John J. Blanchard
March 17, 2012
Good morning, brethren. We are literally only a few weeks away from a very important occasion. That is the day that we renew our covenant with God. It is the covenant that we made with Him at baptism. On that evening when we come together for the Passover service, we will remember our baptism. We will remember when we became part of the body of Christ, when we agreed to be living sacrifices. It was a day that we were purchased by Christ’s blood. It was the day that our sins were forgiven and we were wiped clean. It was the day we received the earnest of the Holy Spirit. It was very, very important. It was the most important day of your life and my life. We are about to commemorate that, remember it, and renew that commitment.
Between now and Passover it is our job to measure ourselves. We need to take a good hard look at who we are spiritually and what kind of progress we have made or have not made in the past year. We need to be brutally honest with ourselves. The worst lies we will ever hear are the ones that we tell ourselves.
We sincerely need to apologize and repent to God, to our brethren, to our families, and to even people in the world that we have caused grievous offense to. We try to make genuine peace with those around us that we perhaps have hurt during the year.
I want to read the most familiar Scripture about getting ready for Passover. If you would, turn to I Corinthians 11. It is a very familiar Scripture, but over time when you do this year after year, this becomes blasé and a little less meaningful. It becomes a little less impactful.
I Corinthians chapter 11, and we will start in verse 27 where it is speaking of the Passover: “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep [that means death]. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”
We read this literally every year for Passover. Then probably we go home and read it a few more times. Then at the evening of the Passover service we probably sit there and read it again. This is all well and good, but sometimes it can just be routine. We need to dwell on these words. We need to dwell on these Scriptures, and we need to take them to heart more so each year as time draws near.
For instance, let’s talk about the word “examine.” We look at our conscience and we look at ourselves. But the word “examine” is dokimazo (#1381, Strong’s, 1995) in the Greek which means to test, literally or figuratively, by implication to approve. It comes from the word dokimos (#1384, Strong’s, 1995) which means to test, trustiness, experience, proof, or trial.
We are to test ourselves leading up to Passover. It is not just looking at ourselves and examining our life. It is to actually test ourselves. We put ourselves to the proof. We see if our experiences have been trustworthy in God’s eyes and God’s point of view. We see if we have made actual progress.
This test, what is it that we are actually taking? What are we measuring ourselves by? If we are taking a history test in school, it is about history. A math test is about math. A science test or quiz is about science. What is this test we are to administer to ourselves? It is the new covenant, the law of God, in our hearts.
LAW OF GOD IN OUR HEARTS
Turn to Hebrews chapter 8. In the Old Testament at Sinai ancient Israel received the law of God, and they agreed to keep it. Then they were tested and tried on that. Now we have the law written on our hearts, and that is what we are tried and tested on.
Hebrews 8, beginning in verse 7: “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
We made a covenant with God at baptism that we would accept that law written on our hearts. Ancient Israel accepted them written on stone. They said they would keep them. All that God has said we will do, is what they told God. That is what we said at baptism. All that You say, we will do. God said, therefore I will put My law in your hearts, and we will make a covenant this day at your baptism. You agree to keep these laws.
We know we are physical people. Just as ancient Israel broke the laws, they were just physical people. God knew that He would have to deal with sin. In ancient Israel they had physical sacrifices. They would come before the high priest with them and get their sins dealt with, but we would need a way of dealing with sins in our lives. It is located in these Scriptures right around Hebrews 8.
Let’s go to Hebrews chapter 7 where we are going to read portions of this. Hebrews 7, beginning in verse 11: “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.”
Continuing in verse 17: “For He testifies: ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”
The law was changed. It was not a different Ten Commandments. It was a law that then was written on our hearts and became magnified. It was changed. This necessitated a different priesthood, a priesthood on the order of Melchizedek of a God who has no beginning and no end and who could sacrifice for our sins and help us to deal with our shortcomings.
Drop down to Hebrews 8, verse 1: “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer.”
Jesus Christ offered His life, His blood. He offered to die for our sins and become our High Priest in the Order of Melchizedek. Now we have this wonderful system. We have that law. Not one jot or tittle has been changed. It has been magnified. We have it dwelling within us, and we know from time to time we are going to break it. We have this tremendous High Priest who is there and who has offered Himself, so that our sins can be dealt with.
Turn to Hebrews 9, verse 23: “Therefore, it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”
Moses and the temple and all that followed were physical shadows of something in heaven. Eventually it needed to be manifested on the earth with Jesus Christ as High Priest.
Verse 24 of Hebrews 9: For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us…”
Our High Priest is dwelling in heaven at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.
Verse 25 of Hebrews 9: “…not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
He only needs to do it once because He is perfect.
Verse 27: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”
It is a marvelous system! It is a perfect system! It is a beautiful system!
Turn to Hebrews chapter 10, verse 11: “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”
He is leading those who are being sanctified toward perfection.
DON’T FORSAKE ASSEMBLING
Continue reading Hebrews 10, verse 15: “But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who has promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
We certainly see the day approaching. We need to get together often and encourage each other in our personal walks with Jesus Christ and as a body of Christ doing the work for Him. We allow the High Priest to work within His temple, which temple we are.
It is a remarkable system. Only God could come up with such a thing. We had to have a physical forerunner to even understand what is going on in our lives. To make a covenant with God of this nature without having seen the covenant at Sinai, we would not be able to comprehend what it is we are a part of.
As it says here, we are looking forward to perfection. That is an extremely high standard. Let’s back up to Matthew chapter 5. You will see how magnified the law is here.
Matthew 5, verse 43: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
There the goal is laid out for us. Be perfect. That means love your enemies. That means magnify the Ten Commandments far beyond the written law. It is a big job for any human being.
Turn to the gospel of John chapter 17 where Christ is speaking to His disciples. We will start reading in John 17, verse 20: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
We are to be perfect with Jesus Christ and God the Father dwelling in us. They are absolutely perfect. They have chosen this system to live in imperfect man, and that is why They have to have the concept of a high priest. It is a way to deal with sin. Though we have the law written in our hearts and though we understand what we are supposed to do, we just cannot always manage it.
We know we are to strive toward perfection, constantly moving toward that goal, but none of us will be perfect before we die. We should be a lot closer to it than the day we covenanted with God.
The test is to measure ourselves against the law that is dwelling in our hearts, and not just the written law of the Ten Commandments, but the magnified law. Measure ourselves against the law that says we must not be angry or hate our brother, and the one that says we must not lust. We must not have attitudes of covetousness and jealousy. It goes far beyond just keeping the letter of the law.
BE HONEST WITH OURSELVES
We have to be honest with ourselves when we administer this test. If we are dishonest and if we give it short shrift and spend a few minutes on it, we will not be prepared. We need to prepare for the exam just like in school. We could cram the night before or cram just before services on Passover. We are all busy, and we all have things to do. We have probably all been in this situation where we opened up the book and started thinking about it just before services. That is like cramming for a test. You do not really know the answers. It is just going to be something you put down quickly on a piece of paper and forget.
We need to be brutally honest with ourselves. I want to turn back to I Corinthians 11 for a moment and just read a couple of Scriptures here. I Corinthians 11, verse 27: “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
Have any of us ever taken the Passover unworthily? I am not asking for a show of hands. I will put mine up, though. I have taken the Passover unworthily. Perhaps most of the Passovers I have taken unworthily. You have to examine yourself and ask yourself this question before you judge me. Can any of us say I am worthy to take the Passover? It is my right to take the Passover. I think if we are honest with ourselves, none of us can say I am worthy of the Passover. Let’s do it.
Having said that, we have to realize there is more to these Scriptures than what perhaps we have thought. There is more to it than just thinking about the Passover, taking it, and going off and saying tomorrow we have the Night To Be Much Observed. Verses 31 and 32 continue here.
I Corinthians 11, verse 31: “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”
GOD HAS TO JUDGE US
Can any of us ever say we have not been judged? God has never had to judge me. I have never been tested or tried because I do not need it. Then you see these Scriptures take on different meaning. We need the Passover, and we need the judgment. If we do it absolutely perfectly, Christ does not need to judge us, but whom among us is perfect? None of us are perfect.
I know looking back in my life, I thought I was doing the Passover really well lots of time, but I can see that I took it unworthily because I really did not understand these Scriptures. I really did not understand what God expected of me.
If we do not judge ourselves, we will be tested by Christ. God will do it for me if I do not do it well enough. Why does He do that? He does this because He loves me and because He loves you. He is not doing it to be mean. He loves us. Let’s look at some Scriptures to help us understand this.
Turn to Hebrews chapter 12, verse 3: “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself [speaking of Christ], lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
I am glad God has chastened me over the course of my life. I am glad He saw fit to care enough about me to help me to straighten up and to get rid of the dross in my life.
Turn to James chapter 1, beginning in verse 2: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
God will test us to help us become perfect. That is a good thing. He says if you have never been tested and never chastened, you are illegitimate. You cannot see the love of God in your life. If everything has always gone smoothly, and if at every Passover you were able to say, I am worthy to take this Passover, you are not receiving chastening. You are not growing. That is what I am trying to tell you.
As we mature and as we have been in the Church longer, we need to understand that the trials in our lives are chastening. They are probably because we have not taken the Passover properly, but that is not to say we are bad. It says we are illegitimate. We are human. We are going to mess up. Never is any one of us truly worthy to take the Passover. Just like we were not worthy of baptism. It is a gift of God’s grace.
God said, I know I am dealing with imperfect people, but I am going to set up a system so that we can get around these problems together. He wants us to grow in holy righteous character.
WISDOM TO SEE OUR WEAKNESSES
Continuing in James 1, verse 5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
We need to ask for the wisdom to see our weaknesses. We must not be ashamed to be honest with ourselves. It is only through being honest with ourselves that we are going to do this right. It is the only possible way.
Paul set us a tremendous example. Turn back to II Timothy chapter 2. Paul was one of these people who unlike most of us today, and unlike me most of the time who will not want to admit a mistake. Paul was willing to admit a mistake. He was willing to say, I have made some really big problems. I have made some really big sins in my life. I have deserved a lot of chastening, but he says, it is working.
Turn to II Timothy chapter 2, verse 6 where Paul says: “The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Paul said, I am suffering here because I am evil, but he said, I am going to tell you about it because I want you to grow in salvation. There is no point in me blaming someone else for the problems I am having. There is no point in me saying I never persecuted the brethren, or I was framed. There is no point in me not being honest with my past. But Paul said, I am learning from it, and he said, I want you to learn from my experiences. I want you to grow in salvation.
Paul says this in verse 11 of II Timothy 2: “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”
In other words, let’s all be honest, Paul says here. What are we to hide from? This is a beautiful system God came up with to help us grow in perfection. God knows He is not dealing with perfect people, so why do we put on all these fronts like we are perfect? Why do we put on this façade and then go home and are miserable? Why do we lie to ourselves? What are we accomplishing?
It is like taking a test at school and changing the grade before you show it to your parents. Did it really do anything? It didn’t do anything. It did not change what kind of person you are.
GOD WILL DELIVER US IF WE ARE HONEST
Turn to II Timothy chapter 3, verse 10: “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.”
That is the point. God allows us to be tested and tried. He judges and tests us because we do not judge ourselves perfectly, but He will deliver us if we are honest about it. He will deliver us from our afflictions, and He will say, well done good and faithful servant. We will pass from one grade to the next. It is a marvelous system!
Go to II Timothy 4, verse 1: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Paul was an honest man who assessed his life honestly and was willing to use his life as an example to help the brethren grow. He was not afraid to write it down in letters, so that we could read it 2000 years later. That man has a tremendous reward in heaven.
Those of us who are normal Christians want to hide all of our faults. We do not want others to know, so therefore we cannot teach them. We cannot show them how to overcome, how to grow, and how to repent. I am not saying we pour everything out in front of everybody. I am just saying let’s be honest. Let’s just admit something as simple as taking the Passover in a worthy manner year after year. Do we really believe we did that? You might, but I am not going to say I did. I want to do this Passover better than any Passover I have ever done before. I think that is the point of the Passover.
Let’s go to Romans chapter 7 where Paul was writing some of his earlier books. He knew he had some severe problems to work on. We will start reading in verse 16: “If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.”
Verse 22: “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”
THE SAME REACTIONS EVERY YEAR
How many of us can look at our lives and say, I react the same way to that every time even though I know it is wrong? Even though I know in my heart what I am supposed to do, I just seem to do the same sin over and over? It is the sin that is dwelling in us. The Holy Spirit dwells there, and God has written the law of God in our minds and our hearts. He is working with us to overcome, but it is a hard row to hoe. We see by the end of Paul’s life, he said, I am ready to be poured out now. I carried my burden. I was chastened many times. There are lists of the chastening he endured, he says, because I was evil. God has worked me to the point now where I can have a reward, because I kept working on these things. I stayed with the system. I used the High Priest to cleanse me, and I have admitted I have been wrong. I have told the truth to you, and I have told the truth to myself. That is why God could do these things in me. I was honest with myself.
LET NO TRIAL BE WASTED
The only bad trial is the trial that gets wasted. The only bad trial is the trial that gets wasted. We must not despise God’s chastening.
Turn to Proverbs chapter 3, verse 11: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Do not despise the chastening of the Lord. He is doing it because He loves us.
Turn back a few pages to Psalm 118, verse 15: “The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death.”
Severe chastening is a good thing. He will not turn us over to the death that is permanent, is what this is talking about. We are all going to die, unless Christ returns sooner rather than later. He said, I am not going to turn you over to Satan. I chasten you because I love you. I allow Satan to hurt you, so that you will correct yourself, but I do not want Satan to have you. We have to work with God to grow with Him and allow this process to play out. We have to do it by being very honest with ourselves and with God.
We have a message specifically written to us. Let’s turn to Revelation chapter 3. It is a very specific message to those of us alive at this time. We are going to read the message to the Laodiceans. Revelation chapter 3, starting in verse 14: “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God; “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, having become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed, and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”’”
Verse 19: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
He tells us, as many as I love I rebuke and chasten, therefore be zealous and repent.
When we look around, we see all the fiery trials we go through. We see health issues, financial problems, and the emotional upsets. It does not do any good to lie to ourselves and pretend and to willingly be blind to what is going on. We need to say to God, I have some real problems, and I would like You to help me with them. I want to accept your chastening. I realize that is you loving me, and I want to respond to it. I want to respond to it, so we can make something of this life.
A FRUITFUL PASSOVER SEASON
We need to be honest with ourselves in order to have a truly fruitful Passover and Unleavened Bread. There are lots of trials in the Church today of every sort. These are signs of Christ’s love in abundance, but how many of these trials will end up having gone to waste? Paul did not waste his trials. We should not want to waste our trials.
In the past year we all have endured various trials. Some trials have been pretty harsh. With Passover almost here, let’s determine in our mind and heart that we are not going to waste the trials of the last year.