Access Amidst the Lockdown
I Entitled my Message today:
Access Amidst the Lockdown
Shelter in Place and Lockdown
Shelter in Place and Lockdown
We are almost two months.
What did we lose?
We lost access to many things (talk about secular examples, sports arenas, restaurants, gyms and fitness centers)
People have lost access to places of worship...
Talked to someone yesterday how their parish is making adjustments in how people can access their places of worship..
The option to do drive thru services
On a different Sunday where they can sit on the grass and there are yellow tapes that form square blocks where each family or individual can stay to make sure they are social distancing.
Not only access to places of worship have been denied. The headquarters of the world’s largest religions have now been closed where millions of people used to come for a pilgrimage.
This time of the year during Ramadan millions of Muslims would have been crowding in Mecca
Image of Mecca Here.
The Hajj or piligrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia is considered the world's largest human gathering with almost 2.4 million pilgrims in 2018. Like other religious pilgrimages, Hajj is considered an annual rite of passage to renew ones moral and spiritual connection.
Then the coronavirus outbreak happened.
This is what Mecca looks like now.
Both Christians and Jews go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, one of the holy sites were thousands would be gathered to pray was the western wall.
Guia and I were there in 2015. This is an image of how crowded this place can be. That was the old normal.
But this is the way it looks now after the coronavirus. Prayer has already been cordoned into sections. And only 10 people at a time are allowed to pray in each subsection.
People who are religious are probably asking why would God allow even access to this religious sites and traditional forms of worship to be interrupted by this coronavirus?
World Religions confuse true access to God with Access to a Place.
Is access to God access to a place?
This is the mindset of the world’s religious people. That depending on your God, you must be in a certain place to worship.
The Lord Jesus Himself had an encounter with the Samaritan woman who held this kind of view in John 4.
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
We can take that kind of assumption in our present day context. If someone is a muslim then the capital of his belief and the best place he can worship is Mecca. If someone is a Jew the capital of his religion is Jerusalem and that is his ultimate place of worship. Even Christians believe that to be in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem is to receive a special blessing from God. Catholics hold to the same belief about going on a pilgrimage to the Vatican.
What will Jesus tell us about this kind of view, that access to God is access to a place? Well, we can see it from His reply to the Samaritan woman.
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Jesus is telling us today, the hour is coming that you don’t go to these places of worship in order to come to me. The true worshippers of God don’t have to be at a specific place or physical structure to worship Him. The true worshippers of God worship the Father in Spirit and in truth and Jesus said, these are the kind of worshippers that the Father seek.
This is the Age of the True Worshippers of God!
Jesus clearly said that God is Spirit, therefore we must worship Him again, in 1) Spirit and in 2) Truth.
No one has seen God, and it is totally irreverent to make an image or statue of Him nor of Jesus and it is an abomination to worship these statues.
Well we do not worship statues but we just give reverence to them, and we do not make a statue of God Himself but only of Jesus and all these saints. But Veneration and Honor given to anyone other than God by definition is itself idolatry.
I believe that in closing down these places of idol worship, God..
God is breaking down idol worship in the world and directing people to the one true worship - of Himself!
It is like a major paradigm shift brought about by Divine means.
But this paradigm shift is not a result of the Coronavirus.
We go back to the phrase access to God.
Access to God.
Two Thousand Years ago, the Lord Jesus Christ already brought a paradigm shift that redefined true access to God.
In Jesus’ time, the Jews believed that access to God is attained through ..
Access to God through the Priests and Sacrificial Systems.
Access to God through the Priests and Sacrificial Systems.
The priesthood that the Jews understood was the Aaronic Priesthood.
44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.
In the Old Testament, Israel had access to God through a High Priest. The Hebrew people would go to the high priest in order to know the will of God. The high priest had to offer a sin offering not only for the sins of the whole congregation, but also for himself. The most important duty of the high priest was to conduct the service on the Day of Atonement, the tenth day of the seventh month of every year. Only he was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place behind the veil to stand before God. Having made a sacrifice for himself and for the people, he then brought the blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled it on the mercy seat, God’s “throne” (Leviticus 16:14-15). He did this to make atonement for himself and the people for all their sins committed during the year just ended (Exodus 30:10).
This is access to God through a High Priest in the Old Testament.
But this was just a temporary ordinance and a shadow of things to come.
True Access to God is fulfilled in Jesus Christ!
10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
Jesus had made the office of a human priest obsolete, the sacrifice that a human priest repeatedly offers does not have the power to take away sins.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the only atonement for our sins that God accepted and it does not have to be repeated, there is no reason to offer His Body and Blood by a human priest, Jesus said “It is finished, Your sins have been paid in full” and therefore His once and all sacrifice is enough to forgive all of mankind its sins and to save them!
Jesus is our High Priest!
The beauty of the Priesthood of Jesus is that:
We can relate to Jesus our High Priest.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
b. We have access to the Throne of Grace through Jesus.
There is that word access again. You have to come through Jesus to gain real access to Him. Access is not through a place of worship, it is not through a human priest, not through the dead saints there is one access, there is only one way one door, one form of worship that God approves and that is through the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ!
That is through the justification by faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Again that word access.
Third truth about the Priesthood of Jesus is that:
c. His Priesthood is eternal.
17 For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
Who was Melchizedek? The name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”. Melchizedek was a mysterious character, he was the King of Salem or Jerusalem and also called “the priest of the most High God”. You can find him in Genesis 14. The fact that He was both a King and a Priest of the most high God makes Him a type of Jesus Christ. The priesthood of Melchizedek is different from the priesthood of Aaron. This order of priesthood is far superior and eternal.
Which means that the blessing you get in coming to God by coming through the great High Priest Jesus is not limited to just a time period. It is not just for this period when people are humbled by the coronavirus. Your blessing in coming to Jesus as the eternal High Priest is eternal, it is forever!
We already have access to God through Jesus Christ!
So Ramon, will the new normal in the world, also apply to the way people worship? In other words, if the world can embrace the new normal in their workplaces, public places and their lifestyles. Should people of all faiths then embrace the new normal?
The truth is Jesus had already brought the New Normal by His perfect sacrifice. When Jesus died, the veil from the temple was torn from top to bottom. That signaled the end of the access to God by the temporary covering of sins through a human priest ended, and access to God through the permanent removal of all our sins through the Great High Priest Jesus Christ started. Hallelujah!
Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world!
14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
For by that one single offering, Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross He had perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. You have been saved for all time by the blood of Jesus and now you are being sanctified.
If You are saved by the blood of Jesus, You are also being made part of the priesthood of believers, which means that by the access that we have to God through Christ, Our Great High Priest, we like little priests before God can intercede by praying for each other and for the world.
The Priesthood of Believers.
Going back to Jesus bringing the New Normal, again he had already brought the New Normal through His sacrifice as our Great High Priest. Then the Father approved that sacrifice as the only means of right access to Him by raising Jesus from the dead and He now lives forever and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
It is not everyday that you see someone rising from the dead and living forever. That was the new normal that Jesus brought.
Jesus is in the business of making things New!
So now, with the coronavirus, I believe that He is ushering the world into a new normal, those who failed to catch on to what normal worship of God should be like “worshipping Him in Spirit and in truth” are being given a chance. To turn away from their idols and and worship the One True God.
This is why I believe that more than sovereign judgement, this pandemic is still an act of mercy. God is blocking the access to false worship, opening people’s eyes so that they will have access to Him through the only way that He prescribed, through the Eternal Priesthood of Jesus Christ.
I pray that in the next New Normal, we will see a season of revival where people will find God. Hope and pray that people will be drawn to Him by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That every member of the church will be so on fire for Him that each one will be equipped to carry the mission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. We as a church will be taking the fight to enemy territory and storm the gates of hell - and the gates of hell will not prevail.
The church has access to God through the Eternal Priesthood of Jesus. It also gains access to enemy territories through the Priesthood of Believers.
Then someday Jesus will return to establish His Kingdom here on earth.
That will be...
The Ultimate New Normal!
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
The church of Jesus will be like an Aircraft Carrier!
Ramon, what in the world are you talking about?
You see, the church can be any of these three kinds of ship.
The Church - A Cruiseliner, A Battleship or an Aircraft Carrier? (GAINING BY LOSING – The Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. GREEAR)
A Cruiseliner (Image here)
Many churches in North America are like cruise liners. The people that ride them ride to relax, to get comfort and to see things in their own satisfaction. They ride the best cruise liners according to their preference, they are there to be comfortable. Cruiseliner church is composed of people who look for the funniest preachers, the most comfortable church buildings, the best music band, the best kids’ Sunday school (they think of what they get from the church instead of what they can do for the church.
In terms of the church mission, they are totally disengaged from the real spiritual battles. They are so full of their own self interests that Satan has paralyzed them.
In terms of destination - they don’t go anywhere, Cruise liners may take you to far exotic places but at some point it will turn back and ends up where it started its voyage. Cruiseliner churches don’t go anywhere.
A Battleship (Image here)
Battleship is better and superior than a cruiseliner. First, it is at least engaged in the realities of spiritual warfare. It fights its battle. But these battles are brought to itself, it is mostly on the defensive. In terms of who are engaged in the battle it can be the few who man the artillery and the weapons systems of the ship. In the church it is the pastor and the leadership, there can still be passengers who are totally not active in the mission. At least compared to a cruiseliner church, a battleship church is fighting for its mission and is moving forward.
An Aircraft Carrier (Image Here)
Aircraft carriers are engaged in battles like a battleship but not in the same way. An aircraft carrier equip planes to carry the battle elsewhere. The mission of an aircraft carrier is fulfilled when the mission of each aircraft is accomplished. This I believe should be the model of the church of Jesus. We take the fight to enemy territories by storming the gates of hell itself. And the gates of hell will not prevail. This is the church that sends missionaries to far flung places like efficient war aircrafts that can go to far flung places, places that have not been reached yet.
Success for a church that is of the aircraft carrier model is not measured by the number of people that come in, but rather the number of people that go out.
People that go out for the Great Commission.
The Church of the New Normal is an Aircraft Carrier!