Glad to have you with us today at all of our Life.Churches. As we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our savior Jesus in this Christmas season, today, we’re launching in to a new message series called The Gift, and over the next three weeks, we’re gong to be looking at three different gifts that some wise men gave to Jesus around the time of his birth from Matthew’s gospel, Matthew chapter two. Let me give you the context of Matthew 2, and then we’re gonna dive in to God’s Word today. If you don’t know the story, Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the reign of King Herod, and some wise men, or you might call them magi, traveled a great distance to come and worship Jesus. Now how many wise men were there? How many of you have maybe a nativity scene at your house, your grandma has a nativity scene, raise your hand, all of our churches. If you look at the nativity scene, how many wise men do you always see? You always see three wise men. How many wise men were there? We don’t know.
(audience laughs) We tend to think that there were three, because they perhaps brought three gifts, but the reality is we have no idea how many there were, chances are there could have been dozens, but tradition tells us three. What we do know for sure is that these wise men were highly educated, they were very likely incredibly wealthy, and they were desperate to meet the one who might be the savior of the world. Scripture tells us this, when they saw the star, Matthew chapter two verse 10, they were filled with joy, they entered the house and saw the child with His other, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Jesus. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Admittedly, when we had six children, we received no gold, frankincense, or myrrh. What in the world kind of gifts are those? When we had babies, we got diapers, we got onesies, we got pacies, we got the ever-important, all-purpose, baby snot sucker.
(audience laughs) Very important gift. We grew up in the era where it was blue, and you pushed a button, you squeezed it and it came out, evidently now, they have new more modern version ones where you can actually suck the snot out yourself. Dear God, why is that possible? I have no idea, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just thank God in Heaven, but it is a real thing. (audience laughs) You can suck the not out of your own baby’s nose if you so choose. Wise men offered three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts were not only valuable, they were incredibly practical, and yet they were deeply spiritual. In fact, all Bible scholars agree that these gifts were not only useful for this family, and I’ll tell you why as we go through the weeks, but they also foreshadowed some images of what Jesus would represent. Gold, valuable in itself, represented the kingship of Jesus. Myrrh, we’re gonna talk about next week, myrrh represented Jesus as the suffering servant or as the Lamb of God. Today, we’re gonna talk about frankincense. Before I tell you the meaning of frankincense, I’ll tell you a little bit about frankincense. According to my essential oil advisors, (audience laughs) of which I have many in my life, frankincense is an oil that’s kind of like a Swiss army knife. In other words, it’s got lot and lots of purposes. I do know some about oils because my wife, Amy, uses them, peppermint for your stomach, lavender for something, she uses one oil, it smells so bad, I call it the not tonight oil, okay? (audience laughs) If she comes in wearing that, it’s like okay, I get it, I get it, it’s not the tonight oil. Sorry, I don’t know if you live there or not, but that’s just how it goes at our home. Let me tell you what I know about frankincense. Frankincense oil possesses antiseptic, astringent, carminative, diarrhetic, digestive, sedative, uterine, and vulnerary therapeutic properties. I don’t know what that means but I read it somewhere. What does a pastor do all week besides preach on Sundays, we look up stuff like this, that’s what we do. What I do know is that frankincense was a very expensive, practical gift hat helped heal sicknesses or treat wounds. More so, frankincense was the oil that the priests would use during the sacrifices to burn the incense that would then make the smoke that would arise to Heaven, symbolizing the prayers of the people rising in faith to God, and that is why Bible scholars agree that frankincense represents the priestliness of Jesus, or as we’re gonna talk about today, Jesus our High Priest. Now, some of you, if you weren’t raised Catholic or such, you may be confused right now. Why would Jesus be the High Priest? What I wanna do today is maybe just a little bit different than normal, I’m gonna get a little bit deeper and bring kind of some heady teaching. If you can handle it, say “I can handle it,” can you handle it? I can handle it!
Yeah! I’m not sure I heard from you all in Wellington, or in Tennessee, or in Texas, or in Albany. If you can handle it, say, “I’m ready.” Are you ready? I’m ready! All right, let’s dive. Jesus the High Priest. The priest in scripture served one big primary role that was broken in to two functions. The priest essentially would be the representative of the people before God. I’m gonna represent you to God if I’m the priest, and the priest’s primary role was broken in to two functions. First, the priest made sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. As the priest, he would take an innocent animal, sacrifice it to represent the forgiveness of the people’s sins. Secondly, the priest prayed prayers on behalf of the people to God, representing the people to God. I wanna talk for a moment about those two functions, as we see Jesus as our High Priest. The sacrifices, and the prayers, the sacrifices, and the prayers. We’ll start with the sacrifices for our sins. Since the very moment in the Garden of Eden when Even sinned against God, there were two opposing forces. There was the holiness of God and the sinfulness of mankind, the holiness of God and the sinfulness of mankind. Now admittedly in our culture today, a lot of people don’t wanna say we actually sin. They might say, we made a mistake but it’s not a sin, you know, who’s to tell me I sinned, if it feels good, do it, you know, what’s good to me is true to me is true to you, so what you do is your life, and who needs sin. One person said that sin is a very outdated term to trick children in to being good. In other words, who needs sin when you’ve got an Elf on a Shelf? Right?
(audience laughs) Who can tell you what your kids are doing and tell Santa, who’s making his list and checking it twice and gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. Here’s the challenge. We have to understand the reality of sin because there’s the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. If we don’t understand the holiness of God, we’ll always have a casual approach to sin. Until we understand what it truly means that God is holy, we’ll never realize the cost and the tragedy of what sin does to us. God is holy, the holiness of God. What does it mean that God is holy? The word holy comes from a Greek word, agios, which it means separate, it means other. What is God? God is transcendently separate, Our God is perfect in every single way. He is flawless, He is pure, there is no fault, no wrong, no stain in Him, our God is transcendently other, He’s separate, He is perfect, and so we need to understand that holiness isn’t just one of the attributes of God, holiness is the perfection of all of his attributes. His power is holy, His grace is holy, His mercy is holy, His glory is holy, it’s His holiness, His otherness, His separateness, His purity, that makes Him worthy of our praise. Our God is holy and our challenge is we’re not! None of us are, not a single one of you. Not you, not that really nice person you know at work, not me, scripture teaches us that every single one of us, we’ve all sinned, we’ve done something wrong, we’ve fallen short of God’s standard, and sin breaks our intimacy with the Holy God. This is why God hates sin! Because it’s everything He’s not, it’s the opposite of His holiness, it disrupts our intimacy, His fellowship with us, and sin separates us from God, and it breaks our life, it destroys our life, and therefore God hates sin. The holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. The high priest, in the Old Testament, one time a year, would make a sacrifice as a temporary payment for the sins of the people. It was known as the day of atonement, or Yom Kippur, and the priest would sacrifice an innocent animal, and go in to the tabernacle behind the veil in to the place known as the Holy of Holies. The priest then would light the frankincense, and the incense would let smoke rise burning to Heaven, represent the cries of the people of God for mercy, and then the priest would take the blood of the innocent animal, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat, this would symbolize the death of an innocent one in place of the guilty ones, as a payment for our sins. Then, have any of you ever heard of a goat before, scapegoat, anybody heard frankincense a scapegoat, any body heard of a scape? Look, the term came from this, the priest would take a goat, an innocent goat and confess the sins of the people, symbolically transferring the sins on to the goat, and then they would drive the goat in to the wilderness or sometimes like off a cliff, therefore the first animals died as a sacrifice, paying the price of the sins, symbolically the scapegoat was run out of the community, symbolizing the sins have been separated from the people of God. May I pause for a moment and tell you, that’s just weird.
(audience laughs) Right, I mean, if you think of, never heard this before, and you take an innocent cute little animal, and you slit its throat, and blood pours in to a bucket, and put it on a mercy seat, and then you pray, I mean that’s like weird! Some of you are looking at me like you’re really nervous, like God’s about to strike your pastor, poof. (audience laughs) I’m a black spot, right, I don’t know, right? It is weird! It’s extreme, it’s kind of gross, it seems entirely unfair, innocent little animal dying in our place, who would come up with something like this? Here’s what we have to understand. Because God is just, completely just, He must punish sin, but God is not only just, He is also merciful, and here’s the beauty of what God does. The sacrifice satisfies God’s justness, and at the same time, extends mercy. It is the price that is paid, but someone else pays that price for the forgiveness of sins. So God’s holiness, His justice is satisfied, and yet He extends mercy to the people that He loves so much. This was a temporary covering under the old covenant. But we are not people of the old covenant, we’re under the new covenant, and I wanna tell you about a new and a better sacrifice. Hebrews chapter 10 verse 10 tells us a little bit about our great High Priest. His name is Jesus, and He is the Son of God. For God’s will, scripture says, was for us to be made holy. We’re not holy in and of ourselves, but it’s God’s will for us to be holy. How are we made holy? By the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time. Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the alter, day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sin, it’s only a temporary covering for sin, but our High Priest whose name is Jesus offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time.
(audience cheers) I hope somebody gives our God a little bit of praise. It’s not a temporary covering, but Jesus as the High Priest offered His life, shedding His innocent life as a covering for our sins, satisfying the justness of God, and extending mercy to God’s creation, you who He loves so much. I wanna give you a visual of this, because I know it’s a little bit complicated at times. I’m gonna show you a photo that was taken 28 years ago this week. The reason I know it was this week is because it was on this day, I tricked Amy to come up to the front of First United Methodist Church to give announcements, which she was doing there, and while she was up there, I proposed to her to be my wife, and she said yes, and my church celebrated ’cause that’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me. (audience applauds) Oh yeah. Would have been a really bad day if she had said no. (audience laughs) I wanna point some things out to you from this photo that I love. On the right, that’s my pastor, Pastor Nick Harris, who is a hero, legend, one of the greatest men that I’ve ever met. On the left, is my dear friend Jay, if you remember me telling the story about Jay, that’s my dear friend Jay. If you’ll notice my robe for a moment, there is no stripe on the robe. That’s because I was not ordained. That was not a real pastoral robe, that was a choir robe that we found in the basement and the only one that I could wear, because it didn’t have a stripe on it, it was really bad, smelled to the high Heavens, it was horrible. It was kind of like the not tonight robe if. (audience laughs) It was horrible. And if you’ll notice Pastor Jay and Pastor Nick are sitting in king-sized thrones, on the left is My junior throne for the guy with no stripe on the robe. It was on a day when I was about 23 years of age or so, I was sitting up there in my very smell, very ugly stripeless not tonight robe in my junior throne, and my pastor’s preaching, and I had my leg crossed, I had one leg kind of sitting over the other leg ’cause it looked like you were kind of pastoral, and what happened is my left side of my leg started to fall asleep, and I thought, hey, I’ll just let this thing go, see how far it goes, and so I kinda pinched it a little bit, an it got tingly in my blessed assurance, it got tingly all the way down my side, and I just thought this is kind of fun, you know, my pastor’s preaching away, I’m having a good time, and just letting my leg fall asleep. Well, God as my witness, I served my pastor for five years, he never used me as a sermon illustration ever, didn’t tell me it was coming, except for that very moment when half of my body was numb, he asked me to stand up, God as my witness. You don’t think God has a sense of humor, God’s like, well wait for it, wait for it, now. You know, and he asked me to stand up, and so I’m like, I couldn’t even stand up, I’m standing on one leg, like this, he’s looking at me like I’m all like whatever, and he did this illustration, and he said, is robe a nice robe? And I’m looking at like it’s a trick question, like if I say no, he’s gonna get mad. Am I going, uh, and he kinda shakes his head like to say it’s okay, and I said, “No.” And he says, “It’s a bad robe?” And like, “Yes.” “Is it a really bad robe?” “Yes!” “How bad is it?” “It’s a stinky, smelly, bad robe.” But then he said, “Is my robe nice?” “Yes.” “Why?” “It’s clean, it’s got a stripe on it, “it represents the priestly nature of the pastoral office.” And then my pastor said, “Here’s what Jesus did for us.” He said, “Take off your filthy, smelly robe.” I took it off. Then he took off his priestly robe, and he put it over my shoulders, and he said, “Jesus, our High Priest, sacrificed His life, “so He could take His robes of righteousness, “scripture says, and cover you with His righteousness, “it’s not yours it’s His
(audience applauds) “so that whenever God looks at you, “He doesn’t see your sinfulness, “but He sees the righteousness of Christ.” This is our High Priest who gave His life. Satisfying the justness of God, and simultaneously extending mercy. Jesus is our great High Priest. He’s not just a distant savior, though, that feels sorry for us. He is a High Priest who understands and cares. Scripture says this about our High Priest, in Hebrews chapter four, verses 14 and 15. So then, since we have a great High Priest, Jesus, who has entered Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, He is our High Priest. Since we have that High Priest, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours, Jesus, He understands our weaknesses, for He faced all the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. I hope you’ll understand, and embrace the truth that whatever you’re going through, Jesus understands. He relates to our trials, He sympathizes with our pain. Whatever you’re going through at this very moment, He understands what you’re going through. If you feel stressed right now, and overwhelmed, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus’ friends abandoned Him, and He knew what was coming, He fell to the ground, and He said, my soul is overwhelmed in agony to the point of death. If you face anxiety, He understands. If you deal with crazy people in your family, Jesus dealt with crazy people in His family. It’s a spiritual principle. Every family has crazy.
(audience laughs) Everyone does. All of our churches, everybody participating, how many has somebody crazy in your family, raise up your hands, raise up your hands, leave ’em up for a moment, leave ’em up, just leave ’em up, leave ’em up for a moment. I want you to look around the room right now, look around the room. Find whoever doesn’t have their hand in the air, (audience laughs) and wink at ’em.
(audience laughs) ‘Cause every family has some crazy, it’s a principle. When Jesus said, I am the messiah, His family said, you’re a lunatic. Think about how much Jesus understands. So you can know how much He cares. Jesus was conceived out of wedlock to a teenage mom, scandalous. He was raised in a small town where everybody whispered about him, and called him that bastard boy. Jesus lived in poverty, He was criticized, he was ridiculed, he was bullied, he was tempted by the devil again, and again, and again, when He was at His weakest and most vulnerable, yet He did not sin. Jesus experienced the death of a close friend. He grieved the loss of family members. He was accused of things that He did not do, His friends betrayed Him. Worst of all, He felt abandoned by God on the cross. He wasn’t, but He felt that way, because when Jesus, the great High Priest, became sin for us, kind of like the scapegoat, gave His life for sin, God looked away. Why? Because God is too holy to look upon sin. And Jesus cried out in agony, “My God, my God, where are you?” If you’ve ever felt like you couldn’t reach the presence of God, Jesus understands. Whatever you feel, He felt. Wherever you hurt He hurt. He’s your great High Priest who sympathizes and under, He’s not sitting in Heaven going, well sucks to be you. No, He is our High Priest who has experienced all the pain of being in a human body, all the emotion of being rejected by friends, all the agony of hurting, feeling alone, feeling abandoned. Imagine, if you can, the details of our God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, John 1:1, and the Word became flesh. God born in the form of a child, who loves you, who cares about you, and God in His divine providence, sent magi, wise men, to offer gifts, prophetically declaring the nature of Jesus to come. Gold, He is our king, myrrh, He’s the suffering servant, the Lamb of God, frankincense, He is our High Priest, who would be sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins, and pray prayers to our God in Heaven. This is why scripture is so, so, so important, when it tells us this. Hebrews chapter four verse 16, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. What can you do, church? You can come boldly to Him. You can come to Him because He cares, you can come to Him because He understands, let us come boldly before the throne of our gracious God, and then we will receive mercy. Why? His justice has been satisfied and He extends mercy, and what will we find in our High Priest? We will find grace to help us when we need it most. I hope you understand.
(audience applauds) You can come to Him today, you can come to Him as you are, you can come boldly, you don’t have to cower when you come to Him, you don’t have to be afraid when you come to Him, you don’t have to pray in King James language when you come to Him. When my children come to their loving dad, their earthly father, they just jump in my lap. Joy, she’s the baby, oh she knows she’s the baby. She comes in lap, she strokes my hair, she says, “Daddy, I love you. “I know you love me, I know I’m your favorite, daddy.” They’re all my favorite, but no one can talk Joy out of believing she’s the absolute top favorite. “I know I’m your favorite, daddy, can I have $20?” (audience laughs) And I give it to her every time! (audience laughs) Why? Because I love her. We’re in a relationship, and she comes boldly to my presence. Today what I wanna do is I wanna give you a chance, a little gift, to spend a few moments with God in His presence. How long has it been since you’ve really enjoyed it? If you’re hurting today, we’re gonna give our hurts to Him. Come boldly before the throne of grace. At all of our churches, let me give you an opportunity, in your way, in your own style, just to go before God and talk to Him. Let’s just pray today at all of our churches. Father, thank you that we have a great High Priest, Jesus, who sacrificed His life for the forgiveness of our sins, and who now prays for us, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, praying that intercession for all of us today. Take a moment and just talk to Him. He cares about you, He understands the details of your life. Those of you who have a loved one, maybe far from God, you might just say the name, whisper it, or say it in your mind of who that is you love, take that person before God. Understand that Jesus is praying for that person even now. Who is Jesus in this moment? He is the High Priest who is our savior. If you’re struggling financially, you feel that very real weight of this world, so much, so many expenses, so few resources at times, just tell him, I’m afraid, I’m hurting. Jesus, your High Priest, He is your provider, He meets all of your needs according to God’s glory and riches in Heaven. You’re hurting emotionally, perhaps. Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you. Your High Priest is also your comforter. He’s been where you’ve been, He hurts like you hurt, He understands. You’re struggling physically, or someone you love’s had a bad medical report, Jesus your High Priest bore stripes upon His back so that He could be your healer. Cry out to Him. You’re tired, you’re exhausted, you’re overwhelmed, you don’t feel like you can hold it together, you’re completely weak and broken. When you are weak, Jesus the High Priest is your strength, He understands in your weakness, His strength is made complete. Call Him, He is your High Priest. As you continue praying, in a moment, I’m going to ask those of you who need Him as savior to lift up your hands. The holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. Some of you, you’re gonna recognize if we’ve sat down and had a conversation, and I ask where you are spiritually, you might say I don’t know, I mean I go to church, or I kind of believe, or I’m not sure what I believe. Let me be as clear as I can. Who is Jesus? He is your High Priest, He is the Lamb of God, He was innocent in every way, just like an innocent animal, He was innocent and never sinned, therefore, He could give His life to satisfy God’s justice and God extend mercy to you. This is why the gospel, it means good news. This is the most amazing news that God who loved you so much that He became one of you, who gave His life for you, Jesus died and He rose again so that anyone, and this includes you, it doesn’t matter how bad you’ve been, doesn’t matter how dark your life feels, anyone who calls on the name of Jesus would be saved. At all of our churches, there are those of you, you recognize you need His mercy, you need His forgiveness, you’re not made right with God because you’re good, you’re made right with God because Jesus is perfect in every way. At all of our churches, those who say yes, I need His grace, I need His mercy, today by faith, I give my life to Him, that’s your prayer, lift your hands high now, all of our churches and say, yes, that’s my prayer here in this section, others of you today, say yes, right back over here, call on His name, I need Jesus, I need Jesus, I need Jesus, lift up your hands and say yes, I surrender to Him, I need His grace, I need His mercy, Church Online, you click right below me, right now at 34 locations, we have people calling on Jesus. Let me give you just a moment where you are, all of our churches, just a moment, call on Jesus, call on Jesus. If I could have you all back here for just a moment, all of our church back here, we’re all gonna pray together. In fact, how about this? Before we pray together at all of our churches, why don’t you just stand in honor of those who are calling on the mercy of Jesus, and we’re gonna pray together, and then we’re gonna lift up the name that is above every name, His name is Jesus. Pray aloud, pray Heavenly Father. Heavenly Father. Forgive all my sins.
Forgive all my sins. Jesus, thank you.
Jesus, thank you. For being my High Priest,
For being my High Priest, For dying in my place,
For dying in my place, So I could live.
So I could live. Thank you for caring,
Thank you for caring, Thank you for praying,
Thank you for praying, Thank you for new life,
Thank you for new life, Fill me with your Spirit,
Fill me with your Spirit, So I can follow you.
So I can follow you. My life is not my own.
My life is not my own. I give it all to you.
I give it all to you. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Can all God’s people celebrate today, yes, we lift up His name.
♪ We will say Jesus ♪ What is His name, church? ♪ The very mention ♪ His name is Jesus ♪ Shatters the darkness ♪ Can you lift your hands today? ♪ And calms my soul ♪
Can you give Him praise? ♪ When I say Jesus ♪
He is here. He cares about you.
♪ Even a whisper ♪ He is good, He is just,
♪ Breaks through my doubting ♪ ♪ ‘Til all my fear is gone ♪
And He is full of mercy. Our savior, He is our High Priest, He is holy in every way, He’s our healer, our redeemer, our savior, He is Lord! ♪ When I say Jesus ♪
Call Him church! The name that is above every name! His name is Jesus! ♪ ‘Til all my fear is gone ♪ ♪ And at the name of Jesus ♪ ♪ Every fear is broken ♪ ♪ Oh nothing now can hinder ♪ ♪ Your love that never fades ♪ ♪ And I can not escape it ♪ ♪ And I can not erase it ♪ ♪ Oh I can not deny it ♪ ♪ Oh you are here to stay ♪ ♪ And at the name of Jesus ♪ ♪ Every fear is broken ♪ ♪ Oh nothing now can hinder ♪ ♪ Your love that never fades ♪ ♪ And I can not escape it ♪ ♪ And I can not erase it ♪ ♪ Oh I can not deny it ♪ ♪ Oh you are here to stay ♪ ♪ When I say Jesus ♪ ♪ The very mention ♪ ♪ Shatters the darkness ♪ ♪ And calms my soul ♪ ♪ When I say Jesus ♪ ♪ Even a whisper ♪ ♪ Breaks through my doubting ’til all my fear is gone ♪ ♪ Oh we thank you, Jesus ♪ ♪ Go on and celebrate, oh ♪ ♪ (upbeat music) ♪ Hey, thanks for joining us here at Life.Church. You know, as a church, it’s always our desire to help you take your next steps in your relationship with Christ, and we’d love to be able to do that. All you have to do is go to life.church/next and you can find all kinds of resources to help you in your faith journey, and if you’ve been enjoying our messages, all we ask is that you would subscribe and be a part of our community. Again, thanks again for joining us, and we’ll see you next time.