Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 6 January 2001
According to a beautiful Persian legend there was once upon a time a nymph called Peri who was banished from Paradise because of some terrible wrong it had done. Day after day the nymph would come up to the gates of Paradise in the hope of being let in, but each time the angel guarding the gates turned Peri away. And then one day when Peri came to the gates of Paradise the angel said:
"I have one hope for you and it is this: you will be forgiven of your wrongdoing if you go back to earth and bring to God the gift that is most dear to him."
With hope in her little heart, Peri returned to the earth in search of the most precious gift of God. She wandered everywhere, searching every land in search of some rare and precious thing to carry up to the gate of Paradise. She came across a terrible war which had brought death and suffering to millions of people, and to a battle field on which she found a dying soldier who had done heroic deeds. She swiftly descended down to the man on a ray of sunlight, and there she caught the last precious drop of blood which his heart shed before he died. With this precious drop of blood she flew up to the gate of Paradise, but precious though the drop of blood was, the gate would not open.
So she returned back to the earth where she came across a dying lover whose sweetheart whom he was shortly to have married was bent over him in grief. As the lover breathed his last tender farewell to his sweetheart, Peri caught his last breath and swept upwards back to the gate of Paradise. But even to this precious last breath the gate would not open.
Down she went again and searched far and wide until finally she came across a wretched criminal, stained by countless deeds of shame and blood, but now weeping in deep repentance. With joy the nymph caught up the last tear of contrition that fell from the criminal's eye and swiftly carried it back up to Heaven. The moment she arrived with the tear the gate swung wide open and she entered Paradise.
This Oriental legend tells us a great biblical truth which leads me to ask of everyone here what I believe to be a vitally important question. And it's this: What are God's priorities? When he looks at each of us individually, what is it do you think He is looking for? And what do you imagine to be the most precious thing in your personal life as far as He is concerned? What does He actually want of you?
As I look back over my life I can see that at different times there were different things that were important. I had list of priorities. At different times my mind and heart were filled with different ambitions. At one time all I could think about going back home when I was far away on the other side of the world, so I counted the days, waiting, waiting, waiting. At another time it was getting a fantastic stereo tape-recorder so I saved up like mad until I could afford it. At another it was to get into Oxford University and so I worked like mad until I got the grades I needed. Then all I could think about was finding a wife and so I looked and looked. Finally, rather late in the day, all I could think about was finding the truth about God, life and the universe. I wish now, looking back, that I had done things a little differently. I wish I had got my priorities different.
Life's most important question tends to get very distorted by our own misguided priorities. What kind of question would I be asking myself if I had God's perspective? If you were able to talk to Yah'shua (Jesus) face to face and ask Him to tell you the seven most important things He would want you to do in your life, right now, do you know what they would be?
I am sure that many of you have sometimes wished that Christ would suddenly appear to you and you could ask Him anything you wanted. I know I have. And many of you I am sure would like Him to appear and to tell you exactly what to do in your life when you have faced difficult decisions.
In 1979, some 22 years ago, a Christian Pastor by the name of Roland Buck from Boise, Idaho, USA, had a number of unexpected and unsought for experiences that were quite remarkable. He was physically visited by several of God's holy angels many times who told him many remarkable things. On one occasion he was given 120 prophecies all written in paper about many different people all of which were fulfilled to the letter in the order they were given to show Him that God was in complete control of our lives. But the event I want to share with you today is what happened when the angel Gabriel and told him of the Seven Priorities that Yahweh has for each and every person who truly believes in Him.
1. The Blood of Yah'shua (Jesus)
The most important thing in the world for any and every man and woman is the blood of Christ. It was the shedding of the blood of the Son of God which has diverted the punishment of God away from us as sinners. Money, career, husband, wife, children, ambitions, health, and so on, have no meaning whatsoever without the blood of Christ.
When Yah'shua (Jesus) ascended into heaven, He sprinkled His blood over the book which contains all the records of our failings, faults, our inability to perform as a good person and sins, and washed them all away.
The blood of Christ changes everything. A soul that has been sprinkled by His blood has a completely different perspective. Instead of the negative, "You shall not do this or that... !" comes the opposite, "I want to do this and that ... !" A person saved in the blood spontaneously wants to do what is right and live the way Christ did - he does not need to force himself by obeying a long list of rules which are hard to bear. The blood of Christ frees you to be naturally, spontaneously and joyfully obedient.
A person who has yielded him- or herself to Christ has his or her record of wrongdoing completely wiped out. It isn't there any more. This has been accomplished for us by Christ tasting death and punishment for our wrong-doings on our behalf. For every evil thought, for every bad feeling, for every bad deed we have ever done, Christ has received the punishment for, both the little things and the great. He has been punished for the things we ought to have done but didn't do. He has been punished for the hurtful things we may have said about people - good people and bad people. He has been punished for every thing that we have ever dishonestly acquired. He has been punished when we have not done our duty. He has been punished for our rudeness, vanity, arrogance, stubbornness, and everything that separates man from God. It is us who nailed Him to the cross and it was us who made him bleed through every pore in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was us who killed Him.
No wonder the blood of Christ is therefore the most precious thing in the Universe to our Heavenly Father and no wonder the blood of Christ ought to be our No.1 priority. His spilled blood was the price He paid for us to be liberated from the bondage and penalty of sin (Heb.2:9).
Most people consider the blood of Christ to be insignificant. Most think its being spilled made no difference to anyone or anything. But our Heavenly Father has said that the blood of Christ is so important than not one drop of it was wasted because it was the only pure and incorruptible blood in the universe. That blood was what had made it possible for the believer to enjoy the forgiveness of sin and life eternal. No wonder the angel Gabriel told Pastor Buck that it was the most important thing in Creation!
2. Fellowship and Communion with Yahweh
But the blood of Christ would of itself have no meaning if it did not mean we could have fellowship with Yahweh Himself. It is the blood of Christ that allows us to have contact and fellowship with God!
Look at it this way. Let's say that you committed a terrible crime and are sent to prison. You are allowed no visitors. All your life you have been able to talk to your father when you had problems. Your father was always there to help you, comfort you, guide you, and protect you. Suddenly you're all alone. There is no way you can possibly pay for the crime you have committed except to be terribly beaten. So your father sends your elder brother who loves you as much as your father to be terribly beaten on your behalf in order to satisfy the demands of justice. Once he has been beaten, you are released and can once more enjoy the fellowship of your father.
God is a person. He has a mind, a heart and deep, deep feelings. The one great principle that drives Him is love. But He must also be just and fair. He wants you to be able to talk to Him and enjoy His company. But He not only wants believers but unbelievers too. He wants to remove all distance between Him and all people. He wants you more than anything else. He wants you to know Him and His love. He is always looking for reasons to help you, not punish you, as some think. This is God's second priority.
3. Yah'shua (Jesus) is Alive
The third thing He wants you to know is that Yah'shua (Jesus) is alive today and that death has been conquered. Even though we are all going to physically die, He wants you to know that this isn't real death. The only real death is the death of the soul, and He wants you to know that that real death has been conquered!
When Christ died on the cross for us, He didn't taste physical death for us - we will taste that for ourselves. What He experienced with the judgment of God on sin. What He wants the believer to realize is that we don't have to worry about the second death because He has already taken care of that for us. He has defeated Satan - the believer cannot be robbed of life eternal.
We read in the Book of Hebrews: "...but we do see Jesus (Yah'shua) - who for a while was a little lower than the angels - crowned now by God with glory and honour because He suffered death for us. Yes, because of God's great kindness, Jesus (Yah'shua) tasted death for everyone in the world. And it was right and proper that God, who made everything for His own glory, should allow Jesus (Yah'shua) to suffer, for in doing this He was bringing vast multitudes of God's people to heaven; for His suffering made Jesus (Yah'shua) a perfect Leader, one fit to bring them into their salvation. We, who have been made holy by Jesus (Yah'shua), now have the same Father as He has. That is why Jesus (Yah'shua) is not ashamed to call us His brothers. For He says in the book of Psalms, 'I will talk to My brothers about God My Father, and together we will sing His praises.' At another time He said, 'I will put My trust in God along with My brothers.' And at still another time, 'See, hear am I and the children God gave Me'. Since we, God's children, are human beings - made of flesh and blood - He became flesh and blood too by being born in human form; for only as a human being could He die and in dying break the power of the devil who had the power of death. Only in that way could He deliver those who through fear of death have been living all their lives as slaves to constant dread" (Heb.2:9-15, TLB).
The amazing thing about Jesus' (Yah'shua's) death was that when He died once He suddenly came alive in everyone who belonged to Him. Every person who serves Christ reflects His power and His life, because now that same life lives inside us! And the best way to let an unbeliever know that Christ is alive today is to let them see you reflecting His life as He lives in you. This is God's third priority.
4. The Promise of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit)
God's plan has always been to transform His people so that they become like Christ Himself. And in order to do that, God wants you to have the same power that Christ had. In order to be like Yah'shua (Jesus), we must have God's Holy Spirit.
It is not enough to believe any more than it is enough to own a car but have no petrol to run it. A Christian's life runs on the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who allows Christ to live in us. If you are a believer but don't have the Holy Spirit, then your fourth priority must be to get it! What would be the point of buying an expensive car if you never bought any petrol for it? It would be useless - just something pretty to look at but quite useless to you.
How do you know when a car has got petrol in it, especially if someone else filled the petrol tank up for you? Simple: you turn the ignition on and see if the motor starts. So how do you know that you have received the Holy Spirit when God has done this invisibly? Simple: when you start living the Christian life, it comes naturally and joyfully to you. You know that your car is running when it starts moving after you have released the brake and pushed the gas pedal. You know that your Christian life is running when you get up and fulfill God's fifth priority.
5. Go Tell the World
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Pastor Buck and started talking about the fifth principle, he had a severe look on his face, and said that one thing God is deeply concerned about is when people believe the message of salvation and then do nothing about it. God's fifth priority is go tell the world. Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself tells us that we are to go into the world - into wherever we find ourselves in our daily lives - at home, in the work place, or wherever we may be - and carry the Good News with us to other people.
Because of what Christ has done in shedding His blood, God is able to say to everyone: "You can come to Me now" just like the father speaking to his son in prison released after his elder brother was beaten for him. But people can't come to God unless they're invited, and the task of inviting them has been given to us - to we who believe and have been saved. God's message is: "The barriers are down - you can come directly to Me because you have been reconciled by the death of My Son!"
Not only has God given us believers the Holy Spirit with which to do this, but he has given us a perfect instruction book, the Bible, and legions of angels to work on our behalf in the accomplishment of this task. It is important to God for every man, woman and child to know that he loves them, just as it is important to me for all of my children - not just some of them - to know of my love and concern for them. God wants everyone to know the same love that He has revealed to us. It's what any parent would want, isn't it? And wouldn't you, as a child, also want to know that you are loved and cared for? Of course you would. Every child deep down wants to know that he or she is loved. That's why we have a sacred duty to tell the world about this love and the way to heaven.
It's not as though you being asked to do this all alone. There are thousands of believers all wanting to do the same thing. We are to work together with them. Team work is always better and more effective than working solo, which is why God has given us the Church. Working together as a family is always a more productive and happy experience than trying to do it all alone. That's one reason I love big families so much because big families are in the heart of God!
If you feel lonely or empty - if you're not sure whether the Holy Spirit has come to you, why not call upon Yah'shua (Jesus) with all your heart. Call out His Name! And then go out and tell others. You'll soon know whether He's there or not, but not before you share. Telling the world is God's fifth priority.
6. The Atonement of Yah'shua (Jesus) is Everlasting
The next thing God wants you to know is that the atoning work of Christ is for ever - it's something He did and then forgot about. It's finished, completed. Moreover, all our needs are covered in this atonement. There's nothing He's missed out. It's like a new car delivered from the factory. When you test drive it you don't need to worry whether there are any brakes on it or if there will be any lights when it gets dark. They're both there. When Christ dealt with sin on the cross of Calvary, He dealt with it for good. We don't have to worry about the punishment for sin anymore if we're trusting in Christ. We're safe.
All of this was planned long before the earth was made. Paul said to the Ephesians: "Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own, through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in His eyes, without a single fault - we who stand before Him covered with His love" (Eph.1:4, TLB).
The atonement of Christ takes away all our guilt. We cannot please God or really serve Him if we are constantly living in fear that God has some hidden sin to bring against us. He wants us to know that our lives are covered when our faith and our trust are in Him! And the reason He wants us to know this is because you can't really serve Him unless you are sure that your position in Him is safe. And it is safe so long as we keep on trusting and obeying! This is called Divine Security.
God loves us so much that He will not let us go without a struggle. But He also wants us to know that there are two things which will pull us from under the covering of safety. The first is rebellion and the second is idolatry. Though this is told over the whole Bible, the angel Gabriel especially underlined this to Pastor Buck. These are the only two things that will separate you from God. Nothing else that happens in your life can separate you from Him. Nothing else will remove you from that beautiful and comforting protection He promises. You can live for Him in relaxed happiness knowing that He is taking care of you. But woe unto you if you rebel against Him or become idolatrous! There is nothing more scary or lonely than to rebel against Him or substitute Him for idols. That is the sixth priority of God.
7. The Return of Yah'shua (Jesus)
Finally, God's seventh and final priority is the second coming of Christ. He is telling us to prepare for that great day of glory, whether we are in heaven or still here on the earth when it happens. For those whose names are written in the Book of Life, the return of Yah'shua (Jesus) will be the most wonderful day ever. For those whose names aren't written in the Book of Life, it will be a day to dread, for it will spell their final doom.
Paul wrote: "May the Lord make your love to grow and overflow to each other and to everyone else, just as our love does toward you. This will result in your hearts being made strong, sinless and holy by God our Father, so that you may stand before Him guiltless on that day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns with all those who belong to Him" (1 Thess.3:12-13, TLB).
The Bible describes this day in great and marvelous detail. He writes: "And I saw a great white throne and the one who sat upon it, from whose face the earth and sky sled away, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, great and small, standing before God; and the Books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to the things written in the Books, each according to the deeds he had done. The oceans surrendered the bodies buried in them; and the earth and the underworld gave up the dead in them. Each was judged according to his deeds. And Death and Hell were thrown into the Lake of Fire. This is the Second Death - the Lake of Fire. And if anyone's name was not found recorded in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the Lake of Fire" (Rev.20:11-15, TLB).
"In a vision he took me to a towering mountain peak and from there I watched that wondrous city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of the skies from God. It was filled with the glory of God, and flashed and glowed like a precious gem, crystal clear like jasper" (Rev.21:10-11, TLB).
"No temple could be seen in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are worshipped in it everywhere. And the city has no need of sun or moon to light it, for the glory of God and the Lamb illuminate it. Its light will light the nations of the earth, and the rulers of the world will come and bring their glory to it. Its gates never close; they stay open all day long - and there is no night! And the glory and honour of all the nations shall be brought into it. Nothing evil will be permitted in it - no one immoral or dishonest - but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life" (Rev.21:22-27, TLB).
Do you see now why the second coming of Christ is so important? It is the final priority - that which God is looking forward to with such great excitement.
These are God's seven priorities for our lives. Everything else is secondary. Of course it must be for nothing else matters once this life is over. And if we have spent the whole of this life not investing for the next one, then we have completely wasted this one.
Next week I am going to show you how these seven priorities are clearly written into the seven major annual festivals we celebrate. I think you will be quite surprised.
May you all be blessed with an excitement of God truly wonderful plan for your life and to yield yourself to it so that you can be completely free and fulfilled. Amen.
This page was created on 21 February 2001
Last updated on 21 February 2001
Copyright © 1987-2007 NCCG - All Rights Reserved