introduction:

One of the biggest headaches a homeowner usually faces is the problem of termite infestation. We've encountered the same problem also in our home, not just once, but probably around 3 to 4 times already. Termites are very destructive. They consume things like wood, fabric or cloth, and paper products. When we had an infestation a few years back, we discovered it by accident when we were moving some stuff in one of our rooms when I noticed that a carton box was disintegrating and there we saw some termites eating the carton.

So, what should we do with these termites? Definitely, we shouldn't ignore them like nothing's wrong. If we choose to ignore them, it won't take long before every inch of wood in your house will be consumed and you'll be left with a house that will collapse at anytime. The other thing some people do is to attack the termites by spraying them with insecticide. Now, the termites that get sprayed will definitely die, but the termites that are hiding inside will sense the danger and will go elsewhere within the house to feed and destroy. So, it isn't wise to attack the termites by yourself. The best solution is actually to call up the pest control company and pay them to do the work. You see, the people who work in reputable pest control companies don't just go around spraying pesticide, they actually understand the behavior of common household pests such as the termite, and with that knowledge they know how to control infestation by using different kinds of chemical pesticides or by using baiting systems that will slowly poison the entire colony. We could say that the pest control people are the “right man for the job” when it comes to pest control.

Its not only in the issue of pest control that we look for the right man for the job. If we want to build a house, we look for people like architects and building contractors as well as licensed plumbers and electricians. If we are sick, we go to the doctor. If our tooth aches, we visit the dentist. If we want our garden to look really green and flourishing, we call a gardener to tend the garden. We all want the best person for the job we need done. I don't think you would want to entrust the building of your house to a dentist. You wouldn't want the doctor to be doing the electrical circuits in your house. You surely wouldn't think that the gardener would be capable of drawing an elaborate design of a house or perform root canal on your tooth. We all go to the person who is well-trained and who specializes in certain fields for our needs.

This morning, we continue to look into the Book of Hebrews, in particular, Hebrews 2:5 – 18. In this section of Scripture, we will understand why Jesus is the right man for the job. What exactly am I talking about? I am talking about Jesus Christ being the right man to be our Savior, our Great High Priest, and as our Restorer.

This morning's message is an important one because we are looking into and affirming the importance of Christ's humanity. You see, the humanity of Jesus Christ is crucial in at least three areas – our salvation, the restoration of our human dignity, and his being able to understand and empathize with us as our high priest. In our day and age, many people deny that Jesus is God. They think of him merely as a human being. The deity of Jesus is important because, according to Scripture, he is the creator and sustainer of the universe as well as the judge of all humanity. If Jesus were not God ,he cannot fulfill these roles since he would merely be a created being. During the time of Jesus, many did not believe in the deity of Jesus, because this was a blasphemous idea, especially for the Jews. However, some time after the resurrection and ascension, a group of so-called believers denied the humanity of Jesus. For them, to be human is to be sinful. They speculated that the supposed human life and death of Jesus was nothing more than a fantasy (sort of like the movie “Inception”).

However, the author of Hebrews makes clear that the humanity of Jesus Christ is very important. As I've mentioned a moment ago, Jesus is the right man to be our Savior, our Great High Priest, and our Restorer. We will use this as our outline and I will explain why I call him the right man for the job.

Jesus: The Right Man To Be Our Savior

First of all, Jesus Christ is the right man to be our Savior. According to Hebrews 2:10, he is described by the title “author of their salvation”. What this title means for the translators of the NIV is that Jesus Christ is the one who created and designed our salvation. In other translations of the Bible, the phrase from the original language is translated differently. In the latest revision of the NIV, the phrase was translated as the “pioneer of their salvation”, meaning, he is the pattern of the new life we are to trust and to follow. In the King James Version, He is called the “captain of their salvation”, meaning, he is the one who gives the orders and steers our life in the right direction. The various versions of the Bible have different takes on how they understood the phrase, but what is clear is this: Jesus created and designed our salvation. He patterned the new life for us to trust Him and to follow Him. He is the one who steers us in the right direction we are to take in order to be saved.

In describing Jesus as the author of our salvation, we read that he tasted death for everyone (v. 9). What this means is that Jesus took our place, bearing the penalty of sin upon himself and dying for us. He did this in order to destroy the enemy (v. 14) who holds sway over people with the power of death and to free us from the fear of death (v. 15). Satan is the one who induces people to choose sin and to fall under the penalty of death. He uses this power over us. When Jesus took our place, he gave fallen people like you and I the power to overcome death by first taking the penalty of sin upon himself, and then by defying death through resurrection. I don't know if you remember something Jesus said in Mark 3:23 – 29. Jesus here said that no one can enter the house of a strong man and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. In other words, there has to be someone stronger who can defeat the strong man. Jesus is the stronger one who has defeated the strong man who has held all of us hostage because of sin. All this is possible because Jesus came as a human being. At the same time, his being God ensured that he was sinless. Being a sinless human being meant that He would be the perfect or the right sacrifice for us. Hence, he was the right man for the job of saving us.

If Jesus were not a human being. How can he complete work of salvation? How can he be the perfect substitute for us on the cross? You see, for the Lord Jesus to be our Savior, he has to be a human being. If he were not a human being, he could never die. If he couldn't die, he couldn't take our place on the cross and defeat Satan. That is why Jesus is the right man for the job of salvation. He came as the perfect sacrifice who can take our place.

Jesus: The Right Man To Be Our Restorer

Secondly, Jesus is our restorer. Now, when I say “restorer”, I am referring to Him as being the restorer of our humanity. When God created the human race, his intention was for them to have dominion over the earth and to have fellowship with Him. Humanity was the apex of God's creation order and we were meant to reflect God's glory. Sadly, Adam and Eve, the first human beings on earth, sinned against God by disobeying Him. This marred the entire human race as all who were born afterwards were marred by sin and by the propensity to sin. We all fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23) and we all are separated from God because of our sins. Man was originally given a high position, just a little less than the angels, yet close to God's heart. Sin brought man down from his high position, from one who was intended to shine God's glory to one who insulted and mocked God. Instead of possessing a high position in God's kingdom, we became slaves to sin and slaves to the power of death. Instead of being a part of God's family, we have become part of the kingdom of evil.

Aside from our salvation, Jesus came in order to restore that which was lost, namely the high position of man as well as the original purpose of God for creating man. If you are familiar with the quotation mentioned in our passage, it is actually Psalm 8. This Psalm is used when talking about the high stature of man in God's order of Creation. The author of Hebrews used Psalm 8 not to talk about man in general but to refer to Jesus Christ himself, as the man who fulfilled God's original purpose for humanity of bringing glory to God.

Where Adam and Eve failed utterly, Jesus triumphed completely. When Adam and Eve were tempted, they were tempted in three areas – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. They thought of the forbidden fruit as being good for food (the lust of the flesh); they perceived of the fruit as being pleasant to their eyes (the lust of the eyes); and they desired for the knowledge of good and evil so that they can be like God (the pride of life). Yielding to the temptation, Adam and Eve ate the fruit and they fell into sin. Jesus, on the other hand, was presented with three different temptations but all three fall into the three areas of temptation. Satan suggested that Jesus turn the stone into bread in order to ease his hunger (the lust of the flesh), that he jump from the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels can rescue him and prove to all that he is the Son of God (the pride of life), and that he bow down to him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world which he showed to the Lord (the lust of the eyes). Jesus did not yield to the temptations of Satan but he battled Satan with God's Word and came out victorious. I am sure this was not the only episode in Jesus' life where he was tempted, but the important thing was that he triumphed over them all. In so doing, he was bringing glory to God as a human being, the original purpose that human beings were created for. Furthermore, according to some Bible scholars, he was representing humanity in those moments of temptation in order to restore back to humanity that which was lost – our high position before God and our original purpose of bringing God glory.

If Jesus Christ did not come at all in the flesh, there is no restoration work that can be done for humanity. We can never be brought back to God's original purpose as to why he created us. We would be forever be under the subjection of Satan. Thank God that Jesus came in human form in order to be our restorer! Thank God that He was the right man for the job.

Jesus: The Right Man To Be Our Great High Priest

Finally, Jesus is our Great High Priest. We find mention of this position in verse 17, where Jesus is described as our merciful and faithful high priest. For the Jewish believers, this was a familiar picture. They had been taught about the sacrificial system as recorded in Leviticus. They had visited Jerusalem and the temple during holy days. They probably even know someone who was a priest or even the high priest. The position of high priest during the time of the temple was a significant one. It was a great responsibility as the high priest was the only person who could enter into the Holy of Holies inside the temple once a year in order to offer the atonement sacrifice to God. The High Priest was the representative of the people when it came to approaching God. They were sort of the middleman between God and the people doing the work of intercession and offering the sacrifices that were intended to please the Lord.

The problem though was that the high priest in the Jewish faith was just a human being who had the same problem with sin as everyone else had. Before he could even offer sacrifices on behalf of the people, he had to offer a sacrifice for himself, for the cleansing of his own sins (see Hebrews 7:27). The sacrifices he offered were not effective as he had to keep doing this over and over again. The high priest was just as much a sinner as the other person. He could not claim to be holier than others for in the sight of God he was just as much a sinner. If the people were weak spiritually, the high priest was very much just like them. Furthermore, he was also under the same penalty of sin as everyone was.

The author of Hebrews declared that Jesus Christ is our great high priest. His being the great high priest is linked with his humanity. Look at verse 17. It said that he was made like his brothers (to become a human being) in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Jesus needed to become a human being so that he could empathize and understand what we are going through. Not only that, by being human and going through temptations and triumphing over them, he is able to help us when we are tempted. By being human, he could represent humanity before God. By being God, he was holy, blameless and pure (Hebrews 7:26). What a combination!

One important thing regarding Jesus as our high priest is that he is our permanent high priest since he lives forever and because he presented the ultimate sacrifice of himself, he is able to save completely all who come to him in faith.

If Jesus did not come in the flesh, he could never be our great high priest, for he would not have been able to offer the ultimate sacrifice that would save us completely. He would not be able to truly empathize with us and to understand what we're going through. He would not have been able to set the pattern of the victorious Christian life if he had not faced temptation personally and triumphed over them.

Conclusion – What does it mean for me?

We've learned that Jesus Christ was the right man for the job. He was the right man for the role of Savior, Restorer and High Priest. You may be asking, “What does it mean for me? What are the practical implications?

First, as the right man to be our Savior, anyone here this morning who has doubts about Jesus and his offer of salvation should reconsider their position. Jesus' death on the cross ensures that the power Satan wields over us can be broken if we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior. So, will you put your faith in Him, believing that he has already done everything needed to give us salvation? I hope you will receive Him into your life as your Lord and Savior. If you need to talk with any of our pastors and church leaders about Jesus and his offer of salvation, feel free to do so.

Second, because Jesus is our restorer by winning back the dignity of humanity and by fulfilling the original purpose of man in glorifying God, we can look to his pattern of life as recorded in the Gospels and use it to guide our life so that we too can live according to God's original purpose for us – to glorify Him. Let it be our lifelong pursuit – to follow in the steps of Jesus. I encourage you all to take time to read and meditate on the Gospels and learn from the pattern and teaching of Jesus and put them into practice everyday.

Finally, because Jesus is our merciful and faithful high priest who understands us and who has gone through everything we experience in life and has come out of it victorious, we can confidently approach him through prayer and pour out to him what is in our hearts . We need not fear rejection from him for he welcomes us and he wants for us to tell him everything that's in our hearts, and he knows how to answer us correctly.

Jesus is the right man for the job. Do you believe and trust Him? Will you follow his pattern of life? Do you have confidence in his guidance and answers for you? I hope we all can say “yes” with confidence to all three questions.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Don't Take It For Granted


Don't Take It For Granted
Hebrews 2:1-4

Introduction:

Do we ever take things or people for granted? I guess we're all guilty of this. It seems that we don't know how to appreciate what we have in our hands or who we have beside us. When we wake up in the morning and we see breakfast already prepared on the table, are we grateful that God gave us the food and that there are people who took the effort to prepare the food for us, or do we look at the food and complain that you don't like it so much, taking for granted that you are tremendously blessed to have food on the table everyday and for at least three times a day, when someone out there struggles to even have one meal a day? When we turn on our computers to use the internet, are we thankful that we have such a powerful technology which we can use to enhance our work and communication, or do we think nothing of it, forgetting that some twenty years ago, there was no such thing as internet connections to talk about? What about the people whom we say we love? We work hard and late into the night, coming home when everyone is already asleep and you say to yourself, “I'm doing this for my family”, but you take for granted that your children misses you, your wife misses you. You see, we take a lot of things in life for granted. This stems from a lack of gratitude or from a misguided priority.

We do take things as well as people for granted. We neglect the fact that we are tremendously blessed or that we have much more than what our parents had. We neglect the fact that life is more convenient nowadays compared to before. We neglect those we love because we think they don't mind our behavior and actions. Yes, we all have at one time or another taken things and people for granted.

This morning, we continue our study on the Book of Hebrews and this morning's passage, Hebrews 2:1 – 4 is all about never taking something and someone important for granted. What and who exactly are we talking about?

Our passage this morning is actually one of five warnings the author wanted the readers to heed. You see, the believers whom the author was writing to were feeling the pressure to give up their faith and return back to Judaism; thus, he had to warn them not to allow the pressure to overwhelm them. In giving his warning, he gives his rationale why they should not turn their backs on Christ.

In our passage, the warning given is that they should not drift away, and that they should pay careful attention to what they have heard. What exactly was the message that they have heard? The answer is in verse 3 where the author talks about salvation. The believers were probably in danger of ignoring God's gift of salvation. By ignoring our salvation, it is but natural that the next thing to happen is that one will drift away.

The phrase “drift away” gives us the picture of a boat whose anchor has not been lowered or poorly hooked, such that the boat is pushed by the waves to places which are dangerous such as rocks or sandbars. When one neglects God's gift of salvation, he is in effect like a boat without an anchor. Now, when we talk about God's gift of salvation, we're not just talking solely about what God does, namely his justifying work, but we're also talking about the person responsible for our salvation – Jesus Christ. In other words, if we take the Lord Jesus Christ for granted, the source of our salvation, we will bring about a lot of dangers on ourselves, dangers that will harm us spiritually. There are three ways in which we neglect the Lord and his work of salvation. There are also three dangers that will come upon us when we neglect our salvation.

Now, I do not believe that a true believer will ever lose his or her salvation, and there are Scripture passages that will prove this. But true believers can drift away from the Lord if they don't secure their anchors properly. The author pointed out that God's salvation is a great one. The question we must answer then is “how is it a great one?” I believe there are at least three reasons as to why our salvation is a great one.

So, this morning, we will be answering three questions. I would like to first answer the question, “How great is our salvation?” The second question will be, “How do we neglect this salvation?”. The final question will be, “What is the price of neglect?”


How Great is Our Salvation?

So, how great is our salvation? There are three reasons as to why our salvation is a great one.

(1) The Scope of Salvation

The first reason why our salvation is great is because of the scope of our salvation. People often have the wrong notion that salvation is simply all about the forgiveness of our sins and the ticket to heaven. While it is true that when a person repents of his sins and receive Christ as Lord, his sins will be forgiven and he will be made right with God, that it just the first part of salvation, which is called justification. However, we need to realize that salvation doesn't end with our being justified. Salvation continues on in the process called sanctification. Sanctification in simpler terms means we become more like Jesus Christ in holiness. In sanctification, we are being redeemed from the world and being changed more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. Everyday, as we faithfully follow Jesus Christ, we will see ourselves being saved by the Lord from worldliness and sin, from conforming to the ways of the world to living a transformed life. Finally, there is glorification, the process where we receive our new, incorruptible and perfect bodies, thus a salvation of our physical bodies. Although I do not have the time to elaborate on the entire scope of salvation, we can see that the Lord is not yet finished with us. We may have received Jesus Christ as Lord, but that is not the end. That is just the beginning of the process of complete salvation.

(2) The Person Responsible for Salvation

The second reason why our salvation is great is because of the person who made salvation possible. It was none other than the Lord Jesus who, through his life, death and resurrection, made possible for us to be saved. God did not send just anyone to save us; he sent his own son. The task was not given to the angels or to righteous men and women whose names are recorded in the Bible. The angels could not die for us for they are spiritual beings. Righteous men and women cannot die for us because they, too, are not perfectly sinless. Thus, God sent his perfect Son to become perfect man. Our salvation is great because Jesus is the source of our salvation.

(3) The Price of Salvation

Finally, our salvation is great because of the price that had to be paid in order for us to have this salvation. Jesus did not just live a holy life here on earth for us to have a pattern for living; he died on the cross in order that his blood would wash away our sins. That is the extent of God's love – he sent the very best in order to save unworthy people like you and I. This is why we say that our salvation is a great one. It is because God paid a very high price – his own son. If you were given the opportunity to completely save a person from his life-threatening illness but the price will be the life of your son, would you do it? God did just that. He gave up his son in order to save us.

How Do We Take Salvation for Granted?

The second question we will tackle is “How do we take salvation for granted?” There are three ways in which we take salvation for granted.

(1) When We Choose to Sin

Pay attention to the phrase “every violation” in verse 2. In other translations, the word used is “transgression”. Transgression means a violation of the law or an overstepping of a set boundary. The idea behind the word is that we made a conscious choice to sin against God and against others. It is something that we have deliberated in our minds to do and we carry it out. Now, when we choose to sin against God, it is to take salvation for granted because we are refusing to turn away from evil. Salvation is not just about going to heaven, its also about turning away from our sins and turning towards God. So, if we choose to sin and to keep on sinning, we are in effect taking for granted that Jesus paid a very high price just to save us from our sins. Furthermore, to continue sinning against God is to treat with contempt the blood of Jesus (see Hebrews 10:29).

(2) When We Refuse to Obey Him

Choosing to sin is what I would call as the sin of commission. Refusing to obey Him, on the other hand, is the sin of omission. In verse 2, the word used is disobedience. We do not do what God wants for us to do. He wants us to go this way, we want to go that way. He wants us to do this, we want to do that. When we refuse to obey Him, we are actually treating his salvation lightly because when Jesus died on the cross, it was in order to purchase us from the grip of sin and to make us his children. In 1 Corinthians 6:20, we are told that we have been bought with a price, therefore we are to honor God with our bodies. By refusing to obey Him, we are denying his rightful ownership over us. By denying that ownership, we are insulting his act of salvation.

(3) When We Fail to Be Grateful

We can also take God's salvation for granted by failing to be grateful. By this, I am not just referring to our verbal expression of gratitude. I am also referring to three things. First, we fail to be grateful to God when we still long for the old life. True, we may not commit sins of commission and omission, but we sometimes may sigh and say to ourselves, “How I wish I were not a Christian.”. By saying that, we are declaring that we don't appreciate being God's child. Second, we fail to be grateful when we are ashamed of being his follower. We don't want people to know that we are believers and we hide our identity. We don't talk about our faith openly to people because we don't want to be called “Jesus freaks”. However, by failing to identify ourselves as followers of Christ, we are actually being ungrateful. To the single ladies here, would you want to say “yes” to a guy who courts you but tells you beforehand that he doesn't want to let others know that you're his girlfriend if you should say “yes” to him? Of course not! You want him to acknowledge you publicly. The same is true with Christ. We believe and trust Him, thus we should also be willing to publicly acknowledge Him before others. The third is, we don't cherish our relationship with Him. If we are truly grateful to someone, we want to spend time with that person. We value that relationship. If we are truly grateful to Jesus Christ for the salvation He has given to us, we will want to spend time with him in prayer and in reading the Word. If we are always in a hurry in our lives and we don't take time to meet with Him, we are being ungrateful by not valuing our relationship with Him.

What Will Be The Price of Our Neglect?

We come to the third and final question that needs to be answered. It is the question, “What will be the price of our neglect?” Again, let me reiterate that a person who is genuinely saved will not lose his salvation. However, he can go through a period of his life where he neglects his faith and suffers because of that neglect. When a person continues in sin, when he disobeys God and when he fails to be grateful, the following will happen:

(1) His Spiritual Life Will Be An Empty One

The person who neglects his salvation will be running on empty soon. You can compare your spiritual life to a car. A car needs gas to run. If your fuel meter hits “E” or the warning light goes on, you know you're supposed to fill up on gas. I am not of the habit of letting my car's gas tank hit “E”. I usually gas up when there's still around ¼ gas left. In the spiritual realm, your “gas tank” needs to be filled everyday. When you neglect your faith, what happens is that your tank gets empty. You will find yourself becoming fruitless and frustrated. You will find that you're not growing in faith. God seems distant to you (actually, you were the one responsible for growing distant from God).

(2) He Does Not Have the Joy of the Lord in Him

When we neglect our salvation, we will find that there is no joy in life. We will simply go through life existing but not really living. We will find that the things we do feels like drudgery. Remember the Fruit of the Spirit? One of the characteristics of a spirit-filled person is that his life will have joy. The person who neglects his salvation will lose his sense of joy. Remember David in Psalm 51? His prayer was that God would restore the joy of salvation to him after he had confessed his sins. You see, when David persisted in sin and strayed from God, he lost his joy. Likewise, if we stray from the Lord, we will find ourselves listless, without a trace of real joy in us.

(3) He Will Be Spiritually Stunted

Finally, when we neglect our salvation, we will be spiritually stunted. In other words, there is no growth whatsoever in us. When we are not growing, but declining instead in our spiritual life, this will not bring pleasure to God. What it brings is sadness to Him. Who among you parents, upon seeing how cute your baby is, would ever wish that they would stay that way forever? Of course, none of us would ever make such a wish. Yet, that is how we are before God when we neglect our salvation. We stop growing. It's like someone who's 20 years old already but whose body is still that of a 5-year old. God desires that we grow spiritually. If we are already believers for 20 years, our maturity should match the years. Unfortunately, many believers are spiritually stunted. It is because they have taken their faith for granted. After more than 20 years of being a Christian, they still don't know how to pray and they don't even pick up their Bibles to read it. This results in a believer being spiritually stunted.

Conclusion:

Don't take your salvation for granted. That is the warning given by the author of Hebrews. We've looked at the scope of our salvation, as to why it is great. We've learned of how we can take our salvation for granted. Finally, we know the consequences of taking salvation for granted.

Salvation is a free gift. It is also a gift once given to us, will always be ours. However, it is never to be taken for granted, nor should it be neglected and abused. Have you and I been abusing God's grace by taking his gift of salvation for granted? If we are truly saved, we should not neglect God's grace. May the Lord help us all to cherish our salvation dearly.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Incomparable - Sermon on Hebrews 1:1 - 3


Incomparable
Hebrews 1:1 – 3

Introduction:

I don't know if you are familiar with the saying, “It's like comparing apples to oranges.” What the saying is pointing out is that certain things cannot be compared to other things, even if there are some similarities. Look again at the saying. While both apples and oranges are similar because they are fruits, yet they are very different because of their taste. The same is true for the vehicle I drive, which is classified as a multi-purpose vehicle, as compared to a Ferrari or a Porsche, which are sports cars. Yes, they are motor vehicles which brings you from one place to another, but you can't compare them to one another because an MPV is for transporting people and goods while sports cars are for racing or for showing off. Open the hood of both cars and you'll see a vast difference in the engines as well as other devices installed inside. A good word we use when talking about the inability to compare one thing to another is called incomparability.

What does it really mean when we say that certain things are incomparable? According to the dictionary, we have two definitions. The first definition for incomparable is “without an equal in quality or extent; matchless”. A second definition is “unable to be compared; totally different in nature or extent.” Although we may not use the word incomparable quite often, we understand what it means and we know how to use it.

This morning, we begin our series on the study of the Book of Hebrews. It is a New Testament epistle whose overall theme is the incomparability of Jesus Christ. Hebrews is a book very rich in imagery, whose author goes to great lengths (13 chapters in all!) to point out that Christ is beyond compare. Before we look into this morning's passage, I would like to take some time to share with you the background of the Book of Hebrews.

Background:

The writer of the Book of Hebrews does not identify himself, but he was obviously well-known to the original recipients. From 400 AD to 1600 AD, the book was commonly called the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews, although there was no agreement regarding its authorship. After the Reformation, it has been widely recognized that Paul could not have been the author simply because the writing styles between Paul and the author of Hebrews are very different. Also, Paul usually identifies himself when he wrote his epistles, but the author of Hebrews never identified himself. Moreover, the author of Hebrews was evidently not part of the original band of apostles. If you read Hebrews 2:3, you will find that he experienced the salvation of Christ through the preaching of those who personally heard him.

Bible scholars suggest that there may be two possible candidates for authorship of the Book of Hebrews. First, we have Barnabas. The reason why Barnabas is a possible author is because it seemed that the author had authority in the apostolic church and was an intellectual Hebrew Christian well-versed in the Old Testament. Barnabas was a Jew of the priestly tribe of Levi, which may possibly explain why he understood a lot regarding the Old Testament, especially the worship ceremonies done in the temple as well as the priesthood. Also, he was respected and recognized as being a leader of the early church. The second leading candidate for authorship is Apollos. Apollos was also a Jewish Christian known for his intellectual and oratorical abilities. In Acts 18:24, he is described as being a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He was also associated with Paul in the early years of the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4-6, 22). We do not have a firm conclusion as to the authorship, but one thing is sure, the author was a Jew who was well acquainted with the Old Testament which he quoted with regularity, and a master of the Greek language.

Hebrews was most likely written before 70 AD, the date when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, since there is no mention of the temple being destroyed. It is addressed primarily to Christians familiar with the Old Testament and who were being tempted to turn their backs on Christ and go back to Judaism.

The theme of Hebrews is the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ, such that no one can compare to Him. You will see this theme repeated constantly throughout the book. For now, I would like for us to pay attention to this morning's passage, Hebrews 1:1 – 3.

Who is Jesus Christ? To tell you very frankly, many people have different opinions about him. While we, as Christians, acknowledge Him to be the Son of God, or the Second Person of the Triune God, many think otherwise. There are people who think of him as merely being a prophet or a great teacher. Others view him as a spiritual being, somewhat similar to the angels but still lower than God. Still, there were some who view him as someone who has lost his mind, sincerely making claims to be God due to insanity. Worse, some people see him as a deceiver who has misled many into thinking that He is God. If we simply listen to the opinions of people, we are bound to be misled. We need to focus on what the Word of God says, and Hebrews 1:1 – 3 tells us who Jesus really is and why he is incomparable. It will tell us why he will always be superior to anything we compare him to. When you compare him to any great philosopher, any great teacher, any great founder of religion, Jesus will still be above them all. He will always be beyond compare.

Now, why do we say that Jesus is incomparable? There are three things that makes Jesus incomparable.

I. The Incomparable Person of Christ

Jesus was greater than all who came before him here on earth. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is superior to the prophets. The prophets were the greatest men of the Old Testament era. They had visions of God and they served God with manifestations of power. Prophets who had visions of God included those who wrote the prophetic books of the Old Testament. Those who served God with manifestations of power included Elijah, Elisha, and Samuel. God spoke to the people of Israel and to the other nations through the prophets. However, God only revealed a few aspects about himself to these prophets such that no prophet, alone or combined with others, could ever give us a full picture of who God really is. Furthermore, the prophets were mere men, creatures only. God revealed himself fully through the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, verse 2 tells us that God spoke to us by his Son or through his Son. It is no wonder that the apostle John, when he wrote his gospel account, described Jesus as being the Word, the logos of God. Though the prophets spoke the word of God faithfully, Jesus himself is the Word of God.

However, Jesus isn't just superior to the prophets. In verses 4 to 14, Jesus is also greater than the angels. Angels, as we know, are spiritual beings who minister to God and are powerful. In the Old Testament, we find the angels delivering Lot and his family from Sodom. We also find an angel who brought death upon the firstborn of the Egyptians during the Passover. It was an angel whom God sent in order to administer punishment upon Israel for the sin of David. In the New Testament, we know that it was the angel Gabriel who delivered the important message to Mary that she was pregnant with the Messiah. Gabriel also spoke to Joseph, telling him that the child in Mary's womb was the Christ child. In the Book of Revelation, we find the archangel Michael waging war against Satan. Now, why did the author mention that Jesus was superior to the angels? It is probable that some people invoked on the names of the angels for deliverance. It is also probable that some people had excessive interest in the angelic hierarchies. Still, some believed that angels were sort of mediators between God and humanity. Thus, it was important for the author to point out that the angels cannot compare to the person of Jesus Christ because He is God himself. Only Jesus Christ is worthy of worship, by both men and angels. The prophets were men created by God; the angels likewise were created spiritual beings. Jesus however is God who is eternal in nature. Prophets and angels brought important messages from God to men. Jesus however is the very message of God to men. Only Jesus Christ is the full revelation of who God really is. So, Jesus is incomparable because of who he is. All other claimants to being gods cannot stand up to Jesus because only Jesus is the true Son of God.

II. The Incomparable Position of Christ

The second thing regarding Christ that is incomparable is his position. Christ is superior to the angels and the prophets not only because he is God but also because of his position. The angels, though mighty, are but servants. Likewise, the prophets may be heroes in the eyes of the Jewish people and even for Christians, but they were also servants. Jesus, on the other hand, is the appointed heir of all things, according to verse 2. He is the one whom the angels and the prophets serve.

Not only is Jesus the heir of all things, he is also the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being (v. 3). The Greek word which is translated in the English as “exact representation” is the word χαρακτηρ (charakter), where we get the English word, character. This word was basically used when talking about a stamp or a seal. This Greek word is used only once in the New Testament, namely our passage this morning. What the word means is that it is through Christ that God is represented and acts. It is through Christ that people can know who God truly is. It is no wonder that Jesus could boldly claim that He and the Father are one (John 10:30; John 17:20-26). He also made a bold statement to his disciples when he told them that anyone who has seen him has seen the Father (John 14:9). When we read from the New Testament, especially the Gospels, about the teachings of Jesus and the life he lived, the power he manifested, we are seeing God himself at work. We can know God in a personal way through Jesus.

In other parts of Hebrews, Jesus is also our great high priest. He is the one who can perfectly act as our mediator, who has perfectly atoned for our sins through his blood. We will be studying about this in the weeks ahead. Nevertheless, the position he holds as our great high priest is way much better than the high priest during the time when the Jewish temple was still standing.

What does his incomparable position mean for us? Let me use an illustration to help us understand this point. Let's say you're feeling sick, you're coming down with a very bad case of the flu. Do you call me up at my office to ask for medical advice as to what you can do so you'll feel better in no time, or do you call up a doctor to seek for professional help? If you call me up, all I can tell you is to get enough rest, drink lots of fluid and vitamin C. But if you go to the doctor, he can tell you way much more about the problem, he'll be able to diagnose you properly and how you can get better soon. In a similar way, there are many people who have so-called “remedies” for how to solve your spiritual problems, but Jesus himself is the Great Physician. The pastors, elders and deacons of the church may be competent spiritual leaders, but Jesus Christ himself is God. He is able to do what I cannot do at all because he possesses a superior position. His position is unique and incomparable.


III. The Incomparable Purpose of Christ

Finally, there is the incomparable purpose of Christ. The work that Jesus accomplished is totally different from what the prophets, the angels, and other religious personalities did. His work comes as a result of his person, being God's son, and of his position, being the very likeness of God in human form.

The angels were messengers of God. They delivered important messages to people in a convincing manner. The prophets were also messengers of God who wrote the books of the Bible and who announced impending judgment. Yes, they were important in the spiritual realm; however, they cannot compare to the work that Jesus accomplished. Jesus came in order to be the Savior of the World. This was his purpose for coming. Only he could do the work. The angels couldn't die on the cross for us, although they were holy spiritual beings, because they do not possess human bodies. The prophets were just as sinful as any human being and would not qualify to die for our sins. Only Jesus was qualified to become our Savior, being both God and perfect man at the same time. Look at verse 3 of Hebrews 1. We read that he had provided purification for our sins. Not only that, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty in heaven, signifying that his work has been completed. Through his death on the cross, Jesus took away your sins and my sins.


The Lord Jesus is uniquely and fully qualified for the work he was given to accomplish. In fact, there is no one else who can do what he accomplished. There are no other qualified candidates. Buddha does not qualify. Mohammed does not qualify. Even the so-called saints of the church do not qualify. Only Jesus is qualified because of who He is and what His position is.

Conclusion:

The author of Hebrews wanted his readers to be certain regarding their understanding of the Lord Jesus. He wanted for them to know with certainty that Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God who is heir over all things and who is the exact representation of God in human form. He also wanted for them to understand that only Jesus Christ is qualified to bring salvation to this world through his death on the cross.

The same message that the author wanted for his readers to understand is the same message we all need to understand right this moment. Jesus Christ is not just one of many supernatural beings nor is he just a morally upright man. He is God the Son who came in the flesh. Jesus Christ is not like any angel or prophet, although their position may be noble, but He is the exact representation of God and the heir of all things. Jesus is not just a messenger from God who brings an important message, He is the message himself. He is the one foretold who will deliver people from their sins and restore them to God.

Incomparable. That's who the Lord Jesus is. The question I want to leave you is this: Who is Jesus to you? Is he the incomparable Son of God who saved us from our sins through his death on the cross? Is he the incomparable Son of God who invites us to align with Him and to follow Him as His disciple, to carry our crosses daily? Is he the incomparable Son of God who will one day judge this world, seated on his heavenly throne? I hope, in your life, he is a “yes” to all the questions I posed. May he indeed be your Savior and Master.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Perils of the Bottle - Preached at GGC March 25, 2012

-->
The Perils of the Bottle

Introduction:

I do not know if you have noticed this when you're watching local news on TV. There is a rise in vehicular accidents, involving both motorcycles and automobiles. As I watch the morning news, I would hear of vehicles bumping into other vehicles, or of vehicles hitting non-moving objects like electric posts or concrete barriers. Now, accidents do happen. Even I get involved in vehicular accidents. However, what is alarming is that many of the drivers involved in these accidents, according to investigators, had the smell of alcohol lingering in their breaths. We have been taught that when you drink alcohol, its better not to drive. If you plan to drive, then don't drink in the first place. It is because driving under the influence of alcohol is extremely hazardous. Your judgment plus your physical capabilities are greatly impaired.

However, alcoholism not only causes vehicular accidents. Alcoholism is often the reason why homicides and sexual crimes are committed against others. In terms of health, Alcoholism has caused many people to suffer from liver illnesses such as hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. In the United States, it is reported that one in four hospital admissions is the result of alcohol abuse.

I am sure you know what I am going to talk about today from the Book of Proverbs. It is a topic that I have never really heard many churches preach on. I do not know if it is because someone's sensitivities might get trampled upon, or because we think its not a problem among people who come to church. The reason why I believe I have to share this somewhat sensitive topic from Proverbs is because alcoholism is a real problem that has affected not only non-believers but even believers in Christ. The fact that the apostle Paul, prior to telling the Ephesian Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit, had to warn them not to get drunk with wine or alcoholic beverages, implies that there were people in the church who were indulging in drunkenness and this had greatly and adversely affected their behavior.

If you were to ask me as to what is my conviction about drinking, I would tell you that I do not find drinking alcoholic beverage to be outright wrong. Instead, it is drunkenness that is the problem. It is drunkenness that is condemned in the Bible. Also, I am of the opinion that when the Bible talks of wine and fermented drinks, these drinks usually have some alcoholic content. Now, I base my conviction on what I have read from a reliable Bible Dictionary. Now, does my understanding of wine and fermented drinks in the Bible mean that I am giving a blanket endorsement of drinking? Am I saying that the Bible teaches that it is all right to drink alcoholic beverages?  No. I do not think that the Bible endorses drinking alcohol when you could easily drink water or milk or juice. I do not think that it is absolutely all right to drink alcohol. At the same time, I do not think that the Bible condemned drinking alcohol. What is condemned is drunkenness.

Before we look into the Book of Proverbs, I would like to share two Bible passages with you. The first passage is from Deuteronomy 14:22 to 26. The passage is all about setting aside one tenth of one's harvest in order to bring it to the Lord as well as to partake of God's blessings in his presence. In verse 26 we read the following: “Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.” From this particular verse, one can surmise that God does not really prohibit people from partaking of alcoholic beverages. However, we must realize that this statement is not a blanket endorsement for partaking alcoholic beverages nor does it give permission for people to get drunk. God allowed the people to partake of alcoholic beverages within the context of feasting in God's presence, and it would have probably been done with the Levites and priests keeping things from getting out of control. If you drink a glass of red wine or champagne during a wedding reception because you are celebrating a joyous occasion, I do not think that would constitute as a sin, provided you don't end up getting drunk or that you just take one glass and no more.

Another verse I would like to share with you is a passage from the New Testament, 1 Timothy 5:23 – “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” Now, some people have taken this passage and twist it to mean that its alright to drink. Again, the context is important. The passage is addressed to Timothy who probably has some health issues and Paul was telling him to drink a little wine so as to cure his illnesses. It is sort of like something that had happened to my father when he was still young. My father had some health problems and he went to the doctor. The doctor prescribed him to drink one bottle of beer a day for a certain period of time, I think no more than one week. Now, I do not know exactly why the doctor prescribed beer, but the purpose was purely medicinal. My father never drinks, and I can imagine the agony he went through trying to finish one bottle of beer. For the mothers here, after you bore a child, you are given bottles of iron-rich wine in order to help your body recuperate. Drinking alcoholic beverages is allowed if there is a clear medical purpose associated to it.

In the book of Proverbs, I found three reasons why we should not let alcohol take control of our lives. However, there could be more than three. What I am going to state now are what I would call as the obvious reasons as cited by the Book of Proverbs. If you have never ever touched alcohol in your life, then today's message is a warning for you to not even try at all in the first place. For those who have the habit of drinking, today's message is a warning for you to either stop altogether because it is already an addiction that has you in bondage, or to be more responsible in keeping yourself from getting drunk.

Reason # 1: Alcohol Can Lead to Poverty

Proverbs 21:17

He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.

Proverbs 23:19 – 21

Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path. Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, 21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

The author of Proverbs rightly observed that those who indulge in alcohol to the point of drunkenness usually end up poor. It is because they spend whatever money they have for drinking. Those who work in the morning and drink after work, spend whatever money they could actually save up for their future. Others just spend the whole day drinking. I have seen people in urban poor areas having drinking sprees even before the sun has set. These people have become poor because they have chosen to become drunk rather than be responsible to go out and work or to at least make a living. For those who drink regularly, I want you to do some math. Take the number of bottles of beer or bottles of liquor you drink every week and multiply it by the price of the drink, then multiply it by four. You will arrive at a figure which is the total amount you've spent on drinking in a month. That money could have been spent for something better. You could have put that money in the bank or you could have used it to buy more food for the family. You could have saved that money in order to buy something for the family or for yourself. By choosing to drink, you actually impoverish yourself and your family because you bring home lesser money or you use up whatever money you have just to maintain your vice.

A survey was done in the U.S. to determine the causes of homelessness in the U.S. It was discovered that 38% of people who are homeless are alcohol dependents. Alcoholism is responsible for making people poor. It renders people incapable of working. It eats up whatever money one has. Therefore, don't let alcohol become your master or else you will be driven to poverty.

Reason # 2: Alcohol Impairs Judgment

The second reason why we must not indulge in alcohol is because alcohol can impair one's judgment. In Proverbs 31, the mother of King Lemuel gave this sound advice to his son  – - “It is not for kings, O Lemuel – not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. (vv. 4 - 5)” Lemuel's mother knew that, for his son to be a godly and wise king, he must never allow alcohol to have control over him. In fact, the requirement for a king is quite high here. He is not to even drink or crave for alcohol. His mind must not be clouded as an effect of drinking.

When someone is drunk, he is usually in a state where he can no longer judge between what is right and wrong. When a person is sober, he will not go about doing things that would violate his conscience. He will not do things that would violate other people. But when a person gets drunk, the line between right and wrong is blurred. Lots of bad things happen as a result. Studies conducted in various countries reported that many domestic violence incidents are related to alcohol use. For instance, in Uganda, 52% of the women who experienced domestic violence reported that their partners had consumed alcohol. In India, 33% of abusing husbands use alcohol. Alcohol abuse has also led to the increase of teenage pregnancy as the state of drunkenness makes them lose their inhibitions and restraint all too easily.

While the proverb we just read was addressed directly to King Lemuel, its application is actually universal, meaning it applies to all people, and especially to Christians. We must not allow alcohol to take away our ability to think and act wisely and justly.

Reason # 3: Alcohol Destroy Lives

Proverbs 23:31 – 32 

Do not gaze at wind when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.

Thirdly, alcohol destroys lives. In Proverbs 23:32, drunkenness is compared to the bite of a snake and the poison of a viper. Excessive alcohol in one's body functions like poison. It destroys people's internal organs. People who drink excessively suffer from cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, heart problems and so much more. However, more than the physical suffering, alcohol destroys lives because marriages are wrecked. Children of alcoholic parents are deprived of the care and love that they should be having. Others fall victim to drunken drivers who are reckless. According to a U.S. research, between the period of 1982 and 1993, more than 260,000 deaths in the U.S. were alcohol-related. More than 300,000 people were injured in crashes where the police reported that alcohol was present.

In Proverbs 23:34 – 35 we read, “You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. 'They hit me,' you will say, 'but I'm not hurt! They beat me, but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?” People who drink have a false sense of security. They feel as if they are invincible. This explains why drunk people are reckless. Alcohol gives them a false sense of courage which leads to danger, danger to the drunk as well as to those surrounding him. Alcohol also makes people violent. Do you know which song, when sung in a karaoke bar, often results in violence and death? It's the song, “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. However, I don't think its about the song itself that is dangerous, but the context wherein the song was being sung – by people who were drunk and surrounded by others who were drunk. This explains why violence takes place when people have too much to drink.

Alcoholism destroys lives. Don't be a fool to think that you are invincible and it won't happen to you. The Bible has warned that it is like the poison of a viper. Don't allow alcohol to destroy you as well as those who surround you.

Conclusion:

I have shared my personal conviction that drinking alcohol is not wrong; rather it is drunkenness that is the problem. The Book of Proverbs warns us against allowing alcohol to control our lives. I think we are clear about these points. I know that some of you may then argue that since you are a moderate and responsible drinker, then you're ok. Well, let me say that the answer is “no”.  Paul, in Romans 14 warns that all of us have to give an account to God on how we live our lives. Are we putting up stumbling blocks along the way, causing others to fall? We may have the opinion that drinking isn't bad, but other believers may not feel the same way. They don't agree with my point of view or with your point of view? So, what do you do? Do we keep on drinking because it is our right, or do we refrain because we don't want people to stumble in their faith on account of us? Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. We should therefore not seek our own good, but the good of others. Will drinking alcohol really benefit me? Will my drinking be good for other people? Think through those questions before you ever think of sipping alcohol. Another reason why I don't think we should drink alcohol comes from a letter that I found from a website. It is written by a person named Jeanie who has lost five people who are closest to her due to alcoholism. Let me read her letter.

I have no idea where to start as my heart is deeply grieved and broken as I lost a cousin yesterday who was like my brother and best friend. Tommy died from drinking so much that he was bleeding internally and by the time they got him to the Hospital yesterday he died, it was too late.

I lost a brother in 2005 to alcohol and Heroin - he was murdered. I had a friend just last month take her life ... she too was an alcoholic. I lost an uncle in 2004 to liver failure and liver cancer from drinking alcohol and his younger brother, my other uncle was drunk and fell and hit his head and it killed him.

My other uncle that was related to the the above who was the youngest out of all of them over-dosed by shooting up. My aunt is an alcoholic and so is my Mother and Father, The ones I am talking about above are the ones who are all related to each other as sisters and brothers and cousin. My heart feels like it has stopped beating and every day I feel like I cannot breath. The loss is too much and overwhelming. I used to be one of them and the Lord pulled me out and cleaned me up back in 2003. Because of the Lord I am alive and I am being healed more and more every day. Addiction is not a drug or alcohol problem it is a heart issue. When we walk in deep rooted pain we use what is available to dull the pain which leads to death. When pain lives in the heart it leaves room for the invitation of addiction.

The only one I know who can clean up a life and heal a wounded heart is Jesus Christ. I do not know where I would be today walking through death after death when it could and should have been me right along with them.

From the letter, it is clear that some people drink because they want the pain that they're experiencing in life to go away. Isn't that what drugs and alcohol supposedly do? Its supposed to help you forget your problems even for a while? Unfortunately, its all temporary, and its nothing more than escapism. Instead of turning to drugs and alcohol, why don't we turn to Jesus? What are the pains that you are feeling in your heart right now? Don't turn to alcohol. Don't turn to drugs. Don't turn to anything the world is offering that will ease the pain. I invite you to turn your life to Jesus. He is the one who can help us in our time of need, in our time of pain. Jesus invites us all to come to him and to cast our anxieties upon him and he will help us. Alcohol can't help you solve your problems. It can't lift your burdens. Only Jesus can.

Brothers and sisters. I invite you all to seriously consider the ill-effects of getting drunk on alcohol. Alcohol leads to poverty. Alcohol impairs judgment. Alcohol destroys lives. I am sure we can all survive and flourish in life without having to drink a single drop of wine, strong drink or beer. It is God's will for us to be filled with his Spirit, much more than being filled with the spirit of alcohol.